Coming up with ways to incentivize advocates or ambassadors doesn't have to break your budget. At Ember, core approved actions that grow the brand or generate sales deserve cash incentives. But the steps to get there are important to incentivize along the way. It's a pretty big gap to go from "I love your brand" to "I just sold $1,000 of product!" You have to help them get there.
So how do you incentivize without paying someone every time they post or tell a friend? You're only as limited as your own creativity. Here are some ideas to get the brainstorming started for your team.
1. Early access to sales & launches
This one is a no-brainer. As soon as you have a community of brand advocates established, leverage their social presence to drive hype and excitement for each sale and new product launch by making the item ONLY available to the advocates and their communities for the first 24 hours. It’s especially helpful when at least one item goes out of stock in that first 24 hours to drive the value of early access next time, so consider designing your inventory levels to achieve this.
2. Free product for hosting a Pop-Up
One of the classic mistakes made in an ambassador program is failing to distinguish between offering a program and a tool. If you’re offering a tool, then you’re really just giving them an affiliate link that they can figure out what to do with. If you’re offering a program, you are providing the tool and the support to know what to do with that tool. This product incentive is a perfect example.
Instead of saying: “Here, go share this link,” you can say, “When you host an event to share about the brand (here are five things you can talk about!), we’ll send you a complimentary _____” (product of your choice). This can be a helpful way to also move through slow-moving inventory.
3. Get 1 item for 50% off when they join as an advocate
When an advocate joins, you want them to feel special, desired, and on the inside immediately. Offering some type of discount to build their collection of products is one way you can do this. We recommend holding back from giving out free products until there is tangible action from the advocate that results in sales for the brand, which is why a discount can be a helpful step in the right direction.
4. Free merchandise when they join you at an event
Does your brand host local or nationwide events? Consider giving out some free merchandise for any advocate who comes to your event or by your booth (and anyone who signs up on the spot to become an advocate gets that free merch too). Think stickers, pins, or a branded journal to start. A little thoughtfulness behind a striking design can go a LONG way.
5. Award with a customized product for achieving goals
Once your program is established, you will eventually begin to hone in on the top 20% of advocates and what motivates them. One incentive for top achievers is a customized product that they receive only when a certain target is hit. Usually, this can be a classic silhouette in a new color, design, or pattern only available for that award. It could be a framed print with a design related to their achievement. Or it could be a coffee mug with a quote related to their goal. Whatever it is, make it special, hype it in the community, and whatever you do, make sure the only way you can get your hands on it is to achieve a big goal.
6. Get consistent credit with consistent activity
Consistency is the key to success in this line of work. How are you incentivizing your advocates to generate consistent activity? One answer is to reward with consistent product rewards when they hit targets. Every month an advocate sells $1,000 in products, and they get a new custom 4X6 print from your brand. Create a culture where everyone in the community is watching to see who is going to have the most prints hanging on their office wall at home and spotlight them on your social media account to celebrate their hard work and consistency!
7. Award to design a product when goals are achieved
One of my favorite incentives is the opportunity to create a product with the team - the ultimate insider experience. Now, in order for this to work, it has to be a very guided process. There are many ways you can execute and I won’t get too nitty gritty on how to do it because it depends on your product line, but make sure this is a very difficult award to achieve or only the top person can be awarded it (don’t want too many cooks in the design kitchen). Once they win the award, the entire process of collaboration should be designed to make the advocate feel special and exclusive. Give them 3 pre-designed options and invite their feedback on the pre-existing designs. When that new design is launched, you've not only elevated the status of that advocate in your community, but theirs as well when they share about the product they co-created with the brand.
8. Sample Sale Items as Rewards
This one can be labor intensive, but it’s a great way to not let those samples or returns with small blemishes become highly desirable. How it works is you set up an online (FB is great) sample sale event for your advocate community. Advocates get a ticket number when they hit a certain volume that month (or other approved action). At a pre-set time, you release an album of the sample sale images. Any blemish or irregularity is clearly marked and indicated in the description. The first advocate to comment with their ticket number claims that item. Make sure you have more products available than the tickets given. It’s an absolute frenzy, but everyone has a ton of fun and you’ve just used returned or leftover products to generate a highly incentivizing, exclusive experience for your advocates that will motivate them to take the action you want.
You might read this and say to yourself: "yeah, but that sounds like a lot of work." Well, just like building a fire, there are no shortcuts to building an authentic community. But thoughtful incentives with a little more work on the back end will often go even farther than throwing cash incentives at advocates. The more you give, we promise, the more you will get.
Photo Credit: Nynne Schrøder
About the Author
Bri Leever is Chief Community Architect at Ember, a splasher of water, and lover of books doing life in an ever-changing migration pattern ✈️