Brand evangelism isn’t a new marketing technique, but it has evolved quite a bit over the last few years.
Most people who hear about “brand evangelism” probably think of someone famous like Guy Kawasaki.
But is brand evangelism something that only big brands can do? What about your brand? If you’re a struggling startup, can you harness the power of brand evangelism?
The answer is “Yes!”
Brand evangelism isn’t as easy as dialing up Derek Sivers, Guy Kawasaki, or Tim Ferriss and asking them to promote you.
Brand evangelism is far more than that.
In this article, I’m going to explain how you can inspire brand evangelists to skyrocket your sales.
1. Understand your audience.
Everything starts with understanding your target customer.
I mean everything.
You can’t earn customers, let alone turn them into passionate evangelists, if you don’t define who they are.
Before you create your brand evangelism plan, you must create your customer persona.
A customer persona has a name, a picture, a few background details, and some demographic data.
The great thing about a customer persona is that you get to control it.
You decide the audience you want to target, and the type of person you want to reach.
Remember, this customer persona is eventually going to become your brand evangelist. That’s why it’s so critical to shape the persona early in the process.
As you create your persona, sketch out some of the ways you see them evangelizing on your behalf.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- What social networks do they prefer?
- What other brands/products/services are they already passionate about?
- How large is their social following?
- What is their primary method of sharing information with others?
- What type of people do they have influence over (peers, parents, students, etc.)?
- How fast does information spread among their influence groups?
It’s best if you can interview several potential customers and get real data in order to make sure that you’re getting accurate information, not just guessing.
2. Start with your internal team.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when starting a brand evangelism program is neglecting their own internal team.
Let me make something very clear.
You don’t have a true brand evangelism program unless your internal team is actively evangelizing.
I’ll use the social media scheduling company, Buffer, as an example.
Buffer has a strong internal team with a transparent culture and a vibrant content marketing program.
The value, passion, and vibrancy of the Buffer team shines through in all their content.
Part of the reason I use them as an example is because it’s so apparent that their employees are totally on-board as brand evangelists.
And that’s the whole point. If your employees are stoked about the brand and the product or service, then you’re already well on the path to having a brand evangelism engine.
Another brand that lives out the brand evangelism passion is Airdog. This Latvia-based aerospace engineering firm has developed a personal drone that mounts a GoPro camera.
With a staff of brainy aerospace engineers, you might think that these guys aren’t exactly brand evangelism material.
Actually, they’re some of the most passionate brand evangelists you’ll fine.
Airdog team members are avid extreme sports fans. If they aren’t working, they’re probably downhill biking, extreme skiing, or surfing.
That’s why the brand blew the top off their Kickstarter, and has enjoyed massive sales.
The employees are the original brand evangelists, and they’ve built up a niche population of extreme sports fans who use GoPros and buy drones.
That’s the kind of culture you need to create. Brand evangelism starts within the brand. Your best brand evangelists are your satisfied, passionate, product-using employees.
Take a page from Starbuck’s playbook. As Fast Company reported, Starbucks has a “$35 million mission to make brand evangelists of its front-line workers.”
To Starbucks, baristas are not just baristas — they are ambassadors of brand, merchants of romance, disciples of delight.
After spending time fraternizing with these Starbucks employees-turned-evangelists, that Fast reporter admitted that she was sold:
Even I am swimming in Starbucks feel-good. I’m not crying. Nor am I ready to make the Starbucks’ mission statement my personal mantra. But I feel darn fuzzy about the broader, positive social implications of venti lattes.
That’s the power of brand evangelists. Brand evangelism starts within, then moves without.
3. Grow your customer base.
Growing your customer base is an article or series of articles unto itself.
I realize it’s not easy to “just grow your customer base.” However, you will have difficulty recruiting brand evangelists if you don’t have a few customers.
You don’t need thousands of customers. You simply need to have enough satisfied people that can then be inspired to promote your business.
A movement begins with one person. With the right amount of impetus, that one person can spark mass hysteria.
Allow Derek Sivers to explain…
Don’t get rattled by the need to grow your customer base though. Using standard digital marketing techniques and a few growth hacking tricks, you can build that core following gradually. Once you’ve reached a critical mass, you can then grow a larger movement.
A movement can be a fleeting thing too. Another important ingredient is retention. Once you have customers, you must hold these customers. You can do so by continuing to market to them, upselling them, cross-selling them, and cultivating them for referrals.
4. Develop a company attitude.
People don’t follow boring businesses. It’s not going to happen.
Even if you’re in a “boring” industry, you can have jumping-up-and-down crazy fans who evangelize for you.
How? Here are some tips.
- Be genuinely over-the-top-helpful. Customer service is paramount. Keep in mind that customer service starts long before a customer becomes a customer. It starts with genuinely helpful content.
- Never stay silent. Relentlessly talk, publish, speak, and promote. Refuse to shut up.
- Forget business speak. Just write like you talk.
- Don’t be afraid to be funny. Attitude doesn’t disguise its humor.
- Be opinionated. You’re not on a mission to be politically correct. Keep things in check, of course, but write for your tribe, not for your critics.
- Be appropriately biased. You’re a business, sure, but you have to let your personality show. You can be biased towards your own brand, biased in favor of your customers, and biased in favor of the processes, programs, and systems that you like. Your fans will love it!
- Be passionate. In order for people to be excited about you, you have to be excited about yourself. That’s why brand evangelism starts with employees, remember?
- Be focused on your niche. In order to keep appealing to your customer base, stay on topic. If you are a company about, say, Crossfit, then talk about Crossfit, not about construction materials.
- Be personal. First-person writing, self-references, casual tone — all of these things go a long way in cultivating an attitude.
Red Bull is a brand that does a great job with attitude. If you’ve been around Red Bull fans, you know that most of them have a bit of brand evangelism flair about them.
People have given me cans of Red Bull for free, simply because they are convinced of its power, and want to share it.
Red Bull knows how to make their marketing stand out. They sponsor these sports events where their fans are. They distribute brand paraphernalia. They let people go crazy over them.
People even dress up like Red Bull cans!
5. Make something your customers want to chase after.
One characteristic of die-hard brand evangelists is that they want whatever the company offers.
If Apple started selling cookies, you can bet that Apple fans would be first in line to buy them. If GoPro decided to sell toothpaste, GoPro fans would purchase it in a heartbeat.
Why? It’s not just because these companies have great fans. It’s because these companies have great products.
Often, a brand’s early adopters are the brand evangelists. You want to be producing products that appeal to the percentage of people who are eager to scoop up your products as soon as they hit the shelf.
You don’t have to sell iPhones or cameras to nurture a rabid following, though. Here are some elements of a product or service that are worth chasing:
- Be a brand of value. You create brand value by focusing on your customers, giving them what they want, and serving them relentlessly. The most passionate customers are price-agnostic. They don’t care how much it costs, as long as they are served by the business.
- Customers turn into brand evangelists only when they can trust the brand. Brands build trust through consistent content, an authentic voice, and a darn good product.
- Brands must generate their own excitement if they want to spread that excitement to others. Let your excitement show in your branding, ads, content, messaging, social media, and elsewhere.
- Would people be buying the iPhone if it were still in its first model — the iPhone 1? Of course not. The reason why Apple sustains such a fervent fan base is because they are constantly improving their product. SaaS products do the same thing. Upgrades, updates, features, and add-ons are what keep customers coming back for more.
Don’t be ashamed of asking for customers to upgrade, upsell, and cross-sell. If they are true fans, they’re going to love doing so.
The great thing is that as they do, they will inspire others to do the same! Brand evangelism requires you to get better, prove your process, and keep your fans happy.
6. Develop a customer-focused culture.
In 2011, a woman suffering from sensitive feet placed an order on Zappos.com. She ordered six pairs of shoes, trying to find a pair that worked.
It had been difficult for her to find shoes. Her feet were tender and sensitive. They had been damaged after the woman was subjected to “harsh medical treatments.”
Two of the pairs she ordered were just what she needed.
She spoke on the phone with a Zappos representative, asking how to return the shoes that didn’t fit. The friendly Zappos employee engaged the woman in conversation and found out about her struggle.
Days later, the customer received a huge bouquet of lilies and roses. Why? Because the Zappos rep just wanted her to know that they cared, that Zappos was thinking of her, and that they wanted to take care of her.
The customer was obviously taken aback, and expressed her appreciation. Zappos went all out again, upgrading the woman to become a Zappos customer VIP, and providing complimentary expedited shipping on all orders.
There are thousands of stories just like that. Zappos is legendary for its extreme customer service. Ordering pizzas, overnighting shoes, and paying road tolls — it’s all part of the customer service passion that Zappos has inspired.
This attitude has turned casual customers into raving fans.
There’s no other way around it. If your customer service sucks, then you will not have brand evangelism.
True brand evangelism happens spontaneously, when customers realize that your business loves them, cares about them, wants to help them, and is excited to do it.
It’s hard to avoid being an evangelist for a brand like that.
Think about your own experience. Have you ever been blown away by a really awesome customer service experience?
Chances are you told someone about it. You don’t keep that kind of thing to yourself.
Go out, and do a kickass job of serving your customers, and they will come back and serve you.
7. Form strong social networks.
Brand evangelism will spread on the social networks.
Who’s spreading the news? Your brand evangelists, that’s who.
It’s widely known that customers trust social media recommendations.
Why? Because these recommendations come from friends, or friends of friends, or simply “real people.”
Brand evangelists don’t need to be celebs. They simply need to be family or friends who use and talk about your product.
You as a business are responsible for forming and maintaining the networks by which customers can evangelize for you.
Here are some suggestions:
- Make it easy for readers to share your helpful blog posts.
- Ask people to tag their friends on your Instagram posts.
- Make your Twitter handle easy to find.
- Get on all the social networks to maximize your exposure among customers’ preferred sharing methods.
If you want your brand evangelism to really take off, you must take responsibility for laying the foundation, curating content, and posting regularly. This is the infrastructure necessary to sustain an active digital presence.
These networks are the roads that customers drive on when they go to evangelize on your behalf.
8. Create shareable content.
You can only grow a social network with strong, sharable content.
By now, you’re probably sold on the advantages of content marketing.
88% of B2Bs use content marketing.
Just doing content marketing isn’t enough to create and sustain a viral brand evangelism movement.
Instead, you need to place a strong emphasis on shareable content. If you produce the right kind of content, fans will be eager to share it to others.
The shareable strategy extends to social networks as well as blogs, videos, podcasts, and other forums. Make it your goal to become as shareable as possible.
The ROI of brand evangelism is huge. You pay them nothing, yet they are the source of massive amounts of warm leads.
Because they’re so gung ho, they create excitement in others. They share your story, brand, products and information, not from any sense of duty or obligation, but because they want to.
It’s the best kind of marketing there is.
What kind of brand evangelism movements have you started?