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November 13, 2005
Corporate evangelism vs. customer evangelism
For someone commonly known as the Father of the Internet, Cerf's employment status is important news to a lot of people. Given his stature, his new job title probably caused a few double-takes.
Chief evangelist roles and corporate evangelism departments are increasingly common in the tech industry, less common everywhere else.
Is there a difference between a corporate evangelist and a customer evangelist and if so, where do the two intersect?
Glad you asked. Yes, there is a difference. By nature, they're cousins: part of the same family but with different parents. So to clear up some confusion over the concepts and their origins, let's clarify.
1. CORPORATE EVANGELISM
Guy Kawasaki popularized the idea of corporate evangelism in 1991 with Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas -- and Make a Difference -- Using Everyday Evangelism. Guy was part of the evangelism team at Apple Computer working to convince software developers to write applications for the nascent Mac platform.
In his book, Guy writes: "Mike Murray, the Macintosh Division director of marketing, first applied evangelism to Macintosh in 1983 when he created jobs for people he called 'software evangelists.' They were Apple's kamikazes who used fervor, zeal and anything else to convince software developers to create Macintosh products... They sold the Macintosh Dream."
With a comparison chart, Guy made it easy to understand the difference between traditional, in-your-face sales vs. a corporate evangelism approach:
Guy told us for our book that creating customer evangelists in the early days at Apple was "stumbled upon...We never thought it through that much. That's what happened, but that was not the plan." A customer evangelist -- not a software evangelist -- was an unintended benefit.
Corporate evangelism really took off when evangelist job titles started showing up inside technology companies. Today, Microsoft has hundreds of employees with an "evangelist"' title, the most well-known being Technical Evangelist Robert Scoble (who reports to a General Manager of Platform Evangelism).
2. CUSTOMER EVANGELISM
A customer evangelist not only buys your products or services but believes in them so much that she is compelled to spread the word and voluntarily recruit their friends and colleagues on your behalf.
These days, companies are including customer evangelism as a core company objective like we've never seen before. Results are not automatic by any means, but focusing on nurturing loyal customers who become part of a virtual marketing team can be key to a company's growth.
When we began researching Creating Customer Evangelists in 2001, a Google search for "customer evangelist" produced exactly two results; one was inside a technology assessment document and the other in a business article. Both were one-off references.
Back then, fissures in the effectiveness of mass media advertising effectiveness were first appearing, and we guessed that the impact of "customer evangelists" to describe the passion of extremely loyal customers could be profound. We were seeing it firsthand with the companies we had been working with and companies that were generating tremendous word of mouth. To us, the term was more succinct and emotionally powerful than "raving fans" or "brand advocates."
Our motivation was seeing far too many companies spend the bulk of their marketing work acquiring new customers instead of servicing their existing customers, even when existing customers were voluntarily spreading the word.
During the course of our investigations, we also found that customer evangelists aren't just buzz spreaders, influencers, sneezers, or mavens; they are, by nature, passionate people who are extroverted loyalists. To identify a customer evangelist among your ranks, it is someone who:
* Spreads the word
* Recruits new customers
* Helps you improve products and services
* Defends you
* Supports you
Today, three years after the publication of Creating Customer Evangelists, a Google search for "customer evangelist" produces 910,000 results. (We humbly submit that Creating Customer Evangelists popularized this term.)
Customer evangelism is the payoff for organizations that focus on the loyalty of their most passionate and demonstrative customers. But what does "loyal" mean?
For some, it's a repeat purchaser. For others, it's a customer who will make personal sacrifices to purchase your product. What's needed is an understanding of customer loyalty. Here's our take:
An effective loyalty strategy focuses on continually moving customers up the ladder toward evangelist and perhaps one day to that rarefied air of brand ownership. A formal evangelism department with product evangelists isn't required, but it certainly contributes to success.
One other trait that corporate evangelism and customer evangelism share: a well-defined cause. At its most profound, a well-defined cause changes the world. It inspires employees and customers alike to work toward a shared, world-changing objective, whatever that world happens to be.
Other blogs that reference Corporate evangelism vs. customer evangelism:
» Customer Evangelism and How to Identify Your Evangelists from 2 Percent Creativity - Marketing and Advertising Insights from a Connected Perspective
It was during our weekly sales meeting this morning, that I directed our team to this great post on one our favorite blogs - Church of the Customer. The subject of customer evangelism is little understood by most businesses today [Read More]
I'm rather new to consumer marketing, so this may be a stupid question, but how is this offer a type of stealth marketing? I thought stealth marketing was the spread of untruths endorsed or inspired by a company. How is this offer different than a company paying its employees to market their company? It seems a little more mainstream than the "I'll advertise your company's name on my forehead" movement that swept eBay a while back. Help me out, I want to learn as much as possible about this marketing movement.
Excellent post. Love the chart. I'll be using this, and of course attributing it to you, to help drive home the point that all the rungs in the ladder are critical to the process.
It's so true that most of the reward and recognition is placed on new customer acquisition.
Keep fighting the good fight.
The title, "Tea Evangalist" is popular in our office. Our customers always come back because we enjoy them so much. We have also started a Blog, which has been very popular with existing customers and has helped bring more in the door. It's new and missing a few features, but it works. Visit and enjoy; http://www.portsmouthtea.com/Main.php?do=showteatimes
I recognize that this blog post of yours is old, but I am trying to read all that can on customer evangelism. This was very helpful to understand the basic structure of when someone might be called an evangelist. I liked the concept of developing an evangelist in steps, as in your ladder example. Thanks! Sorry to comment on such an old blog post. I hope that's okay, please delete if you need to. Melody.