Brand Evangelists: Why They’re Important, and How to Cultivate Them
There’s a difference—a big difference—between a happy customer and a brand evangelist.
Happy customers are people who are simply satisfied with your product/service. Yes, they like your brand and yes, they’d probably recommend your business to a friend if asked. But that’s all they’ll do.
Brand evangelists, on the other hand, are on a totally different level. They’re not just happy with their purchase; they’re ecstatic about it.
These people are so delighted with your brand that they’re ready to proclaim the virtues of it to anyone willing to listen—nobody even needs to ask them first.
That said, it’s much, much harder to cultivate a group of ten brand evangelists than it is to gain 100 “happy” customers. But regardless, evangelism marketing is definitely worth the extra investment (as we’ll see later on in a case study).
In this post, we’ll take a look at two things: the importance and ROI potential of brand evangelists (detailed statistics plus real-life results included), and a few fundamental strategies to help your business kick off evangelism marketing.
The Importance of Cultivating Brand Evangelists
Let me ask you a question.
Which product are you more likely to purchase: the one that briefly caught your eye in a sidebar ad while you were browsing Facebook, or the one that was personally recommended to you by a close friend?
Practically all of us favor peer recommendations. Ninety-two percent of people, in fact, trust product recommendations from friends (as per a study done by Zuberance). In comparison, only 24% trust ads.
So it’s clear that we prefer endorsements from friends to ads—but just how many times does a brand evangelist actually get a friend to “convert” into a fellow customer?
The answer: about three times per evangelist.
Each evangelist, on average, produces about three new customers. So, if you’re able to build up a following of 100 brand evangelists, you could easily be looking at 300 new customers.
In higher-ticket industries with much greater average customer values, the number of referrals per evangelist is significantly lower, but the overall effect is by no means diminished.
One great example of this is from the eBook Answering the Ultimate Question, How Net Promoter Can Transform Your Business. In it, authors Richard Owen and Laura Brooks reference an enterprise software company that sees an average of 0.54 referrals per brand advocate.
That may not seem like much at first glance, but your perspective will change when you realize that the mean customer spend in this industry is $1.05 million.
A group of just 20 brand evangelists could potentially bring in ten new customers for the company, resulting in an additional $10.5 million in revenue.
And when you take into account that a referred customer typically has a 16% higher lifetime value compared to a non-referred one, these results become even more significant.
No matter what industry you’re in and no matter the product/service you sell, brand evangelists can work magic for your business.
3 Ways to Start Transforming Happy Customers into Brand Evangelists
The benefits of evangelism marketing are pretty exciting to think and theorize about, but before you start counting your chickens, let’s learn how to lay the eggs.
Here are three tested strategies you can use to start transforming your common customer into an enthusiastic evangelist.
1. Engage Your Community with Contests
There are few better ways to gain popularity with customers than to run a contest. The human brain is hardwired to love contests: there’s just something about the chance to win a prize that tickles our fancy.
Many brands in the past have used—and will continue to use—contests to engage with their customers and build rapport.
ModCloth, for instance, ran a contest on YouTube that called for users to submit fashion ideas. This strategy is in part responsible for Mod Cloth’s large YouTube community of 11,000 (and counting!) subscribers.
Startup Pirates leveraged connections with published eBook authors to generate big buzz around book giveaways.
There are a hundred and one creative ways to produce and promote contests online; you just have to pick one that works for your business.
2. Make an Extra Effort to Interact
Another thing that appeals to the human nature is recognition. We love to be acknowledged and put in the spotlight because getting noticed plays to our ego.
One of the best ways to get on a customer’s good side is simply to recognize them. Offer to feature a customer on your blog, profile them in a case study, or maybe even just send a loyal customer a personal thank you email for their investment in your brand.
If you’re pressed for time, even a simple retweet or reply to a Facebook comment won’t go unappreciated.
3. Encourage Your Team to Promote Evangelism
Your very best brand evangelists are hidden right under your own nose: your employees.
Motivate your employees to be positive about your brand in communication with customers. When employees are enthused about the brand they work for, some of that excitement is automatically passed on to the customers they come in contact with.
The value and ROI potential of customer loyalty should never be underestimated. By focusing on cultivating brand evangelists, instead of just acquiring happy customers, you’ll set yourself up for marketing success in the long run.