Boost Museum Store Sales with a Brand Ambassador Program
Updated: May 17
Even in this era of Internet marketing and e-commerce, a little guerrilla marketing can help boost your bottom line...especially with a digital twist. And while a brand ambassador program can work for any museum store of any size, it helps to have an online store.
But what is a museum store brand ambassador program?
Think of it as a marketing campaign that relies on word-of-mouth referrals, which all the data suggest are super effective. Statistics tell us that:
90% of people trust the recommendations that comes from family and friends.
70% of people trust online reviews of consumer items.
88% of people trust online reviews by third parties as much as they trust recommendations that come directly from family and friends.
In other words, a brand ambassador program can expand your network of customers just by having a few of your most enthusiastic customers talk about your gifts, baubles and souvenirs. As few as 15 or 20 carefully selected ambassadors who each contact maybe 100 people regularly can potentially put your museum store in front of a couple thousand potential customers.
If that sounds promising, let's get into a few things you need to consider when setting up a brand ambassador program for your museum store.
How to Set Up a Brand Ambassador Program
Long before you get around to selecting your ambassadors, you need a well-thought-out program. You need to:
1- Set a Mission and Goals
The first thing to determine is "why" and "what." Why are you initiating an ambassador program and what do you hope to accomplish? You're not doing this solely because you think it will be fun.
Maybe you feel that you and your staff alone can't make enough of a splash for the store on social media. You need more traffic to your online store. If you have something unique that you sell and want more people to know about it--that's a mission. If you want to double your online traffic, that can be a goal. And by setting a goal, you have something to measure your results against.
2- Develop Guidelines
Ambassadors need to know what they are getting involved in. They need guidelines that lay out your expectations for their performance. For the most part, your ambassadors are going to be working on their own; it's important that they understand what they should be doing and exactly what kind of support and assistance they can expect from you.
You can suggest the kind of content you'd like from them. Share the perks and benefits of your program, and give them a list of contacts for anything that may come up along the way. In other words, develop your guidelines and make sure everyone knows what they are.
3- Decide how to Incentivize Ambassadors
You have to consider, what's in it for the ambassadors. What perks will you offer? Sneak peaks at new products? Free merchandise to review and showcase on social media? Special "insider" emails? Maybe you hold an annual Ambassador Day as a thank-you? Consider too whether you want to have a sliding scale so that when ambassadors do more they receive more perks. If you need creative help, talk with your vendors about making a special product or prize for your top ambassador of the year.
4- Name your Ambassador Team
It's always fun to have a sense of belonging, and a team name is an easy way to give your ambassadors a little extra recognition. Come up with something cute and that ties into the theme of your museum.
5- Set up a Support System Around Ambassadors
Marketing messages always need a Call to Action. If you're going to have your ambassadors chat up your merchandise online, write reviews and describe new items in the store, they need a link for people to follow up. So make sure someone is on top of this when you launch a new product and send out merchandise for ambassadors to review.
That's not all. You may decide that it's important to provide your ambassadors with professional images of your merchandise. You'll have to get those ready in advance. Also, you need to work out the logistics for them receiving emails, newsletters and products to review.
6- Decide on Metrics to Track and Measure Success
This is a marketing campaign, so you need to be measuring results. Metrics are also a way to check up on the ambassadors and make sure they are doing their part. Including tags for your museum store in their social posts is one way to check up. Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram are also useful. Tip: If you give each ambassador a unique link for an item, you can measure the effectiveness of their efforts.
7- Build a Sense of Culture and Community
Ambassadors, while not employees, should feel as though they are extensions of the museum. The team name helps, as does an annual Ambassador Day, but you need to back these up with actions.
Make your ambassadors feel special:
Hold quarterly Zoom calls.
Invite them to join a private Facebook group.
Introduce them to other ambassadors in the program to build community and culture.
Making them feel a part of the museum in some way doesn't have to cost much money. It just takes time, thought and a little extra attention on your part.
Who Should Be Your Brand Ambassadors?
These days when most people think of brand influencers, they think of celebrities draped in bling, carrying bags of swag. Well, get that out of your head.
You don't need celebrity endorsements or Internet influencer word of mouth. You want museum goers who appreciate the exhibits, love what you have to sell and are excited about telling their friends and family all about you and your merchandise.
If you have a friends of the museum program, that's a good place to start. In fact, you may want to build your brand ambassador program in conjunction with the museum staff. You need enough people to have an impact, but keep the ambassador team small enough that you can manage it effectively.
You can also consider museum visitors who come to the store and rave about your books, gifts and souvenirs as well as people who frequently buy from your online store.
In setting up an ambassador program, it's up to you and your staff to identify the right people and invite them to join. Whether you interview potential candidates or ask them to fill out an application, you need to find out the extent of their online activity. Most of their effort is going to involve reaching out and connecting with people online through social media. For example:
Do they use Instagram?
Can they make and post a short YouTube video?
Do they use Twitter?
How many friends and followers do they have on Facebook?
These are important questions to ask.
Pros and Cons of a Brand Ambassador Program
All right, let's get the cons out of the way first. The good news is there aren't too many. First, once you've gone through the effort to set the program up, a brand ambassador program is not a not of work to manage. At the same time, it does require some of your (or your staff's) time. You can't just set it and forget it.
Second, if you don't select your ambassadors carefully, you could put yourself at risk from some negative brand awareness. An ambassador, for example, could go rogue and start posting negative reviews or get on the wrong side of her followers. Personally, given the caliber of people who enjoy museums, this is probably a lower risk for you than for the average online retailer.
And finally, you may have an ambassador who fails to perform as promised, which means you'll be out some product, but not much more. Unlike a true influencer program, you're not really engaging in a transaction where you're paying for publicity. So your risk is low.
On the pro side, a brand ambassador program allows you to reach a wider and more diverse audience than you probably can do on your own. For the cost of a little TLC, communication and merchandise, you may be able to reach a couple 1000 new prospective customers.
In short, you're basically getting free promotion to help build your online store, which can help pay your bills...whether these people come to the museum or not.
And you don't have to be a big museum with a healthy budget to get started. You can start small--with just a handful of ambassadors that you know and trust.
So, if you have an e-commerce presence and want to build both awareness and sales, you may want to consider starting a brand ambassador program for your museum store.