As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for your entire brand -- from conception to development, to implementation and beyond. But you are just one person, and as you grow your brand, you'll change your status from one-man band to an executive adding devout followers and skilled technicians, to move the brand forward.
At this stage, extra power may be needed -- specifically, a brand ambassador. A brand ambassador can help jump-start your business by building brand awareness with a much broader reach.
When it comes to hiring such an influential individual, you need to be absolutely sure that he or she knows your brand almost as well as you do. Your brand ambassador has to be passionate about the brand and able to connect with customers, especially Millenials, on a somewhat personal level.
Brand ambassador vs. spokesperson: Know the difference.
By definition, a brand ambassador, unlike a celebrity spokesperson, is someone who eats, lives and breathes your brand. This is someone your customers can connect and engage with, someone who has a solid, well-established online presence with a decent-size network.
Millennials are more likely to show their purchases to their friends and write online reviews, so in order to reach that key demographic, you need to find a brand ambassador who appeals to them.
Recently, the president of Keds, Chris Lindner, told me that the first step in getting a great brand ambassador is to develop an important partnership with that person and make sure his or her goals and values are tied to the brand.
Lindner also explained that the success of your brand can actually depend on the presence of a spokesperson or a brand ambassador. So, while a spokesperson may have name recognition, if there’s no passion for the brand and its mission, you’re wasting your money.
First lesson: Do your homework! A little legwork at the beginning may save you a lot of headaches later on in your choice of brand ambassador/spokesperson.
Recognize that it's good to have friends in high places: Taylor Swift, anyone?
Hiring an ambassador can make or break your efforts at getting the brand recognition you seek. Lindner told me early on of his decision to hire pop star Taylor Swift as his brand ambassador for the values of the Keds brand.
Swift is a great choice because she brings a lot of intangibles: her work ethic, her ability to connect with Millennials (and even Generation Z’ers or “Centennials”), not to mention her 57 million-plus Twitter friends! What entrepreneur wouldn’t want such a following?
And if he or she is successful getting it, what are the best ways to capitalize on a loyal fan base like that? The point is to take the brand’s message directly to your audience, preferably via a platform easily accessible to its members' age group and culture. For Millennials, that means an app, a blog or social media.
One big reason is that Millennials are more likely than the average shopper (some sources say 247 percent more likely) to be influenced by blogs or social networks. So, Keds used Swift as part of a fully integrated social campaign that could make an organic connection to young women with a connection to fashion.
If, like me, you’re not exactly a "fashionista," chances are you'll understand the implications here by looking at the numbers Keds experienced: In the last 24 months, the company has seen phenomenal growth -- at a double-digit clip in North America alone.
Taylor Swift is one of the top 10 global influencers (number 6, to be exact), so I think it’s a no-brainer to have one of the most influential celebrities on the planet partner with a brand that is looking to empower young women.
Second lesson: Think big when it comes to deciding on your brand ambassador(s).
Have a list of family and friends you can ask, and a dream list of those you want to reach. Then have a plan in place to reach both lists and go after them.
Listen to your customers.
Hiring a celebrity as your brand ambassador is all fine and dandy, but it means nothing if you don’t listen to your customers. And then once you have them in the fold, you need to engage them and listen to their feedback.
Millennials, on average, have approximately 200 more connections on social media than members of older generational groups. That is huge! So, if you ask for feedback and ignore what they tell you, you’re missing the boat, big-time, on getting to know the people who are making you money and might potentially abandon their loyalty to your brand.
It seems so simple, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people I talk to who have dismissed their customers' feedback as unimportant. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you do have to listen.
Third lesson: Ask your customers for their feedback and pay attention. You never know what opportunities might come out of it!
If you want your brand to be successful, you need to remember a few things. First, do your homework when researching potential brand ambassadors. And don’t hesitate to think big when it comes to whom you want!
Then, once you hire that ambassador, be sure he or she knows your brand as well as you do. Finally, keep your eyes and ears peeled for customer feedback and trends that will benefit your brand. If you bury your head in the sand, all of your hard work could crumble around you like a house of cards. Don’t be that person!