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You have established a solid brand, and your sales have been good. But it is time that they started getting better, and traditional advertising and online marketing only get you so far. You need something a little extra to really boost your brand awareness, and start establishing a solid foundation of trust for your customers. How do you do that?

Brand ambassadors have quickly become one of the most valuable marketing resources around. These are real people, some of them working for you, some of them just fans of your product, who get out and make people aware of who you are, and what your message is.

These dedicated people are an unbelievable asset to your company, and establishing a brand awareness campaign with them at the forefront can be one of the best things you ever do for your brand. Just take a look at some examples to be inspired or think about this statistics:

  • Unbelievably, two-thirds of global web users are on Facebook. Social media is getting more cluttered year by year. Unless you recruit more people to spread your message, you'll never be heard in that noise

  • Only 33 percent of buyers trust the brand whilst 90 percent of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know (Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey). This means your potential customers will trust you enough to buy from you only if they spot a personal recommendation. They don't so much care about what the brand says but they believe what the brand's fans say.

It isn't as easy as just getting people to talk about your business, however. You need to set up a planned ambassador program, so your new ambassadors can follow along. Here are some tips to help you.

Know Your Goals From The Beginning

If you don't know the point of your outreach, how can your ambassadors? You will probably have multiple campaigns in the future, and each one will inform the message somewhat. But the core of that message should always remain the same. Your ambassadors need to know what it is to be effective evangelists for your company.

Once you have the core mission planned, you should scope out some ideas for other purposes to your ambassadors. For example, some could be working on general brand awareness, getting the word out. Another group might be talking about a long-term promotion that is about to launch, to get people involved. Still more might be spreading the word about a specific product or service.

Knowing what goals you have in mind will help you inform your evangelists. Try using this free Influencer Strategy Template to build a strategy around your ambassador program.

Give Them A Reason To Sing Your Praises

Ambassadors don't work for free, but you also don't want to be accused of paying people for positive reviews. Other incentives need to be used in order to compensate your ambassadors for their time and brand loyalty. Free access to your product may be one way. So could making them the first to try new features, items, or services.

Sometimes the street cred is part of it. If they can put a connection to you on, say, their LinkedIn profile, that may be worth it. If you do want to give them a monetary commission, a good way may be through operating like an affiliate program. Give them links to put in social media or on their blogs. From there they can earn money by referring people who make purchases or subscribe (using the proper disclosure of course). That style of incentive removes much of the stigma and controversy to paid endorsement.

You may also want to consider swag bags, parties, and other tools to show your appreciation.

Keep Your More Vocal Ambassadors In Mind

Do you have someone on Twitter that is really vocal about their love of your brand? Are you always seeing the same person on Facebook sharing your content? These are your most dedicated followers, and they can be the perfect ambassador. Especially if they have an active social media profile with plenty of followers.

When putting out feelers, start looking for proof of influencers right in your own customer group. Then approach them with first dibs on an ambassador position, offering them incentives. Perhaps they can gain exclusive incentives that most ambassadors won't have access to, given their status as an influencer, and the impact they will have on your campaign. That is a great way to get the support of people who can really spread the word about you and your brand.

Even if they aren't influencers, happy customers make great ambassadors. All you need is for them to remain happy, and tell people about it.

Find More Tools and Places to Reach Out

Starting out with your current customer and follower base is always a good idea, but recruiting huge niche influencers is what will give your brand a real boost. Consider using tools like ClearVoice and BuzzSumo to discover notable people in your industry, their social media profiles and ways yo reach out.

If you are into local marketing, try checking out local meetups and local communities like Zvents, DirJournal and Patch.

Keep an Eye on Online Reviews

This one is probably obvious, but often overlooked when it comes to setting up an ambassador program. While monitoring online reviews is essential for many reasons (You don't want to neglect negative sentiment), these are also great places to find happy customers and engage them further with the company.

Look out for big and medium niche customer review sites and keep a close eye on them:

  • Yelp and Yellow Pages for local businesses

  • TheVerge for gadget reviews (You may also want to keep an eye on comments here)

  • SiteGeek for hosting reviews

  • G2Crowd for software reviews, and many, many more.

If you are into local business, platforms like BrightLocal can make your job much easier by bringing all of your business reviews together in one handy dashboard.

Carefully Structure Your Brand's Ambassador's Program

Your ambassador program has to be carefully put together and planned if it is going to be successful. That means a very structured system, complete with milestones, goals, benefits, and rules. It isn't enough to just gather ambassadors and send them off into the world to talk about your brand. You have to be ready for anything.

Let's say you have one ambassador that chooses to use negative attention to bring a focus on the brand, believing that any publicity is good publicity. They go on a campaign of insults with a competitor on Instagram, leaving offensive messages and causing fights. If you'd had rules of conduct, you would not have to deal with the fallout from such an act.

You also need to know whether your program will be exclusive or inclusive. On one hand, exclusivity gives you a tighter hold on who is promoting your brand, while making the ambassadors feel special to be a part of it. On the other, an open program brings more people and spreads the message wider.

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Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of MyBlogU.com. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for 7 years, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Connect with Ann on Twitter: seosmarty