Experience {plus} Technology {equals} Results.

Posts Tagged ‘Word of Mouth’

7 Steps to Building Positive Buzz Through Brand Ambassadors

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Third-party testimonials have always been important, but with the advent of social media and online consumer review services, they are absolutely crucial.  Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, making it well worth your time to foster brand advocates who can “talk up” your brand to thousands of potential customers through YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and the like.

McKinsey & Associates estimates that two-thirds of the economy is now driven by peer recommendations, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of social media. At the same time, trust in corporate advertising and institutions in general (Washington D.C. anyone?) is sinking.

Why not create a formal brand ambassador program to give your testimonials a boost?  This can be an extremely impactful strategy for any brand, particularly challenger brands trying to gain traction in a new market.

Let’s take the tire industry for example. For a brand like Michelin, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising over the years to burnish its reputation for quality and safety, a brand ambassador program may not be as critical; although I would argue that even a powerful “pull” brand like Michelin could benefit from such a program.

Let’s say, however, that you’re an Asian tire brand trying to establish yourself in the U.S. Here’s a typical scenario:  A consumer makes a call to his local tire dealer asking about various brands, and the dealer recommends a brand he has not heard of. The price is great, but what about durability and safety?

The prospective tire buyer goes to the Internet to see what experiences other have had. This is where the brand ambassador program comes in. He sees comments from people he trusts (like fellow off-road enthusiasts for example). Maybe it’s a Facebook post or Tweet, or possibly a blog post or YouTube video.  Whatever the platform, it’s the validation he’s looking for to move forward with the purchase.

Off-road enthusiast David Jones, a brand ambassador for GT Radial tires, has active fans on Facebook and Instagram.  He also writes guest blogs and creates YouTube videos for the brand.

Off-road enthusiast David Jones, a brand ambassador for GT Radial tires, has active fans on Facebook and Instagram. He also writes guest blogs and creates YouTube videos for the brand.

An effective brand ambassador program does not happen by accident. Here are 7  key steps to setting up a program that will super charge word-of-mouth for your brand:

  1. First, put your listening ears on to find potential ambassadors. Set up Google Alerts for your product and make sure you check the “all results” box so you capture forum comments, not just media stories and blogs.  Monitor your Facebook page for fan comments, search brand mentions via Twitter, and monitor popular online forums in your industry. Alert your customer service folks. Talk to your dealers. Use every possible avenue to find brand enthusiasts.
  2. When you find a candidate, evaluate their clout. Look at their Klout score. Do they have a lot of Facebook friends or Twitter followers? Do they blog? Are they active on Instagram? Assess the size of their audience and how their audience matches up with yours.
  3. Does their tone of voice jive with your brand personality? They may be too “edgy” for your brand or not edgy enough. Dig some into their background. Are there any skeletons in the closet?
  4. Reach out to your top candidates, and develop a formal agreement which outlines what you expect from them and what they can expect from you (i.e., free product).
  5. Train your ambassadors on your product’s features and benefits and brand positioning. Also provide social media training; maybe they could use some pointers on Twitter.
  6. When your ambassadors produce content, amplify their voice through your website, social media platforms and marketing materials.
  7. Stay in touch with your ambassadors on a regular basis. Talk over upcoming events and opportunities. Show them some love, and they will provide you a steady stream of valuable content.

Two words to keep in mind as you implement your program – authenticity and transparency. If your ambassadors start sounding like corporate shills, you’ve lost the all-important third-party credibility factor. Train them on your product attributes and key messages, but let them talk about your brand in their own voice.  Maintaining authenticity contributes to transparency.  You have nothing to hide here. These people love your product; you are just helping them spread the love!

I would love to hear from you about other tips and case studies on successful brand ambassador programs.

GT Radial Brand Ambassador David Jones writes a blog post each time he participates in an off-roading event.

GT Radial Brand Ambassador David Jones writes a blog each time he participates in an off-roading event.

It’s A Google World!

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I was in Chapel Hill, NC, the other day visiting my Tar Heel daughter and was reminded of the importance of Google rankings for tire dealers (or any retailers for that matter) – not that I needed reminding.

My daughter’s very reliable Nissan Sentra needed an oil change and state inspection.  I was in a hurry.  I Googled “best value in tires in Chapel Hill, NC” and called the dealer that ranked first in the non-paid search.  Never heard of them before.  Didn’t look at any other options.  I called them, booked a time and took the car in.  I know a thing or two about tires after 20 years in the business, but again, time was short.

If you’re a tire dealer, you need to rank high in Google, preferably on the first page.  Consumers are in a hurry.  In a low involvement category such as tires, most consumers are not going to spend a lot of time surfing, reviewing one website after another.

So how do you achieve the high ranking?  You can pay for it of course, but more and more consumers are becoming savvy to paid searches and prefer to patronize businesses that earn their Google rankings by having an SEO-rich website, by answering questions on Twitter, by recognizing their customers on Facebook, receiving testimonials on Yelp, etc.

Once you get them in the door you still need to provide good old-fashioned customer service, which by the way, will help your Google rankings because social media super-charges the power of word-of-mouth.  This dealer, by the way, provided excellent service and had a couple of Mac computers  in the waiting room ready for surfing – nice touch!  They will be at the top of my list next time I’m in Chapel Hill and need tires or auto services – that is, if they keep their Google ranking up.