E is for Evangelism (and Brand Ambassadors)

We’re going to be a little loose with our definitions here, but in this context I’m going to lump evangelism and brand ambassadors together. Ultimately they do the same job; both terms have been adopted by marketers and refer to individuals (paid or unpaid) who promote your company, product or service at every given opportunity.

You could argue that evangelism comes first, bringing a business to the market and brand ambassadors help to spread the word. But for now, if you think about the word evangelist for a moment, normally associate with the preaching of the Christian Gospels – ‘good news’, you can see why it’s been appropriated by the branding world; it’s a potent word that seeks to place brands on a level with the spiritual, the Godly, the great.

Evangelists and brand ambassadors are key to any business success. Without people talking positively about what you do, either formally or informally, you will struggle to sell. For small local businesses, the activity of ‘word of mouth promotion’ is still regarded by most as the best way of getting your messages out there; think of it in the same terms as a personal recommendation (a technique increasingly used by social networking sites such as LinkedIn).

If for example I recommend you to my networks on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., you instantly gain an element of regard, people who trust me are more likely to trust you and use your services or buy your product. If I can say something positive about your business it’s probably the case that there are others out there who can do the same. You need to find these people and encourage them to speak about your business. It’s not necessarily about technology, instead it’s about individuals talking to others, either one to one, at a conference or a trade show. That face to face time is essential, it’s good marketing practice and it works..

Assuming you want your business to be sustainable and perhaps grow, gaining customer trust and enthusiasm are the first steps to gaining the evangelists and brand ambassadors you need. Your USP may be price, quality, capacity or any number of other attributes, what’s important is you get this across to your customers and get them to talk about it. Every customer is a potential evangelist, if they believe in your product or service enough they will recommend it to others. One final point for now; both your evangelists and brand ambassadors need to be nurtured, they are an extension of your work force, probably unpaid but non-the-less key individuals who care about your business and will help it to grow. Communicate with them, let them know what you are doing and above all, keep them happy.

Next up: F is for Flexibility

B is for building relationships

On starting a crowdfund it is very easy to fall into the hard sell. But before you’ve hit the ‘publish profile’ button you need to ask yourself, what is it that you really want to get out of the crowdfund. Is it just the cash? Is it more customers? Is it a greater following?

If you are pre-selling a product, you are less likely to need to build a personal relationship with your customers as they are more interested in the product than in you. However, if you want to build a following of engaged consumers then you need to genuinely build a relationship with them.

Building relationships is a two way thing. It’s not simply about telling people what you do, it’s about conversing with them, paying them attention and genuinely listening to what they have to say. It’s about engagement.

Crowdfunding can be way less formal than a corporate website might be, you can chat to your followers and have fun. Twitter is great for the creative amongst us, with so few characters you need to be inventive especially if your campaign is going to last for months. The more fun you have the more fun your followers will have. This takes time, thought and flexibility. No Comms/marketing plan should be rigid, more a fluid document that will change and develop in time, but it is absolutely worth it in the longer term.

Not wanting to state the obvious but Twitter and Facebook are very different ways of engaging existing and new customers. Facebook though very visual is also a passive medium, users don’t have to do very much and inevitably don’t. Twitter on the other hand is a hugely powerful channel for engaging people. Users are prepared to converse and that is where the power and energy lies. We found Twitter to be by far the most effective method for attracting new customers, engagement and ultimately selling. On Twitter alone we sold approx £12K of product in 3 months.

Another great method for cementing your relationships is by creating micro-films and posting them on Youtube or Vimeo, they’ll allow you to update your followers and they’ll feel closer to you and your proposition. They don’t need to be super professional either, creating them on your phone is sufficient. And finally for this post, don’t forget offline engagement, go and meet your followers if possible, go to networking dos, events and to the street if you can; take every opportunity to further develop your relationships; these are your ambassadors, the folk who care about you, your business or project and will help spread the word.

Next up – C is for Creativity