Evangelism -- How the Role Can Benefit Your Business


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My 3rd Social 101 session from Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC13) (www.digitalwpc.com) in Houston, TX. This session focused on the role of the technology evangelist, and how organizations can benefit from adopting the role.

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Evangelism -- How the Role Can Benefit Your Business

  1. 1. Evangelism: How the Role Can Benefit Your Business Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference July 2013 – Houston, Texas Social 101 Sessions Christian Buckley Director, Product Evangelism (@buckleyplanet)
  2. 2. Many Definitions Evangelism is an increasingly common role within the Information Technology sector as companies look for creative ways to build out customer and partner advocacy, and to quickly respond to customer feedback and industry changes. Depending on the company, or on the capability of the individual, the role of Evangelist may take many different forms. Within Microsoft, evangelism is managed largely within engineering, with most evangelists coming from a deep technical background, often with consulting, support, or sales engineering experience. Evangelism is an interdisciplinary function, often tasked with “filling the gaps” of other, more traditional business administration, marketing, and engineering teams. Organizations looking to leverage this function should be clear on what they want to achieve with the role: hiring a deeply technical evangelist may not be a fit for a company looking for help in building out their partner channel, for example. Even if you plan to have your evangelist wear several different hats, its best to begin with roles and ownership clearly defined so that your Evangelist can add the most value to the other teams.
  3. 3. Where to Focus Many evangelists have focused roles where they own product or service advocacy for a specific product category and/or a defined market segment (for example, all CRM products for the small-to-medium business segment). Occasionally, however, you run into evangelists with much broader responsibilities, with opportunistic commitments. That is to say, they have general commitments, but may focus intently on different business problems as they arise, shifting focus as the business grows. That’s a great definition of my current experience with Axceler (www.axceler.com), a SharePoint ISV and Microsoft Gold partner. While I have very detailed commitments, my priorities may shift from partner activities to customer enablement based on what the business needs. One month I am defining a process or creating mock-ups for a customer solution, and the next I am focused more on content and product messaging.
  4. 4. At a high-level, my own role is almost evenly divided between community, product, and partner activities. At a more granular level, however, the activities of most evangelists can be broken down into five main categories: 1. Community Development The most obvious aspect of the evangelism role is involvement with your industry, helping raise your company’s visibility by helping build and support the community. This involves both online and offline activity, answering questions, providing feedback, and developing good will. Successful evangelists are not product “pitchmen,” but instead act in the best interests of the community, and thereby become trusted experts. As visibility and trust grows for your evangelist, your company will find more and more opportunities to talk to prospective customers and partners.
  5. 5. 2. Thought-Leadership This category overlaps the others, but is important to call out as a separate activity within the evangelism role. For most evangelists, thought-leadership is demonstrated through content creation, and may be tied closely to your overall content marketing strategy. But similar to community involvement, the goal is not to be self-serving, but to demonstrate leadership and answer real-world customer questions and provide ideas and commentary around industry issues. If done correctly, the focus of your evangelist’s content will naturally lead customer toward your company’s products and services. For example, as a SharePoint ISV, I will often write content on a broad range of social collaboration topics, and identify gaps in out-of-the- box solutions – which is a natural segue into discussions around how my company can solve these gaps. Because your content is focused on the broader industry problems, you will once again develop good will and trust with prospective customers and partners, opening the doors to future opportunities.
  6. 6. 3. Product Management In many organizations, the evangelist is often on the road, attending industry events and user groups, talking to customers, partners, and Microsoft to learn about the changing trends, and to talk about what is working and what is not within your products and services. These interactions can provide an excellent perspective on where those products and services should go. Many evangelists prepare mock-ups (wireframes), products requirement documents (PRDs), or even write some basic code to flesh out ideas and help your product and engineering teams to more fully envision where the company should go based on the information they receive from the field. The evangelist spends much of her time trying to understand the competitive landscape, so these product and service inputs can be invaluable.
  7. 7. 4. Partner Development Another important role of the evangelist is deciphering what other players within the industry do, and figuring out how, together, both companies might reach their individual goals more quickly. At most conferences, I always make time to walk the exhibit halls and talk to every vendor to determine whether there are any new partnership opportunities. When I come across a new product or service vendor that I believe may provide a unique value proposition, I then make introductions to either my partner team or product team, as appropriate, outlining how I think the two companies should work together, and then monitor the relationship over time to see how I might help the relationship to be successful. Often, this involves the creation of joint marketing activities for lead- generation, providing thought- leadership for both companies.
  8. 8. 5. Customer Enablement Finally, a critical part of the evangelism role is ensuring that customers who have paid for your products or services have the educational, tools, and resources necessary to be successful. You may have formal training, support, or consulting services who own these activities, but your evangelist may become involved if the customer relationship requires additional good will and support. Your evangelist is your “resident expert” and can leverage that community good will and thought-leadership to help your customers answer any questions they might have about industry “norms” and best practices.
  9. 9. Where to Begin Truth be told, there are people within your organization who provide some level of evangelism each day – and it may not make sense for you to hire (or promote) someone into a dedicated role. But many organizations (including Microsoft) have realized huge benefits from having dedicated evangelism roles. As you begin to outline your evangelist role, be clear on what you hope to achieve. My opinion is that the most successful evangelists have a great degree of autonomy within the organization, which allows them to evolve and change with the needs of the business, and work across many organizations, as needed. My advice is to begin the process by talking to several evangelists. Identify partners who may have people within the role, and take some time to learn about their roles, and ask for copies of their job descriptions or commitments. Take the time to fine tune the role to fit your own cultural nuances , and you’ll find that the role will very quickly begin to deliver benefits to many areas of your business.
  10. 10. Christian Buckley cbuck@axceler.com @buckleyplanet www.Axceler.com presentations blog book governance4hybrid