The ultimate form of advertising is “word of mouth” advertising where people tell their friends, families, and co-workers about a product. On the Internet that can also be called going viral.
What makes word of mouth so powerful is that for every one person that you convince to try your product you might get an additional five or ten customers. That hinges on the person liking your product enough that they become a fan and then put their reputation on the line by recommending it to others. The people that do this are called “brand evangelists” and you want to go out of your way to make them happy.
Brand evangelists can be any of your regular customers (so make customer service a priority and treat them all well) or they can be people you identify and reach out to. These might be people with large social media followings or that have blogs that cover your industry. Some companies even hire high school and college students to be their brand ambassadors on campus!
To engage a brand evangelists, you need to contact them and introduce yourself. Let them know your story and what makes your product unique. Offer them a free product if they agree to review your product on their website or mention it on Twitter or Facebook. This will cost you a little bit of money up front but will get you a lot of exposure that you otherwise would not have.
Another way to get someone to endorse your product and share it with others is through “affiliate sales”. This is where you pay them a percentage of each sale that they generate for you. For example, you might sell $50 designer t-shirts and offer fashion bloggers a 15% affiliate commission. You give them each of them a unique link (there are services for this) that they share with their readers. Each sale that comes through that link is attributed to the correct blogger. So, if Blogger A is responsible for people buying t-shirts then you get $500 in revenue but must give $75 of that to Blogger A.
Another way that brand evangelists can be helpful, and this applies to any of your customers, is to ask them for “testimonials” where they say something nice about your product and you use that quote and their name (and their picture if you can) on your website. Those testimonials on your website are called “social proof”. This is important as people are more likely to buy something if they see that others have already bought it and like it.
Create a spreadsheet of popular bloggers in your industry, people who post about your industry on social media and have a lot of followers, and even people that you know personally that might love your product. Write to each of them now and introduce yourself and ask if there is anything you can do for them. (Provide value first and then ask for something second.) Then as you get closer to your launch write to each of them and ask them if they share your launch with their readers/followers/friends.