How to be a Product Evangelist

Evangelists simply want to make the world a better place.  Their goal in life is to share what they think is good with as many people who can benefit from it.

They are not interested in selling.  They are not interested in marketing.  They only have one goal – to bring people who need something together with the best answer they’ve found for their problem.

Evangelists are empathetic.  They are more in tune with their audience than they are with the developers of the product.  This is good for not only the audience, but also the company.  Employees of a company can tend to be tone-deaf to the interests of their audience.  No amount of sales data and marketing analytics (even social media coverage) can replace the level of trust and intimacy that an evangelist has with his or her audience.  That trust and intimacy is where you find the real story. 

You have to believe in what you’re evangelizing.  It’s called evangelism for a reason. 

Evangelism is not sales.  Would you call a church pastor a salesperson for God?  They are evangelizing a dogmatic message or religion.  Sales is part of evangelism, and the two are somewhat related, but the fundamental difference is evangelists share their message because they believe it will benefit their audience, not because they have a commission plan. 

Sales is converting a non-customer into a paying customer.  Evangelism is converting someone unfamiliar with the product/technology into someone who can’t stop telling others about the benefits of the product/technology. 

As a product evangelist you are sharing a passion for a product or technology that you know would improve the lives of the unconverted. 

It’s not marketing either.  An evangelist works with the marketing team, but again a pastor isn’t God’s marketing department. 

Marketing is getting someone unfamiliar with a product/technology to acknowledge it exists and want to know more.  Evangelism is getting someone unfamiliar with a product/technology to realize they can’t live without this product/technology. 

I think of evangelism as making a personal connection between two people around a philosophy.  A religion can be a philosophy.  So can a product.

I believe the best product evangelists ever are

  1. Steve Jobs
  2. Guy Kawasaki

Guy is credited by some as being the ‘father’ of evangelist marketing.  Regardless of whether he is the father or not, he’s definitely a few orders of magnitude more well-known than any other evangelist out there.   

And there are some good product evangelists.  Microsoft seems to have really adopted the technology evangelism concept, and in fact are really leading the effort to standardize the role. 

I worked in operations, sales engineering, sales, business development.  I started a company that did a lot of product development and product launches.   I didn’t realize then that I was an evangelist all along.  As soon as I stopped believing in what I was doing or selling, I became bored and frustrated, and usually left soon thereafter.

I love product management and product development. I love watching an idea become a reality.  But the thing I love the most is watching a customer ‘get’ the product I’ve just shown them, and realize that I’ve just converted a disciple. 

I tend to advocate for the customer more than the company with whom I’m working. Sales and marketing folks drink the company Kool-Aid.  Evangelists pass the Kool-Aid out to people who trust them and then drink first.

Really good evangelists should not have to change their message and audience even if they move to a competitor.  In fact, if they see that a competitor is being more responsive to the target audience’s needs, you shouldn’t be surprised when they jump ship. 

Many people in companies are evangelists.  This is a skill set that hasn’t really been recognized officially in the business world until recently.  Everyone knows the Steve Jobs / Guy Kawasaki stories at Apple.  Think about it – they were product evangelists 30 years ago.  Only recently have product evangelist positions started showing up on job boards – and most of them are in the tech corridor on the west coast.

  • Create, maintain and curate an outstanding blog
  • Be an expert in the product, technology and industry
  • Responsible for content marketing strategy
  • Be recognized and respected within the industry

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