Evangelists Spur Loyalty

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Feb 06, 2006
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By John Hennessy


Gary Stein, analyst at Jupiter research, says customers who actively share information have an increased sense of brand loyalty and maintain it regardless of trends in the marketplace.


Supporting that claim, DoubleClick says word of mouth is the biggest purchase influence, from initial awareness straight through to actual purchases.


Colorado-based Izze Beverage Company relies almost entirely on customer evangelism for it’s marketing. “People are going to talk about your product so you better give them the
right reason to talk about it,” says Izze CEO Todd Woloson.


Measurement of evangelism is being attempted by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Their approach is to measure units of marketing-relevant information passed on
from one consumer to another. The goal is to use these measurements to calculate the ROI of word of mouth campaigns.


Moderator’s Comment: What programs are you using to cultivate evangelists?


Shoppers are drowning in promotional messaging. Rather than wade through that flood of information, they are relying more and more on trusted advisors to
help them spend their time and money more wisely.


Ways you can help your shoppers cut through the clutter include:



  • Cultivating evangelists through superior products and services;

  • Product knowledge training so your customers get the right answer quickly, and;

  • Relevance of your communications so your message is helpful and welcome.


These steps will go a long way toward improving the odds that shoppers will choose to spend their time and money with you and urge others to do the same.

John Hennessy – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "Evangelists Spur Loyalty"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 24 days ago
People who love buying something will talk about it, and you can bet that people who feel burned will talk, too. People who make a specific buy suggestion to their friends definitely reinforce their own loyalty. Twenty years ago, MCI long distance used the “Friends and Family Plan” to propel its long distance service by offering discounts to everyone who made calls within the network. MCI asked its customers to give it the names and addresses of their acquaintances and then MCI sent those people letters using the name of the MCI customer. Millions of people signed up. It was a brilliant way to build volume through loyalty communication. Entertainment companies use http://www.myspace.com as a way to spread word of mouth for their products. Starting the second release week, movie attendance is largely based on word of mouth. When a new store opens, people in the neighborhood talk about it. Word of mouth is the top sales tool, and it can be the top sales killer, too.
Karen McNeely
Guest
15 years 24 days ago

I’m really surprised by the number of respondents that ranked word of mouth as an influence in the 50-74% of ALL purchases. I certainly think it is a powerful influence, but I think it is primarily for bigger ticket, infrequently purchased and unique items.

I’m a part of a few of email route lists that will from time to time tout everything from a local business of a friend, share a great deal on nursery stock or give recommendations for contractors. Rarely do I hear word of mouth influencing where or which peanut butter, soda, clothing, books etc. are purchased. At least in my house, this accounts for the bulk of our purchases.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 24 days ago
In a Gomer Pyle moment (“surprise, surprise, surprise”), my flabber was gasted by DoubleClick’s revelation. Now we know that “word of mouth is the biggest purchase influence.” In more than forty years of advertising I’d never heard that before, except from the gorgeous Carrie Feinstein – my Advertising 101 Professor at Kansas University – who revealed it to we droolers back in ’68. Absolutely stunning (Carrie and the revelation). As a Christian evangelist since ’78, I was not introduced to alternate uses of “evangelist” until Guy Kawasaki began referring to himself as a Macintosh evangelist in the early 90s. But, there was a major difference in our uses of the term. Scripture instructs evangelists to “go” and “tell.” Kawasaki wanted to “convince” and “sell.” Evangelism is telling, not selling. And therein lies the beauty of word-of-mouth – telling, not selling. Some of us operate e-commerce websites that have a tell-a-friend feature. “Sign up a friend, get a reward.” But that’s really selling, and escapes with ease the earthly bonds of real evangelism. (That was a… Read more »
Doug Fleener
Guest
15 years 24 days ago
I would add that we need to do a better job of identifying and rewarding these brand evangelists too. I’m always amazed at the number of companies like Marriott who ask me to take surveys after I stay at their hotel, but never give me any incentive to spend the time doing it. They should reward me with extra rewards program points or enter me into a drawing, etc. to get me to give you feedback. Once I’ve given enough positive feedback, a company could easily identify me as a potential evangelist. Instead, they never learn enough about me to find out if I am an evangelist or not. When I was at Bose we created a customer referral program that I think works great. Whenever a customer purchases a product at a Bose store, they are given a referral kit. All they have to do is demonstrate the product they purchased for their friends, which they all want to do, and then fill out a card with their name and their friend’s name. They… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 24 days ago

I find myself in general agreement with Peter. Thus I will not be further redundant.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 24 days ago

We need to reverse the loyalty arrow for this to make real sense: First the firm shows loyalty to its customers through its consistent practices; then customers are motivated to tell others about their good treatment by the firm. There’s no shortcut for this. It takes unilateral investment in the relationships.

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 24 days ago

There’s a lot going on here in your write-up, but there are two aspects that trigger comments.

>The notion of evangelists is powerful. We have found that there is a much higher likelihood to identify the evangelists in the heavy-buyer category, i.e., the 20% of buyers who purchase 80% of the product, and have used this as a straightforward yet powerful metric to help us both identify and harness the power of these individuals.

>Information sharing and the power of word-of-mouth are clearly a potent force. The trick is to “get the ball rolling.”

To put this into practical terms, last year I heard that Wawa, the convenience store chain, actually discovered a website for people who were Wawa enthusiasts and I’m sure are now in some sense working with that discovery to mutual advantage.

Perhaps the key to any program to cultivate evangelists is to be good enough in your offer to be truly remarkable.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
15 years 24 days ago

I too agree with Peter. As we get more and more dependent on technology, research companies, and the idea that word of mouth is somehow best accomplished via the Internet, we lose site of the fact that great merchandise, great service and great stores are always the BEST way to create loyalty and thus positive word of mouth.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 24 days ago

I think Gary Stein (and many other WOM zealots) have it backwards. Let’s take his initial statement and flip it around: “customers who have an increased sense of brand loyalty and maintain it regardless of trends in the marketplace will actively share information.”

This is a critical distinction. Stein implies that if we get our customers to spread the word, they’ll become more loyal. A more logical alternative is that if we can find some customers who are genuinely loyal, we can count on them to help spread the word. The latter view is far less dramatic and interesting, but it’s the more appropriate view for firms to adopt.

Loyalty comes first, and that’s driven by the old fundamentals (service, selection, quality, and convenience). Getting customers to chitchat can not replace or create those deeper connections.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 23 days ago

So many of the points made already are true but the most important, I believe, is for the company to make the running. If customers are treated well, appreciate the quality of both product and service, then loyalty follows as night follows day (or vice versa). BUT to progress that onto active evangelism takes one more thing, which has again been pointed out, and that is incentive. Yes, I tell people about things I do and don’t like but I would certainly be far better motivated if there was something in it for me. I am one of those who gives hotels detailed and extensive feedback but never get anything in return. Pity. Not just greed on my part but I would appreciate some recognition of the time and effort I have put in.

Daryle Hier
Guest
Daryle Hier
15 years 23 days ago

These are all great points and I would add the community effect through evangelists is very real. As was mentioned with getting the ball rolling, I’ve seen it up close with motor sports events and researched results from them – quite spectacular. Consumers such as these and their community around them, purchase through an emotional relationship rather than just sold, which is priceless. Of course other factors such as customer service will help retain these loyalists.

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