Conquer Online Networking with a Strategic Ambassador Program
A Step-by-Step Guide Showing How Service-Based Franchisees Can Work with Their Franchisor to Create and Execute Powerful and Consistent LinkedIn Programs
As a new franchisee, one of your primary tasks will be customer acquisition. To support your efforts, many franchisors have marketing systems in place, such as grand openings, paid advertising, and the development of promotional materials. In today’s world, however, it is equally critical that they provide support for social networking efforts. After all, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn present an exciting opportunity for franchisees to find potential leads within a few keystrokes!
Reaching these leads requires a commitment though. In order to conquer online networking, franchisors must invest time and effort into social media training, as well as into establishing online content and networking goals.
One way to accomplish this is by initiating an Ambassador program. An Ambassador program identifies the people within a company who are interested in representing the brand online and offers them the tools and training to be successful in their online networking efforts.
Kick-Starting an Ambassador Program
An example of this type of program in action is the Creative Colors International Ambassador program. The program focuses on building relationships through LinkedIn, which is a prime social platform for business-to-business communication. To kick-start the program, the Creative Colors International corporate office hired a franchise-focused content marketing agency, 919 Marketing, to optimize their LinkedIn pages and their Ambassador’s LinkedIn profiles.
Then, content development efforts began through the Creative Colors International company page and related showcase pages, offering up compelling industry-specific information to readers. There are times when the page mentions the Creative Colors International brand, but the focus is on providing content that is interesting to people who work in the industries that Creative Colors’ repair and restoration professionals serve.
Leads Through Conversation
The content found on the Creative Colors International page then becomes a catalyst for conversation, helping ambassadors build relationships by sharing and discussing the posts with others. Look at my LinkedIn profile as an example. As the President and co-owner of Creative Colors International, I have been an ambassador in the program since its inception. With guidance from our account representatives at 919 Marketing, I regularly comment on and share the content that is provided by our company page and online properties. At the same time, I have been undergoing training on how to use LinkedIn and the ways in which it can help me reach my networking goals. I’m learning how to interact with online groups and to seek out people who could be potential leads – very powerful stuff!
Other Creative Colors’ Ambassadors, Jon Kleck, Terri Sniegolski, Rebecca Preston, all entered the program with various levels of expertise in using LinkedIn. They have been attending monthly webinars that help build a greater understanding of the platform and how to use it. Additionally, they receive weekly email coaching that reminds them that it is important to engage online, provides them with a weekly networking goal and offers additional training suggestions.
As the program evolves, participants are increasing the number of contacts with whom they have connected via LinkedIn. In time, these relationships translate into a lead or a referral source for participants. Or in other words – this brand ambassador program is helping us create “relationships that convert” on the national and local level.
What Franchisors Should Be Considering
As franchisors become increasingly interested in helping franchisees use social media tools to reach local customers, they should be considering the following:
- Who will participate? Great ambassadors are generally good communicators who understand how to speak on behalf of the brand. They are interested in taking time to build relationships online and are willing to try new ways of connecting with people.
- What tools need to be put in place at the onset? Do the participants need profiles or headshots? Will they need training? Who will be responsible for providing content on an on-going basis? Plans to tackle each component of the program should be established before getting started.
- How will participant effort be measured? Establishing metrics is an important component in building an effective program because it helps encourage participation. Options may include the number of times logging in, the number of posts made, or the number of new leads garnered.
- How will participants share their experiences? Another important component of the program is enabling the participants to share both what is working and what is not working so that they broaden their expertise and become more successful networkers over time. Whether this is through a webinar or meeting in person, franchisors should establish a forum and be clear about participation expectations.
With a solid program in place, like the Creative Colors International Ambassador program, franchisors are able to guide franchisees in becoming more effective in their use of social networks. Franchisees move beyond simply sharing branded information to a more fruitful effort of building relationships. As these relationships are nurtured over time, they drive new business opportunities.
Are you considering franchise opportunities? Be sure to ask the corporate team for information about the programs that they have in place to help you maximize the impact of your online marketing efforts and more easily grow your business. And if the brand you choose to join doesn’t have a brand ambassador program in place, be the catalyst that gets the ball rolling!
As President and Co-Owner of Creative Colors International, Mark Bollman proudly leads the nation’s premier repair and restoration alongside many of his family members. Creative Colors International is a family business through and through, getting their start in the Chicago suburbs as a small company named J&J’s Creative Colors, and that’s one of the top reasons why dozens of franchisees love being part of the franchise system. Just like their franchisees, Bollman and his fellow executives are fully invested in Creative Colors International and they stop at nothing to provide their franchisees, and ultimately, their customers, with the best corporate support in franchising.