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Harnessing the Power of the Tech Evangelist

September 17, 2014 - Tech Evangelism - ,
By: Chris Riley

A hushed and expectant crowd packs a dimly-lit auditorium. Everyone is waiting for the moment to happen. Then it does: from the side he strides onto the stage, tall and thin in his jeans and black turtleneck, and the crowd goes wild. Apple media events were an opportunity to see the Next Big Thing, but in a lot of ways, they were really opportunities to connect with the man who had become the face of the technology. Iconic tech evangelism.

 

A New Type of Marketing

 

The value Steve Jobs as a personal brand brought to Apple is undeniable. And while not every company will have a Steve Jobs, in order to build the trust and authority products need these days, someone with passion, and a recognizable personal brand, must fill this role. In short, you need a “tech evangelist.” Tech evangelists represent both the company they work for and themselves. This person talks the talk, walks the walk, and, like any good evangelist, converts people to the cause—in this case, the tech they’re selling.

The true power of tech evangelism is in the ability to honestly promote the company by using an evangelist’s reputation. Their ability to inspire and convert comes from the trust and authority they build as their own brand. They have the knowledge and experience combined with personality, infectious enthusiasm and the ability to communicate to your target market. These are not sales people repeating a canned message, skimming over the negative and accentuating the positive. They are engaging in truthful conversations about your product and, in turn, creating loyal customers.

 

Managing Two Brands

 

Simultaneously managing a brand for this person and for your company can be complex, but mutually beneficial. The advantages of having a talented tech evangelist on your team definitely outweighs any difficulties. For the partnership to work, though, you need to be flexible and allow your evangelist’s brand to flourish. This means a personal blog, social media support and speaking engagements that may be related to tech, but not always directly on point. Ultimately, this person is a gateway to markets your company may never have been able to access, and you should take advantage of their cachet.

The downside, of course, is that should your evangelist leave the company, you lose their brand. This is obviously a risk, but with planning even this can be marketed properly and used to your advantage. And during the time your tech evangelist is with you and your product, the opportunity to use their branding in conjunction with your own makes the risk worth it.

While you probably won’t end up with an iconic figure like Jobs as your tech evangelist, you can and should find someone who will move people in a way that helps your business grow.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.