Starting a business in the apparel industry can be a cash-intensive proposition. Not only do you incur the normal start-up expenses of setting up your website, designing your logo and perhaps renting space, but frequently, you also have to make investments in raw material such as fabric and trim weeks before it’s even sewn. Then you may have to pay your factory before you’ve sold your garments.
All of these expenses can accumulate and leave your marketing budget a bit…shall we say…thin. So, if you find yourself in a situation where cash is tight but you still need to get the word out about your amazing clothing, what can you do?
One option may be to consider having a team of Brand Ambassadors. Typically, ambassadors are individuals who are aligned with your brand and that, in return for free product, will use and discuss your brand with their circle of friends. In addition, they can provide you with candid feedback on your product and can be a great source of ideas.
We went this route at Coeur Sports, who is a provider of women’s endurance apparel, and are extremely pleased with the results.
We began the process with a “call for athletes” that was broadcast via social media. Potential ambassadors were directed to a page on our website that defined our expectations and that shared what they would receive in return. The people who were interested then filled out a brief application and submitted it to us via email.
We selected our team based on alignment with our values and the ability to influence others. Each company will develop their own approach, but in our case, we made it clear that we wanted our ambassadors to, first and foremost, promote a lifestyle of health and fitness. We thought it would be disingenuous to ask them to constantly and overtly be promoting our brand. In our opinion, if they are “good people” who are socially prolific, the brand will benefit just by association.
There are different schools of thought on how long an individual will be an ambassador. At Coeur, we have a new call for ambassadors each year. Incumbents can re-apply and certainly have a leg up. On the other hand, some companies select a team once and don’t take new ambassadors unless an incumbent resigns.
As we mentioned, we have been extremely pleased with our program. Not only do we receive anecdotal feedback from customers saying that they heard about Coeur via an ambassador but we also see the results real time in our web analytics. We ask our ambassadors to include our logo with a link back to our site on their personal web page. While it varies day to day, we’ve seen that about 2% to 3% of our daily web traffic comes via our ambassador pages. In addition, the conversion rate on those visits is meaningfully higher than visits that come via other channels. While we haven’t completed the analysis on all of our ambassador web traffic, it appears that visitors to our site that come via ambassadors is roughly one percentage point higher than other channels. To be clear, it’s not one percent higher, but a full percentage point higher which is roughly equivalent to a 40% increase in the conversion rate.
The final benefit that we received was somewhat unexpected. Clearly, our ambassadors have been tremendous brand advocates, but in addition to that, many of them have even become close friends with us and with each other.
So, if you’re looking for another channel to promote your products, consider developing an ambassador program. It could be a very cost-effective way to get the word out about your amazing, Made in the USA products.
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