So how to you get the most from these unique individuals? How do you influence people who have no financial incentive to do what they do, just passion?
1. Understand them
What is an evangelist is and does your company have any? (You may be suprised to find out)
- Are they your target customer?
- What is it that they talk about? (and who do they tell?)
- Why do they feel they own your brand?
2. If you don't have any, roll your own
Employees can be great evangelists for your products or services and are probably doing the job already in some way. Encouraging innovation, providing the right environment for them and supporting their activities all plays a part in getting them to fly your brand flags.
One of the most impressive brand evangelists I know is Phil Mooney, the Coca-Cola archivist (basically a professional Coke collector for the last 30 years) who now has his own blog.
3. Empower them
Give them the materials and support they need.
- Content (RSS feeds, targetted news releases, etc.)
- Portable assets (image and video placed out there on available sites, e.g. Flickr, YouTube, etc.)
- Tools and toys (widgets and other stuff they can put in their blogs, sites, etc.)
4. Be transparent / human / accessible
One reason that some companies have a lot of evangelists is because people identify and believe in them. I am certain that there is a relationship between the number/proportion of brand evangelists and the openness of the organisation.
I'm definately not saying that just having these properties in your brand statement will give you instant unpaid advocacy. You must practice what you preach and your customers must be able to tell (you will hopefully tell when you find you have more brand evangelists)
However some companies may find this more dificult than others due to the amount of cultural shift required, however the advantages should out-weight the drawbacks.
5. Allow their input
Your evangelists won't last long in a social vacuum and like any relationship (some do have a lot of passion) they want some reciprocation of their affection. Every sports fan has their own opinions on which players are best (hence Fantasy Football/Cricket/etc.) and speak to other fans, use old media (radio call-in shows) & new media (chat forums and discussion boards) to make their points known.
Likewise every evangelist has an idea for your brand. These may anything from a better way of phrasing the content on your website, through to entirely new product ideas. This feedback is invaluable... its your decision if and how you use it.
Companies pay hundreds of thousands of £'s * to figure out how to create brand loyalty whilst ignoring their brand promoters & evangelists... why? Your evangelists are some of your best: sales people, R&D and customer services representatives. And they do it for free.
What other method of influencing customers has that ROI?
*and to keep this blog equal, lots of money in every other major currency as well