I’m an evangelist (and didn’t even know it!)

[Re-post from April 9, 2009]

In my last post, I asked if you had evangelists for your product or service, like Netflix has (and Blockbuster does not), and what you could do to generate enthusiasm for your company so that your customers start evangelizing for you.

Today I had lunch with Julie Swatek, Founder and CEO of ScrapYourTrip.com, a multi-million dollar e-commerce company in Orlando that she founded in 2002 out of a spare bedroom in her house (if you like to scrapbook, then you probably have already been to her site; if you haven’t, be sure to check it out!). Julie’s company is the epitome of one that has benefitted from customers who have become evangelists for her.

While we were having lunch, I mentioned to Julie about the “Clean Eating” regimen I started following last year and how much I love it. I told her that I would send her an email with a link to the book on Amazon so she could buy it if she wanted to. After I got back to my desk after lunch, I realized that I was an evangelist for the Clean Eating products and I had not even thought about it that way before!

Since the time I had read the book last August and started using the recipes and following the guidelines, I have told many of my family, friends, and co-workers about it, as the subjects of health, energy, food, and diet have come up in the course of regular conversations. I have even purchased copies of the book for family members and several co-workers have bought the books themselves.

I then realized that the success of the Clean Eating books was probably due in large part to people doing what I have been doing – spreading the word because of their love of the product. There is no financial benefit for me; I don’t make any money if someone I tell buys the book. But, that’s not the reason I tell them. I do it because I sincerely believe that they could benefit the way I have.

That is the key to understanding whether your product or service can generate evangelists – do your customers think that what you offer is so good, unique, and beneficial that they will naturally tell the people they know about it and encourage them to try it? It doesn’t matter if you are an accountant, attorney, doctor or other professional, or if you sell software, cars, or t-shirts. How many Prius owners have rhapsodized about their cars? How did you find your current doctor or dentist? Did someone you trust tell you which one they went to and really liked?

On the Internet, having evangelists is even more important because it can help your company’s name spread like wildfire, at no cost to you. You can’t even buy that kind of advertising.

Thus, as you set out to build your company, your first priority should be to create an outstanding product or service that resonates with your customers – one that is so good at solving their problems that they’ll naturally want to tell others about it.

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