Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    How to Run a Successful Student Ambassador Program

    A lot of companies, especially startups seem to be utilizing campus ambassadors to acquire student users and build a college brand. After talking to various ambassadors and observing their on-campus marketing activities, I have noticed that most companies do not seem to be putting much effort into their ambassador programs, in fact few of them seem to have a structured program at all.

    My Experience

    I managed the most successful InternMatch Campus Ambassador program in the company’s history. Seven campus ambassadors that I personally hired signed up 2500+ students over the course of 10 weeks. The top performing campus ambassador signed up 700+ students.

    Things to Consider Before Interviewing Your First Ambassador

    Size of target campuses

    The ROI for small campuses may not be enough to warrant placing an ambassador in. Ambassadors on smaller campuses reach fewer students with each marketing campaign, while exerting the same amount of effort. There is a temptation to target small elite universities, but I strongly advise companies to focus on placing ambassadors in large public universities instead due to the much better ROI.

    University Marketing Policy

    Certain universities like Stanford and NYU heavily restrict the types of marketing students can do on campus for businesses. For instance, both of those universities do not allow students to pitch in class on behalf of a private business. It may not be worth placing an ambassador on a campus that severely limits on-campus marketing activities. As a general rule, public universities are much less strict about on campus marketing than private universities.


    An ambassador program should not cost your company an arm and a leg, but compensation is important to keep students on board. Paid labor is much more reliable than unpaid labor and you need every ounce of reliability you can get in a remote working environment.

    Key Interview Questions

    Gauging time commitment 

    Asking straight up how many hours a student is willing to commit to the job is not indicative of how much time the student actually has to spare. Instead, ask how many classes the student is taking and how many extracurriculars they are involved in. In my personal experience, with a normal class load of four courses a student can work a maximum of 20 hours a week, beyond that the quality of work and reliability suffers.


    Due to the remote nature of a campus ambassador role, it is important for the student to have some knowledge of on campus marketing. The quickest and most effective way to judge a student’s marketing chops is to ask them how they would go about achieving a key metric on their campus and what kind of material support they would want from the company. This application question will provide a good picture of how creative and experienced the student is.

    Running the Program


    Most students take on internships to acquire practical skills. Failure to teach these skills in your ambassador program will lead students to drop out, especially if you are not paying them as well. I highly suggest that you run workshops during the course of the internship program on marketing tactics and tools. In my exit interviews, all the InternMatch ambassadors said the weekly hour long workshops where I taught things such as social media marketing, guerrilla marketing and how to use Unbounce were the best part of the program and provided them with skills that they could apply after the program.


    Keeping campus ambassadors motivated and accountable is a tough. A big part of it is the lack of communication in a remote working environment. To combat this, I ran weekly one on one calls to check up on each campus ambassador’s progress, set weekly goals and also answer any questions. These calls could last from 5 to 15 minutes and were an important part of keeping ambassadors engaged. In the exit interviews, the ambassadors reported that the calls were the biggest motivating factor to deliver sign ups every week as they did not want to have to explain their lack of progress on the phone.


    Traditional on campus marketing methods will most likely not be time efficient for your single ambassador on campus. For example, a single person flyering and tabling is much less effective than a team. Instead, look for ways to force multiply your ambassador’s marketing efforts such as through the use of Facebook college groups, mass emails or events.


    A campus ambassador program can be an effective way to acquire college users, however, many companies underestimate the amount of time and energy required to run an ambassador program. It would be a mistake to think that an ambassador program is all about instructing a student to hand out flyers on their campus.
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