US News and World Reports has an article on its Web site about "customer evangelists."
With corporate evangelism, the goal is to
find and identify those customers who are already crazy about your
product or service–who are actively talking it up in blogs or Web
forums, for instance–and turning them with loads of personal attention
into "customer evangelists" who then spread the word to others, who
then–well, you get the idea.
For the past six months or so, I’ve been reading a blog about customer evangelism called Church of The Customer. This is something we should incorporate into our CRM philosophy. As the CRM manager for the HP division, I’m going to be encouraging people to take a look at this and see how we can do it. We already know we have evangelists out there, our next step is to determine how we cultivate those relationships.
Customer Evangelism does set some "mainstream" paradigms on their heads. For example, further down in the article it says:
Forget about the critics. Look how many companies seem befuddled about
how to deal with pro-company bloggers like McChronicles, a blog devoted
to one McDonald’s fanatic’s take on the Golden Arches. It’s written by
a guy in the Northeast–he didn’t want his name used in this story–who
visits McDonald’s here and abroad, reviewing the restaurants for
service, food quality, and cleanliness. Sometimes the reviews are
critical, but often they’re positive. And even the negative ones are
written with a constructive attitude. It’s clear that McDonald’s holds
a special place in his heart and stomach. "I was poor as a kid and
never went to McDonald’s until my teens, but I always thought of it as
a happy place where you have wonderful experiences," he says. This is a
guy who admits there was a point in his life when he ate pretty much
nothing but fast food from Mickey D’s, yet he claims never to have
gained a pound. What a powerful, personal counterpoint he would make to
Super Size Me filmmaker and McDonald’s
critic Morgan Spurlock. And although McDonald’s employees have visited
the site, the company has never directly contacted the McChronicles
man. This sort of nonreaction doesn’t surprise Phipps. "Many companies
are still stuck in the ‘pre-participation’ world," he says. "It is a
world where a company did careful construction of your messaging and
then got out their marketing death ray to beam that message into the
community. The thought of a space where they don’t control the message
is terrifying." McDonald’s spokesperson Anna Rozenich wouldn’t comment
on McChronicles, but she called blogs a "valuable communications tool,"
adding that "we appreciate that customers who relate to our brand are
sharing their thoughts about McDonald’s with others."
On the other hand, there are companies like Vespa Scooters:
Motor-scooter company Vespa recently brought in two fans as unpaid
bloggers on its website. "Vespa has incredible fans, and we thought the
best approach was to let the customers tell their stories online," says
"micropersuasion" strategist Steve Rubel,
Some of us were in a meeting in late summer where we discussed several bloggers who were Relay evangelists. I now believe we ought to have a coherent strategy to build relationships with them.