Managing & Extending: Nurture Brand Advocates or Ambassadors
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING
This article continues examining, in depth, the parts of the branding process that I introduced in my e-book, 17 Mistakes that Can Harm Your Brand. In the book, I outline five phases of the branding process:
The last part of Phase 5 is Nurture Brand Ambassadors and Advocates. Once you have launched your brand you will naturally engage with customers. This is an ongoing process for any brand no matter their size. The big difference between large companies and smaller entrepreneurs is the realization of the importance of brand advocates and brand ambassadors. These two segments of people are, if properly engaged, helpful in spreading the information of your brand to the masses. To many, that last sentence may sound confusing. The confusion is in that often people don’t understand that there is difference between your brand ambassadors and your brand advocates. These two terms are often, incorrectly, interchanged. To better understand your ambassadors and your advocates lets go through the differences along with how you can engage them.
We have discussed brand ambassadorsbefore. Your brand ambassadors are typically anyone who is a paid internal or external individual who is a fan of your brand. Your community or customers view ambassadors as:
- Having insider information
- Employees of the company
- Outspoken members of your community
- Experts when it comes to your brand and its offerings
With regards to how your community or customers view your brand ambassadors, there is a perceived problem that you need to work with your ambassadors to overcome. Due to the fact that ambassadors are paid, they have an inherent trust problem. Many of your customers and members of your community will view your brand ambassadors as being biased mouthpieces. They are seen as people who are limited and only able to speak to the good traits of your brand. Your communities’ and customer’s ability to trust your ambassadors is directly connected to how they trust you.
To combat the issue of trust when it comes to your brand ambassadors, you need to be open, honest and transparent. Allow your brand ambassadors to put helping your customers first. Think of the Santa Claus from the movie Miracle on 34thStreet. By sending customers where they could find something cheaper, he was able to garner customers who loved the Macy’s brand more. Granted, this is a movie, but the principle is the same. Allow your ambassadors the freedom to establish open trust with your customers and you’ll see improved perceptions of your brand’s image.
In contrast to brand ambassadors, brand advocates are not paid by the company. These are the people who are out in the world using your brand’s offerings and loving it. These are the people who are:
- Your superfans; they pay to interact with your brand
- Talk about your brand on social media
- Own and know your brand
- Wish for your brand to interact with them
- Don’t expect any compensation
Whereas brand ambassador’s initial problem relates to a matter of trust from the community or customers, brand advocates often have a problem related to being viewed as being a valid voice. Your community and customers look at brand ambassadors as having the backing of your brand, they know that brand advocates don’t. Where you can help your brand loyalists is by doing what they did for you: seeking them out, promote them on your social media channels, invite them to corporate events, and so on. You will want to take care to be careful with how you engage them, in that there is not a form of compensation. Doing so leads them to be brand ambassadors and can lead them to problems with any followers or their community.
Engage Them Together
An important thing to remember when it comes to the two, is that it is not a one-or-the-other situation. Often brand ambassadors are former brand advocates, and brand advocates aspire to be ambassadors. Your brand needs to come up with a method to engage both ambassadors and advocates that appeals to both groups.
Brands such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon engage both ambassadors and advocates together when they have events where they unveil new equipment. Typically, during these events they will have brand ambassadors talk about the new features or what they love about the new features. The people they invite to attend are the brand advocates or influencers and the press. The hope is that the advocates and influencers will then leave and talk about everything they just saw.
Microsoft offers their MVP program to reward the “Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, are technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community.” An open program available to anyone who can nominate themselves or another person.
Adobe hosts multiple conferences where they invite their brand ambassadors and brand advocates to come and speak to other fans and users of the brand’s various offerings. At one of these conferences they turn their attendees into brand advocates by giving them the first look at the new product offerings. They even go so far as providing them demonstrations of technologies they are thinking about including in future releases. The attendees then share their knowledge with their peers and others through avenues such as social media.
Your brand needs to come up with a plan and method to engage and benefit from your brand ambassadors as well as your brand advocates. To not engage them is only going to hurt your brand. Allow both groups to engage with you as well and you’ll see how they can help make your brand better.
Ideas To Make Your Brand Better Now:
- Create a brand ambassador program and identify at least one person who can serve as a brand ambassador for your brand.
- As you launch, or if you launched previously, seek out brand advocates and engage them to help foster their love for your brand.
- Determine a way that your brand can engage both ambassadors and advocates at the same time.