How to Foster Employees into Brand Ambassadors

In the digital marketing space, brand ambassadors have become a must-have accessory. The media landscape that we’ve all become accustomed to is crowded, so much so that a single message from a company – even on a stage as big as the Super Bowl – doesn’t easily resonate with an audience. It’s not memorable. It’s not moving the needle.

Digital marketers seem to have found their secret sauce in brand ambassadors, those influential people online who can convince others to purchase the products and support the brands that they do. With these ambassadors on their side, they’re able to cut through the noise and convey a message to a specific target demographic without a Super Bowl-sized budget.

What makes them stand out in a crowd of advertising? They’re people

But we’ll get into that more later.

As a grocer, you may think that brand ambassadors aren’t in your wheelhouse. After all, influencers are chasing after big brands and products that can show off their clout. They wouldn’t want to be an ambassador for a grocery store?

Would they?

And, even if they did, would it really have an impact on your business? How would having an influential person spreading the word about your store bring in more customers and more revenue?

I think you just answered your own question.

Let’s get into the details.

 

What is a Brand Ambassador?

A brand ambassador is someone who is paid to showcase a product or service to their network, digital or otherwise, in the hopes that their influence will inspire a group of people to purchase the product or service.

The term is thrown around a bit loosely when it comes to marketing, but the above definition gives a more specific answer to the question, “What is a brand ambassador?”

One common misconception is that a brand ambassador has to be someone who does their work digitally, through social media. We hold a strong belief that an individual who has a wide, connected network that is invested in their opinion will do just as well as a brand ambassador as someone who has hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of followers. A brand ambassador who can bring up your brand organically at a cocktail party, at an event that they’re hosting, or casually in the drive through at the local fast food restaurant is probably more convincing than a celebrity spokesperson anyway.

 

Why You Need Brand Ambassadors for Your Grocery Store

Now that you understand what a brand ambassador is, the logical question is, “Why do I need one?” 

Aren’t my in-store promotions enough to get people through the door? My weekly flyers? My digital ads or app notifications?

The truth is, that even those more sophisticated means of reaching your customers may not be working. People are inundated with thousands of messages every day, asking them to buy this, call this number, take action here. It can be incredibly overwhelming, and your litany of messaging could be adding to their mental exhaustion.

Brand ambassadors work in this media environment because they are people. (Remember when we talked about that in the beginning of this post?) Brand ambassadors aren’t hidden behind a company logo, anonymous copywriters, or editorial writers tasked with giving your press release a unique spin. Brand ambassadors are people, and people trust people.

Here are the cold hard facts:

It makes sense when you think about it logically. If you see a commercial for weed killer that tells you it kills 95% of weeds in your lawn, you may not be convinced. If your neighbor Joe is telling you about how the new weed killer that he’s been using in his garden has staved off weeds and essentially saved his tomato plants, you’ll probably be more inclined to remember that message.

Right now, your marketing team is probably spending the majority of their time (and budget) on corporate messaging. However, the research shows that your customers might only be seeing or hearing that message a small percentage of the time, and, even if they do, they don’t trust it as much as a recommendation from a friend or an influencer.

That’s why you need brand ambassadors for your store. Tapping into those personal relationships will help to convey your store’s message to your ideal customers in an authentic, organic way.

 

Why Employees are Your Best Brand Ambassadors

The key to an effective brand ambassador program for your grocery store is to tap the right ambassadors. As we mentioned above, it takes more than a brand ambassador with a large follower account to move the needle. In fact, it could be just the opposite.

Micro-influencers are hot right now across industries because of their highly engaged audiences. A micro-influencer is any digital influencer who has less than 10,000 fans and a high engagement rate (usually above 3%) on their content. 

For a grocer, this influencer might be right in your midst. They could be walking the aisles of your store on a daily basis, building relationships with customers right under your nose. They might be on your payroll.

That’s right – the best brand ambassadors for your company are your employees. These individuals likely already have social media accounts, and they’re most likely in the micro-influencer range when it comes to follower count.

Here’s why they’re so great as brand ambassadors for your store:

  • Your employees are in your brand each and every day. They understand your company’s mission, your tone, and the reasons behind why you do what you do. They have a deep knowledge of your products and services, and what makes you different in the grocery space. You won’t have to educate them on this information, as it would have already been covered in their corporate training.
  • As brand ambassadors, they would be genuinely authentic. Because they are already employed by your brand, it’s clear that they have an affinity for your company. They likely already shop there on a frequent basis, and it wouldn’t feel disingenuous for them to speak about your brand or post about it on their social media channels.
  • Finally, these employees as brand ambassadors could be found in your store on any given day. The average person who may follow them on social media, or know them within the community, will see them working in your local store, creating a quick association between your brand and a local, aspirational individual.

How to Choose Employees to be Brand Ambassadors

Just because employees are your best bet for effective brand ambassadors doesn’t mean that every employee is the right choice.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that you should choose your best employees to be your brand ambassadors. How you define “best” is up to you: from someone who excels in customer service to someone who exemplifies your brand values, you should choose the employee that will always put their best foot forward in the name of the company.

That’s the thing with brand ambassadorships. It’s impossible to “clock out” as a brand ambassador. Once you’ve given that title to one or more of your employees, they wear it constantly. Whether they’re actively working in your store, talking to people about your brand, or out for a night on the town, they are still known as your brand ambassador. Take that as a word of caution when you’re making your choice.

In addition to setting the right example, the individual or individuals that you choose must also have a presence in the community. It’s one thing if your best employee is someone who only works in the store and heads home for the night, and quite another for them to be socializing in their free time, networking, and building connections with your target customers in the community. Those employees that have a certain level of notoriety in your geographic area are the ones that you should choose as brand ambassadors.

 

How to Foster Employees into Brand Ambassadors

Find out what a brand ambassador is? Check.

Discover why you need them for your store? Yep.

Choose the right ambassadors? Done.

You’ve made it to the final piece of the puzzle: actually fostering those chosen employees into brand ambassadors.

It’s likely that this has already happened organically to some extent. People in your community are probably aware of who works at your store, and the subsequent association between that individual and your brand. If that individual already carries a certain level of influence, you may have had a brand ambassador working for you without even knowing it!

However, to make this initiative truly successful, you need to put a bit of effort into it. Here are our suggestions:

  • Provide your chosen brand ambassadors with resources that they can use to spread the message. Marketing toolkits, easy to photograph spaces in your stores, and opportunities to speak about your brand are great places to start. Make sure to let them know that it’s better if they use their own words instead of “corporate speak”. It will come off more genuine and drive better results.
  • Encourage your brand ambassadors to share their day-to-day activities, the work that they’re doing, or any news from your store either on social media or with their network through word of mouth. A post here and there during their shift won’t hurt you, and, in fact, it may help humanize you.
  • Offer rewards or a stipend to your brand ambassadors for their work. The best way to get great work is to incentivize those who are doing it with the things that motivate them most. Whether that is monetary, through physical prizes, or something a bit out of the box (event tickets, additional PTO, etc.), you’ll need to consider how you’re reimbursing your brand ambassadors for their time.

Are you already thinking about which of your employees could be a great brand ambassador? We look forward to seeing how you make this concept your own, and how you run with it in the grocery space.