This is Part II of a three-part series – Be sure to check out Part I: Why Guides Are So Powerful and Referral Programs Fall Short on MarketScale.com
Having a thriving ambassador program is a dream scenario for any organization, for a B2B organization, it is truly a blue-ribbon standard. Day by day the B2B environment becomes ever more competitive, buyers are more informed than ever, organizations are constantly looking to fill their pipelines, and our hyper-connected world, somewhat ironically, means that sales cycles tend to be longer than ever before. This is why having a community of talented, connected individuals who are working as a true extension of your organization is so valuable.
Of course, it’s easy to see the cynical response to this proposition:
“Sure… Sign me up. I would LOVE to have a talented, responsive, and energetic team of company ambassadors who are helping build an additional revenue channel for my organization. Sounds great. Easier said than done, though.” Unfortunately, that’s not incorrect. Building out true ambassadors, true guides for your business is not an easy thing to implement, nor is there a turnkey solution to kick starting such an initiative within a company. This is where the alternative has to be considered: As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, the easy version of these programs exist, in no short supply. Yet they are impersonal, ineffective, transactional, and short-lived. This leads to the necessary follow-up question, “What does it take to build a powerful ambassador program for a B2B organization?”
The first necessary step in building out a strong ambassador program that will thrive for your organization is to treat it with the same tenacity and attention to detail of any other business initiative that your organization is looking to tackle. This may sound like stating the obvious, but ponder this all-to-familiar business scenario: If a program is treated as something that is, “nice to have”, or “something we can focus on when time is permitting”, then those are the results that you’re going to get. A hapless endeavor that will produce half-baked results at best, or more likely, something that never gets off the ground in the first place. If you want your ambassador program to thrive, if you want the members of your ambassador program to be true guides for the growth of your business, then the program must be treated with the same focus that any other channel sales endeavor is treated with.
In order for this sense of true importance to be taken on, there must be a true sense of responsibility, a member of your organization, or multiple team members, who own various aspects of the success of this program. It’s at this portion of this challenging endeavor that B2B programs are presented with a specific advantage of managing an ambassador program, there are a lot of right answers on what part of your organization, or even parts, are equipped to take on this new responsibility. This could be a new initiative for your marketing team, who will provide your guides with the material they need to stay on brand and receive reciprocal feedback on what is happening in the market. Perhaps it is an endeavor for your product development team, who will gain insights, knowledge, and constructive criticism from industry experts who are willing to provide objective feedback. Alternatively, ambassador programs are a natural fit for business development team members, always looking for new introductions to fill their sales pipelines.
Finally, what gets measured is what gets worked on. There is perhaps no truer statement in business management and an ambassador program follows the same principles. In addition to team members with dedicated responsibilities, there needs to be KPIs that are tracked, measured, evaluated, and analyzed. If the decided-upon members of your organization don’t have these markers, the launch of a new ambassador program will still lack the necessary structures to be treated as an important business growth initiative.
Recognition & Reciprocity:
The final two components are equally integral, but intricately intertwined, a successful ambassador’s program must have both recognition and reciprocity for it to produce the powerful results that you are looking to achieve. If one is present without the other than surely the program will fall short of expectations.
Recognition, of the individual members of the program, and an organizational recognition of the program throughout the organization that feeds off the aforementioned structure of the program, is crucial. These guides have agreed to take on the responsibility and care of your brand, they believe in your business so fully that they are willing to stake their personal business reputation on helping to grow your business. If they do not feel that an organization is grateful for this act, then their involvement will be minimal or nonexistent. Guides must have their successes celebrated. They must know how to move throughout an organization in order to feel like they are a part of it. Who is their point of contact? What resources are available to them? What are their guidelines and expectations?
Naturally, recognition is the first step in reciprocity. An organization should be thankful for its guides, diligent in providing them the resources and information they need to be successful, and in lockstep throughout the entirety of the program in recognizing the importance of the role they have taken on. Furthermore, as an ambassador elevates an organization, how does the organization elevate the ambassador? While monetary compensation is obviously important for results created by guides, it is too transactional to stand alone. Find a way to elevate the members of your ambassador programs: Have them speak internally, invite them to speak on behalf of your company at industry events, and provide them with professional growth opportunities on behalf of your company. The reciprocity must be consequential and authentic.
As previously stated, the challenge of creating truly powerful guides for your company is no easy task, it takes structure, recognition, and reciprocity that is felt throughout the entire organization to be successful. The results of these programs when these necessary ingredients are applied have an ROI that extends beyond just the new partnerships they create; they will build a community of industry experts who will enrich your organization at all levels.