Evangelism Marketing –
When we think of marketing, most people know about mass media marketing where radio, newspapers, television are used to advertise products or brands to a large audience which in turn helps in creating brand awareness and sales conversions. Then came the inbound marketing strategies where informative content drove traffic to a web page or social media page resulting in passively driving leads which in turn have the potential for conversion into the customer.
However, a marketing concept borrowed from religion has found to be capable of bringing long-term business and customer loyalty to the organization. It is called evangelism marketing. In religious terms, it denotes the preaching of the gospel or the practice of giving information about a particular doctrine or set of beliefs to others with the intention of converting others to the Christian faith.
In the marketing domain, this strategy has been effectively used by many companies including Apple to convert as many customers to its fold by customers themselves. Apple is the most quoted example of a success story in evangelism marketing.
Guy Kawasaki, a former evangelist at Apple, author of bestsellers The Macintosh Way and Selling The Dream recalls that in 1984 when Macintosh personal computer was launched by Apple it was only an assembly of plastic, metal, rubber, glass, and silicon. It unleashed a new wave of competition to market leaders IBM which ran on MS-DOS. However, Macintosh didn’t have the software to make it popular. It ignited a wave of fervor and zeal in early adopters, hobbyists and college students, software developers and employees of Apple itself to like and spread the new technology.
Mike Murray was the marketing director at Macintosh who introduced evangelism in the company in mid-1983. The official and unofficial software evangelists carried the Apple brand to new heights thus overcoming the shortage of software, poor initial sales and brutal competition with IBM. The success of Macintosh was the fact that it made users feel more creative and productive. They spread it by word-of-mouth as using the product made them feel better or perform better, they got zealous about it and when they are zealous of something it becomes a cause.
Some ways to make evangelism work for industry:
- Let it begin In-house: There is a saying that charity begins at home. Small and medium businesses should first get evangelism to work in-house. Employees, managers, and salespeople can carry the enthusiasm of the brand to its vendors and customers to win them over. When the company staff members itself become its evangelists that raises confidence among prospective customers.
- It’s not for big business but ideal for small and medium businesses too. When Apple tried out evangelism it was not a big player but a startup struggling to get a foothold in the market. Small retail business can create product evangelists from their own customers. They can try out the products, report on its quality and pass on the information to other prospective customers. Arizona based Buffalo Exchange, created a set of evangelists for its used clothes from among high school students interested in fashion design. The students dressed the display mannequins in their preferred styles and were rewarded with gift cards. This activity helped create a buzz around the product among their friends and classmates.
- Go for Party time, not product demos or conferences: Party time creates feelings of happiness that can enable passing of product message to friends. Discovery Education created a party atmosphere for engaging educators and administrators to get prospects excited about their catalog. They, in turn, went back to school to spread the message of Discovery’s products. This would not have been possible if it was done through a product demo or in the presentation in technology conferences.
- Mainstream customers should be the focus: Early adopters of a product, especially for new technologies, would constitute only 2-3% of the market while the mass market constitutes the majority. If the new product is optimized for the minority, it’s not going to help in the long run, according to Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and a teacher at Duke University.
- Rely on big data: Unlike Steve Jobs of Apple, not all CEO’s and marketing heads may be quite instinctive and they need to rely on market data to come up with the right evangelism marketing campaign. The best example is Amazon with its Kindle that grew on the basis of thousands of customer reviews. Alex Goldfayn, author of Evangelist Marketing: What Apple, Amazon, and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That your Company probably Doesn’t) opine that the cornerstone of a creating evangelist is a deep understanding of what the customers think, want and how they use your product or service.
- Rely on Qualitative Research: It is not only in structured and unstructured data (big data) that customer preferences and wants the lie, but in direct interaction with customers and not internet surveys. Ideally, people should be sent to do a 20 or 30-minute interview with customers to understand what customers think and interact with your products.
- Use social media to reach out to customers: According to Gerald Hanks of Demand Media, social media has emerged as an ideal medium for evangelism marketing examples. Even small businesses can employ Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to create a community around the lover of their products. In these platforms, the customers can express their likes, dislikes. Dominoes Pizza made several changes in their business after listening to conversations in online communities. This made the customers feel they are taken care of and naturally they become the evangelists for Dominoes.
- Evangelize the right people, at right levels: Guy Kawasaki opines that marginally successful companies and start-ups turned out to be best Macintosh software developers and not established players as MS-DOS market leaders may have cared less whether Macintosh failed or succeeded as they had no motivation to do so.
Similarly, in an organization, the right people to evangelize are not at the top of the organization as they only manage not do the real work. It could also annoy the real workers when they are bypassed and approached at the top. Johnny Carson sent a copy of his new book to NBC staffers who started to talk about it and soon it was noticed by the producer who in turn scheduled the program with Carson.
The company’s employees are the people who directly interact with the customers. And if they are dissatisfied with the work environment, they will just do their job for a living but will not take the initiative to spread the good word about the brand- or preach. Therefore, it is important to increase job satisfaction and employee satisfaction level s in the company to get good evangelists in-house who will preach to customers and others about what the product, company, and the promoters stand for.
Employee satisfaction can be improved by providing performance led incentives, bonus, discounted movie tickets, company picnics, free lunch etc.
- Blogging is effective for evangelism marketing: Aj Agrawal in a Forbes column feels blogging is a great way to go further in evangelism marketing. The blogs should be about what’s happening behind the scenes in product development, release snippets of the product and get people to talk about it. Engagement is an essential part of a business blog. The best way to engage is to have a question at the end of the blog and once an answer is posted, a reply can be posted, tag them and put another question. This will create an atmosphere of interaction and soon more people will join the community as soon as it is shared on social media.
- Understand your competitor/competing brands: Most often a start-up company may find it difficult to get a foothold in the market despite having a good product. It is very important to use market research to understand what is being offered by the competition. Why are people choosing those brands over our product and what do customers perceive of their service, product quality, brand value among others.
Advantages of Evangelism marketing examples
- Cost effective: Evangelism marketing is not for big businesses alone, it is most suitable for small and medium businesses as it is high on return on investment (ROI) and sales conversion is typically higher than the money spent as referrals are usually free. Evangelists support the cause of the product or brand with their money and word-of-mouth publicity which is much more valuable than a celebrity’s endorsement of a product he or she may have never used at all.
- Best way to brand your product: Unlike in mass media advertisement and hoardings, the goal of evangelist marketing is to find out how a brand fits into a customer’s life and making that fit as easy as possible. The referrals come about when customers needs are satisfied with the product and the company’s support in achieving it.
- Evangelists are ordinary people: According to Guy Kawasaki, there is a myth that evangelists are people with special skills, dynamic personalities or charisma but very ordinary people. What makes them stand out is not their educational and career achievements but their passion for the cause. It is not that high achievers and gifted people can’t become evangelists but often they end up selling themselves and not the cause. And the best way to find an evangelist is not to look for them at all, they’ll find an opportunity and come, Guy Kawasaki opines
- In evangelism marketing, you are not selling the product, but a cause: Taliq Corporation in California produced liquid crystal technology in its glass products. This makes the office walls translucent for privacy or clear for a spacious feeling. It enables worked to remain cool in direct sunlight and yet allow customers to see inside the restaurant while picking up their orders. Taliq succeeded not because it sold LCDs in the glass but it sold the dream of comfort and privacy.
- It breaks convention regarding product and solution: Many a time, the success formula in marketing is to find a need and fill it. In evangelism the opposite can happen, a solution can run in search of a need. Virtual reality was a concept in graphics lab of the University of North Carolina looking for a need. Dr. Julian Rosenman stepped into the lab one day and got the idea for using it in cancer treatment of radiation- to beam where the cancer cells were and away from where it wasn’t.
How to identify evangelists? They are driven to a cause, committed, have leadership quality, and above all willingness to listen and learn. Evangelism marketing examples may look easy from the outside and most of all hearing the success stories alone. However, some good books are available for the discerning entrepreneur including Guy Kawasaki’s Selling the Dream published by Harper Business or Alex Goldfayn’s Evangelist Marketing: What Apple, Amazon, and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That your Company probably Doesn’t).
Several case studies that have appeared in business magazines also help to develop evangelistic qualities in everyday living such as joining the Parent Teacher Association at your child’s school or volunteering time to help the elderly learn a new skill or provide medical aid to the poor children in a locality. When evangelism marketing examples become part of your life, it also translates into seeing products as not the creation of a giant machine or a business promoter out to make money or profits.
People with evangelistic minds will have a desire to improve the life of others whether it is in using a new superior technology product and suggesting it to others, or finding a new use for a solution lying idle in a labor supporting a product or service that improves our living quality. Apple is there before us as a role model for evangelistic marketing but there are several others that are lesser known. Since it works well for all sorts of businesses, start-ups should be the ones eagerly trying it out first.
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