Customers may come and go, but evangelists are loyalists. They’re your biggest fans. Beyond purchasing what you have to offer, they also share it with the world. They tell their friends, family and possibly even their followers on social media about your great brand.
Where do you get started in creating your own base of ambassadors? It begins with creating a solid foundation on which to build.
What exactly is a “brand evangelist?” It’s someone who goes beyond a brand loyalist, which describes a customer who is generally committed to one brand over another. A brand evangelist, on the other hand, describes customers who go one step beyond this—they are deeply committed to your brand and will act on your behalf to get others to join them in supporting it.
Evangelists are not necessarily celebrities or well-known influencers. They are customers, employees, vendors—anyone who believes in what you have to offer so deeply they are willing to go above and beyond to encourage everyone to experience your brand. So, how do you inspire your company’s stakeholders to become brand evangelists? You have to exceed their expectations.
Get to Know Them
It all starts with building a solid experience, and the only way to do that is to find out what your customers, employees and other stakeholders value.
Customers don’t fall madly in love with brands that simply meet their expectations, they fall in love with those that exceed their expectations in some way. It may not take much, but the only way to know what their expectations are is to get to know them.
This can easily be achieved through a variety of methods such as one-to-one conversations or online surveys of existing and prospective customers and employees. Ask customers some of the following questions.
- What prompted you to search for a solution (i.e., your spa or skin care product)?
- What other brands or spas did you consider before arriving here?
- What concerns did you have prior to deciding on our product or service?
- What do you feel is a successful outcome (of the service or investment in skin care)?
- Would you refer us to a friend? Why or why not?
These are just a few ideas. The good news is these can be molded to help you unearth the insights that will most help you move in the right direction—towards differentiating your brand based on what your stakeholders value most.
Don’t Overlook Employees
In building a brand evangelist program, it’s easy to turn the focus outward, overlooking the people who just may be key to igniting your evangelists: your internal team. This is one of the biggest mistakes companies make when starting an evangelist program. These are the people who are often on the frontlines engaging with your customers. If they have a genuine and vibrant passion for your brand, it shines through every interaction and is infectious.
Put an emphasis on creating a transparent, vibrant and caring culture. Your team has to be able to get behind your vision, the deeper purpose you serve and your core values. When your team truly believes in what you do, they will become your biggest advocates and they’ll get others excited about joining them. Start evangelism within, then spread it outwards.
Build Deep Relationships
Focus first on creating high-value experience, then work on deepening the relationship with your most loyal customers. This might start simply with a purchase and move to getting them back in the door with a special, exclusive offer before getting them enrolled in a loyalty program that grants them access to exclusive deals and discounts.
The goal is to get your clients more deeply ingrained with your brand by providing immense value. The more embedded they are the harder it is for them to leave.
Don’t be afraid to ask customers to upgrade or add on a product or service—when they love your brand, they love doing so.
Develop a Community
Most of us want to be a part of something bigger. We seek out groups and clubs with like-minded individuals to join, wear certain types of clothing and put stickers on our cars, windows and laptops to symbolize our affiliation to something. It creates a special feeling of inclusion and unity in a familial way.
Though brand evangelists don’t necessarily need the designation of a special group, most are happy to sing your praises regardless, many brands have created these as a way to legitimize their evangelist programs. Lululemon, as an example, built an ambassador program of various local-area influencers, athletes, and standout yoga instructors who create community, provide product feedback and partner with the company on social impact programs. The company hand selected each of its ambassadors based on those who reflect their culture, share their core values and have a passion for propelling Lululemon’s mission forward.
In building your program, think about what your ambassadors or evangelists care about the most, then get creative with ways to support that. It doesn’t have to be in the form of compensation or free product or services. Simply asking them for feedback or their input on existing and even soon-to-be introduced products and services shows you care about their opinions. Take a note out of Lululemon’s book and consider getting behind a nonprofit they support or team with them to lead the charge on various community initiatives. The bottom line is you have to find out what motivates them and what they are passionate about.
Community can also come in the form of an online group. Some brands have created invitation-only Facebook and Snapchat groups where ambassadors can share ideas, ask questions or just build relationships with one another. This is great move so long as you have time to help maintain it.
Make It Easy
While true evangelists or ambassadors tend to be the types to take it upon themselves to share your message with or without your support, why not make it easier for them to do so? This can be done online and off, but digital marketing makes it easier than ever to share posts, photos, promotions and the like by putting the social web at our fingertips.
Recommendations from social media are powerful, and widely trusted among many because they often come from people we know. Often, it’s simply because the recommendation comes from “real” people who weren’t paid to say anything. Brand evangelism spreads through social networks, so be sure to engage with those who are talking about you online. This is often a good way to discover who your ambassadors are.
With your existing evangelists, you might consider asking them to post reviews, engage them to participate in Twitter chats, or feature them on your blog. If you do feature them on your site, give them customized graphics to share out through their social networks.
Not a One-way Street
Remember though, this is not just a one-way street. You’ll need to share love, too. Comment, like and repost customer content. It will demonstrate that you are genuinely engaged in and care about what they are doing.
Building an evangelist network takes time, but it pays back many times over. Even if you only end up with a few, you will have created a solid infrastructure for a fulfilling, passionate internal culture, as well as laid the groundwork for an unforgettable customer experience.
Customers fall in love with brands that exceed their expectations in some way.