Creating overlap between online and offline engagement — as we did with this meetup in LA — can help to lengthen and strengthen relationships with your ambassadors.

Tapping your passionate customers as influencers to drive in-store retail traffic

Learn how we created a powerful ambassador program.

You’ve worked hard to build customer trust in your brand, and you’d like to tap into the undeniable power of influencer marketing. You know that your customers educate each other and look to their peers to support their choices. You also know that any misstep can reverberate down the line, affecting not only online engagement, but also in-store traffic. How do you invest in influencer marketing without compromising authenticity and jeopardizing revenue?

Start with what you know

Even when everything else is uncertain, you still know your multi-unit retail brand’s:

  1. Core identity. Your brand is a unifying force across all your locations. Even as the brand and the needs of each location evolve, your core identity endures.
  2. Core audience. These are the people whose authentic enthusiasm for your brand rivals your own. They trust you to do right by them, and by all your customers.

Build on what you know 

Let’s look at one of our cornerstone retail clients, Palm Beach Tan. We’ve helped PBT grow from 40 salons in four markets to 550 salons in 92 markets, and it is the nation’s largest indoor tanning brand.

As we broaden PBT’s appeal and widen its audience, it’s essential that we retain their highly loyal core customers. We were determined to create a true peer-to-peer influencer program rooted in trust. Instinctively, we turned to this loyal core audience to form the PBT ambassador program.

Know exactly who you’re looking for

Because any influencer program relies on its influencers as partners to extend a brand, authenticity is vital. When developing the PBT ambassador program, we looked for customers who were:

  • Genuinely passionate about PBT
  • Enthusiastic about talking about PBT on their own social media platforms
  • Able to speak the PBT language, with some guidance from the brand
  • Socially savvy and capable of creating quality content

Before sifting through the ambassador applications, we outlined criteria to ensure we would choose the best possible brand ambassadors for PBT. These factors included:

  • Number of Instagram followers
  • Frequency of posting
  • Content quality and creativity
  • Additional partnerships or affiliations
  • Current PBT membership level or involvement

Invest in a reliable influencer marketing platform

This investment will benefit you, your customers, your program and your brand. For PBT, we use an influencer marketing platform to manage many of the ambassador program’s administrative details: developing application forms, sorting through potential candidates, monitoring social activity, and measuring post analytics and insights. That lets us focus on building and maintaining relationships with our ambassadors.

Be clear about expectations and creative freedom

Give your ambassadors content to work with, along with creative freedom. We send our PBT ambassadors a monthly social media “assignment.” These assignments include a prompt that ties back to a business goal (e.g., promoting a new product line or in-store offer) or follows seasonal trends (e.g., tips for maintaining a subtle glow in winter).

Horizontal line of 3 phones seen from above, showing animated reminders to PBT brand ambassadors about monthly assignments.

Horizontal line of 3 phones seen from above, showing animated reminders to PBT brand ambassadors about monthly assignments.

Within each prompt, ambassadors have the creative freedom to bring the assignment to life on social media however they choose — for example, a carousel post of static images, an IGTV or an IG story series they can later save to their story highlights.

This creative freedom produces a broad range of benefits, such as more authentic posts, higher reach and relationships built on trust.

Look beyond online engagements

To build longer-lasting and stronger relationships, look for ways to bridge online and offline engagement.

For instance, as one example from PBT, we hosted a VIP meetup for all our LA-area PBT ambassadors, where they and their guests mingled with salon owners and operators. This event celebrated our ambassadors while creating a branded experience that could easily be shared on social media. The location we selected was a West Hollywood rooftop with panoramic views from the Sunset Strip to the Hollywood Hills.

The branded experience featured touch points and event elements connecting PBT with “glowing skin.” These elements included professional makeup artists who provided touch-ups and highlights on-site, signature drinks and hors d’oeuvres that played off the theme, and signage (including the event hashtag) on large displays for photo ops. Instagrammable moments were key in capturing user-generated content throughout the night.

Ongoing results

In the first quarter of 2020, our ambassadors produced 440 pieces of branded content, generating some 64,000 engagements and nearly 1 million impressions.

By the end of March 2020, all Palm Beach Tan stores were closed because of COVID-19, and we paused the ambassador program. As stores gradually reopened during the summer, our PBT ambassadors reemerged as an invaluable asset in amplifying both the brand and each store’s newly implemented safety precautions.

Let’s get real

Like you and your customers, we value authenticity. We are real people working to drive real results. Talk with us about how we can help you tap into your fans’ influencer power to grow results for your customers, your brand and your bottom line.