Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Matt Carter.
Evangelism is an incredibly powerful way to win the “hearts and minds” of technical audiences.
Great content, reusable content and demos, telling the story of what’s possible from credible and empathetic “rock stars” are hallmarks of great evangelism. While companies like Microsoft and Salesforce deeply understand the benefits of evangelism in their DNA, many organizations remain skeptical of the ROI of evangelism activities because of the disconnect between hearts and minds and pocketbooks.
I’ve seen many evangelism programs that operate in isolation of the sales and marketing functions in the name of “purity”. Every evangelism leader can relate to the moment where the question of “how does this make money?” requires yet another justification of the investment.
Enter Account Based Marketing. If you aren’t familiar with ABM, at its core it is an approach that connects engagement with prospective and existing customers in a coordinated fashion across all members of a buying team.
A typical purchasing team can consist of someone from the business team (who makes the final decision and approves budget), the IT team (who need to validate the need and integration of a technology decision with existing investments) and a development organization (who need to build apps and solutions that deliver on the promise of the platform.)
Pre-ABM, the sales team would be engaging with the business decision maker directly and independently, and the prospective customer would bring in team members to evaluate the purchase and make the final decision.
With ABM sales and marketing teams focus on engaging across organizations in a connected way, and using the signals from the content consumption to prioritize and guide sales and marketing engagement with the organization. (Forbes has a good overview of ABM on their site.)
Evangelism fits perfectly in an ABM environment: evangelism activities (online and in-person) create the awareness and engagement necessary to fuel ABM at the practitioner strata of the influencer model.
Here are some tips evangelism leaders can use to best connect evangelism and ABM activities:
- Create an editorial calendar across Sales, Marketing and Evangelism. Evangelists need some latitude to tell their story through their personal expertise and interests, but broad themes should be established and adhered to across the three organizations. Use product releases and events to create a rhythm of topics here to enable coordination that ultimately supports the product lifecycle.
- Always have a “next step” for customers and harness the signals. Too many evangelism engagements lack a “next step”, or neglect to have a follow-on call to action that creates “signals” for marketing automation. Evangelists should always have a call to action where audience members can move from the day’s topic for further exploration. If you’re speaking at a user group, don’t give away t-shirts to the audience in the room but work with marketing to create a form for people to sign up to get swag. Create a demo video. Have a newsletter sign up. And partner with marketing to have them build it in a way where the audience can be nurtured based on their interests.
- Have unique evangelism engagements for new and existing customers. Sales teams sell to new customers based on the promise of what’s possible, and then focus on renewals and deal expansion for existing orgs. Map your evangelism activities to the different needs of these two customer scenarios. Tell the story of pain relief and magic in a way that primes the pump for follow up from sales. And make sure you reach out to existing customers with best practices, new or advanced use cases, and demos that highlight new or improved capabilities of their solution. Thinking of different conversations for new and renewing customers increases the value of the engagement to ABM processes.
- Use the right metrics to show return. Evangelism monetization should always be an indirect measure. If you try to directly monetize `evangelism engagements you will fail, quantitatively (the right audience for an evangelist generally doesn’t have purchase authority) and qualitatively (you will piss them off and erode the credibility of your evangelist). I recommend expanding traditional metrics of reach and net promoter scores to track the influence of customers whose ABM engagement includes evangelism activities.
Work with your marketing ops team to look at customers who engaged with evangelism in a sales cycle vs. those who didn’t. Compare average deal sizes, time to close, and renewal percentages of the two groups and track the influence of evangelism on the process. Look for positive correlations between evangelism and sales metrics, and use this data to tell a great story about your team’s impact, or to create new efforts that improve the impact of evangelism on the bottom line.
Account-based marketing succeeds when all members of a product influence committee are engaged with relevant content delivered through the right channels. Connecting evangelism activities to your ABM program not only will make your sales team more successful, but quantify your impact on the bottom line without having to unnaturally attach monetization to your team’s efforts.
Here are some additional resources to help you plan your connected ABM/Evangelism strategy:
- A great set of 11 ABM process tactics
- An ABM Guide for Marketo users
- A real-world case study of ABM using Hubspot
- 10 tips for successful product evangelism from Silicon Valley Product Group
For 20 years Matt Carter has created end-to-end marketing and evangelism programs for companies and products in the developer and IT space, including Microsoft, Hortonworks, Shippable and TDWI. Matt is based in Seattle, WA, where he enjoys playing tennis and honing his BBQ skills. Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his LinkedIn profile.