Don't Hold Back Your Evangelists

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Don't Hold Back Your Evangelists
Don't Hold Back Your Evangelists

Marketers long for customer engagement that leads to word-of-mouth advocacy. If you're a marketer lucky enough to have them, be sure to provide your evangelist customers with opportunities to stay engaged and sing your praises.

Online communities and social networks are obvious avenues for engagement and advocacy. In B2B, reference programs, speaking engagements, and forums are commons tools.

But sometimes it's as simple as a T-shirt. Really. Because, often, encouraging evangelists is simply about building enthusiasm and then opening doors; creating opportunities that spark conversation.

Last December I signed up for the Gunnar Challenge, an 8-week healthy eating and exercise program run by Hollywood trainer Gunnar Peterson. When I first checked out site there was a photo of happy Challengers wearing “Challenge Accepted” T-shirts. Alas, they weren't listed anywhere on the Challenge website, so I assumed the shirts in the photo were just for promoting the program, not for participants—until about two weeks into it, when I noticed that the Challenger who topped the leaderboard was awarded a shirt.

I emailed the staff to ask how to purchase a T-shirt. I wanted it for motivation, and as a “badge of honor” of sorts that I could wear enthusiastically and tell everyone willing to listen that I've take the Gunnar Challenge and love it. No luck. The T-shirts are prizes for Challengers who top the leaderboard; there is no way I'll ever top the leaderboard.

Now, before you go thinking I'm just a spoiled brat, hear me out. First, if you're going to use gamification, there should be at least the illusion of a somewhat level playing field. Or, there should be several ways to win.

Second, clearly, I'm a handraiser. I want to walk around showing off my participation in the Gunnar Challenge. In my opinion, not selling the Challenge T-shirt is a lost opportunity for the program in terms of word of mouth. This is a business that, more than most, will benefit from participants sharing their enthusiasm and success. (And, hey, a few extra bucks from selling the T-shirts can't be all bad.)

The Challenge could sell the shirts to participants and still use them for rewards. Sure, don't offer up the shirts on the initial registration page; instead, perhaps bury them on the member FAQ page. If a Challenger wants a T-shirt badly enough, they'll find it.

OK, so the fact is, I'll still blather on about the Challenge at every opportunity. And I'll sign up again for the motivation and killer exercise program, and try to convince friends to join me. But that seemingly insignificant T-shirt would amplify my efforts.

I'm certainly not alone in my enthusiasm for advocating brands I like. Customers like me want opportunities to be evangelists; marketers should gladly provide them. Are you up to the Challenge?

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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in micro-targeting via traditional and digital channels. Our mission is to help companies, non-profits, and universities alike find new prospects and better understand their existing contacts. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for marketing insights. To put it simply, we're young (at least at heart), ambitious, and sometimes impulsive-but always hungry for new ideas.

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