04.29.2014

3095149875_17e80da811_bEver wonder why influencer marketing on LinkedIn took off while AmEx Open Forum’s influencer campaigns struggled? What about how Apple developed a cult following or Yelp cultivated such a strong influence over local businesses through ambassador reviews?

None of these instances happened by chance. Each of these initiatives had an intentionally-designed strategy behind it — a strategy to recruit, retain, and align influencer and ambassador community members with business goals: growth and sales.

At Loyal, we’ve developed many of these kinds of initiatives including influencer management and partner collaborations with GE, ambassador onboarding with CollaborativeConsumption.com and our most recent work with #climate on high-profile user onboarding and influencer management. Through our work, we’ve nailed down our process for high-performing and smoothly run influencer and ambassador initiatives and best practices.

Here are our 6 Steps to top-notch influencer and ambassador programs:

1. Keep Relationships Warm

If not properly managed, your influencer or ambassador campaign can fail well before it begins. At Loyal, we’ve learned that the key predictor of success of such engagements is how well the relationships with influencers, ambassadors and partners are maintained prior to making the ask of participation. All parties involved should at minimum be familiar with the promoted product or service, if not a friend of the company. Ideally, they’ve been prepped and achingly waiting for the day that you’re ready to launch your campaign and include them!

When the ask (best done by the relationship owner) comes, it should be expected rather than a surprise. All parties should be ready, eager and excited, and introduction handoffs to the program manager should be warm, confident, and build credibility.

2. Set the Vision

The first thing that we do for any participant in a program or campaign is either send a highly personalized email or set up an onboarding call. From the first point of contact, it’s important to succinctly communicate the vision of the campaign/program, and to clearly communicate why their participation will make a difference. At Loyal, we’ll often develop a customizable email template or call script to make sure that all important points are covered. These will include:

  • Appropriate greetings

  • General Context — who we are in relationship to the client and why we’re here

  • Personal Content — be able to say something personally relevant such as who you may know in common or how great their work is. Do your research!

  • Vision Setting – what the big picture vision of the campaign/program is in relation to the client’s overall mission

  • The Ask – At this point, you just want to confirm that they are interested. “Can you hop on the phone for 15 minutes later this week?” or “We’re looking to kick off next week. Would you be interested in participating?”

It’s often helpful to explicitly share what the participant will receive in return — whether it be additional audience reach, monetary compensation, credibility and reputation, or something more specific to the participant’s own business goals.

Essentially, why is this initiative important, and what’s in it for them?

3. Manage Expectations

As the saying goes, underpromise and overdeliver. As with any new endeavor, it’s possible that things won’t go according to plan. While you might not be able to guarantee a specific result, you can share your goals and plans to get there.

At Loyal, we provide participants with timelines for the program/campaign, any resources that they might need, as well as sample social media content that they can customize to share their involvement. We also clearly outline what and by when is expected from the participants, and we confirm that they’ll be able to fulfill their responsibilities.

4. Make it Easy

When you ask a participant to do something on your behalf, even if it is something that benefits them, make it as easy as possible for him/her to do.

For example, for #climate’s users and influencer onboarding, we’ll personally set up each party’s account, help them brainstorm or pick out content, help upload and edit the content if needed, and once their content is scheduled, send them a personal email letting them know what to expect for next steps. As another example, for GE’s #3DPrintMyGift campaign, we troubleshooted any technical constraints and buffered out-of-scope influencer requests on behalf of designers — the most annoying part of creative commissioned work. All of this enabled program participants focus on what they do best rather than spending valuable time on administrative details.

Effectively, you’re acting as a concierge during this stage of the engagement. Do the hard work for them, and they’ll be much more likely to fulfill their obligation.

5. Deliver Results & Be Transparent

Self-explanatory. Of course, you want to get the results you hoped for. Nothing will make participants happier than feeling that they have contributed to your success.

However, if the initiative does not go well for whatever reason, make that your participants know that it’s not their fault and that you appreciate all of their hard work (we’re huge fans of sending goodies in the mail). It’s ok, though, to let them know where you think the campaign might have gone awry and how you’ll prevent this next time. Keep the relationships warm with periodic updates so that you can re-engage them once you’ve gone back to the drawing board for the next initiative.

6. Follow Up

Think you’re done? Nope! Achieving results isn’t enough — you also have to share the outcome with your participants. More importantly, make them feel that they were part of the accomplishment!

This can be done through periodical analytics reports, sharing of press links, and/or overall campaign/program evaluations. At Loyal, we also like to check in with participants both during the engagement and afterwards with surveys so ensure participant satisfaction. We’ll ask for NPS, what they did and did not like about participating and who’d they’d recommend to include next.

And that’s how you put together a top-notch ambassador program.

Any questions? Or do you have your own tips for increasing performance of ambassador and influencer campaigns? Post a comment below!


Photo Credit: The U.S. Army via Compfight cc

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Sarah Judd Welch

Founder/Head of Community Design + BD at Loyal. Designing communities for startups, brands, and Fortune 100s. Previously: TaskRabbit, Catchafire, Goldman. Get in touch or say hi @sjw.