Are You Turning Customers Into Evangelists?

How can you encourage your customers to participate and contribute more to your company's marketing and product development? How can you provide a place for your customers to talk with each other and share ideas, enthusiasm, and challenges in the market?

Marketing is about understanding your customers with such depth and clarity that you can empower and encourage them to be evangelists for your cause or company. When you walk into an Apple store, it is often hard to tell who's doing the sales and marketing and who are the bigger fans of the product: the customers or the staff? If they didn't wear Apple T-shirts, you wouldn't know. The company has hired evangelists—people crazy about Apple's products—to work in its retail stores.

Turn Passive Onlookers Into Active Customers

Great marketing and great communities of interest turn passive onlookers into active customers of and contributors to your product. One of the world's "50 Most Innovative Companies," according to Fast Company magazine, is PatientsLikeMe.com, an online community in which patients share experiences about thousands of medical treatments and procedures. It is a place to compare notes, recommend ideas, second-guess products, and get advice and share concerns about treatments with other patients. The community itself is a content and marketing machine that gets the word out to potential customers all over the world.

Unilever makes Dove soap, but it also engages in community building that helps the company market Dove brand products and add value for customers at the same time. Dove makes heroes of its buyers by featuring their ideas about health and skin care. Physicians, dermatologists, supermodels, and ordinary consumers volunteer to pitch their best beauty secrets in public forums that, in turn, influence other buyers.

Equally important, all this conversation with potential customers about potential products provides a lab for testing Dove products and service ideas and for creating entirely new lines of products. It helps the company better understand whether there actually is a market for specific products, and if so, which customers would be the right fit for that product.

The Wrong Customers

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Tracy, co-author of Now, Build a Great Business!: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market, is an entrepreneur and a dynamic and inspiring speaker. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling How the Best Leaders Lead and Eat That Frog, and the author/narrator of many popular audiocassette programs. For more information please visit www.briantracy.com

Mark Thompson, co-author of Now, Build a Great Business!: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Profits in Any Market and co-author of the bestseller Success Built to Last, is a serial entrepreneur who coaches executives on how to lead growth companies. He is a member of the board of the Leader to Leader Institute, founded by Peter Drucker, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University.