Evangelism Marketing

Explore the Strategy of Evangelism Marketing

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In an overcrowded market where dozens of companies seem to sell similar goods, it is a joy to find a business that truly performs an exemplary service. Sharing shopping discoveries with a friend is like passing on secret knowledge -- only those in the know get to share in the benefits.

Turning a customer into a mouthpiece for advertising is a marketing dream. As companies have grown and become more impersonal, marketers experience more challenges making meaningful connections with customers. Consumers want to buy products from businesses they can trust, and often turn to their friends for recommendations. This product "evangelism" helps businesses build their reputations and spread word of their highly regarded services.

What is Evangelism Marketing?

Evangelism marketing is more commonly known as word-of mouth-marketing (See also Word-of-Mouth Marketing), and relies on customers to deliver marketing messages to other potential customers. When someone recommends a new restaurant they liked, a pair of shoes that was particularly comfortable, or a mechanic who offers honest service, they are acting as “customer evangelists.”

The challenge is convincing people to recommend a company in an honest and organic way. Obviously, not every company can turn their customers into evangelists. Many companies offer mediocre or predictable services that are so ordinary they are not worth taking the time to mention to others. Plus, there is no easy way to influence the conversations people have with their friends. A customer could have an amazing experience at a nail salon but not tell their friends because they have more pressing issues to attend to.

Marketing professionals are developing strategies to get others talking about their products and services in a positive way. These include everything from creating online communities for customers to interact, to sponsoring events that help position a brand as part of a lifestyle. The goal of any evangelist marketing strategy is to find out how a brand fits into a customer's life and making that fit as easy as possible. The more effectively a brand satisfies a customer's needs, the more likely they are to mention it to friends and family.

Who Employs Evangelism Marketing?

Traits of a Customer Evangelist

  • Customers that regularly buy the product and believes in the brand
  • Makes a point to offer glowing recommendations to family, friends and coworkers
  • Gives the product as a gift
  • Offers praise, criticism, and other feedback without being asked
  • Dips in quality, convenience, or service are forgiven
  • Offers praise without any financial incentive
  • Participating in the brand makes the customer feel like they are part of something larger than themselves

Evangelism marketing is a tool that is available to any business in a multitude of industries. Consider a large company like Apple. Apple loyalists are some of the most recognized product evangelists in the market, sharing their experiences with emerging technology in enthusiastic ways.

Conversely, small businesses with limited marketing budgets often use evangelism marketing in place of more expensive television or print campaigns. A restaurant with delicious desserts often attracts more customers through referrals and word-of-mouth than by sending out coupons for free desserts. (See also Precision Marketing)

Businesses love evangelism marketing because it produces a high return on investment. The amount of money generated in new sales is typically significantly higher than the money spent on marketing, since customer referrals are usually free.

Customer evangelists are repeat customers who support a brand with their money and their praise. This produces long term benefits for a company. Any business that is interested in creating a committed customer base will have something to gain from evangelism marketing.

How is an Evangelism Marketing Plan Developed and Implemented?

The most important aspect of any evangelist marketing plan is to establish a connection with customers. The best way to get customers talking about a brand is for businesses to start the dialog themselves. The information that comes out of these conversations can be used to create more useful products and services.

Before implementing an evangelism marketing plan, businesses must engage in market research with focus groups, online surveys, or other consumer information gathering strategies. The goal is to create an open, honest, and comprehensive portrait of how a brand is understood in the minds of the public. This analysis should focus on both positives and negative aspects of the brand. The popular perception of a company might be that it has great products but terrible customer service, giving companies a chance to reinforce their strengths and correct their mistakes. (See also Market Analyst)

Identifying “mainstream” customers is another important feature of an evangelism marketing strategy. If a company wants to maximize the conversation about their product or service, they must market to the broadest possible section of customers.

Once a company has collected as much information as possible about their customer's experiences, they have to be prepared to make changes based on that information. These changes can be relatively minor or involve major overhauls. A famous example of this is Amazon's Kindle e-reader. Amazon analyzed the tens of thousands of customer reviews posted on their website to help refine the Kindle as it went through several generations of redesigns. By taking a thoughtful approach to customer feedback, they were able to turn public criticism into public praise. The Kindle is now one of the world's most widely used e-readers.

Evangelist Marketing in Action

There is not one perfect strategy for turning customers into evangelists. Companies have experimented with a whole range of approaches to get their customers talking about products and brands. Below are a few creative examples from real companies.

  • Buffalo Exchange – The used clothing chain recruited high school students interested in fashion design to act as “trendsetters.” They were given gift cards to the store and asked to dress up mannequins in hip new styles. This simple and cheap program was a way to connect with young, fashion conscious shoppers who influence the choices of their friends.
  • C&M Auto Service Inc – This Illinois based mechanic's shop set up a customer advisory panel to solicit feedback from people who actually used the shop. The panel was able to provide information about how services were perceived. Using this information, the business was able to refine their marketing and service offerings to highlight their strengths. This made them a more useful and, by extension, recommendable company.
  • Dewey's Pizza – This small Midwestern pizza chain creates customer evangelists by turning mistakes into a cause for comment. If a customer's order is incorrect for any reason, their entire meal is free and they are given a gift certificate to use on their next visit. Many customers are so overwhelmed by the generous service that they praise the restaurant even when a mistake has been made.
  • Discovery Education – This educational publisher creates a dialog about its products by connecting with teachers and industry professionals at education technology conferences. The company rents a room, offers free food and drink, and allows conference weary visitors to unwind and mingle in a pampered atmosphere. All visitors are given free trials to some of Discovery's most popular products. By throwing a party, the company is able to offer a fun service to their customers and distinguish themselves from their more formal competitors.

Careers in Evangelism Marketing

Marketing Evangelist

What do they do?

Marketing evangelists serve as brand managers. They are responsible for crafting and managing the identity of a brand from beginning to end. Their input will affect research and development, customer service, and marketing, among others. Ultimately, their goal is to create memorable and exemplary experiences for customers. These jobs are fairly rare and exist mostly in the technology industry.

Education/Experience

Average Salaries of Evangelist Marketers

  • Marketing Evangelist
    entry level - $60,000 - $80,000
    after 10 years - $100,000 - $150,000
  • Social Media Marketing Manager
    entry level - $50,000 - $70,000
    after 10 years - $80,000 - $120,000
  • Product Manager
    entry level - $50,000-$70,000
    after 10 years - $80,000-$110,000

Source: www.indeed.com

Education in marketing, communications, or public relations will be most relevant for a marketing evangelist. They will also need to have a solid understanding of modern business theory and a strong ability to manage. Many of them have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, marketing, or a related field.

Social Media Marketing Manager

What do they do?

As business has moved online, dedicated marketing managers have been assigned to oversee a company's social media presence. They use, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other online tools to spread marketing messages and connect with customers. Using social media is a great way to solicit actionable feedback from customers.

Education/Experience

Having a degree in marketing will be necessary to work as a social media marketing manager. A focus on new and digital media will be particularly helpful. Additional education in communications or information management is common. Most importantly, social media marketing managers will need to have expertise with online communities.

Product Manager

What do they do?

Product managers are responsible for overseeing the development of new products from the research and design phase up until they appear in stores. They will make decisions about how the product looks, what it will cost and how it will be marketed. By creating beautiful, useful, or novel new things to sell, product managers can contribute to a company's evangelism marketing efforts.

Education/Experience

Some product managers have training in marketing, but it is much more common for them to have degrees in business administration or industrial design. Their training will be based largely on the industry they work in. Product managers have to be strategic thinkers and understand the wants and needs of their customers.

How Can a Degree in Marketing Help You Find a Job in Evangelism Marketing?

Evangelism marketing exists at a unique intersection of traditional and modern marketing practices. Convincing customers to recommend a company to friends and family is one of the oldest marketing strategies in the world, but new tools and theories make this process easier than ever for marketers. The best way to get a solid foundation in every aspect of marketing, old and new strategies alike, is to earn a degree in marketing from an accredited college or university.

It isn’t possible to earn a degree specifically focused on evangelism marketing, but the topics discussed in every marketing class will be relevant to this type of marketing strategy. Conducting market research, developing brand singularity, refining customer service, and building online communities are all core marketing responsibilities that marketing schools will cover.

Companies will want to know that new marketers can learn from and respond to their customers. Marketing in the 21st century is about creating a discussion around a product. Marketing messages no longer exist in a vacuum; they are part of living, breathing brands. Comprehensive marketing education provides new marketers with all the tools they will need to make an impact at the companies of tomorrow.

Venues for Evangelist Marketing

The chart below is based on a 2012 survey that asked respondents to identify the ways that they recommend local business to friends. That data is compared to an identical survey from 2010. As the chart illustrates, face to face recommendations are by far the most popular way to give shopping advice. But as more and more of life is lived online, social media sites are becoming important outlets for recommendations.

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