In last week's episode we mentioned that Bite Society had begun to trial a 'brand ambassador program'. This week, we thought we would delve deeper and explain what it is, how it's been going and why we're excited to be the first of (hopefully) many businesses to do it.
I guess it's time to get into the nitty gritty. What actually is an ambassador? And how does their role integrate into Bite Society as a project?
It's important to take a step back here and outline first what it is that we wanted to achieve before the concept of a brand ambassador was born. While discussing with some of our team we kept running into the barrier of not having enough time on our hands to get more stockists and ensure the coverage of existing ones. How could we get more done with our limited amount of hours, all the while building grass-roots enthusiasm and increased engagement from the community with our mission?
Low and behold, the brand ambassador. The idea was to achieve our goals by encouraging people who enjoy our chocolate to take a sample into their local shop, with the hopes that if they like it they can go ahead and place an order. From personal experience we know that having an in-person relationship with stores strengthens the loyalty between stockist and brand, and therefore having an ambassador allows for us to cultivate those relationships while still working remotely, and more importantly, allowing more people to get involved.
You may be thinking, woah that's new! I've never heard of any businesses do such a thing before! and it's true. We found that this differs greatly from other ambassador programs on the internet, as using Instagram as a main marketing tool means the response is mainly digital, receiving posts and stories in return for a sample product. Despite influencers being wonderful and providing support in their own way, we encountered many logistical issues with this method in the past and decided to create something more hands on. To become an ambassador, people don't have to be on social media, and in fact most of the people who have helped us so far don't even have the app!
So with a creative (potential) solution on the way we decided to give it a go.
How did we do?
During our first round we ended up sending around 15-20 samples and received 3 new stockists, some of which included Australian universities (an exciting new prospect for the bite society mission!).
Ambassador Bec taking our chocs to Little Vegetable in Ivanhoe East to give the owners Jack and Belle a try.
The program so far has also allowed us to get more feedback, as being in person with shop owners gives ambassadors the chance to witness first reactions, facial expressions as well as receive direct criticism on our product, all important learnings that work in our favour (the more feedback the better!).
It's also given us the opportunity to learn more!
With that being said, what are the key learnings that we have taken from this program so far?
At the end of the day, there's one thing that stays consistent in all new endeavours - cost. Having to send packs is expensive, and although we can think of it as a long-term investment, we are a zero profit afterall and minimising cost wherever we can is important. At the moment, using our current postal service (AusPost) it can add up to $15 per ambassador. All up if our hit rate is ~1 in 10, it would cost us $150 just to get that one new stockist!
So how do we go about this challenge? Well, we can't lower the cost of the chocolates themselves as this is more or less set with the factory, but what we can do is look at the sending process and make some changes there. Perhaps we can start buying boxes in bulk, or even research an alternative to Australia post. We'll keep you posted.
2. Better follow-up system
It's clear that we need to follow up quickly with shops, ideally within a couple of days after the ambassadors have given them the chance to try our chocs. Essentially, this process all comes down to improving our spreadsheets and increasing communications with the ambassadors themselves. Sometimes, despite people being eager to get on board, other priorities pop up along the way, and while legitimate, can incur quite the cost to our process and minimise our efficiency. The key, we've found, is to set clearer expectations up front. An example? Setting a time limit on when an ambassador can take the sample into the store (1 week). Even if this means less people come on board to the program from fear of formality, it ensures we use our resources well and don't simply end up giving away things for free.
3. We need to have business cards
It sounds basic, but we need to give the ambassador something to give to the shop owner so they know how to contact us, should they be interested in stocking us. Yes of course we should be making the first contact, but it makes us seem more professional and adds credibility to our product if they have something to hold. So with that in mind we went and got a whole new set of business cards, as well as a small brochure with our range of products and relevant pricing (+ a few promo deals and shipping) printed. We haven't sent it out yet, but it's a no brainer that it should help (or at least we hope!).
4. Getting more people on board!
So far we have just been making social posts, but we need a more efficient way to encourage people to get involved! As a small business with a global mission, we are additionally considering if we can scale the program ie. make this thing international. Perhaps we could have a main ambassador who can be in charge of stock and organise a group of smaller ambassadors in their home country. Skeptics may say it's unsustainable but these are all things we're considering, depending on how this trial run continues in Australia.
How do I apply?
At the moment we have absolutely no criteria as to what constitutes an ambassador. We don't want to turn people away, as mentioned earlier we need to figure out how to increase the numbers of people on board!
Which brings us on to our next point. Often we forget that the greatest influence we have is at the local level, and the actions we take as individuals accumulates, there's no doubt about it. Which at the end of the day, is exactly what Bite Society is all about. Even if we personally don't go out into the world and make huge waves (although we would love to), if we at least inspire 10, 20, 50, or 100 others to get involved in the space and they go on to make a difference, we've had a huge multiplier effect and our job here is done.
So with that being said, if you (or someone you know) is interested in getting involved, or helping us take this program into Phase 2 (international) then please don't hesitate to get in touch and chat to us. We would love to hear your ideas and help you get involved with the project. Also, if you are a business or project owner and want to begin implementing a similar program, we would love to support in any way we can! Just drop us a message.
That being said, we hope you all have a wonderful weekend, continuing to make a difference at the local level by remembering to #biteforwhatsright.