In terms of a buzzword, customer evangelists are nothing new. This phrase has been around since the early part of 2002 and was coined by well-known marketers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba who authored the fantastic marketing book, Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force.
In my work with small businesses, the concept of customer evangelist is always at the forefront of any marketing strategy being contemplated. Why? Because word-of-mouth referrals is still the #1 way to convert prospects to customers. Not to mention, with these businesses oftentimes having a much smaller ad budget, the idea of something that can generate free advertising is very attractive!
5 Steps to Connect and Grow Customer Evangelists
It’s amazing to me that when this concept is first brought up in my work with my clients, that it is oftentimes viewed as one of the most difficult and time-consuming activities. In reality, its actually quite simple to find and engage your customer evangelists. The difficulty comes in how you interact and how you build your relationship with them.
Here’s five simple steps to connect and grow your customer evangelists:
1. Identify your customers who reflect the traits of an evangelist
These customers are the ones who have shown the most passion towards your brand, your product, or service! They tell everyone about how you helped them in some way and why they think you are the best. Take note, these may not be the customers who have spent the most with you! To find them, perform a Google search on your company, product, or service. FYI, they’ll be the ones talking about you! Capture as much information about them as you can with the focus being on how to contact them.
2. Get to know your customers better by getting them together
Plan an event to bring together your top customers in a smaller, more intimate setting where you can focus on getting to know each one individually. These will include both the current “evangelists” you found in step #1 as well as your top customers based on sales. If your customers are all over the United States and it would be difficult or too costly to bring them all together at one location, find a way to either have multiple local events or create an online portal where you can interact using multi-media tools (web conferencing, phone conferencing, instant message, etc.) We prefer and recommend that this event be in-person at your facilities or local meeting facilities.
3. Give your evangelists deeper access to your organization
You need to create an “evangelist support team” who act as exclusive points of contact for these individual customers and who offer additional access to information than what you would publicly share. People love exclusivity. It makes them feel a part of a special group and much more likely to continue engaging your organization. Having more information and access to write about will ensure your evangelists continue talking up your offerings.
4. Routinely engage your evangelists to provide more insights and request feedback
There is nothing worse to evangelists than when the organization they support seems to cut all lines of 2-way communication. You can’t stop engaging them or else they will quickly lose trust in you. Keep engaging them. Whether it be by planned conference calls, online communities, or emails, be sure to continue reaching out to them for feedback (and listen to it) and share with them new insights into the organization.
5. Repeat these steps to create new evangelists
Once you have one group of customer evangelists, it’s not time to stop! Things can happen in the lives of these individuals and some may fall away. Some may run away due to how you’ve treated them or if your product failed them, miserably. Always continue reaching out and connecting to a new group of evangelists. Doing so can increase your geographical reach, continually reinforce your value offerings, and maybe even open up new lines of revenue. You never know what one relationship can bring! So don’t stop creating them!
How have you created customer evangelists?
Now it’s your turn. Tell me how you have created customer evangelists for your organization? What did you do to connect with them? How did you empower them to share with their network of relationships?