Customer evangelism is something big companies and marketing consultants have talked about for years. Too often though, the big companies get all the attention in this area. People assume small and mid-sized companies can’t create customer evangelists. But they’re wrong! Here are four things you can do to create customer evangelists.
1. Talk to your customers
Have real person-to-person conversations with as many customers as you can. If you have a lot of customers relative to your employees then you’ll need to prioritize. But find ways to have real, meaningful and ongoing conversations with them. This might mean inviting some to lunch. It might mean hosting get-togethers at your business. It might start with a survey and end with a phone call or a meeting. For others it might be virtual conversations using email or Web 2.0 tools.
2. Serve their needs
Of course you’re doing this to make your company better. But everything you do in this customer evangelism effort needs to be useful from your customer’s perspective. Educate them while you engage them. Always do things in ways that are useful to and respectful of your customers. Keep that as your primary focus.
3. Get them involved
Find multiple ways to get your customers involved. For some people, just a regular phone call or lunch will be enough. For others you might get their help finding solutions to challenges your facing (using brainstorming or other facilitated meetings). Or create communities for your customers to participate in. Forums and blogs are great for this. Software and online companies have done this for years but so can small businesses. For instance, VillageHatShop.com, (a small online and offline store) invited customers to submit pictures of themselves wearing their hats. They posted the pix on their website. Judging by the number of pictures it was a bug success for them.
4. Be open
However you engage your customers make sure you do it in a genuine and honest way. Be open about what you’re doing and why. In fact, make the process as transparent as possible. The more open you are with your customers the more open they will be with you. Let your employees participate. Don’t script them or micro-manage their involvement. Let them get to know your customers and vice-versa. The more your customers know and like your employees, the more likely they will be evangelists for you.
The bottom line in creating loyal customers who promote your business is this: You need to care about them. Every action your company takes needs to show your customers you are there to serve their needs, to help them be successful, happy to whatever they’re trying to accomplish (within the context of your service or product, of course). When you do this, you will deliver an experience that your customers can’t get anywhere else. So they’ll come back. And they’ll bring others with them.