When you hear the word evangelism, religious connotations might spring to mind, but in modern times, it can extend to other areas. Today evangelism may denote a vehement and vocal fan of something, whether it’s a popular sneaker brand or their favorite TV show.
Businesses can also have evangelists, and they take the form of extremely loyal customers. These people typically buy specific products from one brand and never venture to their competitors. They use their satisfaction with a particular business as a means to convert others into becoming loyal fans as well.
Brand evangelists are also excellent sources of marketing. Seventy-one percent of consumers say social media posts by friends or people that they know influence their purchasing decisions, according to research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Sprout Social. People prefer to rely on recommendations from people in their circles, or who they feel might be unbiased and trustworthy.
Additionally, Upland Software found that “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.”
Beyond being loyal customers, evangelists are early adopters of your products and services and are happy to provide feedback. They’ll look for ways to promote your brand online, becoming an unofficial member of your sales force by way of review sites, social media posts, blog comments and word of mouth. Given the benefits that brand evangelism can bring to companies, working to inspire this loyalty is important for businesses to consider.
So how do you transform your customers into evangelists for your brand? It starts with your business being authentic and truly caring about its audience. The more you make your customers the hero in your story and look for opportunities to highlight and reward them, the stronger the connection and growth of your network. When your customers succeed, you succeed.
There are a variety of methods you can employ to delight your customers and turn them into evangelists. The following list outlines a few of these options, but if you want to develop a full digital strategy, HubSpot’s new Digital Marketing Certification Course may be the answer for you.
1. Become a social media detective
Everything begins with understanding your customers. This means understanding their demographic information, what they stand for, and what they like to see from the businesses they purchase from. You can glean a lot of information from industry reports, purchase histories, and call center conversations but there is a lot more you can learn simply by listening to and talking with your customers on social media.
Start by asking probing questions that help you learn more about your audience and keep the conversation going. Here’s an example of this in action:
As you can see, the post has some decent engagement and a number of retweets. There are also about 25-30 replies, but the HubSpot social team doesn’t just leave it there, they ask another question to find out more about her preferences.
These types of questions engage more than one person, and even though HubSpot only responded to Nthabiseng here, all the people that saw the Tweet feel an affinity because HubSpot is part of the conversation.
Keep in mind, however, that social media can be like the wild west. People are accustomed to sharing candid feedback, honest opinions, and unfiltered ideas, with varying levels of emotions. Be there to respond with an open heart and mind. Take the time to listen to them and respond accordingly. Your goal is to create meaningful conversations.
When you ask these types of questions, keep track of which receive the most engagement, and how people respond to different types of messaging. Think of each of your social channels as a party that you’re hosting. Your goal is to provide attention to each person to make sure they’re enjoying their experience. It can take time in the beginning, but making an effort to create an engagement strategy for specific conversations will help you build brand loyalty and start the wheels turning on the road to building brand evangelists.
2. Create a personality for your brand and stick to it
There are a few brands who really do this well.
The Motley Fool knows their audience wants sound advice. Notice there isn’t a single meme or image used. Their language, however, isn’t stuffy. It’s clear and accessible, even for someone who might not have financial smarts.
On the flip side, eSports energy drink brand, GFuel, understands its mostly young, male audience perfectly, serving up irreverence and fun at the same time.
For a deep dive in understanding voice and tone, check out the video at this link. This takes us to the next tip:
3. Align with customer interests
The Motley Fool and GFuel posts are wonderful examples of brands understanding their audience and serving up content that resonates with their fans. But there is another aspect of aligning with customer interests that has come to the forefront in the last couple of years–that of taking a stance on social, civic, health and environmental issues.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the values and beliefs of businesses when making purchasing decisions. In fact, 71% prefer to buy from companies that are aligned with their values. These days, brands that don’t actively tackle social issues in their brand marketing run the risk of facing public backlash, or at a minimum appearing out of touch.
It also means you need to understand your customers, and understand the risks and advantages of deciding to take a stance. And when you do, they need to align to your company’s values.
Digital creative software company, Canva, regularly tackles social issues in their posts, such as in this one about sustainable printing.
They understand who their audience is–digital creators. And when announcing a print solution, they knew they couldn’t ignore the environmental impact. So they created a campaign that highlights what they are doing to make their print solution sustainable, in part by planting trees.
Not sure how to manage this aspect of social media? Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 US consumers to gauge their expectations of brands’ commitments to social justice and social media activism.
4. Be authentic
Remember to be authentic in everything that you do. In a world of automated responses, people crave 1:1 connections. But you also have to believe what you are posting. Your audience will see right through you if you can’t carry the weight of your words. It’s not just about saying what your customers want to hear. It’s also about being true to your brand and attracting the right customers.
Chobani’s motto is to bring better food to more people, which they literally tell you in this TikTok video, which shows you exactly how they do that. It’s interesting, it’s fun, playful, and you get to see real people who work for the company doing their job.
5. Be responsive
Target is very responsive to their audience, joking with them, resharing user generated content, asking questions, and generally showing how much they appreciate the people that buy from them.
This type of engagement takes commitment, but the rewards of loyalty and brand love are worth the results. Eighty percent of consumers expect brands and companies that have a social media presence to interact with their customers in meaningful ways, a truth that Target appreciates.
6. Curate and post follower content
Another great way to build brand loyalty is to make your audience the heroes of your story. When you highlight their content, it encourages them to create more and to share it with their followers. Even better, it may inspire their networks to do the same.
It’s possible customers already post stories with images or video highlighting your products or services. If they don’t, experiment with sweepstakes and giveaways to reward people for their content. However, when offering an incentive, try and connect it to your brand. Giving away an iPad might get you content, but giving away a product or service will also help you identify brand evangelist transformations in progress.
7. Create a brand loyalty program
While some customers may feel satisfied just by knowing that their friends and family are also enjoying your products, most want to be recognized for being loyal customers. Developing a loyalty program that rewards customers for spreading the word about your brand can be a cost-effective way to reach a much larger audience.
The great thing about this is that you don’t have to start in social media, but can develop programs that give your audience a way to use their channels to tell others. A great example of this can be found in the Morning Brew, Marketing Brew, and Sidekick newsletters (and why yes, those are referral links). Their program rewards subscribers with swag and special events for sharing their (highly recommended) newsletters.
With the right incentives, customers are more likely to return and continue to purchase products to reach different loyalty tiers. Those who continue to buy, share and earn rewards are most likely to become brand evangelists.
Direct engagement is the key to developing brand evangelists
When customers feel like they are cared for and listened to, they become loyal. This is also true when they witness similar interactions the business has with other customers, whether in online social media communities, through helpful customer service representatives or customer loyalty programs. And when this is ongoing, it further strengthens affinity.
It’s worth taking the time to learn more about your customers and to develop an experience that meets their needs, celebrates them and rewards their engagement, because that’s how you build brand evangelists.