The idea of customer evangelism is not a new one. Customer or brand evangelism is described as having customers who are so enamored with your brand or product they become self-marketers for you. They talk up your brand, product or service – simply because they love it – not for any incentive.
Brands are getting smarter about how they market to their customer and prospects, by looking at the deeper relationship, rather than the one time, cash-register transaction. Building a customer base who feels passionate about what you are offering creates people who will influence buying. Your brand evangelists are out there on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a multitude of other social sites, talking about your brand and why others should too.
Not to be confused with “affiliate marketing,” brand evangelists are not being incentified to advocate or spread the word about a particular brand. Affiliate marketing may provide incentives - financially or with products, but I tend to believe that the affiliate-driven transactions will not result in long-term, loyal customer relationships, nor do they create brand evangelists.
Creating these loyal evangelists requires not just a great product or service, but a marketing strategy that will create a buzz about your brand through word-of-mouth networks and customer feedback networks.
The word “evangelism” means to bring good news. Marketers who can effectively create these brand evangelists can enjoy the benefits of those who preach the good things about their products. Having a community of consumers who believe in your brand is the best way to create a conversion model to acquire new customers, and begin to build on those relationships.
I, for example, am a brand evangelist of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. So much so, that I am likely to purchase the products provided by the brands that sponsor his #14 car in the Sprint Cup Series. I am planning to purchase school supplies for my children in the coming weeks, and will go to Office Depot over other similar stores, simply because of Stewart’s sponsorship. In the same fashion, if I’m driving down the road and need to stop for a bite to eat, I’d choose Burger King over the competitors - again because Stewart endorses that brand. (Love the new Stewart, Burger King campaign!)
Just yesterday I sent a text message to a friend of mine who was at a fundraiser hosted by Stewart. The text simply read:
“I’d rather be riding in Tony Stewart’s Corvette that smells of Armor All and Old Spice, while eating a Whopper on my way to Office Depot to buy school supplies.”
I have been a NASCAR fan for about 3 years now, and decided to follow Tony because of a friend’s passion for the sport and for Tony as a driver. That friend who turned me on to the sport is (and has been for many years) a NASCAR and Tony Stewart evangelist whose enthusiasm for the sport converted me. I no longer feel that racing is a bunch of drivers turning left for 3 hours (but we'll save that for a future blog post).
In regards to Tony Stewart personally, I have a friend who has had some access to him through his involvement at Texas Motor Speedway. I had asked that friend, who was at fundraiser with Stewart earlier this week, to try to bring me back an autograph from him, and he far exceeded my request. If I was not a Tony Stewart evangelist before, I most certainly am now - and will be for a long time to come. Tony Stewart, my favorite NASCAR driver of the #14 Chevy, took time out of his busy schedule last night to speak with me on the telephone. That’s better than any autograph I could get my hands on, and hearing his friendly voice on the other end of my telephone will stay with me for a long time. (PS. I got the autograph too!)
There's more to brand evangelism than just someone loving your product so much they tell the whole world (and believe me, my Facebook friends are probably sick of hearing about Tony). Knowing how to market to the right individuals with the right message and right brand experience is the key to unlocking the potential of building those brand loyal consumers. Tap into your consumer and prospect data insights to develop campaigns and a marketing strategy with the end goal of building those brand/customer relationships. The long term ROI will continue to grow as your evangelists create more evangelists and the viral nature of your marketing efforts lives on long after the campaign(s) has ended.
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