Advocacy Marketing

Community Marketing: Start, Build, Reward and Scale

March 30, 2022
Stacy Wells

Community marketing starts with a deep conversation about the kind of brand you want to be. This article guides you through dozens of questions and considerations. It’s long, we know. But you’ll emerge as an expert ready to take on the exciting opportunity of marketing with your own channel.

Companies are reclaiming ownership of their advertising and defining the conditions of their marketing. They want to work with individuals who already love and support them, such as their own customers, in order to build mutually beneficial relationships and grow their businesses.

The brand community benefits both groups. Companies nurture word-of-mouth marketing while customers feel like a vital contributor to brand growth.

Wooly's very own Head of Customer Success, Mark Higginson, met with Niki Hughes, Head of Customer Experience at Orbit Baby, and Alexzandra Fields, Program Director at Wooly, for a customer-centric approach to converting your customers into community marketers. 

The following are their questions and insightful answers. We hope it helps you know how to start and grow your very own community marketing initiative.

Should We Do Community Marketing?

Mark Higginson: Welcome, Niki Hughes. I've heard incredible things about the customer experience in Orbit Baby. I personally would have loved an Orbit Baby, though I don't know if I could have afforded it.

We would love to discuss some of the incredible things you've done, and also, Alexzandra has a lot of content to share regarding how to build or buy we build a brand community.

What's the big deal about community marketing this year?

Everybody's hearing it more and more often. I don't think we know why we should care.

To start, anyone who isn't familiar with Orbit Baby is a stroller company that comes with a very premium price tag. About $1,500 ish to get the basics, and it does go up from there.

Niki Hughes: One of the things we know, and I know my son was an Orbit Baby way before I worked for the company, is that these strollers turn heads. When you are walking out on the street with our product, people stop you and ask about it. At Orbit Baby, we want to harness that! 

Since we know people are talking and interacting with others about our product, we launched our Ambassador Program to make this manageable and scalable. The program gives the natural interactions and experiences a little extra love to share and make some money along the way.

Rewarding Your Community Marketers

In our ambassador program, we give the buyer a discount and give 3% back to the ambassador. 

Alexzandra Fields: Three percent! Did you hear that? I get this question all the time because some companies think they have to pay a 10% or 15% commission. But Orbit Baby has a successful program with 3%!

Mark Higginson: Why do you think that is? How did you establish that number, and why have you settled on that percentage? Also, why do you think that it has been successful so far?

Niki Fields: You know, I do not know the entire process. We are a small business. And for people who are in other businesses, some of which may be highly regulated, like baby products, especially car seats, which we make. They are highly regulated for a reason.

People think that because you have a high-end product, you are making crazy huge margins. That is not the case.

One of the things we are known for is being a quality product that lasts. That costs money. So 3% was kind of settled on as a sweet spot. It's something that we can offer and can continue to offer and grow without putting the company in a bad situation and making it interesting enough for the ambassadors.

Alexzandra Fields: That also probably has some intrigue. I can see it even raising some eyebrows. As companies with ambassadors or even those that do like affiliate marketing today might be like 3%? Huh? That's a bit of an oddball number. You don't hear it. So that could also be part of like the allure.

You mentioned that you do a discount. So discounting is something a lot of brands either go all in on or shy away from.

Do you have discounts that are readily available?

Niki Fields: We do not. In fact, we are not a company that's run sales. We don't participate in Black Friday anymore after putting a lot of thought into that decision. We just realized that we were giving away too much margin, and we can do other things to help people year-round instead of just giving a discount to such a small percentage of our customers. Because people were pregnant by our products. So people who are pregnant in November are very different from those in May. We asked, what can we do year-round to help everyone?

How Do You Create Community Engagement?

Mark Higginson:  Niki, you just touched on an interesting approach because your brand or the product you're selling is not like you're buying these every week. You're not buying one every year. 

Niki Fields: One of the upsides to baby products is that it's such a transition in life for many parents. Depending upon where their greater families are, and their greater community is, not everybody is sharing the same thing at the same time. Parents are really looking for community, 

You know we're out there as a single person, it's one thing. And then, when you're coupled up and expecting, it's another thing. Then all of a sudden, you're having experiences that may be your best friend isn't having. Maybe all the people you work with are not having the experience either. And then the older people in your life have every best intention, but maybe don't have the most updated information. So parents are looking for other experts and other people who use the product. Because we're a high-end brand, too, it is not a grab-and-go product. 

There is a lot of thought and research that goes into the purchase. So consumers are looking for other people who already have the product and use it. 

Mark Higginson: Okay, this question is for both of you. By the way, I'm Mark, and I run customer success here at Wooly.

Alexzandra does incredible things. She manages a lot of our brands that have a more managed service offering through Wooly. We are a product that helps manage ambassador programs.

So, Alexzandra, you have seen a ton of brands. Really big brands, small brands, and everywhere in between. This question just came through, but it was also one of our most asked questions prior to the webinar. This is a two-part question, one for each of you.

Best Ways To Find Ambassadors

What are the best ways you are seeing brands recruit brand ambassadors to their programs?

  • Was it organic methods?
  • Was it through paid channels?

We would love to hear about how each of you, with the brands you work with and obviously with Orbit Baby, how you recruit these ambassadors.

Alexzandra Fields: So the answer that comes up time and time again is that the programs across every industry, regardless of whether it was established two months ago or ten years ago, is this. You must have a personification of the brand. 

If you're going to do community marketing, you have to put yourself out there, kind of personally. You have to engage with your community. And being the face of a brand isn't always like rainbows and unicorns. It might not feel natural to you, especially if you're like an owner or founder, or maybe you're a team of one in the marketing department. 

Perhaps you are part of a ten-person marketing team where you manage social. But speaking about the program, using statements like "I and we", and making sure that your ambassadors really know that they were part of the brand is very helpful.

When you go on social to recruit or when you write an email, and it's coming from a person - not just this faceless brand - you're able to recruit people who, in turn, want to embody your brand.

Niki Fields: I agree, absolutely with everything she said. It's really about having a strong brand voice.

Clear Brand Voice 

Know who you are as a company!

Know what you want to foster.

Know who you want to be.

Really going through the steps of picking your brand apart and knowing who you are.

 For us, when we recruit, we recruit people who have already bought our products. And we accept nearly everyone for our ambassador program -- not everybody, but most people.

Communicate With Your Community

Also, we keep it really, really, really simple with our communications. We don't complicate the process of inviting our ambassadors. And then we keep the lines of communication open. 

I was just discussing with Alexzandra how simple our emails are to our ambassadors. They're not slick-looking emails. We send them out in bulk, but they look like I spent just a couple of minutes writing an email to you. 

We get a really great open rate on them and a great response rate. I think this is because we are telling them about things they want to hear. 

  • A new product 
  • A new feature 
  • Something we think is valuable to an ambassador 
  • Who is making the most money 
  • How they're doing it 

We try to personalize our communication and asking questions like: How are things going with your family? What questions can we answer?  The emails are like five sentences. 

Mark Higginson: Yeah, that's interesting too. I'm going to ask a very leading question.

When I receive emails like that don't feel like they are canned, super formal emails, I feel like they get way better responses. That sounds similar to what you're experiencing.

Niki Fields: Honestly, we genuinely want that answer back. We're not asking a question that will go into a junk folder on my end. I will respond to every single one. I am very accessible. I truly want our ambassadors to succeed. I get really excited when I see an ambassador getting paid out.

We are authentically asking the question. We are following up and engaging just like you would want them to do with someone else. 

Mark Higginson: I like that! 

To summarize: 

  • You need to establish who you are as a brand.
  • Who do you want representing your brand?
  • Who are the individuals that really fit into that criteria?

Alexzandra, what are some other methods that you've seen with the amazing brands we work with? Now that they have actually done this, how do they go and get those people?

Multi-channel Approach

Alexzandra Fields: So, do not put your eggs in one basket; instead, do a very well-rounded approach. 

Utilize social media such as Instagram Stories, and then highlight it so having both still and videos where you talk about the ambassador program. 

Have swipe ups for people, or you can include prompts such as, "click the link in the bio." This way it encourages potential ambassadors to participate.  

Also, could you include it in a post-purchase flow? So these are the emails they get after they purchase your products. Let them know that you have an ambassador program.

Make the barrier to entry as minimal as possible. 

For lack of a better term, I often see layers upon levels of complexity. As marketers, we do want to get really granular sometimes. But when you are first starting a program, be very intentional about your goals. Either say, we want a really small program or something broader like what Orbit Baby has built. They have a more general program.

But be very specific about what you're offering to your ambassadors:

  • Discounts
  • Commissions
  • Gifts 
  • Incentives

Then just be really, really consistent in your ask. Do not ask for everything at once. So if you want to have ambassadors produce a YouTube video, an Instagram Story, and an Instagram post--don't ask that all at once. That is a ton for someone to do!

However, suppose you trickle the requests and roll that out over the course of time while you establish a relationship with that ambassador. In this case, you're more likely to have a much higher participation rate once they're part of the program.

Mark Higginson: I love that! So what you are recommending is that brands: 

  • Keep it simple.
  • Get them engaged.
  • Make sure the task is something ambassadors can accomplish easily at first, and then potentially, you could expand that later, once you start to realize the good flow.

Does that sound right?

Alexzandra Fields:  Yes! One other thing on the recruitment side, just because that kind of blends into keeping them engaged, is -- make sure that you have your ambassador application form on your website. Make it accessible.

Put a link to your application page in your website footer with wording like:

  • "Ambassador"
  • "Affiliate"
  • "Influencer" 
  • You could even say, "Collaborate with us" 
  • Whatever those categories are for your company

Make sure people can find your program! They shouldn't have to dig to find information about your advocacy marketing program. 

Niki Fields:  I will chime in on this because that is something we do at Orbit Baby. In addition to these suggestions that Alexzandra has, we also have FAQs on the ambassador page. We have examples of other people and the various things that they share and how they share.

If you are a person who is kind of interested, you can get a lot of your questions answered by just reading through the site. You may apply directly on the site too. But it's best to provide everything visitors and customers need to educate themselves.

Mark Higginson: This is a good one that goes into that arena. And that is, most of the clients we have want to do something. But they are or were managing everything on spreadsheets initially. For some businesses, they can get by for a while. 

Now the question... What is the best way that you've seen to manage and continually engage with ambassadors while managing and running the actual community?

Engage Your Community

Alexzandra Fields:  Orbit Baby actually isn't a client. One of the things that I thought was really interesting about chatting with Niki is that we have worked together in three different companies over the last, well over a decade. 

Orbit Baby has a really interesting program that isn't what I would say, like fully optimized where they could automate a lot through Wooly. But I'm going to sell her on it. She will come over eventually when they are ready. 

Community CRM

Because I was the person who was managing everything in spreadsheets, one of the things that I totally love about Wooly is that it centralizes everything. Wooly essentially takes a CRM. A CRM is like your Salesforce or HubSpot for those who haven't had a sales role. It is your customer management system effectively where everybody has information in it. We'll leave it like that, but know that the Wooly CRM is built especially for smooth ambassador relationships.

So you're able to see from a 50 foot view or get really granular and zoom in on an individual. You can understand where people are at in a particular program. You can see how many campaigns they have completed. Know what actions they've done. Your actions are things such as doing an Instagram post or doing a TikTok, etc.

So I find that Wooly is like a major game changer when it comes to transitioning from spreadsheets to a more automated system. But it still takes time to manage because you want to invest that time personally and ensure your ambassadors feel like you're part of that community. 

Mark Higginson: Oh yeah, Alexzandra, that is one of the number questions we heard. And very close to the top questions we had as well.

We have some clients with thousands of ambassadors, micro influencers, etc. But brands do not want to lose connection. And so maybe either one of you can take this topic. 

Niki, how do you stay engaged with that advocate? For instance, do you feel it's important to get to know them and understand what motivates them as well.

Take Care of Ambassadors

Niki Hughes: Yes, and no. My answer is yes and no because some ambassadors out there take what they're doing, like the authentic part of their life where they're using this product, and they just run with it. They want to get their payment. They just run with it. 

Then other ambassadors want that kind of hand-holding. They want to feel like they are part of the company and not just a customer. We facilitate that too. You can chat with me, via email, text, Instagram message, Facebook message. All those things like that. I'm in there all the time, constantly operating and giving feedback. 

It's really about knowing who the person is instead of fitting into one box that everybody will get the same thing. Because you know one person's opinion of this total span can be another person's take like we're now best friends.

Community Events

Alexzandra Fields: We're getting back to actually being able to do in-person events. Niki, I don't know if you've been able to attend a trade show recently, but back in the day, when we specifically exhibited at shows, people would come up to me. They would say how good it is to meet you. They wanted to meet the person on the other end of the emails. 

That is not everybody, but some people are really excited to get to know the person running the program.

Rewards and Incentives

Mark Higginson: Alexzandra, you probably have a bit more of a diverse background when it comes to managing a variety of brands just because of the sheer volume. However, this is a question for both of you as well. It is about rewards. Like Niki, you explain how you reward your ambassadors. It's different than others, but it is working for your organization.

What is the best way to understand rewards? 

I've heard you talk at length about this, Alexzandra. And it can vary so greatly between brands. 

How do you pick the best incentive to keep those ambassadors engaged? 

Where do you start? 

Do you start low with rewards? 

Do you start high and work back? 

What is the method that you recommend? 

Alexzandra Fields: Okay, so I am a fan of really assessing where your brand is. I think that it can be very, very difficult for the person that's at a brand to understand what their community marketing is like today versus what they want it to be.

Let's just take the ones that are the most difficult, and this is when your brand is not talked about social, you have very few customers, and you're not moving a significant volume. If you can objectively look and say, alright, "as of today, it's okay. I'm just getting started"

Or maybe you've been around for a while, but your main source of revenue is through brick-and-mortar stores. Now it's shifting to online. 

You're in a tough spot. You probably don't have a lot of cash to spend on the program. You need every sale possible. And then, if we say, hey, let's incentivize people. Well, that's cutting into your bottom line. Right?

And this is the other thing too. Nothing in marketing anymore in a digital space is like immediate gratification. You're not going to just turn on an ambassador program tomorrow and have it be wildly successful. And have it completely transform your sales. It takes time.

 If you're in a position where you don't have that volume of people buying or posting about you, I do think you need to lead with something really compelling.

 You are asking somebody to do something for you, for free. Right? And nothing is really for free. So what is going to be a motivator to that person and ambassador?

 Let's say you only have a single product. So the ambassador already has the product you're selling.

 Well, they don't need another one. So you should probably look to give them a commission off the sales they generate. 

If your product costs $20, then a 10% commission isn't going to give them that much either. So is, that is where you work towards rewarding them with something else. 

  • Another retailer's gift card 
  • Consider approaching a brand that's complementary to yours and see if they would do a trade with you.

I did a lot with other brands, where I would say, "Hey, I'm running an ambassador program. Would you be willing to give me ten items that I can wear my ambassadors with? 

Brands were almost always like, "Sure!" They typically have quantities of samples they can give you.

Hopefully, that helps with the rewards part of ambassador programs. I know it's a tough position to be in.

But it's like, you know, milk at a gas station. There will always be that loss leader of an item for you. Where to get something going, you might be able to spend more than you like at first.

Once you really start to see that volume of people posting, you can revamp your rewards and incentives. 

Give people store credit. Give people the opportunities to earn store credit, gift cards, or something else. Like a milestones program. For example, the more action they do, the more chances they get to earn more.

Mark Higginson:  I think it was a very intelligent person named Alexzandra who once said, 

"What would you want? If you were an ambassador, what would you like? What would you want to receive? What would motivate you?"

It's always good to ask yourself those questions. Especially with a brand like you said, we might buy it on a continual basis or perhaps as a one-time purchase for us. We need to keep these things in mind.

A great question just came through on the Q&A. By the way; the Q&A button is at the bottom. Please keep the questions coming. We have a couple in the queue. We try to get those live, especially when they're relevant to the current topic.

Niki, do you have posting requirements for your program members? By this, I'd like to know the ambassador's response to having posting requirements? Or do you have any at all? 

Requirements of a Brand Ambassador

Niki Fields:  We do not have posting requirements. It really is up to the individual.

We have a separate influencer program. There are posting requirements when you are in that program, as you can all imagine.

As I said, the basic setup for our product is $1,500. So we can't send those out like another company could send out tea samples. 

Over the last couple of years, we have learned that some people definitely do better jobs than others. There are a lot of people at the beginning who sent very expensive things. And got very, very minimal return.

So that's kind of one part of it. We have lots more rules built into it now. There are things and requirements that ambassadors do need to meet. But for ambassadors, we don't have posting requirements.

Our most successful ambassadors right now are the ones who have made YouTube videos. They have made these YouTube videos on their own. And they are sharing their code.

In fact, two ambassadors that I can think of off the top of my head have definitely reaped the rewards. Some have made thousands of dollars for themselves. They have done well for themselves by putting in the work.

The ones I'm specifically thinking about don't have a high production value. They're not people who went to B&H and bought every light and all the best cameras. A regular camera shooting video of honest kinds of things.

Mark Higginson: Other people will never see a post from them. Other people will do it all the time. Sometimes we will stumble across an image that is taken from an angle that we never thought of before. 

But our ambassadors do not have to do anything.

User-generated Content

Mark Higginson: What an incredible segway that was into user-generated content. So with posting requirements, you have a cadence. Or I have seen some organizations require that an advocate has to do this, to get this. 

When it comes to user-generated content, do you have a way to message your ambassadors? 

Do you give them the best methodology? 

Do you try to instruct them or just let it happen organically?

Niki Hughes: We do, but then there's one of the things we share them in short little emails I talked about before. We literally had one that went out last month where we explained that there is a lot of room and opportunity right now on YouTube. We see people having success with it. This is an excellent time if you've been thinking about YouTube videos." But nobody has to make a YouTube video.

We know that our TikTok is really good and growing. We did have an influencer who was gifted our products to do a video. The video had over 6 million views last time I checked. 

Granted, he was a person who came with a big audience. We had our agreement with him about getting and giving. And that worked well for us too. The video did get a lot more views than we thought, which was super exciting.

Six million views are no joke, but that same person didn't include their ambassador code.

Alexzandra Fields: There you go. Actually, that's a really, really good point to piggyback off of.

Quickly, we have quite a few brands within the health and wellness and within like sports where there are sometimes safety concerns. Niki is in a highly regulated industry.

What do you do to ensure that the content is safe without ambassadors being put on by brand guidelines?

User-generated contentfree guide

Brand Guidelines for UGC

Niki Hughes:  This is a tightrope. Like this is really, really important for us. Baby safety is always the number one thing for us. Showing safety is crucial. 

We can have the world's cutest, most beautiful picture, but if a chest clip is an inch off, we can't use that photo. There can be a lot of back and forth between people who want us to use their pictures or people who are tagging us. We have to be certain proper use is always shown while not offending the influencer. 

That can be kind of like a lot of communication and education. We kindly ask if they can change it because your baby is so beautiful.

For some of our more prominent campaigns, we go through extra steps. For instance, we just had a big launch with a new car seat. In the contract with our influencers, we write that they have a one-on-one virtual meeting with our CPS team. The CPS team is the car seat safety expert that goes through all the ways of using the car seat and how to assemble it correctly. Also, how to position your baby correctly. So that we can acquire fantastic user-generated content, this is the best way to do it for us!

Mark Higginson: I haven't heard of that before. That is an interesting dilemma you have to work through. 

Niki Hughes: Yeah. And I'm sure it happens in the health industry too. Where people have your product and use it in an improper manner. It can be the most gorgeous thing in the world, but you can't share it.

Alexzandra Fields: That might be a good takeaway for brands. If you are thinking - we are in health, wellness, baby and need to ensure posts and shares display the product correctly.

Also, I can even see it not applying any brands out, but like, if anyone in here manufactures grills, how cool would it be to have a webinar or that one-on-one with your creators that's like, with your grill master.

I'm assuming that is a term. I want that to be a title, like that of expert grillers. Or within the auto industry showing them, not just a general YouTube video. Showing ambassadors--this is how we want you to install the product. That way, they can replicate it and their video. 

Those extra touches don't have to be high production. You can do it just like this. We have weird shadows going on, but there's still value in our content. And it's going to feel more authentic to your ambassadors if you, as the brand representative, are actually talking about it and demonstrating the product as you want them to.

Niki Hughes: And we learn from experience. People have put a lot of production value into things that we couldn't use. We are extremely clear about the directions upfront and try to give creators the resources to have it right. Rather than tell them they are wrong later. 

Running Community Marketing

Mark Higginson:  Okay, so we've done all this work. We have these incredible communities that we have built. These ambassadors, we have seen other brands sometimes have a drop off in participation. A lot of times, it's a bandwidth issue. Maybe somebody internally at the organization doesn't have the bandwidth to continually put out new content or manage different campaigns, etc.

How have you managed to get, or how do you recommend people get re-engagement with their ambassadors? How can companies reengage with their ambassadors to keep them motivated after seeing a slight decline in participation? 

Niki Hughes:  Especially coming from the baby industry, and not just where I am now, but other brands I've worked with within the past. It is a fact of life that people will age out. 

But if you have the opportunity to keep track of milestones like that can be really good for families too. You don't need the exact same thing with a one-year-old as you do with a two-year-old. But when someone reaches out to you and says, "we're expecting our second child," it can be like, ``Do you have this one accessory we have?”

Or, now that your baby is a little older, suggest and educate people on how they can continue to use things. Our product is used very differently for a newborn than it is used for the max age. Orbit Baby will fit a six-year-old in many cases. It's like figuring out where people are and not forcing them to be anything they are not.

It's easy for people to tell when they're being sold something. We're constantly being sold to all the time. We know things that hit us where we're just like, I need that product. You feel it right here and give your wallet out. 

Just be authentic! Meet people where they are in every sense. 

Alexzandra Fields:  I have another thing that brands can do if you're in a time-sensitive industry or if you're finding that engagement drops off. Utilize your ambassadors as recruiters for more ambassadors. 

You can run through Wooly, a simple campaign. Just ask your ambassadors to share that they are part of the program. Have them encourage their community to take part as well. Because chances are the people within their network might be interested in joining. And that then breeds life into your program.

Look at your ambassadors as an outstanding focus group for your brand. Reach out to them for more than just content. Send surveys. You could ask for reviews.

And odds are if you give them the opportunity to share their opinion, they will. You can then forge that very solid relationship. Maybe somebody ages out of your product. Perhaps your product is no longer relevant to them, but they can still provide product feedback for you.

Again, just getting them even to refer people to become ambassadors, not purchasers of the products.  

Return On Marketing Investment

Mark Higginson: A big question just came up. Okay, we've done all this work. If you're the head of marketing or a sole proprietor, it's always about ROI. It's always about customer acquisition costs.

And it's all about the bottom line in many organizations: 

  • Why are we spending this money?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why are we taking bandwidth and putting it here?

What are some best practices for tracking the information and data coming in from the ambassadors?

I'd love to hear from you, Niki, on how you historically track this to show that, yes, this is profitable!

Niki Hughes:  We use literal coupon codes. All our brand community ambassadors have a little code. They put in to get the discount, so it's easy for us to know: 

  • Whose code is being used?
  • Where is the traffic coming from?

Right now, we're less than a year into our program. 

"We know that a bit over 10% of our sales is linked directly to ambassadors."

Mark Higginson:  That's a tremendous metric!

Niki Hughes:  Yeah, like that's no joke! If you can increase your sales by 10% by doing something--definitely look at it! 

Also, it's a part of our business that brings us a lot of joy. We are in so many meetings that are just like: numbers numbers numbers! You know, shipping problems and shipping problems. 

It's wonderful to get feedback from people who have both mentally and monetarily invested in your brand. Really listen to people, especially when the comments are not always positive. They want you to do the best. It's important to understand that they feel like they're part of it, want the company to be better, and want the product to be better. Letting them know how valued they are, has led to some fantastic results. We are seeing the numbers go up is really nice

Calculating ROI 

Alexzandra Fields:  ROI doesn't always have to mean dollars. I know that sole proprietors and people who are a team of one are not always going to agree. They may say, "what does she mean? That's not true."

UGC

There's a lot of value and user-generated content. Suppose you were to go out and have a photoshoot. Or if you were to go out and even just take those photos in your living room or wherever it might be. That takes time. That takes money.

So part of your ambassador program should look at it as a big picture. I'm just going to put a value of, let's say, $1,000 worth of user-generated content per month. And that's actually a really low figure. 

Think of what it costs to work with a photographer. Think of the costs of even reaching out to your friends and family to get more photos. So there's that part. 

Then you have the sales component. Not every brand is going to have coupon codes. Also, not every brand is even going to be seeking referrals. 

"Awareness is a huge benefit of brand communities!"

If you're looking at channels like Facebook and Instagram for paid ads, that's the world I'm very familiar with. I run campaigns for brands that spend $10 a day up to over $50,000 a day. Not an exaggeration. Customer acquisition costs on those channels have skyrocketed in recent years. 

We can blame it on iOS 14, but guess what? We're at iOS 16 at this point. Same issues. Same $180 CAC, right! 

For those that don't know CAC, that is customer acquisition cost.

Your CPC - cost per click, and CAC, all have skyrocketed. 

The way to drive those numbers down is by using an approach that has every piece working simultaneously. Use ambassadors for awareness. Because you can do so with a very, very minimal cost upfront. 

Incentives can come later. You're not bringing somebody into your program and immediately needing to spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. You can offset those rewards and incentives to a later date. 

However, with Facebook, you have to pay today. And, the costs are going to be much higher if you don't have any sort of awareness campaigns. 

So instead of paying Facebook for six to eight impressions, pay Facebook for one to two ads that are more of a retargeting approach. They've already seen their friends, and maybe even creators post about your brand. 

So that's how I try to bring ambassadors into the marketing mix. Put the time and be very dedicated to building the program initially. Put in all the components that we recommend to you. 

  • Get ambassador program information and an application on your website.
  • Include it in your post-purchase flow.
  • Share on social media.

Then, if, for some reason, it's still not working and you're a Wooly customer, please approach us on the CA team. We're here to problem solve. And we can make suggestions based upon things that we've seen work for other brands.

Within two to three months, you can really start to see traction when it comes to posting and sharing. And then sales do come. They really do! 

Long-term Strategy

But it's not something where you're going to snap your fingers tomorrow, and you're just going to get this windfall. It's very much about building, and then, once you build, you scale it.

I rarely see a brand have a program that becomes successful where they cannot scale it further. It's one of those things that once it starts, you can easily increase it just with more time put in or bringing in a whole person to run it.

So, right now, if you think your program may have stalled, consider adding more time in from somebody? Or make a couple of tweaks to see if we can get it to that next level where you could justify bringing in a dedicated person.

More Community Marketing Ideas

Mark Higginson:  That's helpful. And an interesting thing, where we were thinking, well actually somebody just asked this. 

Is there a way to engage in a webinar format with our ambassadors?

It does happen. I think it's a great idea, and you can almost make it feel like an exclusive club. You're invited to this webinar. We're going to share best practices. How do people see success? And do it in an educational type format. 

Yes, absolutely, that is a great idea. Actually, it's something we've even helped facilitate with some of our clients. 

Alexzandra Fields:  I've done two webinars for brands recently that have gone over really well. The only thing to share is that you're going to do a webinar, and people will feel like they know you. More than that, they think you are besties. They will be blowing up your DMs. 

It's a good problem to have. Just be aware that you're going to have this webinar, and there are going to be questions that get asked. There's going to be a follow up.

Planning as part of our strategy for the year to have two to three webinars; I think it's great. 

  • Share your new products 
  • Share best practices 
  • Do a Q&A
  • Do trivia for the company 
  • There are a lot of really fun things you can do with webinars

Mark Higginson:  We're going to wrap up, but there are two questions. Each of you gets to choose which one you want to take. By the way, Nikki, we love you! Thank you for joining us.

Alexzandra, as always, thank you. You do amazing work.

Okay, the final two questions are:

  1.  How do we know if our brand or our product will be a good fit for an ambassador program? 
  2. What would you say is the first step that an organization should take when looking at building an ambassador program?

‍How To Start an Ambassador Program 

Niki Hughes:  Wow! What is the first step when starting an ambassador program? Good question! 

I believe it goes back to what Alexzandra was saying about how much money a company can save. It's eye-opening to get the customers' photos and videos and see when your products are used. If you have to seed that--do it.

Some of the most successful campaigns we've done with our company are based on videos and photos from customers. 

The following are some things to consider when starting an ambassador program.

You need to see who your fans are. Who is out there?  Who already has your product? 

Start collecting their user-generated content that they are already producing and sharing.

If you are a super tiny company, your community might just be your relatives and friends. Just get authentic, not staged, realty conetnt. Post it and share the UGC.

Get it out into the marketplace. Having it out there says, "other people are using this!"

Mark Higginson:  So you can test the waters in that way. 

Brand Community First!

Alexzandra Fields:  I have had my own companies in the past. I will tell you my approach from day one was community first. Every company I go to it's the same philosophy. Community first!

It takes time. It takes effort. Yet, it is one of those few things that, if you have the people to run an ambassador program, it's not going to be a huge monetary expense at first. 

Start by putting in the effort to plan out your program's goals. Then, if you can seed your product, do it. Send your product to a selection of influential people. Orbit Baby has a price point starting at $1,500 plus. But even in the early days, she did seed products. You need to get your product out there!

I am working with a health and wellness brand right now. I said, "what can you do?" What product can you send?" Because they are going back and forth about how many units they can do. 

All right, this is a guessing game. "Can you do 25?" They agreed, "yeah, we can do 25."

Great, we're going to send out 25 products. We need to get those products into people's hands. That's going to take a week for shipping.  

Then it would be best if you allowed creators about two weeks to try the product. Also, you'll probably need to have to follow up with them.

Take this scenario, you're looking at one a month out if you're seeding products. Honestly, that is like the best-case scenario. I worked with a brand a few months back that had about an eight-week lead time. That was tough.

This company that I've seeded 25 units of a product already has success. We are three weeks in, and they have already had six people post on their behalf. This is a brand that nobody, not a single person is talking about them. They are already sharing their brand messaging. 

We've tracked one sale. You might be like, "one sale; that doesn't move the needle." No, it doesn't. But you always have to start somewhere. 

The fact that there was one sale off of six posts a few weeks before we expected anything is fantastic. Those six posts can now provide the content for this brand for the next month. They can reshare the UGC, and the posts can be clicked. We can get quotes from those people.

That's going to help. And guess what? The posts from those six people increased site traffic already. Yup, it's only one sale, but all those things work together.

Niki Hughes:  People get really excited when we share their content. It costs essentially nothing but people like it when they see their work valued. They love when their UGC is reposted and shared. Also, they get excited when they are tagged. 

Mark Higginson: That's very interesting. Two different questions. Both of the responses involved simple things brands can do. Test the waters. Send out some product. Initially, see how many units of your product can you afford to seed.

And then, it will also show if it is a good fit for this type of campaign or this type of program.  

Niki Hughes: Finding the diversity too is so important. Especially in the last couple of years, we've been in our homes. We just have been around the people closest to us. We have to remember it is a big world out there. People want to see themselves in your advertising. People may use your things in a way that maybe you can't.

We are a US-based company, but there's so much diversity in the United States. 

  • Where people live
  • What people look like
  • How people use our products
  • The things people enjoy and highlight

I have not played a game of tennis in years, but one of our biggest posts on Pinterest, month after month, is a woman on a tennis court with our stroller. And that is like the most clicks to our website.

Really think about different people and different lives when you're picking people to be ambassadors if you have the opportunity.

Mark Higginson: Alexandra and Niki, you're both incredible. Thank you so much for the knowledge you've shared between the two of you. Thank you for sharing all the insights from what you've done at Orbit Baby. 

Alexzandra, with all the incredible brands you work with, thanks for being that wealth of knowledge that you are. Thank you both for visiting with us all today.

Again, thanks to everyone. If there are other questions, keep them coming in. And if you're not a Wooly customer or if you are, just feel free to reach out to us. We love helping brands. I look at it as a lot of fun to problem solve and plan. The CS team and I are in it to win it with you guys.


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