They’re exactly the kind of customers you want — engaged, excited, and thrilled to tell others about your company. But can you actually convert customers into evangelists for your brand, or is it all just luck? Alex Goldfayn, author of Evangelist Marketing: What Apple, Amazon, and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn’t) is convinced there’s a formula that savvy businesses can follow.
A former technology columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Goldfayn draws on his extensive experience in the consumer electronics industry — but argues that any industry, from lawn care to banking, can successfully cultivate evangelists. In a recent podcast interview, Goldfayn shared his tips for building relationships with “hyper-repeat customers” who will “basically do your marketing for you.”
Focus on mainstream customers. Too many companies, especially in the tech world, try to out-geek each other, competing on the basis on cool new technologies. But early adopters represent only 2 to 3 percent of the market, and when you’ve optimized a product for their needs (and marketed it as such), it probably won’t work that well for everyone else. So focus on the regular moms and dads, says Goldfayn, or else “you’re volunteering away the other 97 percent of your market.”
Leverage Your Strengths to Understand Your Customers. Apple has been a unique case, says Goldfayn, because of Steve Jobs’ prescient insights: “He understood on instinct what customers wanted better than anybody else in the world.” But most companies can’t rely on that. Instead, the Amazon model may be more apt, in which they came to understand their customers through volumes of data. “Amazon, with its Kindle, has the benefit of thousands and tens of thousands of customer reviews,” observes Goldfayn. “The cornerstone of the system of creating evangelists is a deep understanding of what your customers think, want, and how they use your product or service.”
Do Extensive Qualitative Research. If you’re not Apple or Amazon, Goldfayn says the best way to truly grasp what matters to your customers is in-depth qualitative research. But that doesn’t mean Internet surveys (which he says can be too shallow) or focus groups (where he believes customers are often swayed by others in the room). Instead, you want to conduct 20- to 30-minute in-depth interviews, either on the phone or in person, to probe how customers think about and interact with your products. “What they will reveal to you in your conversations will literally be almost word-for-word the best possible marketing message you can have,” he says. “It’s automatically compelling. You know it’s going to resonate with your market because it’s coming from your market. The companies that don’t do this are just guessing from a conference room.”
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