The Art of Evangelism
Out of curiosity, I went to SimplyHired, a vertical search engine for jobs, and looked for openings containing the keyword “evangelist.” Amazingly, there were 611 matches--and none were for churches. It seems that “evangelist” is now a secular, mainstream job title. Indeed, the first eight matches were for evangelist jobs at Microsoft--go figure.
As people hit the streets with this title, they need a foundation of the fundamental principles of evangelism. Fulfilling this need is the purpose of today's blog.
- Create a cause. As the previous blog called “Guy's Golden Touch” explained, the starting point of evangelism is having a great thing to evangelize. A cause seizes the moral high ground. It is a product or service that improves the lives of people, ends bad things, or perpetuates good things. It is not simply an exchange of things/services for money.
- Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn't simply a job title. It's a way of life. It means that the evangelist totally loves the product and sees it as a way to bring the “good news.” A love of the cause is the second most important determinant of the success of an evangelist--second only to the quality of the cause itself. No matter how great the person, if he doesn't love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it.
- Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. A good evangelist can usually tell if people understand and like a product in five minutes. If they don't, cut your losses and avoid them. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion (ie, product) when he believes in another god (ie, another product). It's much easier to convert a person who has no proof about the goodness or badness of the evangelist's product.
- Localize the pain. No matter how revolutionary your product, don't describe it using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” and “curve jumping.” Macintosh wasn't positioned as the third paradigm in personal computing; instead, it increased the productivity and creativity of one person with one computer. People don't buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives.
- Let people test drive the cause. Essentially, say to people, “We think you are smart. Therefore, we aren't going to bludgeon you into becoming our customer. Try our product, take it home, download it, and then decide if it's right for you.” A test drive is much more powerful than an ad.
- Learn to give a demo. An “evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. A person simply cannot be an evangelist if she cannot demo the product. If a person cannot give a demo that quickens the pulse of everyone in the audience, he should stay in sales or in marketing.
- Provide a safe first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope. There shouldn't be large barriers like revamping the entire IT infrastructure. For example, the safe first step to recruit an evangelist for the environment is not requiring that she chain herself to a tree; it's to ask her to start recycling and taking shorter showers.
- Ignore pedigrees. Good evangelists aren't proud. They don't focus on the people with big titles and big reputations. Frankly, they'll meet with, and help, anyone who “gets it” and is willing to help them. This is much more likely to be the database administrator or secretary than the CIO.
- Never tell a lie. Very simply, lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because if one lies, then it is necessary to keep track of the lies. If one always tells the truth, then there's nothing to keep track of. Evangelists know their stuff, so they never have to tell a lie to cover their ignorance.
- Remember your friends. Be nice to the people on the way up because one is likely to see them again on the way down. Once an evangelist has achieved success, he shouldn't think that he'll never need those folks again. One of the most likely people to buy a Macintosh was an Apple II owner. One of the most likely people to buy an iPod was a Macintosh owner. One of the most likely people to buy whatever Apple puts out next is an iPod owner. And so it goes.
Live long and kick butt.
Written at: Marriott Hotel, San Francisco, California