Sales funnels are the most important part of your business. Get an early glimpse into how they can help your business by reading this early draft excerpted from my Sales Funnel Bible book.
In a previous chapter, you read about the importance of extending your sales funnel. It’s a way to earn more money from the same customers – thus increasing revenue while lowering your cost-per-sale. You also read several different ways to develop products that can help you sell more.
There’s another way to improve your sales funnel performance and that is with evangelists. The word evangelist comes from the Greek and it means “a messenger of good news”. It’s a word used by religious communities to describe people who spread a religious message. But the principle is the same in business: An evangelist is someone who shares the good news of your business – who helps to promote your business through positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing is well-known to be one of the best marketing methods because it accelerates people through your sales funnel – they either move through each stage faster or they skip steps. In a way, your evangelists put people into your funnel who are more likely going to buy from you, and to buy from you sooner.
So developing evangelists helps to put more people through your sales funnel, faster, and more profitably.
Unfortunately, many businesses have evangelists already (anyone who talks positively about your business is an evangelist) but only a few businesses are intentional about developing and managing their evangelists. Smart businesses who want to grow their sales funnel – and their profitability – will implement an evangelist-generation program.
The best time to find evangelists that you can develop is from among your customers – the people who have resolved their problem or need with your solution. These people understand first hand exactly what you offer and how you benefit them, and they should be harnessed through an evangelist program to help promote your business.
I’d like to clarify my last paragraph: I think the best people to become evangelists are your customers. However, you might get other people acting as evangelists as well. For example, you might have people in your sales funnel who have not yet bought from you who still recommend you to others. Or, you might have family, friends, employees, colleagues, etc., who are also evangelists for your business. These are all good groups of people to evangelize for you and I recommend you help them become evangelists if they want to be. But in my opinion, the very best people to be your evangelists are your customers – they are living, breathing testimonials to the success of your solution – and you should create a program first and foremost to help them become evangelists. Once this program is up and running, you may choose to implement other evangelist programs in your sales funnel but that should not be your primary aim.
To implement an evangelist program in your business, you need to educate your customers about the importance of evangelizing, and then you need to empower them. These are two different but essential components and both need to be in place for a successful program.
Education: To educate your customers to become evangelists, you need to help them understand the importance of evangelizing. Most businesses take the business-centered approach to evangelism and say “I’d really appreciate it if you could refer my business to your family and friends.” There’s nothing wrong with this approach but a more effective approach that actually connects with customers is to help them understand that other people they know are facing the same challenges they are, and they can help those other people by sharing the discover that they’ve made. We all love being the person who recommended the great store or movie or restaurant, and we feel a sense of pride when our friends found the same solution to their problem or need that we’ve also found. So pass that along to your customers. Remind them that they know other people who share their challenges and they can help those people resolve those challenges.
Another aspect of education is to highlight who and when the evangelist might share the message with.
- Who: “Family and friends” is a convenient and popular phrase for businesses who are trying to encourage evangelism but that group of people might not be the target market. It’s better to look at the target market and figure out who else your customer knows in that target market and what the relationship might be – friends, colleagues, peers. But the more specific you can be, the better: “Colleagues at work” or “other parents at your kid’s soccer league”.
- When: This is an area where businesses fall short because they don’t help their customers understand when to share. Many businesses just leave it up to their customers to share whenever the mood strikes, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers rarely share about the people they’ve bought from. Creating the “when” helps to plant in your customers’ minds when they can share about your business. No customer is going to blurt out to their friends, “hey, you should go talk to my financial advisor”. But if one of their friends says, “I’m getting terrible returns from my financial advisor,” then that’s a good time for your customer to become an evangelist for your financial advisory business. So implant that suggestion in their minds by saying something like, “you’ve enjoyed good returns from my financial advice even though the market has struggled. So the next time your friends are complaining about the returns they’re getting, would you give them my name?” That’s the “when”.
Empowerment: Along with education, you need to empower your customers to become evangelists. Customers are more likely going to evangelize if they are empowered to do so. Empowerment comes in several forms:
- Give your customer the words and phrases they might want to use when they meet someone with a problem that you solve.
- Give your customer your business cards or coupons to hand out.
- Create “sharable” content – reports, infographics, or a bare-bones version of your product that your customer can give out to others.
- Incentivize your customer by offering them some kind of kick-back if their referrals buy from you. (There might be laws in your industry that govern the use of incentives so be sure to check those laws and comply with them).
- Hold exclusive, invitation-only events and give your customers three invitations – one for them and two for friends.
An evangelism program should be a key part of your sales funnel. Start with your previous customers and educate and empower them to share the good message of your business with people who you can help.
This chapter is excerpted from an early draft of my book. Comments and constructive criticisms are welcome. Please be aware that the chapter content and chapter order may change by publication.