Building And Leveraging Communities: Crossing the Goal Line

Every business owner understands the value of brand evangelists.  In my two most recent posts, I’ve discussed how you can build and leverage communities, as well as arm those communities with information in order to turn them into brand evangelists.

I’ve covered several key areas:

·     Building Community

·     Guerrilla and Experiential Marketing

·     Getting Social With Your Business

·     Locating Potential Evangelists

·     Sharing The Right Information

·     Motivating Evangelism Through Tech and Rewards

But we’re not done yet. While those key areas are integral in building community, completing them means you have just started the journey to truly leveraging it to create the kind of evangelists who can work on their own to supplement your great marketing efforts.

I’m a big sports fan. Every sports success takes a team effort; even tennis players have coaches and golfers have caddies. So, in order to cover the last pieces of turning community into evangelists, I’m going to define the “musts” and “needs” in terms of a team.  And since football season is right around the corner, let’s talk pigskin!

The Quarterback

In football, the quarterback is responsible for running the offense of a team. He starts every offensive play, and either throws the ball to a receiver, hands it off to a back, or runs it himself.

Everything you do in terms of brand evangelism starts with the right people creating messages about the brand. Forbes featured a piece by contributor Simon Graj, detailing how the CEO of a company can be its biggest brand agent.

While that’s definitely not the only way to encourage brand evangelism, it highlights the need for your brand to have the right leadership, and the right direction. The right direction is definitely a top-down mechanism, but it’s important to have the right people in the right places to succeed.

Without the right QB to helm your brand strategy, you’ll never create evangelism.

The Running Back

Everyone knows the running back. He’s responsible for taking a handoff from the QB and running up field. Traditional football wisdom says that a good ground game is necessary to win because it complements a good passing game.  However, a good running game in football doesn’t have to be flashy.  It doesn’t make the headlines or highlights, but lots of small gains on the ground accumulate.  And that can be the difference between victory and defeat.

The point here is that you can’t rely on special marketing gimmicks, luck, or one-time promotions to create evangelists. It takes real, consistent hard work and devotion to creating evangelists. While your gimmicks and tricks might gain followers or awareness, it’s the non-flashy dirty work that gets the job done.

This is why being social is so important. Cultivating your social followers into evangelists isn’t easy, and the time period it takes to succeed isn’t short. While the work you do in that arena will rarely garner headlines, it will help put your brand ahead on the scoreboard.

The Wide Receiver

Far from being irrelevant, as I said before, the wide receiver is a necessary complement to the running back. The quarterback takes the snap, and if he’s not handing the ball off, chances are he’s looking for an open receiver to whom he can pass the ball.

These passes require planning, practice, precision and a dose of good luck. Your marketing strategies will require the same thing. As I mentioned in my previous post on building community, it’s important to use things like guerrilla marketing to help build community. Risky, loud marketing strategies can help you gain awareness and evangelists for your brand.

As a consumer, I’ve always been a fan of event marketing. As a professional, I’ve always been impressed by it.  Energy drink company, Red Bull, rose to prominence almost entirely because of their event marketing. They planned hard and threw precise passes to their receivers.  And it definitely made the highlight reels.

Bonus: Check out these 8 awesome rules for event marketing.

The Defense

Not only is creating brand evangelists about making great products and connecting with your audience, it is often about how you handle complaint and criticism.  There are plenty of examples of companies handling consumer concerns poorly, and losing a potential evangelist.  But I’d like to share a personal experience where above-and-beyond complaint response actually converted me into an evangelist.

I went to a local bar with some friends, and we all had a very, very poor experience, so I voiced my displeasure on Yelp! After doing so, I was contacted by the manager and invited to stop by to discuss my concerns. I dropped by one day after work, relayed my story, discussed the review, and the bar addressed my concerns. A staff member in question had already been let go, and the establishment requested that I pass their apologies along to my other friends.  They also gave me several gift cards, and invited us all to return.

While some of this is pretty standard, the polite and straightforward manner in which they addressed my concerns converted me from displeased customer to brand evangelist.  I felt valued as an individual and a consumer, so I amended my review.  I now sing the praises of the bar, as well as stop in regularly for a pint and some great BBQ.

The Final Score

Once you’ve got all your players, and your strategies, in place, you stand ahead of the game.  You’re in place to convert your followers into true brand evangelists!

There are plenty of businesses that have already shown us how successful they can be with evangelists by their side.  Here are just three examples.

Ford Motor Company

Despite its share of trials and tribulations, Ford remains a strong brand in the United States. They stay true to their heritage, enable their employees to be evangelists, engage in plenty of experiential marketing, and reap the benefits. They’re one of the few global carmakers to see modest gains as the world works its way out of a deep recession.

Nike

Nike is the owner of one of the most recognizable brand marks in the world. From America to Mongolia and Iceland to South Africa, people all over the world recognize Nike and certainly have a brand identity with it. People don’t view Nike as a brand only for athletes.  They identify with the company as it relates to their lifestyle. People don’t buy a pair of Nike shoes because they need footwear or buy a Nike running top because it’s necessarily the best—they choose Nike often because of the lifestyle Nike advertises. And people will sing their praises—and keep buying—because of it. Globally, Nike stands to continue seeing large benefits.

Apple

Perhaps the most famous of all companies for their brand evangelism is Apple.  No company has succeeded quite like Apple in converting everyday people who buy their products into walking billboards. Like Nike, Apple advertises a lifestyle. (Full disclosure: I’m a very ardent Apple fan.) Outfit your life with an Apple music player, an Apple phone, an Apple laptop, and an Apple tablet—Apple has it all!

What has helped make Apple so successful is that they create amazing products, showcase an amazing lifestyle around them, and then help their users not only figure out what to say when they share, but also how to share it. How many other brands have evangelists that will engage in flame-wars on public forums just to promote the brand they think is the best? (A Google search of “apple versus android” yields over 5 million results!)

Apple has reached this point because they’ve made great products, identified potential evangelists, worked with them to promote messages, and motivated evangelism across their user-base.

Post-Game

Don’t forget to check out our previous posts (here and here) on Creating and Leveraging Community for your brand.  And don’t forget—the most important thing to consider when building brand evangelists is to always consider your brand. It’s surprising how easy it can be to lose sight of just what exactly your brand stands for.

If you always put your brand first when you plan, connect, and share with your audience, then you are already doing a lot better than most of your competition!

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Jason is a 30-something that lives in Denver, CO. He has very red hair, loves the outdoors, and all things homebrew. He has a social media addiction, and can be found at about.me/jason.jewett.

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