The rise of brand ambassadors and social affiliates: How brands can use their own customers to grow
By Paul Archer, CEO and Co-founder, Duel
According to the UK company register, more than 2,000 businesses were launched every single day last year. So it’s no surprise that in this fast-paced and highly competitive business landscape, growth is a constant pursuit for brands. However, we know that skyrocketing customer acquisition costs are holding them back at the same time that consumer spending is down.
In fact, a lot of brands we’ve spoken to recently have reached the stage where their acquisition costs are often more than their customer lifetime value. SimplicityDX’s recent study backs this up revealing that customer acquisition costs have increased by 222 percent in the last 8 years alone.
As more and more brands try to compete for consumer attention, demand for online and social advertising has grown which has really driven up the cost. So with costs rising and consumer spending down, it’s little surprise the majority of today’s fashion and beauty brands in particular are now looking for ways to reduce their reliance on expensive and unpredictable paid marketing channels, reduce their acquisition costs and instead grow organically.
But how can they do this? Brands need to delve deep into their existing customer base, find their most ardent supporters who resonate with their brand, who have experienced the value of what they offer, and who speak of it with genuine passion and turn them into an army of supporters capable of promoting the brand to their own networks. So who are these superfans and how can brands incentivise them to become their own army of salespeople?
Unlike random celebrities that are paid to promote a product (but would also happily promote a competitor if the price was right), true brand ambassadors are your most enthusiastic and vocal customers who are already advocating for your brand through the content they create and every single brand has them.
These ambassadors share authentic, high quality content with their own online audiences. The key for brands is to find and mobilise these individuals, incentivise them to create more content, therefore turning them into a brand awareness engine.
But how can brands do this? It’s all about creating bespoke ambassador programs, brand challenges and offering exclusive rewards to incentivise them to share their positive brand experiences with their own networks.
Some of the world’s biggest brands, including Charlotte Tilbury via its Magic Makeup Stars program and Abercrombie & Fitch with its Creator Suite, are growing through their own ambassadors. These are customer-centric brands that do not pump huge sums into online advertising to promote their product but instead trust and incentivise their most influential customers to do it for them, and to great effect.
While many brands today do some kind of affiliate marketing, where they pay individuals or businesses to promote and sell products in exchange for a commission, they’re failing to notice that their most authentic group of affiliates exist within their own social media network. Every brand has hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of customers already advocating for them on social media, meaning they have an organic word of mouth machine ready and raring to go.
But how can brands turn this into a revenue-driving community? It’s about identifying these social affiliates (who would typically have a following of up to five thousand) and then creating specific referral programs that reward them for referring their followers to the brand. This could be in the form of discounts, store credit, gifting products or exclusive event access.
Skin wellness brand, ELEMIS, is a great example of a brand that is driving growth through a dedicated social affiliate program. Its Skinsiders program engages its most socially active customers and incentivises them to create and share content on behalf of the brand in exchange for exclusive offers, content and products.
Building genuine relationships with customers and rewarding them for their advocacy is a powerful driver of true organic growth. Brands that can do this successfully via their own network of brand ambassadors and social affiliates will not only massively reduce their acquisition costs this year, but will supercharge their future growth too.