Best Brand Ambassador Program - Top 7 Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Alan VanToai

May 18, 2022

Are you curious if an ambassador program is right for your brand?

Brand ambassador marketing, influencer marketing, and affiliate marketing are all highly beneficial strategies for DTC brands to adopt to help gain traction and grow their customer base.

With the rise of social media and a simultaneous decrease in trust in paid advertising, consumers are now looking for more genuine and authentic recommendations to help them decide what brands to purchase from.

This comes as no surprise, seeing as 84% of Millennials dislike advertising and are 115% more influenced by word of mouth than traditional advertising.

Finding ways to market your brand genuinely is key to unlocking your next chapter of growth. And this is where brand ambassadors come into play.

Starting a brand ambassador program can help your brand gain a competitive edge and cut through the noise of paid advertising and traditional marketing efforts.

Brand ambassador programs aren't a new phenomenon, and while many brands have propped up programs that have been a significant hit, some brands see few results and are left wondering, "what went wrong?"

The best brand ambassador programs take note of the mistakes of their predecessors and understand how to avoid them.

It's essential to remember that not all brands are ready for an ambassador program.

Is ambassador marketing a strategy your brand is ready to adopt in 2022? Then keep reading to learn the top 8 brand ambassador program mistakes and how to avoid them!

What Are Brand Ambassadors?

A brand ambassador is an individual that will act as an authentic voice for your brand. You have likely heard a few different terms when talking about brand ambassadors - mega- influencers, micro-influencers, social media influencers, customer advocates, affiliates, or brand advocates.

An ambassador is a person who knows your products, is active in recommending your product to friends and family, and is interested in taking part in your brand's growth and success.

Brand ambassadors often start as your most loyal customers and are willing to go on social media to support and promote your brand.

A reoccurring customer doesn't necessarily equate to a quality brand ambassador. Brand ambassadors have to be willing to do the work, and great brand ambassadors will go the extra mile and show dedication to the program.

How Can a Brand Ambassador Program Help Your Brand Grow?

Brand ambassadors can help your brand grow in a highly genuine way.

If thoughtfully planned and structured well, brand ambassadors can help you achieve:

  • Higher click-through rates
  • Greater conversion rates
  • Increased return on ad spend
  • Increased visibility for your content
  • Higher visibility and more engagement on social media
  • Increased social proof and improved social media presence
  • Increase brand awareness

Top 7 Brand Ambassador Program Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Ambassador programs are an excellent strategy for growth and have the potential to take your brand to new heights! Brand ambassadors can aid you in creating content that incorporates your brand, helping you tap into a pool of potential new customers.

In return for this high converting user-generated content, you can reward ambassadors in the form of cash, free products, or exclusive events.

Brand ambassadors are key to directly communicating with your target market. Since customer loyalty is strong amongst ambassadors (most ambassadors start as passionate customers), they will be happy to help their favorite brand grow!

But, before you flip the switch and start your program, it is crucial to know the most common mistakes brands make when starting an ambassador program.

These mistakes can stand between a brand hosting a successful program and a program that doesn't quite reach its full potential.

The best brand ambassador programs start with a smart strategy, so before you launch your program, let's dive into the top 8 brand ambassador program mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1 - Your Brand Isn't Ready for an Ambassador Program (but You Start One Anyway)

There are many unique brands out there with exceptional products/services that receive constant praise from customers. But that doesn't mean that these brands are ready for an ambassador program.

Furthermore, some brands might not have enough of a following or a large customer base, making recruiting ambassadors challenging. You don't have to be the most significant player in your industry, but brand recognition is crucial when starting an ambassador program.

Brands that aren't ready for a program will find that recruiting is a challenge, engagement is low, and their efforts aren't yielding all of the benefits an ambassador program can generate.

How to Avoid this Mistake

If you are unsure if your brand should start an ambassador program, check to see if you have the following:

  • A product or service with proven traction - ideally a minimum of $500,000 in annual revenue
  • An existing audience that you can recruit from - at least 10,000 email subscribers or 30,000 Instagram followers
  • A dedicated marketing manager
  • Bandwidth to dedicate 1-2 hours a day to program management

Some brands might take on more than they can chew, resulting in a disorganized program and an unengaged group of ambassadors.

If you are unsure if your brand can dedicate the time necessary to hosting the program, hold off until you are in a better place!

Mistake #2 - Your Affiliate Program Is Complicated, and Ambassadors Don't Make Referrals

For most ambassadors, working with a brand is a side gig or hustle that offers an additional revenue stream while supporting a brand they love.

But, if your affiliate program is complicated or unpolished, your ambassadors will likely not invest time into the program and share their discount code with friends and followers.

And affiliates know that they can make good money working with brands, with 35% of affiliates making at least $20K in annual revenue from their affiliate marketing efforts.

What leads to a complicated affiliate program:

  • Unclear expectations or guidelines - where do they get their exclusive discount code, how much commission they earn per sale, do friends/family/followers get a discount too, how payouts work, etc.
  • Do they get paid per sale, per lead, per click - you're not clear on how they earn commission, discouraging ambassadors from generating more sales. 
  • Unrealistic expectations for generating sales - affiliate marketing is a side gig for most ambassadors, so they might not have endless amounts of time to make sales. Be upfront if there is a quota they need to hit so they can plan ahead.
  • Not having your tooling dialed in - ambassadors want an easy way to check their sales, so the harder you make this, the more unengaged they will become and the fewer sales they will generate. 

How to Avoid this Mistake

Create clear affiliate guidelines and communicate them with your affiliates. Starting from day one, tell your affiliates how much they will get in commission, the discount the people they refer to your brand receive, and how payouts work.

Make it as easy as possible for ambassadors to get their discount codes so they can start sharing them with followers. When creating your affiliate program, outline how you will reward ambassadors for each sale they generate.

For the sake of ambassador longevity and health, be sure to offer ambassadors a platform or tool to track their revenue easily. Transparency is a must when working with affiliates!

‍Mistake #3 - Your Program Tooling Isn't User-Friendly

Glitches, bugs, and unpolished UX/UI in your tooling can turn anyone away from your program.

Brand ambassador programs should be easy to understand with a relatively low learning curve, not tricky, and too technical for the average ambassador to understand.

We have heard this from several ambassadors - they joined an ambassador program, but due to the tooling and platform (or lack thereof), they decided to drop the program because the brand's tooling wasn't polished. They had to save themselves the headache of participating in an unorganized program and a non-user-friendly platform.

How to Avoid this Mistake

Offering your ambassadors and social media influencers a streamlined, easy-to-use tool that keeps them coming back for more will keep your engagement at an all-time high!

Try to avoid multiple platforms (which we will get to in the next mistake) and make the program as simple as possible. An ambassador program should be fun, so having your tooling streamlined will make the experience more enjoyable for your ambassadors.

Mistake #4 - You're Using Multiple Platforms to Host Your Program

Most people will agree - managing several different platforms and tools can feel overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress. This needs to apply to your ambassador program as well.

Suppose you are hosting an ambassador program on two or more platforms. If you do this, you are likely to cause burnout in your community.

Ambassadors will get frustrated because they have to manage the program on various platforms, and your team will start to experience bandwidth issues from juggling too many tools.

New ambassadors shouldn't be left wondering which tool to use for each activity when they join your program. Instead, they will often become overwhelmed by switching between several different platforms.

In addition, your ambassadors have a higher chance of missing important program updates and information because they need to juggle several different platforms.

We have seen brands use Facebook groups, a platform for tracking affiliates, and a Google sheet for submitting UGC; it's too much for one person to manage!

How to Avoid this Mistake

Keep it simple. Bring your program onto one unified platform that does it all. Find an all-in-one platform where ambassadors can track their referrals, get new products/rewards, engage with their fellow ambassadors, and submit their UGC for points! Less stress is best. 🙌

Mistake #5 - You Aren't Investing in Your Community

Many ambassadors will say that one of the most significant selling points for joining a program is the chance to learn and grow alongside their favorite brand.

Ambassadors can get the unique opportunity to meet founding members and influential company heads and grow in a community of like-minded people. In addition, many brands function internationally, meaning their community is full of global ambassadors, providing a rare opportunity for your community to meet people worldwide!

But, if you are inviting ambassadors to join your program but aren't investing time into your team and your community, then your ambassadors will likely feel disappointed, and the program will be lackluster.

Ambassadors can provide genuine product feedback and help you shape your roadmap significantly; you just need to offer them the space to use their voice!

How to Avoid this Mistake

This one's simple; invest in your community, and ambassadors will show up. This goes back to point one - if you don't have enough capacity or a dedicated program manager, your program will fall flat.

Don't post and ghost; you can't hold high expectations for your ambassadors but not invest time into them; it needs to be a two-way street.

Mistake #6 - You Don't Keep Your Program Fresh

If you aren't keeping the program fresh, ambassadors will lose interest, and engagement will plummet.

Ambassadors want to help you create content and genuinely promote your brand. They're excited to take to social media and detail why your brand is amazing and worth purchasing from. But if you aren't providing them with a new challenge or exciting activities, they will get bored and drop the program.

When engagement plummets, you will be losing out on the opportunity to attract more customers, be promoted directly to your target audience, increase revenue, and grow a community around your brand.

Additionally, if your program lacks excitement, potential brand ambassadors will be turned away from the program and opt for the ambassador program of other brands in your niche, meaning your community could potentially promote the competition.

That's why keeping your program fresh and exciting is essential.

How to Avoid this Mistake

Best practices for keeping your program fresh:

  • Create new activities weekly, such as writing positive reviews on your products, giving product feedback, or meeting a member of the community
  • Think of inventive ways to generate more UGC
  • Understand the platforms most relevant to your community and utilize those (TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) 
  • Incentivize them, for example, a chance to be featured on your website/social media or opportunities to meet the team
  • Reward them for their work! Commission, exciting rewards, free products, etc.

Mistake #7 - Your Program Doesn't Allow Ambassadors to Be Creative

Sometimes, a brand can come along and be a perfect candidate for a strong brand ambassador, but after the program has been live for a few months, they don't have a lot of engagement, and very few people complete activities.

Why is that?

It could be because the brand isn't allowing creative freedom when asking for user-generated content. 

Great brand ambassadors are ready to go online and offline and help promote your brand. With the help of brand ambassadors, they can help you build brand awareness, earn money from referral purchases, and spread positive messages about your brand.

But if an ambassador goes through all of the trouble of promoting your brand on various social platforms and doesn't receive compensation for their work, that could cause them to want to drop the program.

Some brands have too much control and don't want to let their ambassadors create the kind of content that resonates best with their audience.

The best brand ambassador, the one that you want on your team for the long run, will have a relationship with their followers on the social media platforms they frequent most and will know the kind of content that will spark curiosity about your brand.

How to Avoid this Mistake

Give simple instructions, and let the ambassadors create the type of content that they enjoy. Many ambassadors have authentic relationships with their followers and will know precisely how to promote your brand to their audience.

Sometimes an ambassador will not follow directions and will complete a submission activity incorrectly. Your brand might not want to reward them for their content in those instances. 

But suppose an ambassador adds their creative spin to an activity or campaign and doesn't get rewarded for following the directions to a T. In that case, it might be time for your brand to loosen up and allow ambassadors to be creative.

Give an outline of what you are looking for, such as asking for high-quality photos or interesting Reels/TikToks incorporating your brand. Then, let the ambassadors use their creativity to make the type of content they enjoy and reward them for doing so!

Mistake #8 - Your Brand Doesn't Have the Bandwidth for a Program

Ambassador programs aren't simple. You should expect to spend 1-2 hours a day or at least 10 hours a week solely dedicated to program maintenance.

Brand ambassador programs entail the following (if not more):

  • Create new activities
  • Check user-generated content
  • Maintain and support the community
  • Monitor referrals and send payouts
  • Fulfill rewards
  • Recruit and find new team members
  • Housekeeping and community management

If you don't have enough capacity, one or several of these items will go unchecked. It will leave ambassadors feeling unmotivated and uninspired, leading to a drop in engagement and a high turnover rate.

How to Avoid this Mistake

Make your brand ambassador program an extension of your marketing program, and have a designated team member responsible for community management, monitoring the program, answering ambassador questions, and recruiting.

Conclusion

Are you ready to start an ambassador program? If you check all the boxes in the program readiness checklist, you are in a comfortable spot to make 2022 your best year of growth yet with the help of your ambassadors!

Ready to turn your customers into your thriving crew of brand ambassadors? If so, watch the epic CrewFire demo video or get in touch with us to learn how you can drive more referrals, word-of-mouth, and user-generated content for your Shopify store.

Get in touch w/ Rony (CEO - CrewFire)

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WRITTEN BY

Alan VanToai

Co-Founder of CrewFire