How to Set Up a Brand Ambassador Program for Your Boutique
Answer me honestly – how is marketing your boutique going?
Maybe you have a few enthusiastic fans of your brand, but you know you could have so many more if you could just figure out how to reach the right people.
Or maybe you’ve built a strong, tight-knit community on social media, but you’re ready to take things to the next level and expand your social presence.
Or maybe you’re just barely getting started, with your boutique’s main supporters being your mom and a handful of your best friends.
Whatever your situation, starting a brand ambassador program for your boutique can be a powerful way to involve your community, reach more potential customers, and strengthen your social media presence. Though it isn’t necessarily the right move for everyone, many businesses like yours have seen enormous success from mobilizing their existing customer base and turning them into a method of finding new customers.
Also known as affiliate programs, brand ambassador programs create a win-win situation for you and your customers.
You get the word out about your brand, attract new customers, and generate loads of valuable content to use on social media and your website.
In return, your brand ambassadors get $$$, free product, commissions, insider info, and other fun perks.
But wait… before you start reaching out to everyone who’s ever liked one of your photos and start asking them if they want to be a brand ambassador, there are a few things you should know. (Like how that’s not a great idea.)
Think about it – if you’re not careful, you could just end up giving away a bunch of free product without getting anything in return. And on the other hand, if you don’t have a good idea about what your goals are and what you want your brand ambassadors to do for you, you could find yourself in some uncomfortable situations.
Before you set up a brand ambassador program for your boutique, you’ve got to lay the groundwork and set your boutique (and your affiliates) up for success. (Plus, you don’t want managing your brand ambassador program to take up too much of your precious time!)
We’ll go over everything you need to know about setting up a brand ambassador program for your boutique, from what exactly an affiliate program is, the pros and cons of having brand ambassadors, and how to set up a brand ambassador program for your boutique.
What Is a Brand Ambassador Program?
A brand ambassador is someone who promotes a brand and its products to their own audience. A brand ambassador program standardizes the way you partner with celebrities, influencers, or other brand ambassadors you select to represent your brand.
Brand ambassadors are often celebrities or influencers who already have a large following of their own, but they don’t have to be. Nowadays, everyone has an audience, no matter how small! If your boutique is still on the small side, you can also mobilize small-scale creators or everyday fans of your brand to become ambassadors and share your shop with the people in their network.
Traditional brand ambassador programs are usually invite-only or require an application, allowing you to vet each potential candidate and make sure they’re a good fit to represent your brand. However, some businesses have seen a lot of success from letting all of their customers be brand ambassadors in their own way, equipping each of them with a unique referral link so they can earn store credit from any new customers they refer.
How you equip your brand ambassadors for success depends on the type of program you implement, but you’ll usually send them new products to create content with and regular updates about new things that are going on in your boutique. You’ll also often give them a unique link or discount code to track how many sales they are driving to your shop and how much commission they earn on those sales.
Brand ambassador programs usually involve a more long-term relationship, rather than one-off campaigns. With the right structure, your brand ambassadors can become the people you go to whenever you have an exciting sale coming up, a new line you’re about to launch, or other fun news to share.
Whatever sort of brand ambassador program you choose to implement, it should be based on a specific goal – most likely, to drive sales or brand awareness.
Why Start a Brand Ambassador Program?
The short answer? It really works. Studies show that 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know over any other type of advertising. Plus, 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends or family before making a purchase.
While your products probably really are as great as you say they are, you’re not exactly an unbiased source – people tend to put a lot more stake into reviews and recommendations from real customers. Getting a few key brand ambassadors to tell people they know (or people who feel like they know them!) about your amazing products can help you make some serious moves in your business.
All sorts of businesses use brand ambassador programs successfully, from skincare brands like Glossier and Clinique to apparel brands like Levis and Modcloth. It’s a tried and true method that harnesses both the power of influencers and word-of-mouth.
Brand Ambassadors: Pros and Cons
Brand ambassador programs can a powerful way to kickstart your marketing efforts, but there are a few downsides you’ll want to keep in mind as well before you invest loads of time into making it happen. Here are the top pros and cons of implementing a brand ambassador program in your boutique:
Pros of Having a Brand Ambassador Program:
Win-win situation – With the right structure in place, your brand ambassadors will feel rewarded by your program and their promotions will help your boutique grow.
Improves brand awareness – Influencer promotions will raise awareness of your brand, making people feel more comfortable about purchasing from you in the future even if they don’t’ right away.
Can drive sales – Ambassador recommendations will encourage people to head straight to your boutique and see what all the hype is about for themselves.
Builds relationships with powerful people – Having a celebrity or an uber-popular Instagrammer in your corner is always a positive, especially when it comes to new product launches down the road.
Finds more authentic/engaged followers – Partnering with influencers and other brand ambassadors can help you build your social media following in an organic way.
Create more content for you to share/cross-promote – No need to spend all of your time snapping product photos anymore – brand ambassadors can generate high-quality content for you to share on social media and your website.
Generate feedback – Brand ambassadors can also become a sounding board for feedback on new products and new ideas.
Cost-effective – While compensation will vary depending on the tier of influencers you select as brand ambassadors, ambassadors who are genuine fans of your brand might be willing to promote your shop in exchange for just free product or commission.
Cons of Having a Brand Ambassador Program:
Takes time to set up – A successful brand ambassador program requires some work upfront to establish the structure.
Hard to find the right people – Finding the right influencers or customers to partner with can be a time-consuming process – and even once you’ve found a few, it can take a few months before you see results from the partnership.
No guarantee for how well it will work – Some brand ambassadors might end up driving thousands of dollars in sales, others might accept the free product and then never manage to send even one customer your way. Identifying the brand ambassadors that will work best for your boutique can take some trial and error.
Difficult to manage – Communicating with ambassadors, following up with them about posting content, and reaching out to them about upcoming campaigns takes time and organization.
Expensive – While compensation will vary depending on the tier of influencers you select as brand ambassadors, some influencers or celebrities might expect hundreds or even thousands of dollars in addition to free products.
Is My Boutique Ready for a Brand Ambassador Program?
Brand ambassador programs aren’t necessarily a good fit for everyone, but they could make a big difference for your business if you:
Are active on social media – Most brand ambassadors will drive their followers to your social media page, so you’ll want to make sure you deliver once they get there.
Are already established – It’s okay if you’re still relatively new, but you’ll want to make sure your brand is clear and well established before you work on increasing awareness of it.
Have a great product – No amount of influencer marketing will help much if your products aren’t awesome!
Already have a happy customer base – This will make it easier for you to get your brand ambassador program off the ground.
Are targeting a niche audience – This isn’t a requirement, but it makes it easier to narrow your search to influencers with a similar audience and focus.
Types of Brand Ambassador Programs
Before you set up a brand ambassador program for your boutique, choose what type of program is the best fit for your business based on your budget, your existing audience, and the amount of time you’re willing to spend managing it.
These brand ambassador programs are highly structured, setting the expectations from the very beginning. They typically outline a certain number of posts a brand ambassador must complete in a time period and the compensation they will receive for it. This is a good fit for established brands looking to partner with higher-tier influencers and celebrities. It allows you to count on a certain amount of content being created on a regular basis.
Affiliate brand ambassador programs are focused on driving sales. Brand ambassadors receive a unique link or promo code to share with their followers. As they drive purchases through their link, they receive commission. Affiliates are usually compensated through commission only or commission and free product.
Informal brand ambassador programs encourage anyone and everyone to share about the brand. While they might offer some incentive for sharing, like reposting their content, offering a promo code, or being entered into a giveaway, there typically isn’t any major structure or incentive in place.
Referral programs allow any customer to be a brand ambassador. All customers receive a unique referral link which they can share with their friends. When their friends make a purchase through the link, the customer earns store credit or a discount on their next purchase.
How to Create a Brand Ambassador Program
Now that you’re a little more aware of what you’re getting yourself into and which type of program you’d like to start, you’re ready to set up your brand ambassador boutique. Here are the 5 steps you’ll need to take:
First and foremost, decide what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want to simply build brand awareness? Expand your reach on social media and grow your community? Drive sales? Have a super successful new product launch? Define what you would like to achieve before you make any other moves.
Define your ideal brand ambassador
Get clear about who you are looking for to represent your brand. Do you want to partner with existing customers? People who are an expert in a specific subject? Celebrities? Fellow business owners? Influencers with a certain number of followers? Take a moment to outline the criteria for becoming a brand ambassador.
Find potential ambassadors
If you’re looking for existing customers, check your past orders, social media followers, and mailing list. If you’re looking for influencers, spend some time searching on social media or use a platform like Brandbassador to find them. You could also open up an application process on your website if you’d like to make sure people are genuinely interested before starting the conversation with them.
When you reach out to potential ambassadors, outline what you expect to offer them ($$, free product, commission, etc) and what you expect to get in return (3 story posts, 1 feed post, a featured blog article, etc). You might end up negotiating these numbers, but you should start with something in mind! Once you’ve agreed on the terms, sign a contract or send out the product to start the relationship.
Check-in consistently to see how things are going, both on the ambassador’s side and on your own. Identify top performers and observe what they do differently. Track your progress toward your goals and tweak based on what’s working and what’s not.