13 January 2008

Creating Customer Evangelists: Another Take

creating_customer_evangelists Here is another take on my previous post. This take on creating customer evangelists is from a marketing web site that can be found here. I think the examples and explanations are better than the web site of the authors.

According to McConnell and Huba, who co-authored the book "Creating Customer Evangelists," the number one indicator of growth is whether a customer would recommend a brand to a friend or colleague. They demonstrate that the best sources of information for customers interested in new products and services is word of mouth.

Customers who make recommendations for such things to their circle of friends and colleagues are considered evangelists -- customers with a true loyalty to a brand.

The authors define loyalty as the willingness of someone -- a customer, an employee, a friend -- to make an investment or personal sacrifice in order to strengthen a relationship.

An evangelist will often take responsibility for the brand's continued success. They will support you, defend you, help you improve your products and services, recruit new customers for you, and spread the word.

So, how does one gain evangelists? The authors list six steps:

1. Customer plus-delta. The point here is to continually gather feedback. One way the authors suggest to do this is by creating a customer advisory board. One business, for example, created such a board, asking select customers to find areas where improvement was needed. Their comments and suggestions resulted in a 30 percent increase in revenue for the company.

McConnell and Huba suggest you make it a voluntary system, but provide the board members with access to leaders and principles, and keep them in the know with what's happening at the company.

2. Napsterize your knowledge -- Make it a point to share knowledge freely -- even if you think it's secret or proprietary. "The value of an idea increases in value as it reaches more people," said McConnell.

Another way to share knowledge is through a blog.

3. Build the buzz. Evangelism is a long-term strategy -- buzz is the fodder that keeps the evangelists talking. To stimulate buzz, the authors suggest disclosing information to those widely connected, go beyond the obvious, make your "behind the scenes' visible and be a little outrageous.

Of course this requires identifying your network and the hubs that supply the most connections.

4. Create community. Don't think of customers as transactions. Think of them as a community of like-minded people. Then, address the community, not the transaction.

Tactics can include creating calendars of events in which your community would be interested.

5. Make bite-size chunks. Do you have a service that is complex? Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite. For example, consultants can create workbooks or seminars to provide a piece of what they have to offer.

6. Create a cause. Think about what your organization stands for. How are you trying to change the world?

Every organization can have a cause in which it's passionate.

Among the benefits of a well-defined cause:

  • It embodies a vision
  • It makes people better
  • It generates big effects
  • It catalyzes selfless actions
  • It polarizes effects.

Of course, we are talking about the church, and not a business, but if you read between the lines, I see a few places where these suggestions can help the church accomplish its mission to reach people. Actually, much of this is stuff that the church should have been doing all along.

Let us look at a few examples. One of the purposes of the church is to create community. It is more than Sunday morning, and more than pot lucks.

Or, create a cause. What does the church stand for as the body of Christ. Are we not called to change the world, called to carry the crucified and resurrected Christ to a dying world?

The idea of gathering feedback and sharing knowledge is an area that is tough to work around in the church. If the church sees itself in the country club mentality, then it will offer people a professional wait-staff to take care of their needs. This also means that often the workings and information of the church remains a mystery meat. Most information is not privileged, but we guard it like a government secret.

12 January 2008

Creating Customer Evangelists


I am not necessarily a proponent of bending and manipulating business methods to the mission of the Church, but I found some of this very interesting.

I came across this website on Creating Customer Evangelists. The premise is that the best way to grow a business is to create evangelists out of customers who will spread the word about your product and recruit new customers. I've been reading Rodney Stark's Cities of God and The Rise of Christianity. Stark makes the point that (see especially the The Rise of Christianity), the role of friends is important in the process of conversion to a religious group. We are wired by God to seek community, and interpersonal attachments are an important factor in bringing people into contact with the church. As they develop stronger attachments to the members of a group, the more likely they are to join the group.

The authors of the web site start with an obvious fact: we are evangelists. We tell others about a movie they should see, which computer to purchase, what restaurant to visit, which books to read, and so on. Our recommendations are sincere, and often passionate.

Perhaps we do not realize that we are evangelists, but look at our sphere of influence. It is made up of friends, family, colleagues and other communities in which we participate.

So, most of this is not a big stretch, it seems to reflect the reality of how we are wired.

Here are the basic ideas of Customer Evangelists.

  1. Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Napsterize knowledge: Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build the buzz: Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  5. Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
  6. Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.

1. Customer Plus-Delta - Listen to our Customers

The lesson is that we need to listen to our customers, and this is a key component to creating customer evangelists. Many of the organizations that the authors profiled receive hundreds or over 1,000 emails a day from customers, filled with suggestions, complaints, and praise.

2. Napsterize Your Knowledge

A 19-year-old programmer and college dropout wrote a program in 1999 to help his roommate find and share MP3 music files, it allowed Web surfers to open their hard drives to other people and do the same. He named his program Napster, a nickname given to him years earlier. In 18 months the world of computing and knowledge sharing changed.

The concept is to share your knowledge, to communicate with your customers, which will help you to develop them as evangelists.

3. Build the Buzz

In the customer evangelism model, buzz is the pathway that helps shepherd new customers into your company's front-row pews.

Each wave of buzz provides your evangelists with another reason to extol you. Buzz helps people discover your business faster than traditional marketing programs. It helps you to develop relationships because prospects already have some knowledge of your product.

In some cases, buzz sells the product by itself.

4. Create Community

Encourage your customer evangelists to meet one another and build relationships. the approach to community that it should be an experience -- a happy and memorable one, not a frightening and forgettable one.

5. Bite-Size Chunks

How do you eat a cow? One bite at a time. It's how companies recruit new customer evangelists, too. Instead of selling customers on the whole kit of products, entice them first with a steak dinner. If they love the steak, they'll be back for the rump roast and later, the whole side of beef.

Break your product and service portfolio into bite-size chunks. They are small, easily consumed pieces of what makes your company valuable.

6. Create a Cause

Apple Computer borrowed religion-based evangelism and took it to work.

Apple Computer's secular evangelism launched a new computer that suffered from insufficient software, a lack of storage capacity, a small screen and a price point higher than its competition.

Yet the Mac could compete with lower-priced, richer-featured models made by IBM because Apple was selling a dream, not a computer. Apple sold the Macintosh dream, which was to improve everyone's productivity and creativity. It created an evangelism department and hired marketers to evangelize, evangelize, evangelize.

This is just an overview. I want to address these concepts in forthcoming posts, but I think some of the concepts are obvious.

At the least, it makes one think about "how do we do church."

05 January 2008

Kierkegaard Carnival

KIERKE Take a stroll over to The Cynic Librarian and take a look at the Kierkegaard Carnival III. Whether you are a fan of Soren or not, there is some interesting reading on this site.

For those who don't know, a carnival is a web article that contains links to articles found in other blogs covering a specific topic.

This site at the Cynic Librarian covers blogs that focus on Kierkegaard, while the Fourth Stone Hearth specializes in anthropology (see the latest here), as well as the Biblical Studies Carnival (most recently here), all of which are a movable feast.

And if that isn't enough, here is the Philosophers Carnival and the History Carnival (see here).

These carnivals show us some serious work being done in these fields that are not pedantic, fundamentalist, or pushing some agenda. I find some interesting info on these sites.