Six tips for building brand evangelists

By Matthew Hudson reprinted from

Brand evangelists are the most valuable customers that you have. These are your raving fans, the customers that would have no problem climbing to the rooftops and shouting your praises. They are a lot more willing to get involved than your average fan, and are trendsetters capable of creating a

For those of you who need hard numbers to prove value, here’s an incredible statistic. Evangelists spend 13% more than the average customer and refer business equal to 45% of the money they spend (From Satmetrix).

So now that I have you all on board with this idea of brand evangelism, here are 6 sure-fire tips that can help you turn ordinary customers into raving fans.

This is probably the most important of all 6 tips. Failing to prove that your brand and products/services are valuable to consumers will make it hard to ever gain traction in your respective industry, let alone have individuals rave about you. If your customer does not view your offering as meaningful and important in their lives, they are unlikely to advocate it.

The benefits that customers receive from using your brand should far outweigh the cost associated with purchasing them. If you can convince customers that you are satisfying a need as opposed to a want, chances are they will see your brand as meaningful. Additionally, the expectations of your brand should be properly managed. One way to convey value to your customers is giving them what they came for.

The old business adage “Under promise, over deliver” definitely applies here.

Customers will first come into contact with your brand through your employees. First impressions are everything, and this is no different for customers. If customers see that an “expert” on the subject is energetic, outgoing, and shows an allegiance to the brand, they are more likely to get behind the brand.

On the other hand, if customers see that employees aren’t excited about your brand or their work, they aren’t likely to be excited either. Starbucks, the high-end coffee retailer is a perfect example of a brand that has used their front-line employees to foster evangelism in their customers. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote in his book, Onward “[Employees] are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance and theater, and as such the primary catalysts for delighting customers,”.

If you give employees reasons to believe in their work and that they are part of a larger mission, they will personally improve the experience for every customer.

Internal motivations include if the brand fits in with a customers self-image or with their aspirations of who they hope to be. If an individual sees the brand as an important part of who they are or wish to become, they will definitely be more likely to promote it.

External motivations include the concern over perceptions that others have of the customer and their desire to partake in trends that are seen as socially acceptable. If a customer can be considered “cool” or “stylish” for advocating a popular brand there is a better chance they will do so. Apple, the popular electronics retailers diversified themselves against ‘boring’ PC users with hilarious, albeit simple commercials. Additionally, Apple creates numerous brand evangelists solely on the basis that individuals with iPads, iPhones, and MacBook’s are seen to be trendsetters.

Creating a feeling of community provides customers more incentive to become advocates for your brand. Not only do they receive benefits from using your product/service, but they also feel like they are a part of something bigger. If someone can identify with a community and see it as an important part of their life, they create an emotional attachment to this community. As I stated in my post on customer commitment, customers that are emotionally attached to your brand are the most beneficial to your business.

I recently watched an awesome video from Oracle on the importance of customer experience. One of the highlighted statistics in the video was that, “Positive customer service experiences create longstanding brand relationships – and 86% of customers will pay more for a better experience.”
Getting your customer experience right is the first step, the next is ensuring that it is consistent among all of your channels. Make sure that your in-store and online customer service representatives provide the same high level of service.

This way, customers always know what to expect in interacting with you and as many dislike shopping with uncertainty, this is often enough to retain them. Sweet Tooth team members Steve and Mike spoke on Cross Channel Customer Loyalty at the Meet Magento UK 2011 conference – and did an incredible job I might add.

If you already have individuals who openly advocate for your brand, encourage them to continue this advocation. People can relate to fellow customers more than they could relate to a salesperson for your brand. The reason for this is that customers speak in a human voice that other customers can relate to, not a corporate sales-y voice.

Provide your raving fans with incentives such as discounts and free gifts and they will continue spreading positive word of mouth for your brand. If you pinpoint the evangelists that are the most socially-active and reward them, they will promote your brand to their large social following – saving you time and marketing dollars.