Marketing always begins with the humble goal of getting the buying public to simply recognize that you exist. “Create brand awareness” therefore serves as the first fundamental step in every solid marketing plan.
Once general awareness is in place, one must move quickly to the next step since “awareness” alone does not fire up any cash registers. That next step is creating brand preference. You may not yet have loyal fans, but creating a preference for your brand means that, when all other elements are equal, you will be able to snag the business of customers who are in situations where they are free to choose what they prefer.
The next marketing goal then becomes brand insistence. When your customers reach this level, there is no real competitor because they believe that no one else can do what you do. They will hold out for your product or service. Think: Pepsi drinkers never settle for Coke…they would go without than drink a Coke (and vice versa).
Brand insistence is great, but the real marketing nirvana is brand evangelism: that magical apex where loyal customers sell for you by actively sharing far and wide about their buying experience.
No one pays them to do so. There is no commission request at the end of the month. Brand evangelists speak from their heart. Apple users are brand evangelists, as are Starbucks aficionados and Harley Davidson owners. Brand evangelists don’t subscribe to company websites, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages, they create their own. They are unpaid salespeople with personal testimonials. It doesn’t get any better than that!
So, where do your customers fall on the marketing spectrum? Do they possess mere brand awareness or are they your unpaid and wholly committed advertising team, evangelizing all over social media and eagerly awaiting your next service or creation?
Tag Line or Brand Identity?
At stake in this discussion is how customers define your brand. Make no mistake about it: the customer alone gets this privilege. Marketing departments vastly overrate their power to control brand identity and too many companies believe that their identity is wholly defined by their tag line.
Let’s face it, tag lines are important, but do they truly and completely define a buyer’s experience? Are you really “lovin’ it” when you go to a McDonalds? Does BMW really make the “ultimate driving machine?” Does the phrase “Chevron with Techron” mean anything to you? More importantly, does it inspire you to hold out for a Chevron station vs. buying gas wherever it is most convenient?
Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the customer. Which means this: the customer actually owns your brand identity. They always have and they always will.
You might recall the Geo Metro of years past. The tag line was, “Affordable value that’s fun to drive.” Only, it wasn’t. It was no fun making frequent trips to the dealer to get it fixed. And it was not fun driving the last of a dying breed of subcompacts. The tag line and the user experience were in direct conflict of each other. Guess who won?
A good challenge for your marketing department is this: does our tagline match the experience our customers are having with our product/service?
The Core of Brand Evangelism
Three foundational elements make up brand evangelism. Without these three building blocks in place, brand evangelism will always evade you.
- Great Product
Brand evangelism takes root in quality products. Mediocre products do not promote brand evangelism. Superior products elicit passionate responses from their users, and this very passion acts as the catalyst for referrals.
- Personalized Service
In order for your customers to become brand evangelists, they must believe with conviction that your product or service made a specific and personal impact on their own lives. They must believe they are better, happier, more satisfied people by purchasing from your company, and they must feel equally convinced that your company looks out for their best interests.
- A Sense of “Tribe”
People don’t want to just buy a car; they want to participate in a movement. They want to give a knowing nod or wink to others who made the same decision. They want to feel like they are members in “the smart buyers club.” Car buyers offer a great example: they want to believe that their vehicle of choice represents far more than mere transportation.
Succeed with your customers on these three fronts and you will be well on your way to creating an army of brand evangelists.
The Fast Path to Brand Evangelism: Emotional Endorsement
While brand evangelism from devoted customers is the ultimate goal, brand evangelism from your own sales people will fast forward your marketing plan.
Brand evangelism from sales people is all about their contagious energy. When a salesperson completely buys in to the product, the service, the value, and the buying opportunity they are presenting, their excitement is contagious and customers take on this energy and perspective. Delivering this “emotional endorsement” is the ultimate selling tool and when genuine, it makes customers feel intensely affirmed in their buying choice.
Emotional endorsement is especially important in the car sales industry, where too many customers see salespeople as hired guns, driven only by their commissions. Sales professionals can combat this perception by sharing why they personally love a specific car/dealership/opportunity in their sales presentation. This only works if the salesperson delivers this sentiment in a caring, passionate, and customer-focused manner. But when they do, it is exactly the kind of infectious spirit that leads to brand evangelism.
Is it time to challenge your sales and marketing approach? Have you been too dependent on tag lines and ad copy? Perhaps you need to have a heart to heart talk with your salespeople and encourage them to determine what they believe about what they are selling and then to include those beliefs in their sales presentations. If you have developed a great product, great service, and a sense of tribe, your foundation for brand evangelism is well in place. Build on that with sales people who genuinely believe in what they are selling, and you will usher in a great new era of brand evangelism for your company.