Business Book Review

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Review: Creating Customer Evangelists - How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force - by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba

Creating Customer Evangelists is not about religion; rather, it is about how traditional marketing and advertising is changing. The innovative business owners and executives who have changed the rules have taken their example from the world’s religious evangelists—those believers who roam the world spreading the word about their faith and beliefs. Religious evangelists and innovative business executives know that beliefs are based on emotional connections, on deepseated convictions, and the promise of a better way.

Authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, veteran marketing communications strategists, describe how customerdriven referrals can determine a company’s success, or lack of success. Future customers, according to McConnell and Huba, often hear about a company, and its products and/or services, first from a friend, family member, or colleague. If they are loyal, satisfied customers, these friends, family members, and colleagues are key “influencers”—evangelists—for future customers.

In the book, the authors examine seven small, medium, and large companies in varied industries to illustrate how they have created, and use, customer evangelists to maintain successful, profitable businesses, even in uncertain economic times.

“When something helps people become better people, people support it. They tell everyone about the experience; in other words, they become evangelists. ”
“The roots of Krispy Kreme’s grassroots marketing are in avoiding big budgets. Low or no budgets help companies think creatively about their marketing tactics, contends [marketing chief Stan] Parker.”
“Being a good company is like being a good lover: First, you ask your partner what they want, then you give it to them. Then you ask them if they liked it. If they say yes, you give it to them again! That’s what customer service is all about: being good to people.”
--Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban

Customer evangelists are different from loyal customers. Loyal customers buy from you, or use your services, on a regular basis. Their loyalty may be the result of convenience or low prices. They are repeat customers, but not necessarily loyal customers. Customer evangelists display several key attributes. They not only purchase your product or service, they believe in it, and they strongly, even passionately, recommend the product to family, friends, and colleagues. They provide you with unsolicited feedback or praise, and while they will forgive occasional dips in service or quality, they will also let you know when quality is not up to par. They extol your company’s virtues. Buying or using your product or service makes them feel connected to something beyond themselves. A customer evangelist is a like friend who will be with you through good times and bad, and who becomes, in effect, a “volunteer” salesperson for your company.

Analyzing this phenomenon, McConnell and Huba believe that people are willing to help companies succeed if they have had a great experience of their own as a result of purchasing a product or service from the company. There is, according to McConnell and Huba, an intrinsic human desire to help other people have the same great experience.

In studying companies which consistently weather uncertain economic times without losing profitability or making major budget cuts, the authors discovered similarities in the marketing strategies and the customer relationships of these companies which can be broken down into six tenets of success: (1) these standout companies continuously gather feedback from customers and act upon it; (2) they make it a point to share their industry knowledge freely; (3) they expertly build word-of-mouth networks to promote their product or service; (4) they encourage customers to meet and share; (5) they devise, whenever possible, smaller, or specialized offerings of products and services to get new customers to try them; and (6) they focus on making the world, or at least their industry, better. These tenets can be applied across the spectrum of business—small, medium, or large—and can apply to any industry.

Customer evangelism has risen to the fore in large part because of the failure of traditional marketing techniques. The foundation of most marketing strategy today remains the four P’s (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion), principles developed in the early 1960s in a very different business climate than that of the early 2000s. In addition, many, if not most, company executives view marketing as being synonymous with advertising. Advertising messages are now so pervasive in our society (the average person is exposed to more than 3,000 advertising messages—in various forms—each day), that they lose their persuasive power, according to McConnell and Huba. With so much competition, mass media ads must “scream louder and more often just to squeeze through the clutter,” resulting in what the authors call “desperation marketing”—a sign that nothing else is working.

In our “instant gratification” society the marketing function, in many of today’s companies, offers a path up the ladder of success within the company based on shortterm goals and profits. Taking their cue from Wall Street, many marketing managers are promoted on the size of the budget they grew and managed, rather than on the longterm results they achieved, customer satisfaction, and the relationships they built with customers and vendors. Part of this personal gratification is the drive to continually acquire new customers—the authors call it “the thrill of the chase,” or “marketing to new customers is sexy”—through the process known as “branding.” Research has long shown that acquisition of new customers is five times more expensive than keeping current customers happy. Keeping current customers happy is hard work the authors say, and less likely to bring accolades to the marketing manager on his or her way up in the company.

A good example of the declining effectiveness of traditional marketing is Pepsi’s 2001 ad campaign featuring pop sensation Britney Spears. The soft drink giant hired Spears to launch a multi-million dollar campaign, one of the most expensive in the company’s history. One year later, not only did the sale of Pepsi products not increase, they decreased by one percent.

McConnell and Huba’s premise is that times have changed, and that our marketing model must also evolve from the message platforms based on traditional advertising and direct mail to one based on building customer loyalty and goodwill. Focusing your business, and your marketing, on creating customer evangelists is, McConnell and Huba contend, the most profitable approach to acquiring and retaining customers.

Customer evangelism is the most effective form of advertising possible (and it is, in large measure, free) because the “volunteer salesperson” is a proven, trusted friend. The advice comes from an independent source, not the company or business itself, making the message a genuine testimonial. It is more than targeted marketing; it is “personalized” marketing. Customer evangelists are the ultimate salespeople, according to McConnell and Huba. They know the target audience(s) better than the company because they are themselves the target audience. They can locate others (prospective customers) like themselves faster and easier than the company can, and they know how to translate the value proposition, and personalize a company’s product or service.

Customer evangelism is a philosophy about both customers and relationships. Everything in a company that creates customer evangelists is literally focused on the customer and on ways to keep customers coming back. These companies learn everything possible about their customers by interacting with them. “Most people in business are committed to the customer in spirit,” McConnell and Huba write, “but lack the tools and tactics to fully embrace this commitment.”

They identify three keys to a successful marketing program driven by the concept of customer evangelism. First, the company must offer a great product or service. Customers know what makes a company’s product great. Ask them—it is what customer evangelism marketing is all about. A great product or service satisfies a need, want, or desire. It is easy to use, easy to find, and easy to purchase. It is of good quality and value, and, in some fashion, makes the customer’s life better and/or solves a problem. However, high quality alone does not guarantee a great product. Sony’s Betamax system and IBM’s OS/2 are two examples of high quality, state-of-the-art products that lost out to their competition, JVC’s VHS system and Microsoft’s Windows, because JVC and Microsoft created not a superior product, but a more carefully crafted marketing program.

Second, companies that practice customer evangelism marketing have an emphasis on their customers that can be described as maniacal. And last, customer evangelismdriven companies understand that business is all about people—and relationships. These company executives look at customers as trusted friends, not as numbers or demographic groups to be targeted with military-like campaigns. McConnell and Huba liken the relationship between company and customer to that between people who are dating. Savvy executives and marketing managers know that people are loyal to people, not to brands and logos.

To begin implementing a customer evangelism marketing program, McConnell and Huba make five recommendations. First, free yourself from the four P’s to re-think promotion as a two-way process—as a dialogue with prospective customers. The key is conversation, not self-promotion. Second, understand that the best advertising is free. Word of mouth promotion from your customer evangelists is free, but it has to be earned. Third, focus on the long-term rather than the short-term. Fulfilling sales quotas and profits are important, but not when they drive companies to take a short-term view of taking care of customers. Next, make certain that your customers love you, and then begin asking if they will open their networks and refer your product or service to others. Finally, believe in your customers. McConnell and Huba report that investing in customers over time will result in higher profits and lower operating costs. Evangelism marketers believe that, without fail, doing the right things for customers will be rewarded tenfold with repeat purchases, and with new customers who purchase because of the recommendation of current customers.

“A common element among our seven case study companies is an unwavering emphasis on an enjoyable experience. A utilitarian experience is not memorable, but an enjoyable and fun experience creates buzz.”

Although the approaches may be different, in researching companies large and small in various industries that successfully practice customer evangelism, McConnell and Huba found six common themes. These companies practice customer plus-delta, “Napsterize” their knowledge, build buzz, create community, make “bite-size” chunks of their products and services, and create a cause.

Regardless of the industry, all of these companies know what their customers are saying about them because they encourage customer feedback. These companies have mastered what McConnell and Huba call “customer plusdelta.” The “plus” indicates an understanding of what the company is doing well, and of what the customers love and evangelize. The “delta” represents the areas that need improvement. These customer-centered organizations tend to use very simple tactics to understand what their customers are thinking and saying without investing large sums in marketing research; in fact, practicing customer plus-delta at various customer touch points may make traditional market research obsolete.

McConnell and Huba’s golden rules of customer plusdelta include genuinely believing that customers have good ideas; gathering customer feedback at every possible opportunity; focusing on continual improvement; actively soliciting good and bad feedback, and not spending large sums of money doing it; seeking real-time feedback; making it easy for customers to provide feedback; using technology to make the process easier; sharing customers’ feedback throughout the organization; using the input to make changes, and communicating these changes back to customers.

The customer plus-delta process is valuable to a company because it builds loyal, and ultimately, more profitable customers. Xerox, for example, learned in the early 1990s that very satisfied customers were six times more likely to repurchase their products than customers who were simply satisfied. Customer feedback will improve, and in fact cannot help but improve, the quality of a company’s products and services. Asking for feedback impresses customers and shows that a company cares. Customers will tell their family members, friends, and colleagues that this is a company that values its customers and their opinions. Customer feedback can also help a company evaluate new concepts and new products before those services and products are officially launched, often saving time and money, and lessening large-scale financial risks. Build-A-Bear Workshop’s CEO, Maxine Clark, reports that customer advice has developed 99 percent of her company’s products.

How does a company execute the customer plusdelta strategy? McConnell and Huba recommend making real customer contacts. Herb Kelleher, the chairman of Southwest Airlines, one of the seven companies profiled in the book, routinely flies on Southwest’s planes as a “pseudo” flight attendant, and sits with customers to find out what they are saying about Southwest. Similarly, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban often sits with fans in the $8 seats, talking with them about their experiences at games.

The Internet has made interacting with customers easy and cost-effective. Search engines allow marketing managers the opportunity to learn what people are saying about the company in newsgroups and on email discussion lists. A company’s Web site can be constructed so that a page encourages customer feedback, and from that page complaints, questions, and inquiries can be answered, with the same page providing an opportunity for customers to post what McConnell and Huba call “love letters” about the company’s products or services. The Web also makes online customer surveys a more viable option than more traditional, and more expensive, research methods such as focus groups. In an October 2001 Wall Street Journal article, Procter & Gamble’s director of consumer research services reported that P&G had discovered that Web-based feedback is five times cheaper and produces data four times faster than a traditional consumer survey.

Companies that focus on creating customer evangelists also exhibit a willingness to share their knowledge with customers, with business partners and vendors, and with the industry in general—what McConnell and Huba call “Napsterizing” your knowledge. Companies that share their intellectual property and business processes with customers—and partners—increase, say the authors, the perceived, and the actual value of their products and services and can open the door to new products and services. The Internet, and other technology which allows information to be shared at previously unimaginable speed, has made possible the Napsterization of a company’s knowledge. Customers today often expect open platforms and try-before-you-buy products and services. These are usually customers who also like to share information and data.

Napster-like models are viewed as good for the marketplace because they prompt industries to reassess their market position, and ultimately, their value to their customers, and Napsterization is seen as having a positive effect because knowledge widens the information portal to customers and allows customers to have a stronger ownership of a company’s product or service, which makes it easier for customers to promote and share information with prospective new customers. Napsterizing a company’s intellectual efforts can help create industry standards and mean wider acceptance of products and services.

Building the buzz, or spreading the word, is how McConnell and Huba describe the third tenet of customer evangelism marketing. Buzz, as defined by Emanuel Rosen in his book The Anatomy of Buzz, is “the aggregate of all person-to-person communication about a particular product, service, or company.” Buzz can help people, i.e. new customers, discover your business faster than traditional marketing programs can. How powerful is buzz? The consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates that at least 67 percent of the U.S. economy is influenced by buzz. Virtually any business or industry is buzzworthy.

Companies can take advantage of the buzz that is going on around them by discovering who the “influencers” are among their customers and by forming relationships with these influencers, or “hubs,” as Rosen calls them. Then, company executives are able to target the hubs with new products and services. Bringing the hubs to events where they can talk with others gives hubs incentive to evangelize a product or service to their network. Apple, for example, holds its twice-yearly event MacWorld so that Mac enthusiasts have the opportunity to renew friendships, talk about their love for the Mac, and interact with CEO Steve Jobs. Buzz-based programs using everyday influencers—customers—can be a substitution, or an addition, to the mass media approach that most public relations and marketing strategists use.

By creating memorable experiences for customers, companies and organizations can create sources of buzz and add to the value of their products. For the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, and his marketing chief, Matt Fitzgerald, their goal is for fans to have a fun and memorable experience, not just attend a basketball game. Buzz, however, is not just for the sports or entertainment industries. Retailing success story Build-A-Bear Workshop creates a memorable experience for its young customers by involving them in the manufacturing process of teddy bears and stuffed animals.

Memes are another tool a company can use to help it build and spread buzz. Memes are self-explanatory concepts that move quickly, like viruses, through groups of people. Examples of memes are, according to the Oxford biologist who coined the term in 1976, tunes, ideas, catch phrases, and even clothing fashions. Successful examples of memes are “Got milk?” “NBC—must see TV,” and “Intel Inside.” Memes allow customer evangelists to tell a company’s story easily.

Organizations that make evangelists of their customers often create “customer communities.” These communities create a sense of belonging, of being a part of something bigger than themselves. For companies, customer communities build loyalty, provide valuable feedback, and lead to increased sales. For customers, the benefits include advice and support, and an opportunity to connect with like-minded people. Building communities, of necessity, will work differently for different industries. What is the same, however, is the interaction between company representatives and customers in such a way as to allow the company to understand its connection with its loyal customers.

Companies use a variety of in-person events and online communities to accomplish this goal. Saturn, a division of General Motors, hosts its annual ultra-successful two-day extravaganza, the Spring Hill Homecoming, at the Spring Hill, Tennessee manufacturing plant, to bring together 60,000 owners and guests every summer. Other community-building strategies include clubs, such as the Nestle-owned Buitoni pasta’s “Casa Buitoni Club,” a community and loyalty program with a database of 200,000 customers; user groups, such as Harley-Davidson’s Harley Owners Group (HOGs), which boasted more than 650,000 members in 1,200 chapters in 2002, allowing Harley owners to share their passion for riding and Harley ownership; online bulletin boards such as the forums Dell and Microsoft provide for their customers; email discussion groups and newsletters; and fan Web sites. O’Reilly & Associates, the technical book publisher which McConnell and Huba profile, publish 35 different newsletters, with special newsletters for librarians, professors, and book retailers.

Devising specialized, smaller offerings—what McConnell and Huba call bite-size chunks—to get customers to “bite,” is the fifth tenet of customer evangelism marketing. Breaking a company’s product or service into bite-size chunks reduces the potential risk for a decision maker who is purchasing from the company for the first time. It shortens the sales cycle, and also helps to eliminate possible inhibitors to the purchase, such as cost or time. A small, specialized offering can get the product into customers’ hands and minds quickly and easily—and it can create buzz by introducing the product to more people who will then, in turn, tell others about it. Finally, it provides goodwill with customers because it provides value without requiring a large-scale purchase.

Consumer packaged goods companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever, have used bite-size chunks, or sampling as it is known in the packaged goods industry, for years. Most people cannot resist the opportunity to try something that is new—and free. The technology industry has also had much success with bite-size chunks. Many consumer software companies allow prospective customers to try a product for a limited time, usually by providing a full-featured version of the software that can be downloaded for a limited number of uses.

The companies McConnell and Huba profile show how bite-size chunks can be used in virtually any business or industry. Krispy Kreme employees offer new customers a free doughnut, or an extra one to the customer waiting in line. SolutionPeople, the creativity consulting firm, offers a daylong session for prospective customers to see what the firm’s complete corporate brainstorming package is like. The Dallas Mavericks’ fans have the opportunity to “try out” season tickets by purchasing five-game and ten-game packs of tickets before upgrading to a full season-ticket status. IBM’s “Test Drive” program allows programmers to test Linux applications online without having to buy IBM hardware.

Customer evangelism begins with a great product or service that has come from a visionary leader who has recognized a need. The product or service becomes the object of an almost cult-like customer following (witness the Macintosh phenomenon Apple created) that supports the product. As the customer following grows, supported by the company, it begins to organize itself around a cause. Steve Jobs’ vision was to bring computers to people, to unleash productivity and creativity, and as the authors tell us, when something helps people become better people, people support it and a cause is born.

Emotional attachment to a product or service is one of the keys to creating customer evangelists. McConnell and Huba identify two simple ways to build emotional attachment: adopt an existing charitable cause (often called cause-related marketing), or sell dreams instead of products, following the Apple example.

American Express led the way in the adoption of charitable causes with its campaign to support refurbishment of the Statue of Liberty in 1983. While raising $1.7 million for restoration work, American Express Card usage rose by 28 percent during the campaign’s first month and new card applications increased by 45 percent. Subsequent research published in the Cone/Roper Cause Related Trends Report found that Americans consistently support cause-related programs, with 80 percent of Americans preferring companies that commit to a specific cause for a long period rather than those that choose multiple, short-period causes. Other successful companies that espouse causes of nationwide interest include Ben and Jerry’s support of environmental problems; The Body Shop’s involvement with environmental and human rights concerns; Wal-Mart’s participation in children’s charities, education, and community-based issues; and Avon’s wellknown association with women’s health issues, particularly breast cancer awareness.

Some companies sell a dream—something bigger than themselves. They show customers that they exist for more than annual profits; they evangelize how they help customers live better lives. Selling a dream is not, however, a product of the marketing department. To succeed, for customers to experience its genuineness, it must be an embodiment of the principles and values of the organization’s leaders and employees. Among companies that sell dreams are the often-mentioned Apple; Southwest Airlines’ promotion of “freedom” to connect easily and frequently with loved ones; Starbucks, whose coffee shops provide meeting places for neighborhoods and communities; and the Dallas Mavericks, who create emotional memories for fans in the city of Dallas.


To demonstrate the six tenets of customer evangelism in action, McConnell and Huba profile seven organizations from varying industries: Krispy Kreme, SolutionPeople, O’Reilly & Associates, the Dallas Mavericks, Build-ABear Workshop, Southwest Airlines, and IBM. Although all seven practice the tenets of customer evangelism in greater or lesser degrees, depending upon the nature of their industries and the demographics of their customer base, most companies stand out in one or two particular areas of evangelism.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme expertly builds the buzz, according to McConnell and Huba. The company offers a hot product—hot literally and figuratively—that generates tremendous word-of-mouth advertising. Doughnuts are emotionally satisfying treats; when customers have a good doughnut, they tell others so that they can have the same experience.

The company has mastered the art of strong, creative PR efforts for the opening of new stores. Openings become media bonanzas that draw large crowds, and company executives routinely make themselves available during openings to capitalize on community interest in the store and the product. In addition to memorable store openings, the Krispy Kreme mobile doughnut machine, which debuted in 2002, takes the Krispy Kreme experience on the road to places where stores are not yet open. The company cultivates customer goodwill, exploits buzz opportunities, builds friendly, “down-home” relationships with the media, and has a go-slow growth plan that is obviously working—each Krispy Kreme location typically rings up $2.5 million each year in sales.

Gerald Haman, founder and president of Chicago’s SolutionPeople, a 14-year-old creativity, innovation, training, and consulting firm, created a marketing methodology to investigate what companies need, and then to create tools and ideas to meet those needs. He creates customer evangelists by “Napsterizing” his knowledge. Haman developed a unique and helpful tool—the KnowBrainer, a product that looks like a deck of cards with a binding that contains thought-provoking questions to motivate users to think more creatively about their problems—that is a handheld encapsulation of his methodology. It creates a lot of buzz, and he creates an enjoyable, interactive experience for customers to help them conduct more successful brainstorming sessions in their own companies. Haman, who is a grassroots “networker” with the media and with the business community, offers prospective clients a one-day seminar at his Chicago studio (the Thinkubator) to test out for several hundred dollars what his Fortune 500 clients pay up to $100,000 to experience over several days.

Like Haman, Tim O’Reilly, founder and president of technical publisher O’Reilly & Associates, is a strong proponent of “Napsterizing” his company’s knowledge, and in the process, he not only creates a community of loyal fans, he has also created a cause centered around openstandards software, thus encouraging the development of the open source movement. O’Reilly has largely built his marketing strategy around technology advocacy issues—to the admiration and devotion of loyal customers—which has positioned him as an industry leader. The company’s Web site offers a wealth of information—free—and the Safari Tech Books online project brings together many technical book publishers to put books online as a subscription service, resulting in huge amounts of information being available outside the company’s core products. The fount of O’Reilly knowledge is available not only online, but also in the annual conferences that bring customers together and provide a forum for the company to understand issues important to its customers. “Ideas grow in value as you spread them,” O’Reilly says.

McConnell and Huba describe Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban as a rebel with a cause, out to make life better for Mavericks fans. He’s accomplishing this goal largely by creating community. The Mavericks are now a success both on the court and in the back office, largely through the efforts of the colorful Cuban, who in his unceasing drive to please fans, often converts missteps into marketing bonuses. How many other professional sports owners flash their email addresses on the scoreboard to solicit fan input? He connects with his customers by being accessible, by focusing on the customer experience, and by offering incentives and opportunities for joining his cause. The Mavericks’ marketing strategy is responsive and flexible; customer feedback delivered from the top down, rather than from the bottom up, results in a more responsive organization.

At a time when traditional retailing has been faltering, Build-A-Bear Workshop is thriving. The company’s founder, Maxine Clark, a retail veteran, knows what is missing: theater, emotion, and connection, all of which Build-A-Bear capitalize on in creating customer evangelists for the stuffed animal retailer which now grosses over $100 million in revenues four years after its founding. The experience that young customers have of “building a bear” in the company’s stores is part of the sale, and creates a memorable experience which, in turn, builds buzz. The company continually solicits customer feedback and aligns it with employees’ compensation, a strategy that keeps the store responsive to customers and results in repeat memorable experiences. Clark understands that before you have customer evangelists, you must have employee evangelists. Build-A-Bear also adds in-store events and new products based on customers’ input.

Like Build-A-Bear in the retailing world, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines remains a strong, profitable airline at a time when virtually every other company in the industry is facing serious financial problems. Southwest remains aloft because of the dedication of its customer evangelists, evangelists created through unfailing response to customer feedback, an ability to build the buzz, and its creation of a Southwest community. The company’s somewhat maverick corporate culture is fueled by its employees who are encouraged to show their personality and whose flight attendants, in particular, are known for a wacky sense of humor, which generates tremendous buzz. Back-office managers are encouraged to work frontline jobs occasionally to hear directly from customers. A fun work environment translates into a fun environment for customers, company officials believe. And, the company does not neglect to pay special attention to the airline’s best customers and to treat them well outside of the terminal.

IBM, considered by many an unlikely organization to espouse customer evangelism, has good reason to do so. The company has invested $1 billion into making the Linux operating system a part of its core strategy, and is investing in Linux development centers around the world, training sales, marketing, and professional services experts to evangelize Linux to customers and developers. Like O’Reilly & Associates, IBM is embracing a cause—open source software—as much as a technology, and what’s more, it is making large portions of its intellectual property widely available to customers and developers. The technology giant, according to McConnell and Huba, is trying to avoid the trap many technology companies have fallen into, that of thinking that they know what is best for the customer and that technology customers don’t know what to ask for if it hasn’t been invented yet.

* * *
Endnotes by chapter, references, and a subject index are provided.

Although the six tenets that McConnell and Huba discuss undergird the concept of customer evangelism as a marketing strategy, the case studies show that there are other contributing factors in a company’s ability to develop, or embrace, evangelism.

It must all begin at the top with the company’s CEO, founder, or president. A number of the case study companies have a CEO who is, if not flamboyant and colorful, at least media-worthy, outspoken, and willing to challenge the industry status quo. Evangelism is a top-down strategy; it requires employees who are committed to the company and its vision. The CEO, no matter how great his vision, cannot accomplish it alone. He/she must have employees to help carry it out; this, then, implies a management philosophy that can successfully recruit and retain employees for the long term.

In challenging the industry status quo, the CEO must have a commitment to a cause or a movement that has popular support among the vast majority of consumers and an investment in long-term relationships—with employees and customers—as opposed to a philosophy that focuses on short-term profits. Companies driven by customer evangelism marketing look askance at Wall Street, and have a non-traditional business philosophy that sees business as interactive and in many cases (depending upon industry), even theatrical that is built upon the emotional or intellectual bond customers have with a company’s product or service.

Although much emphasis is placed on the changing roles of marketing and advertising, it is important to note that McConnell and Huba don’t eschew marketing or advertising as an organized corporate function; rather, they advocate incorporating customer evangelism into the marketing mix, which will result not only in smaller sums of money that have to be devoted to the more traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail and focus groups, but also an increase in the volume of customers—and ultimately revenue—because of the powerful influence of customer evangelists working on the company’s behalf.

It may be difficult for an analytical person to accept the tenets—the faith—that drives customer evangelism. Customer evangelism marketing may seem idealistic and even vague, without ready at hand calculations of return on investment. However, the practice of evangelism in American business is not new, and may be traced to Guy Kawasaki and Apple Computer in the 1980s. Apple sold the dream of increasing people’s productivity and creativity using personal computers. Kawasaki created—and sold— an image of a company that wanted to change the world. The company created, unintentionally at the time, customer evangelists.

Reading Suggestions
Reading time: 6-7 hours, 196 pages in book

There are three ways you can approach this book. First, you can read the entire book, which is written in a fastpaced, engaging, and readable style that makes liberal use of bulleted and numbered text to highlight key ideas.

Second, you can read the first eight chapters, which make up a little less than half of the book. Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of McConnell and Huba’s basic ideas, and develop the concept of customer evangelism. Chapters 3 through 8 take each of the six tenets of customer evangelism and discuss them in detail.

Third, you can read chapters 1 through 8 and then select from the table of contents the remaining chapter(s) that are most applicable to your industry as chapters 9 through 15 offer seven case studies of highly successful companies that practice customer evangelism. For example, if your business is retail or is product-oriented, you might read chapters 9 (Krispy Kreme Doughnuts), 13 (Build-A-Bear Workshop), and 14 (Southwest Airlines), or any one of these, in addition to chapters 2 through 8. At the end of each case study chapter, an evangelism scorecard is presented which offers a quick, at-a-glance summary of how the company demonstrates the six tenets of evangelism.

The authors do not introduce new concepts in chapters 9 through 15; rather the case studies provide slightly more in-depth illustration of the six tenets of evangelism marketing strategy. In actuality, a number of the strategies discussed in the corporate case studies have either already been referred to, or, in some cases, already discussed in chapters 3 through 8. Chapter 16 contains a final recapitulation in bullet-point/check-list format of the six tenets for readers who are considering implementing customer evangelism as a marketing strategy.

The four appendices following chapter 16 offer ways you can create evangelists for your company and ways to measure the success of evangelism marketing.

Chapter 1: Customer Evangelism: A Manifesto
Chapter 2: When Customers Believe
Chapter 3: Customer Plus-Delta: Understanding the Love
Chapter 4: Napsterize Your Knowledge: Give to Receive
Chapter 5: Build the Buzz: Spreading the Word
Chapter 6: Create Community: Bringing Customers Together
Chapter 7: Bite-Size Chunks: From Sampling to Evangelism
Chapter 8: Create a Cause: When Business Is Good
Chapter 9: Hot Marketing Now: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Chapter 10: The High-Flying Solutionman: SolutionPeople
Chapter 11: The History Lessons of O’Reilly’s Wars: O’Reilly & Associates
Chapter 12: The New Mavericks of Marketing: The Dallas Mavericks
Chapter 13: A Bear Market for Retailing: Build-A-Bear Workshop
Chapter 14: A Cause, Not Just an Airline: Southwest Airlines
Chapter 15: The Billion-Dollar Cause: IBM
Chapter 16: Customer Evangelism Workshop Followed by four appendices


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