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In our last column, we described how TiVo largely ignores its extensive community of fervent customer evangelists.

In the United States, TiVo enjoys a passionate customer universe that rivals Krispy Kreme's, yet TiVo still hasn't made the leap to the mass-market phenomenon of customer evangelism.


We contend that it's due in part to the company's focus on sales, not evangelism. Sales is about what's good for a company; evangelism is what's good for customers. TiVo's big-picture marketing primarily focuses on promotional sales tactics versus embracing enthusiastically outspoken customers who influence sales on the company's behalf.

(If TiVo is foreign to you, it's best described as a personal video recorder for television shows. It can skip over ads. You can record individual or season-long shows easily using an intuitive on-screen menu system. Based on what you record, TiVo will recommend other shows or movies to record. Even better: the box lets you pause live TV to make a sandwich, use the restroom, answer the phone, etc.)

As a company, TiVo faces several tall hurdles. Prices for the recorder start at $199 and top $549. A monthly subscription fee of $12.95 makes already-expensive monthly cable bills more daunting. If TiVo were to remove or lower these barriers, adoption rates would likely improve, but we wouldn't bet on it.

For a product with such fervent customer evangelism, a unified and concentrated focus on word of mouth would surely increase sales. Krispy Kreme understands this well; it spends no money on mass media advertising, and its April 2000 initial public offering on Nasdaq remains the best-performing IPO three years later, with a 545% return, according to Dealogic.

If only TiVo were to focus on embracing its customer community the Krispy Kreme way….

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Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba are the authors of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force.