Turn your customers into brand evangelists and reap huge benefits


Customers shop at a Nairobi supermarket. Talking and listening to your customers are the best ways to ensure that they will become brand evangelists. PHOTO/SALATON NJAU

Kenyan brands stand to increase their customer base and lower the cost of their acquisition by up to 50 per cent by converting them to brand evangelists, recent research has found.

“Brand evangelists serve as a volunteer sales and marketing force. On average, each energised evangelist generates three new customers, thus can cut customer acquisition cost by 50 per cent or more in many cases.

‘‘It is also 10 times more cost effective than traditional marketing,” said the research conducted by US advocacy firm Zuberance.

Unlike other customers, brand evangelists do more than just buy products, they talk and recommend them to others through every available channel.

Guy Kawaski, a marketing specialist and the author of the book The Art of the Start, who is credited for coining the term brand evangelism, compared them to religious preachers.

“They are indefatigable, tireless and effective because they believe in the product in the same way religious evangelists believe in their religion.” For a customer to become a brand evangelist, online survey software company SurveyGizmo states, exquisite customer service is instrumental.

“Talking to, and more importantly listening to, your customers are the best ways to ensure that they will become brand evangelists.

“Customer feedback is essential in learning what your audience sees as the best and the worst aspects of your product. They will tell you why your product is better than everyone else’s and what you need to do to make your product better than the rest of the competition.”

Fast food restaurant Domino’s Pizza used this tactic in a bid to gain advantage over its competition and win over new customers.

It created an online community on social media and encouraged customers to try its new pizza flavours and offer feedback.

It even reached out to food bloggers who had previously made negative comments about its pizza and asked them to publicly review its new recipe.

“What Domino’s did right is that it took advantage of multiple social media channels to accomplish their goal and they actually listened to what their customers were saying in order to improve their brand and their customers’ experiences,” said Pamela Vaughan, a principal marketing manager for the market and sales platform HubSpot in an article for the website.

“They are also being extremely transparent in their approach by asking their customers and critics to offer their feedback, whether positive or negative.”

This strategy showed that Domino’s cared and listened to its customers, thus building its reputation and customer base.

Invaluable asset

In working to achieve this kind of bind with customers, companies are building an invaluable marketing asset: “Brands can survive in the market by using other marketing methods such as consistent advertising to draw in new customers.

‘‘However, brand evangelists help build loyal customers who are the key to long term growth and survival of a brand,” said Samuel Munene, the market research manager at marketing firm Crack a Business.

“In order for a brand to convert customers to brand evangelists, it needs to create a product that solves a key consumer pain or one that they can develop an emotional attachment to,” he said.

But as much as brand evangelists are an invaluable asset to a company, they can also cause it reputational damage if they do not agree with its strategies.

“The disadvantage of brand evangelists is that if they get ‘hurt’, say because a brand has derailed and the product is not as endearing as it was before, they will rant about it through every channel available to them with the same enthusiasm as they did while praising the product, causing a significant reputational damage and probably a decline in sales,” said Mr Munene.

“Also in these days of paid social media influencers an enthusiastic evangelist in an online space could be mistaken for just another paid influencer, thus other consumers could mistrust the brand and its products.’’

- African Laughter