Does your business have a brand ambassador, affiliate or referral program? Do you enlist influencers to promote your products or services? Whether you already implement a rewards-based marketing program, or you’re thinking of giving it a try, this article is for you. Read on to learn the dos and don’ts of marketing rewards programs and how to craft the best rewards strategy for your brand. 

Different Types of Marketing Programs 

There are many ways to structure a brand’s rewards program. We support brands that use one of the options below, more than one program, or their own hybrid program based on their brand’s unique needs. The most popular kinds of marketing rewards programs include: 

  • Brand Ambassador Programs: Brand ambassadors are super fans. They are your loyal cheerleaders and typically the customers who care most about your company. They agree to promote your products or services in exchange for whatever rewards you are offering. Being associated with your brand is a big deal for them, and they are eager to sing your praises. Brand ambassador reward programs can be structured an infinite number of ways, with customized tiers and segmentation. We’ll get into that more below.
  • Influencer Partnerships: Influencers are known for large audiences. While nano-influencers and micro-influencers (folks with less followers) can make fantastic advocates for your brand, they aren’t who we’re talking about here. An internet-famous influencer will introduce your brand to their big audience. Unfortunately, they often don’t have the same amount time or passion to devote to your brand as an ambassador. To collaborate with an influencer, you typically create a contract, and they agree to promote your brand in a specific way for an agreed-on compensation.
  • Affiliate Programs: Affiliate programs are incredibly simple. An affiliate has a link to your site and receives a flat-fee when the link is clicked and converted to a purchase. They have your ads on their site, placed strategically depending on how much you pay them and how much money your ads bring in.
  • Referral Programs: These are more customizable than affiliate programs. Current customers are rewarded for inviting their friends to try your products or services. The reward depends entirely on what makes sense for your brand. For example, a roofing company might track referrals, but would not be able to offer a free roof for every successful referral. In the next section we will share the different kinds of rewards that work best.

Defining Rewards Expectations 

Any marketing rewards program has basic rewards expectations tied to the level of connection its participants have with your brand. In this section, we’ll get into types of rewards and which rewards are best-suited for which programs. 

Unsurprisingly, brand ambassadors, your most enthusiastic advocates, want free or discounted products. They also love branded swag. Clothing. Stickers. Pens. Anything with your company’s name on it reinforces their pride in being associated with what you do. These types of rewards are a win-win, because they make your ambassadors happy while getting your brand out there in the world. It’s no coincidence that these types of rewards make excellent welcome gifts, the most popular reward of 2020 according to a recent survey we conducted of more than 70 BrandChamp customers. 

Interested in different rewards options?

Free shipping is a desirable reward for brand ambassadors because they love your product. So, why not reward them by taking away the pain point of shipping? Some brand ambassadors have openly stated they would rather have free shipping than a discount.

For some brands, non-branded rewards like gift cards to Starbucks or Amazon are hugely successful in boosting ambassador engagement. 

Point accrual systems, where ambassadors earn points redeemable for rewards by completing tasks like posting on social media, are also popular and effective. If a points system appeals to you, our platform helps you seamlessly track and reward your participants.

It’s up to you to get to know your ambassadors and learn the most effective ways to engage with them

As we shared earlier, you’ll likely have a contract with any influencer you work with. Their reward is often cash and/or products. Similarly, affiliate programs are driven by the cash they are bringing in from your ads. So, all you need to do is assess what commission percentage you want to give your affiliates. We recommend offering seasonal incentives with higher commissions during holiday times or brand product promotions.

If you use a referral program and want to offer gifts instead of cash, take a look at your demographic and who is doing the referrals. What would appeal to them?

With a little creativity, you can build a fun and robust marketing rewards program. With help from BrandChamp, your program can become more profitable than you thought possible and oh-so-easy to manage. Learn more below about our services! 

Don’t Forget to Budget

We know — budgeting is boring compared to planning rewards. However, it’s just as important. Without a financial plan lined up for your marketing rewards program, you will run into problems sooner rather than later. Key items to budget for include the software cost of managing your rewards program, staffing costs and the rewards themselves. 

When it comes to staffing, the program manager isn’t the only relevant person here. Consider the costs of your engineering or tech support, the creative team who makes your marketing materials, a social media strategist and anyone else involved in keeping your program running smoothly. 

Thinking about budgeting for rewards, keep in mind the old saying that it takes money to make money. Most, if not all rewards, will impact your bottom line, so add them to your budget right away. Examples include: 

  • Branded swag
  • Gift cards
  • Free shipping
  • Cash
  • Products
  • Discounts

Let’s look closer at free shipping as an example. It’s important to realize this can be a big out-of-pocket expense. If you have 100 ambassadors who all redeem a free shipping reward every month, and say your average shipping rate is $15, you’re looking at $1,500 a month for out-of-pocket shipping expenses.

While it won’t be the most fun part of building your marketing rewards program, budgeting is a crucial part to its ultimate success. 

Timing is Everything 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive deeper and talk about timing your rewards. 

Generally, we recommend reviewing your rewards program monthly or quarterly. This helps ensure you’re still connecting with your program participants and keeping them engaged. If your program doesn’t feel exciting, they will lose interest and your relationship with them will deteriorate. 

This is why you want to be thoughtful when cultivating your various rewards. How many of one item can a person use? What can you add to the mix to build interest? Should you build tiers of rewards that people can work up towards?

Other timing questions to ask yourself are: How quickly do you want to offer your base rewards? Does it benefit your company and your program participants to have instant gratification rewards versus point accruals? Could you do both?

If you’re unsure of the answers, get in touch. Here at BrandChamp, we are experts at building marketing rewards programs and would be happy to help you figure out what works best for your brand. That brings us to the last section of this article — how we can help. 

We’ve Got Your Brand’s Back 

The beauty of BrandChamp is that we can incorporate any type of marketing rewards program into our brand ambassador management platform. This includes hybrid programs, tiered programs and multiple programs under one brand. 

Even better, BrandChamp makes tracking and rewarding your program participants a breeze. With a tiered system, you can customize your commission structure and assign different rewards (like cash or points) based on a person’s level of participation with your marketing rewards program. In other words, the sky’s the limit!

If you’re interested in changing your program’s structure, or starting a new program from scratch, we will gladly offer guidance on the most effective activities and rewards for your brand. For example, you might be wondering whether it makes sense to reward a brand ambassador with a free product for writing a review. Maybe you’re unsure if a new brand ambassador should receive an instant reward for putting their referral link in their Instagram bio. Our team of branding professionals can help you pinpoint the optimal rewards for your program. 

In the event that you don’t have the time or interest in managing your brand ambassador program, don’t worry. We can manage it for you. How easy is that? 

With BrandChamp’s support, dozens of brands have already built robust marketing rewards programs. The result? They exponentially increased their exposure and their revenue. We can’t wait to help your brand skyrocket past the competition to your own, unique success. Let’s talk!