Soon after I reached 1500 followers on Instagram, I was asked to join a company’s “ambassador program.” I was flattered, so I checked it out. Basically, they wanted me to promote their product and in return, they would pay me a 20% commission for everyone that bought their product through my link. That sounds like the definition of an affiliate program, so it got me thinking…What’s the difference between an Influencer, Brand Ambassador, Advocate, Affiliate and JV Partner?

Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing there is, but there is no reason why it all has to be organic. Click To Tweet

Truth be told, all of these are some form of incentivized referral marketing. No matter what you call it, the idea is to provide some type of incentive to get other’s to market for you. Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing there is, but there is no reason why it all has to be organic. Giving people a reason to share your product is a smart move for any company (as long as there aren’t industry regulations preventing it, such as in the financial services industry).

How do these different marketing terms relate?

As previously stated, these types of marketing have been used interchangeably. A lot of businesses name their referral programs with the term ambassador or advocate in the headline. It doesn’t necessarily mean that is a true ambassador or advocate program. Some people may refer to them as “rockstars” or “road warriors” (a term we used with my first business).

So are there any significant differences between a Brand Ambassador, Influencer, or Affiliate Partner? Technically, there are differences depending upon someone’s definition. For example, an influencer often has tens of thousands of followers and is paid a lump sum by the sponsoring company, regardless of the actual number of sales made, whereas anyone can be an affiliate marketer no matter how many or few actual followers they have, since they are paid for each sale they bring to the company. You can do a Google search on the differences between each of these terms if it is really important to you, but the one thing that they they all have in common is that they are content creators.

Each of these types of marketers is creating their own unique content on behalf of the company. It might be a blog post, an Instagram photo, an online review, a YouTube video, or a simple recommendation vie email, but what makes referral marketing work is that the person promoting the product has created their own unique spin on why someone should buy the product. And that is the reason why this type of marketing is so much more effective than traditional marketing (where the company is the one producing the content).

Think about it…

according to a report by Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising, and people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend. That’s a pretty good reason to use referral marketing. But you need to have a systematized program in place to make this happen, you can’t just be like a realtor who says, “I’m never to busy for your referrals.” Getting a cold lead from some referral group also won’t work – you need an introduction (ie, content) to go with that name. You must give people a reason as to WHY they should give you referrals.

How do you find people to do this kind of marketing for you?

Not all of you customers are interested in helping you. And not all bloggers and YouTubers will create great content for you, even if you pay them. You need to find people who enjoy creating content, reviewing products, and engaging with their audiences. But the best way to find your next brand ambassador, affiliate partner, or influencer is simply to start building relationships with your customers and experts in your industry, then reach out to them and explain your program to them. Referral marketing is based on relationships.

Incentives don’t to have to be just money

You’re probably familiar with how Dropbox incentivized its users by offering additional storage space for each user someone got to signup (even for a free account). I am often asked to review a product in exchange for free product. For example, I was recently asked to review a 3 piece custom made suit, and my payment was, you guessed it, a 3 piece custom made suit. If you really want your referral program to be successful, it is important that you offer rewards that make it worth the time for someone to create content for you.

Did you find this article useful or learn anything? If so, I’d love some feedback about what you thought.