Brand ambassador program VS influencer marketing

November 1, 2019
10 min
Avery Schrader
Founder & CEO of Modash.io
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Aristotle said: “When the storytelling goes bad in society, the result is decadence”. 

What Aristotle meant in my estimation, is that when we don’t tell the truth and spread the stories that matter, we suffer the dire consequences of being deprived of knowledge and wealth. The stories marketers tell with influencer marketing might not be working, we're missing out on the ROI of creating powerful brand ambassador programs.

Influencer marketing isn't working. At least, not the way marketers proclaim it to work. Not the way they often assume it to work. I offer brand ambassador programs as an exceptional alternative.

Table of contents:

What’s influencer marketing? 

What’s the problem with influencer marketing ?

What is a brand ambassador program? 

Why is a brand ambassador program a better option? 

What is influencer marketing? 

The act of partnering with popular social media creators and having them post content promoting your brand or product. 

This is an evolution of Hollywood product placement and celebrity endorsements, built for the digital age. Once upon a time Coca-Cola was placing a drink in the hand of your favourite TV or Movie character. Today they share a Coke with the incredible number of online entertainers across platforms like Instagram, Youtube & TikTok.

Old School Coca-cola was in every Hollywood set they could get their hands on. Today, they do the same on Instagram.

With traditional influencer marketing, brands typically pay-per-post (per one piece of content) with creators they find while scrolling instagram or other social sites.

There are more effective ways to find influencers based on their target demographic using tools that offer audience data on millions of influencers. The goal is to identify the perfectly suited influencer of course, but brands struggle to accomplish this due to problems like fraud, and lack of data.

The ad-spend on this kind of marketing is recorded to be between 10-20 Billion dollars per year. However, these estimations often forget about the Asian continent and frankly, the data is difficult to collect. What we do know: Brands are spending billions on influencers.

The problem influencer marketing has that a brand ambassador program doesn’t

The problem with pay-per-post influencer campaigns and the rise of purchasing “shout-outs” from sites like Fiverr, (other than fake influencers) is that it is by nature “worse” than most other ad spends.

Let’s consider the words of Avinash Kaushik, the best selling author of 2 editions of “Web Analytics”, digital marketing evangelist for Google, board member at the university of Toronto etc.

If you have spent to the point of diminishing margins of return and extracted the full profitable opportunity from every other marketing activity and you still have some money left, then and only then should you consider Influencer Marketing.

In his stellar newsletter, Avinash Highlights a few key points:

  1. The impact of working with an influencer is almost always not powerful enough to measure higher than the cost of people, process and payment.
  1. Most other marketing channels in the digital age are more easily measured.

He also mentions authenticity, perceived costs being lower than actual costs and something about George Clooney being a gorgeous hunk. I think 1 and 2 are the most accurate, all encompassing and relevant to this article. Sorry George. 

George Clooney sneaking in there.
Sorry George, not today.

Additional to the points above, I want to add the issue of scale. Theoretically, when growing a company, you want your marketing channels to be able to grow with you. For example, sign spinners on every major highway exit might be an effective customer acquisition channel, but the time and effort to hire and train sign spinners makes it an impossible effort. Like traditional influencer marketing, it does not scale.

Moreover, traditional influencer processes do not offer compounding returns. Every month, week or day must be spent performing repeated tasks with the same effort to accomplish the same end result.

It is much more efficient to build a brand ambassador program.

What is a brand ambassador program?

A brand ambassador program is characterized by long term relationships with ambassadors who promote the product across an extended period of time and are paid based on the number of acquisitions.

While the same influencers who are sponsored for traditional influencer marketing are often present in this method, it is significantly different in process.

When creating such a program, brands partner with influencers who target a specific target audience. They then provide them with a custom discount code to track conversions and will work with those influencers over months or even years. Using a QR code generator for personalized QR codes for each influencer works too.

They add influencers to this program on a monthly basis and remove those who are not converting customers at an efficient rate. This results in compounding. In other words, if they partner with 2 influencers monthly, they could have 6 ambassadors promoting their brand consistently by the third month.

Read more about how to create a powerful brand ambassador program here.

Brand ambassador program as an alternative to influencer marketing 

Let’s first address the concerns about influencer marketing and how brand ambassador programs solve these problems.

Measuring the ROI of a brand ambassador, people, process and payment

The long-term nature of brand ambassador programs enables brands to take control of the spend and process. Measuring conversions is a direct indicator of the success of your campaign. Simply calculating the costs of people, process and paying ambassadors, you can make determinations about the required impact of your program and optimize for that.

Thank you Andrew Chen for this great acquisition cost explainer.

If you pay an influencer “per-post” there is no opportunity to optimize this spend and there is no long-term chance to experiment with price point, content guidelines, etc.

Moreover as explained below, the cost of people and process get’s near or below that of Facebook or Google Ads.

Brand ambassadors are easily measured

Unlike influencers used in a traditional sense, ambassadors are all measurable as individuals. Using a custom promo code and treating the ambassador as a long term partner makes measuring the impact (both immediate and over time) straightforward. 

Further measurement for the sake of optimization is also done easily in ambassador programs. Using Modash to find influencers we can extract audience data, allowing us to test different audience demographics for best conversion rate, for example. 

We can also implement acquisition quotas (the number of customers an influencer must get in order to remain in the program, incentivizing them to create more, higher quality content on behalf of the brand) of varying numbers. 

Ambassador Programs scale well

Automated tools for identifying and measuring influencer audiences. Automated tools for outreach. Influencers creating content on your behalf on a regular interval. A simple landing page to answer FAQs and provide brand guidelines. Promo-code usage measured automatically by our point of sale system. Payments done through a payments API. 

Nearly every step in the process of a brand ambassador program is possible to automate while scaling over time. For reference, I can think of at least 2 companies currently using Modash who are managing influencers at a rate of 300 creators per 1 employee.

The scale as mentioned above is accomplished partly due to the wonderful compounding I discussed earlier. Adding just a few ambassadors every month quickly results in exponential returns. 

Let’s assume we add just 1 influencer per month to our ambassador program vs working with 1 influencer monthly on a pay per post model (although there are other ways to pay influencers). 

Compounding influencer recruitment chart

While it may seem to be a simple equation, many people disregard this when planning their influencer marketing efforts. Scale this to numbers like adding 25, 50, 100 ambassadors per month and you quickly see the compounding ROI. 

If we assume each ambassador converts 10 customers on average, we can generate thousands of new customers after just the first few months at whatever acquisition cost we choose.

How we help performance-hungry marketers run brand ambassador programs 

Building Modash and interacting with thousands of brands doing both influencer marketing, brand ambassador programs and quite honestly everything in between has given me a passion for the amazing results I see many have with these programs. 

3 Resources for your program: 

  1. Use Modash to analyze audiences and find influencers to be your brand ambassadors
  2. Read about how to build a powerful brand ambassador program.
  3. Book a free call with me. No sales, no gimmicks. Just working through growth problems. 
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