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Ambassador Program Turns Customers Into Salespeople

Few companies realize the value of their most passionate customers. They occasionally acknowledge them with frequent buyer programs or other discounts, but it’s rare for a company to really empower their customers to share their passion for the company and its products or services with others.

Most companies rely on salespeople to position the benefits of their products or services to potential customers. Good salespeople do this in a way that excites customers about the possibilities and potential of using what they’re selling, but their ‘passion’ for the product is motivated by the paycheck they get for selling it, not by the product itself.

However, if you give your passionate customers the tools they need to share their passion for your product or service with others, and reward them for doing so, you can create an army of great ‘salespeople’ who will do more for your company than any high paid salesperson ever could.

That’s the beauty of a well executed ambassador program. With a small investment in materials, it becomes a formalized, simplified, and easy to maintain word of mouth marketing campaign that the company itself can participate in.

Bose Curtosey Card

The Bose Courtesy Card set the standard for a well executed ambassador program. Customers who were using (and loving) their Quiet Comfort headphones while flying would get asked about them by other passengers, and instead of disrupting the quiet zone that the headphones created, the customer could simply hand the person a Courtesy Card and let them check out Bose on their own time.

It was simple and easy for the customer to do (not to mention unique and ‘cool’) and it also gave Bose control over the message that potential customers received.

Fishing

If you think of sales as fishing for customers, then Bose provided the bait, and just asked that current customers set the hook. After the initial interaction, potential customers would come to Bose, and all Bose had to do was reel them in.

iPod Silhouette

The hype that Apple generated with their white headphones is well known, and an Ambassador Program is like a whole army of white headphone wearers, but ones who have been given the tools necessary to help convert that initial interest and opportunity into additional sales.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen many companies follow in the footsteps of Bose, which is why I was intrigued by Foursquare’s announcement of their Ambassador Program.

Foursquare Ambassador Card

Foursquare users love the deals they get from participating venues, but venues can’t provide deals if they don’t know about the service, so Foursquare created the Ambassador Program to help users spread the word. As long as you’re a “creative and excited evangelist”, Foursquare will send you a pack of Foursquare Ambassador Cards that are custom-printed with your name on them for you to hand out to the businesses that you frequent. Assuming that the businesses use the cards to sign up, Foursquare says that “the businesses get details about their foot traffic and loyal customers, and you and your fellow foursquare users will see more Specials at your favorite places.”

With the Ambassador Cards, Foursquare rewards users by crediting them with the creation of the location, and users get additional rewards when their favorite locations sign up and start offering deals and discounts. It’s a win-win, and Foursquare is simply enabling and encouraging their most passionate users do the selling for them.

One of the main reasons businesses get involved in social media is that they want to support the word of mouth marketing that customers are doing online. With a well planned ambassador program, you can get those same benefits offline as well with a small investment in materials and a way to thank those customers who are out there doing your work for you.

Foursquare Ambassador Program

Sharpie Gets Uncapped And Embraces The Social Web

Sharpie Uncapped

Sharpie’s new Uncapped Gallery is a great example of how a company can embrace the social web, encourage word of mouth and show off what its products can do in the hands of actual customers.

Uncapped Gallery

The gallery is set up like a Sharpie lifestream, and pulls in content from the Sharpie Showcase, the Sharpie Blog, Flickr, YouTube and the web. Each item is color coded to indicate where it came from, and clicks out to the original version so that users can interact and explore. Once a user clicks on an item and leaves the Uncapped Gallery to view the original, a navigation bar pops up so that they can return with a single click, or continue on if they find something interesting. Lastly, a share button attached to each item allows users to easily share the item with others in their own networks across a number of different channels.

What the Uncapped Gallery does is allow Sharpie to go out and find cool things that people are doing with their products and highlight them in a very public way. This serves to both thank the people that are showing off what they can do with Sharpie products, and to encourage others to create things with Sharpie products so that they too might be highlighted on the site. The effect is similar to what you’d see with a contest or giveaway, where word of mouth is exponentially increased, but there is no need to incentivize the conversation monetarily, and the word of mouth is much easier to sustain over a long period of time vs. a quick-hit contest or giveaway. In essence, Sharpie is able to take what users are doing naturally, namely, share the work they create with Sharpie markers, and increase the frequency by showing users that they are paying attention to, and appreciate the work that is being shared.

Sharpie Characters

Turing the site into a user generated content portal has also allowed Sharpie to transform their brand from a product brand into a lifestyle brand. Rather than focus on the features of the pens or the differences between each pen type, Sharpie can instead embrace the culture that their brand has created, and use that culture to advertise their products by inspiring people to make creative things and to be a part of the larger Sharpie community. As a user, you can look at the Uncapped Gallery and see all the things that people are able to do with Sharpie products and know that there are an endless number of possibilities that Sharpie markers will allow you to explore. You can also reach out to users that are doing things that you think are interesting and communicate directly with them, turning the site into a source of fantastic user reviews. The result is that Sharpie isn’t selling pens, but rather, what those pens will allow you to do.

The Good:

  • Leverages the social web to increase word of mouth and highlight product uses.
  • Creates a community around the brand.
  • High return for a low investment.

The Bad:

  • Needs constant maintenance to stay fresh.

The Future:

  • Companies use the social web to highlight what actual customers are doing with their products, allowing them to turn reviews, demos and a large part of the advertising over to the community.

Sharpie Uncapped