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B2B Marketing in 2007 – Evangelizing Your Consumers
Monday, February 19, 2007
Given the understanding that most B2B organizations offer high end products or services, we know that the time that it takes to qualify a lead, nurture the relationship and convert the lead into a sale can take months or even years. The thing is, there is one more step involved in this marketing process for B2B marketers to consider and that is to make your customer an evangelist for your organization.

If you have done your job and provided a service/product that your consumer truly appreciates, and the consumer is sincerely pleased about the entire experience, the chance of making this consumer an evangelist for your company is great. On the other hand, if the consumer’s experience is successful but they are not entirely sold that the experience was all that they anticipated, then turning your customer into an evangelist for your company becomes more difficult if at all possible. Consumer evangelism is simply the process of taking a customer who is thrilled about your product/service and their experience and getting them to become outspoken "evangelists" or glorified promoters for your company. These “greatly satisfied” consumers can become a powerful tool for marketing and growing your business in addition to other leads that you have.

Whether traditional B2B marketers like it or not, power has shifted to the consumer. In essence, it’s always been there. It is the consumer that seeks a solution to a dilemma. It is the consumer that initiates the research into vendor selection. It is the consumer that ultimately decides which potential vendors will become a “rung on the ladder” as part of the selection process. It is the consumer that conducts more research and finally it is the consumer that decides on the perfect solution for their needs. If you are lucky enough to be the “Chosen One” then why not have your consumer evangelize you? Understand that the consumer has selected you on criteria that would not only satisfy their needs, but give them a competitive advantage over their competition. The fact that they selected your organization means that they understand how your solution works and that it will work for them. They will have researched, tried demos, and integrated your solution as a part of theirs. So who better to promote your organization? Provide a solution and experience where the consumer will want to become an evangelist for your company. Keep in mind that your solution has to provide an extraordinary experience for this to happen. Your solution needs to have been perceived (by the consumer) that it has elements that other solutions do not, that the experience that your consumer has been a part of is unlike any other… your solution has created the basis for a lifelong relationship.

Having loyal customers is one thing, converting them into influential and enthusiastic evangelists for your organization is another. Loyal customer are not necessarily promoting you to others, consumer evangelists do. Consumer evangelism should be practiced by any B2B organizations that want to grow their company and make a real difference in their industry. It’s been reported that “organizations that focus on building word of mouth into full-fledged evangelism grow faster, are more profitable and have big-picture ideas that somehow change the world.” If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not. There are a number of successful companies in various industries that are using consumer evangelism to grow their business and improve their position in the marketplace. I recommend reading Testify! How Remarkable Organization are Creating Customer Evangelists. This study is by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba authors of Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force. The study provides examples of companies who have successfully turned loyal customers into consumer evangelists for their organizations. The study mentioned some key factors in defining consumer evangelists:

· Consumer Evangelists purchase and believe in your product or service
· Consumer Evangelists passionately recommend you to friends, family and colleagues
· Consumer Evangelists provide unsolicited feedback or praise
· Consumer Evangelists forgive dips in service and quality
· Consumer Evangelists are not bought they “extol” your virtues freely
· Consumer Evangelists feel part of something bigger than themselves

Effective B2B marketers understand that traditional marketing principles are not as effective as they once were, they are being replaced by customer-driven demand and referrals. For B2B organizations to experience ongoing success, they must make evangelists out of their customers. If your organization has a mandate to generate more qualified leads, then why not use your satisfied consumers to bring in additional leads. Consumer evangelists will do this, what you have to do is make evangelists out of your consumers.

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posted by Jody @ Monday, February 19, 2007  
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