White Papers

July 15th, 2020

Influencers are Actors. Ambassadors are your Sales People.

Influencer marketing has been around for years. Companies partner with actors, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities to better sell their products. While many brands still desire to work with traditionally famous individuals, a new kind of influencer has emerged.

The internet, and social media in particular, have allowed every day people to amass large followings and dictate public opinion. So much so, in fact, that the term "influencer" is now generally used to refer to this group of people.

However, brands need to ask themselves, "are modern influencers really the right partners for our brand? Is there another way to tap into the digital influence of others?" These are the types of questions we look forward to addressing in this white paper.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a digital marketing strategy that's exploded in popularity over the last decade or so. It's now a $8 billion+ industry and companies that invest in it generally earn an effective ROI

That's great, you're thinking, but what is influencer marketing? In a nutshell, influencer marketing is the act of partnering with a person who wields online influence in order to promote a specific brand, product, or service.

In 2020, it's been reported that 93% of marketers now use influencer marketing and 65% of them plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets this year.

If you're still unsure about influencer marketing, maybe these stats will help ease your mind:

The power of online influencers is undeniable, though questions regarding the type of influencer brands should work with remain.

Influencers and Ambassadors: What's the Difference?

These terms are often used interchangeably. In reality, influencers, ambassadors, and advocates all refer to different groups of people. Understanding these differences is key to finding success with your influencer marketing strategy.

Influencers

"Influencer" is a broad term that includes anyone who commands a significant level of influence online. An influencer could, for example, have a large Instagram following. In fact, Instagram is the most important channel for influencer marketing in 2020. However, other channels like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter shouldn't be forgotten. Popular bloggers and email newsletter creators can wield high levels of influence as well and help brands sell more products.

For the purpose of this white paper we'll consider an influencer to be anyone who partners with a brand, on a limited-time basis, with the express purpose of promoting a brand's products and/or services to their digital following, in exchange for some kind of compensation.

With that in mind, let's look at the pros and cons of working with influencers.

Influencer Pros and Cons

Working with influencers can be incredibly beneficial, as the statistics clearly show. Like anything, though, there are also downsides to this marketing strategy. Here are the pros and cons of influencer marketing that you need to be aware of:

Pros:Cons:
Influencer marketing can be incredibly effective when done correctly. Just reread some of the stats above to confirm. Not many other marketing strategies will give you a 765% ROI.It's nearly impossible to measure influence. A specific influencer may have millions of followers but be completely unable to move the needle for your business in a meaningful way. Because of this, brands risk losing money with this strategy.
Working with influencers can extend your brand's reach. Imagine having access to hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers for a single campaign.Most influencers will be more interested in protecting their own brand than yours, which could lead to a conflict of interest.
Influencer campaigns capitalizes on word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the most effective ways to promote a business. People trust people, not advertisements.Influencer marketing campaigns are almost always short-term arrangements. Some brands might prefer to build longer-lasting partnerships with influencers.

Ambassadors

An ambassador is similar to an influencer. Both groups wield online influence and use it to promote specific brands and the products they sell. But there are a few key differences.

Ambassadors generally work closely with the brands they partner with on an ongoing basis. This allows them to really learn about the products they represent and gain in-depth knowledge about the target audience. Ambassadors in many cases are considered micro-influencers,  although do not have to be categorized as such.

The ongoing nature of an ambassador relationship is more akin to a sales associate type relationship. The pay structure for ambassadors therefore lends itself to being very different than it is for influencers. If and to the extent possible, ambassadors would welcome being paid on a commission for every product they sell, and brands would far prefer such method. They understand that they are working for a brand and product in which they specialize, maintain an expertise and are passionate about. Such payment arrangement is also beneficial for brands because it represents near zero risk. Influencers, on the other hand, are accustomed to demand a set fee, regardless of how well the campaign they produce performs.

Ambassador Pros and Cons

Working with ambassadors has pros and cons, just like working with influencers does. Here are the top benefits and drawbacks you need to understand:

Pros:Cons:
Many of the benefits that apply to influencers also apply to brand ambassadors. These folks will help you boost ROI, extend your brand's reach, and capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing.Most ambassadors don't have the same reach that top influencers do. If you're looking to get your brand's products in front of millions of people at once, a brand ambassadorship strategy probably isn't ideal.
Marketing with ambassadors is often a more personal experience. These folks have in-depth knowledge of the products they rep and are able to provide customers with detailed insights.Ambassadors generally partner with brands on a long-term basis. Companies looking for short-term relationships should consider investing in influencer marketing instead.
Ambassador programs are low-risk for brands because ambassadors are only paid commissions when they sell products. You could theoretically pay an influencer thousands of dollars and make zero sales in return.Those with incredible influence online (read: the Kardashians and other celebrities) usually work as influencers rather than ambassadors, which means you won't have access to these top personalities.

Which Strategy is Right for my Brand?

The answer to that question really depends on your brand's current marketing strategy and overarching goals. What are you trying to accomplish?

If brand awareness is your main objective, working with an influencer who has amassed a large following might be your best bet — as long as you can confirm that their actual level of influence matches the number of followers they currently have.

On the other hand, if your goal is to build an army of long-term partners and increase sales over an extended period of time, an ambassador program is your best option. Many companies have begun to take this route because it minimizes risk, while still delivering high upside potential.

How to Build a Winning Brand Ambassador Program

Deciding to invest your marketing dollars into an ambassador program rather than general influencer marketing campaigns is a solid choice for most organizations. To build a winning ambassador program that improves sales numbers and generates more revenue for your company, follow these three steps:

1. Create an Ideal Brand Ambassador Profile

Before you begin partnering with brand ambassadors, you should take the time to define what the perfect ambassador for your brand looks like.

Do you want them to have expert knowledge in a specific area? Which marketing channels would you prefer them to use? Are you planning to only work with brand ambassadors who have a certain amount of followers on social media?

The criteria you set for your brand ambassadors is completely up to you. Just make sure you create an ideal profile before you attempt to partner with any ambassadors.

2. Partner With Brand Ambassadors

Once your ideal brand ambassador profile is created, you can begin to recruit folks who fit your criteria. There are a few different ways to do this:

  • Reach Out Personally: The most tedious and time-consuming way to connect with potential brand ambassadors is to find them online and personally reach out, asking if they'd be interested in partnering with your brand.
  • Access a Database: Some companies, like TVPage, have built ambassador databases that your company can access. Once you're signed up, you'll be able to browse through a list of pre-vetted ambassadors and request to partner with ones you feel fit your brand.
  • Accept Applications: If your brand is big enough, you might be able to promote your ambassador program via email, social media, etc. and get ambassadors to come to you. Then all you have to do is sort through the applications and choose the right partners.

Don't forget about company employees when looking for brand ambassadors! These folks already have an intimate knowledge of your brand and have a vested interest in seeing it succeed. In all likelihood, many of them are also active on social media and would jump at the chance to earn more money via commissions.

3. Monitor and Optimize Your Program Results

Once you've found and partnered with an ambassador, you need to monitor the results they produce. Are they boosting sales and revenue for your company? If not, ask yourself why. Maybe you need to give them more training and/or resources.

If you are enjoying positive results due to your newly established ambassador program, congratulations! But don't rest on your laurels just yet.

Continually look for ways to improve. Consider partnering with more ambassadors to extend your brand's reach. Communicate with your current ambassadors and develop new strategies to better connect with your target audience online.

Brand Ambassador Examples

Some of the biggest brands in the world have implemented ambassador programs and found success. Here are two examples to study and draw inspiration from:

1. Macy's

Michelle Kunz (above) is a sales associate at the Macy's NYC store and regularly posts content to her storefront on Macys.com

In 2019, Macy's, the largest department store in the United States, created Style Crew, a successful employee-based ambassador program. 

Through the program, Macy's staff members are able to share pictures and videos of their favorite Macy's fashion, beauty, and home decor products to their social media pages. Every post is linked to a personalized digital storefront within the main Macy's website, which ambassadors can use to drive traffic, generate sales, and earn commissions.

To power the Style Crew ambassador program, Macy's turned to TVPage, whose video commerce cloud technology is designed to increase sales and allows each ambassador to easily connect with their audiences via shoppable content.

2. Reserve Bar

Chad is one of Reserve Bar’s ambassadors
See a video from Chad here

Reserve Bar, an online seller of premium alcoholic beverages, is another company that's chosen to partner with TVPage to create a winning ambassador program. 

Once ambassadors sign up and are approved to partner with Reserve Bar, they simply start posting videos and pictures of Reserve Bar beverages to their social media feeds. Those who follow the ambassadors can then click on the embedded content links, make their way to the ambassador's personalized storefront within the Reserve Bar website, and purchase products. Every time they do, the ambassador earns a commission.

TVPage content created for Reserve Bar will also appear in Google search results, giving ambassadors even more opportunities to connect with buyers and earn income.

Boost your Business With Influence

Influencer marketing has the power to launch companies into the stratosphere and help them sell more products and/or services than ever before. The trick to using this marketing strategy effectively is to determine what kind of influencer your brand should work with: a traditional influencer or a true brand ambassador.

Many companies are starting to realize the advantage brand ambassadors represent. These folks act like digital sales people. They care about and are invested in the brands they partner with and their efforts are much more easily measured. Whereas traditional influencers are actors in the sense that they may or may not care about the brands they promote — as long as they get paid. Additionally, gauging an influencer's actual level of influence is incredibly difficult.

If you're interested in building a brand ambassador program for your company, follow the three basic steps we outlined above: 

  1. Create an Ideal Brand Ambassador Profile
  2. Partner With Brand Ambassadors
  3. Monitor and Optimize Your Program Results

Then partner with TVPage to power your ambassador program and achieve greater revenue than ever before. Macy's, Bed Bath and Beyond, and many other brands have and now enjoy unprecedented success. Will your brand be next?

About TVPage

TVPage allows brands to build powerful ambassador networks that supercharge their online sales via shoppable videos and photos. The software includes video commerce intelligence, which automatically syncs content with the products it promotes, making the online buying process completely streamlined and painless.

TVPage also includes a detailed analytics dashboard so users always know how effective their ambassador program is, and built-in commissioning features, which make paying ambassadors for the sales they make quick and easy.
All of these capabilities lead to more website traffic, better engagement with potential customers, and higher sales and revenue numbers. Interested in learning more? Contact TVPage today for a free demo today!