Identifying brand evangelists

Finding customers who are truly passionate about your product can go a long way to marketing your business. Identify them and build a relationship with them for best results.

All the marketing in the world cannot equal the weight of a brand evangelist. A brand evangelist is a customer who is loyal to your brand and goes out of his way to tell others about it. But how do you find these brand evangelists, if you even have them? And how can you leverage their love of your company to create more evangelists?

Finding Your Brand Evangelists

If you look, it’s fairly easy to find those that are passionately talking about your brand. Search for your company or product name on Google and see where you turn up online. Evangelists tend to share their opinions on:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Social media
  • Review sites like Yelp

Create a spreadsheet of any positive mentions and where they came from. You may even find one person mentioning you across many channels -- definitely a brand evangelist!

Planning Your Response

Once you’ve identified those that are sharing your brand with others, make contact with them. It may be as simple as posting a reply to a blog post they wrote and simply saying thank you. Reply to a tweet or other social media comment with the same.

Taking the relationship to the next level, offer a gift or free coupon to the person as a way of thanking them for telling others why they love you. There’s no reason to do this through private email or direct message: let others see that you reward loyalty! You might send a coupon for a free dinner, a t-shirt with your logo, movie tickets, flowers or any other thoughtful gift. The goal is to show that you are paying attention and that you encourage customers to share their thoughts with others.

Remember that in giving a gift, you’re not asking for anything else in return. Do not give a gift and then ask for another blog post or other mention. You’re working to build a relationship with this individual, and trust is a key factor. Customer relations is so much more than a cheerful voice on the customer service line!

Working with Evangelists to Market Your Product

If the individual responded favorably to your gift or comment, spend more time with him, as he is a valuable marketing tool. He may be able to provide feedback on new product ideas, test software systems still in beta or work with you on a marketing campaign.

If the brand evangelist blogs, there may be the opportunity to develop blogger relations with him through a cohesive marketing campaign. Large companies like Dell down to tiny companies like Justin’s Nut Butter are working with bloggers by providing them with products to review. The bloggers are open to write about the products -- whether they loved them or hated them. Given that this is a loyal fan, the likelihood that he’ll love them are high.

Speak to the customer about what he’d like to try. If you sell high-end technology, you must decide whether you can afford to give him the items to keep, or whether you want him to review the hardware and then return it. Naturally, getting a free computer or phone will make him that much more excited about your brand, so consider it as a gift for building a following.

If you multiply this blogging effort across the board with several evangelists, you can generate some serious buzz for your brand online. Monitor how much traffic each blog is sending you by using your website’s analytics program.

Another way to work with an evangelist is to sponsor him to attend conferences on your behalf. Consider the costs a company pays to participate in a trade event: typically vendors pay tens of thousands of dollars for a table display. By paying the travel and admission fees for your evangelist, you can save money, and he will actively talk to people about your company. Work with him to organize product giveaways, distribution of marketing collateral and business card collection at the event.

Brand Evangelists Build the Love

You can take out a full page ad in the New York Times, and it might not have as strong a result as working with a highly influential brand evangelist. Choose people who are influencers in their communities: people who have many followers who listen to what they say. One evangelist can help you reach thousands of potential customers you wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to.

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