The definition of affiliates and ambassadors has evolved since 1989, the year William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts patented affiliate marketing. In my opinion, since then, the two definitions have begun to amalgamate into one solution but with added benefits favoring the Ambassador corner. Throughout this article, I’ll discuss, review and characterize some of the differences between the affiliate and ambassador marketing evolution over the course of the last decade. I’ll also showcase ways in which you can build on your current strategy and adopt impactful ambassador programs into your marketing mix.

Let’s start with an estimate from Amazon. Reports show that up to 40% of Amazon’s massive annual sales revenue is the result of affiliate marketing, that’s a huge number and statement. Seems like Amazon is really the king of affiliates! But, who are these affiliates, and do we have control of how they represent our brand? Let’s break this down further.

The difference between affiliate programs and ambassador programs seems simple. An affiliate program is a collection of people, companies and unique pages who market your products in return for a commission when a product sells. There is no up-front payment. The affiliates make money only when they convert a lead. Companies that have affiliate programs use trackable links and cookies to monitor sales and pay commissions. Affiliates may pay for ads or set up landing pages for the products they promote to make sales.

Like affiliate programs, ambassador programs can be very lucrative for your brand, increasing brand affinity and ultimately new customers. Here too, you can leverage pay per performance models and deploy an army of social sales reps. When you do this, it’s in my opinion that brands have more control of the content, and can utilize the authentic content by hyper-targeting specific audiences and amplifying social posts to segments that align with their SKU’s and product categories. Companies like ShopandShout have employed these practices and seen several food and beverage, beauty, fashion and CPG companies increase sales by+55% through online shopping channels and major brix and mortar retailers. There is also evidence that major companies in Online Wealth Management and Banking have adopted similar strategies to bolster their marketing efforts when looking to generate new leads and optimize conversion. (Happy to comment on this privately.)

So how do we find these people, and who farms the ambassadors you’re looking for?

Queue Micro-Influencers! Find a platform or an agency that can create a monthly pool of 20–50 on brand Micro-Influencers, scale your strategy, and begin tracking the best performers. As you know, countless studies from Forbes , Strategy Magazine and many more identify that 70% of people trust recommendations from close networks far more than traditional ads. So find authentic, on-profile candidates that make sense for you.

Next, measure the performance of your Influencers as a qualification process toward your Ambassador program. Here, you are looking at reach, impressions, content delivery, and audience engagement at minimum. The goal is to create long term relationships that connect a persons living habits and social channels to the roots and values of your company. This helps to ensure that the Influencers audience connects with your brands ideal buyer personas. These individuals make for great long term Ambassadors and their value goes beyond the sale at your POS.

Now that you have the ability to guide and inspire your army of Ambassadors, you can leverage daily brand promotions through major social channels to increase conversion rates on paid social advertisements. I’ve always advised companies to re-purpose the most authentic and aesthetic digital assets from Ambassadors for social, website, print, and programmatic advertising to exponentially increase impressions.

For clarity, we’re not speaking about guerrilla marketing tactics. Travelling BA’s, and experiential marketing programs can be an expensive investment. Consider reallocating some of your marketing resources. The cost and benefit of a digitized program can outweigh that of traditional marketing and reach millions more people. Brand ambassadors have grass roots and true advocacy that connects influential people with brands.

So, next time you think about your Influencer and Ambassador programs, consider ShopandShout, the company prides itself on building campaigns with scale and quality in mind. Their community reaches millions of people across the globe, and can target specific countries, cities and niches.

If you would like to reach out a speak further, feel free to comment or contact me directly.

Vytas Lenauskas, VP Marketing