Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marketing Gold: How to Develop Brand Evangelists

How to develop brand evangelists and product evangelists
The concept of the brand evangelist has been around a long time. Guy Kawasaki wrote about it in the Art of the Start back in 2004. However, relatively few marketers actively recruit and engage evangelists, in part because it's not as easy to do as simply writing case studies or buying ads. But brand evangelists are the marketer's gold, and the smart marketer should include the development of brand evangelists as part of any complete marketing plan.

The Value of Evangelists

Why are brand evangelists so valuable? The evangelist:

  • Provides unpaid third party validation of your product or service. Because they're unpaid, they're perceived as especially trustworthy and credible.
  • Develops or extends word of mouth. Evangelists are the most energetic form of word-of-mouth referrers.
  • Allows prospects to see themselves with your product. They can see how your product or service improved users' lives, and hopefully will see themselves in that 'mirror.'
  • Continues indefinitely. Unlike marketing campaigns that have a limited lifetime, evangelists tend to continue for many months or even years with continued company engagement.
Evangelist-sourced content can be part of, and provide lift to, any marketing campaign.

Finding Your Evangelist

A brand evangelist can be one of the most valuable marketing assets a firm has. So how does the marketer go about identifying potential evangelists?
How to find brand evangelists and product evangelists for marketing

  • Recruit salespeople and post-sales support teams. Not only are they the ones who communicate most with customers, but they're going to be the biggest user of the evangelists' content, as well. They have a stake in the entire process.
  • Identify customers who are active bloggers. They have shown an interest in publishing their opinions.
  • Use influencer* identification tools, such as Klout for Business, Traackr, GroupHigh, or SpotRight. There are many others.
  • Monitor and review comments on user forums or product review sites.
  • Establish promotions that solicit user submissions at events for users or owners. If your company is large enough to have a user event, take advantage of that investment. 
  • Listen to visitors at your trade show booth. Evangelists are already fans of your product or service, and they'll make a point of visiting your booth.
By comparing candidates across all of the above sources, you should be able to identify a handful of promising candidates. Now, you have to recruit them.

Recruiting Evangelists

Why does someone evangelize about a product or brand? According to Kawasaki, simply because they want to make the world a better place. They want to help others who might be facing the same challenges, providing them with advice based on their own experiences. This is the key to recruiting someone to serve as an evangelist, and should serve as the theme of your outreach to them.
Recruiting brand evangelists for marketing purposes
A secondary motivation might be their own self-interest, whether that's to enhance their career options, to grow their blog traffic, or just to boost their own ego. Depending on the characteristics of the prospect, the appeal to his or her self-interest can be explicit or implicit. For instance, you could offer them early visibility into upcoming product features.

Leveraging Evangelists

Once identified and recruited, there are many different ways to channel their evangelistic fervor into corporate content:
  • Provide them with opportunities to submit guest articles
  • Encourage them to post ongoing videos, and promote those videos through your channels
  • Share infographics, or help them create their own
  • Enable them to become an active voice in user forums
That's the great thing about evangelists. They're already motivated, so the only limitation on how to leverage them is your own imagination.

*Influencers and evangelists are not synonymous. Evangelists are influencers that are true believers and have a much higher motivation to provide active support to, and endorsement of, the brand. Much of recent social media marketing has been focused on identifying and engaging influencers. While this is important, it is also important to go that one step further to identify and recruit evangelists.

(Image of woman with megaphone provided by imagerymajestic and group with magnifying glass by Naypong, both at freedigitalphotos.net. Army recruiting poster image is public domain.)

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