Friday, May 3, 2013

Brand Ambassadors

Years ago, I worked with a guy who had worked for Apple, or so it said on his resume. His position was "brand evangelist." I remember thinking, an evangelist is a real title? WTF is that?

I don't know if he got paid for it, or if it was just an arrangement with Apple. But it was smart on Apple's part. What is was is someone who recommends Apple products--and not just recommends, but enthuses, and loves, and sings the praises of.

These days, we use the term "brand ambassador," which sounds much nicer than the religious overtone of evangelist. You might be wondering why I'm writing about this here. It's because anyone who is selling books needs to know about it.

We are told that blogging and blog interviews and blog tours and even book signings don't sell books long term. That is, they don't grow your readership. We are told it's really all about word of mouth. But how on earth do you get your book to be spread by word of mouth?

A story: at my local farmer's market there's this wonderful Afghani food vendor called Bolani. Bolani makes really delicious sauces and breads. Healthy, low fat, and drool-inducing. I've been a fan for a long time. A few weeks ago, I was at the farmer's market and stopped by the Bolani booth. The guy there offered me a sample, which of course I took (I'm not an idiot) and he asked me if I'd had it before. I launched into an enthusiastic account of how I've been buying their stuff since last summer and how much I love them, blah blah blah. I mean, I'm a brand ambassador for them. I tell everyone how good they are.

What does the guy do?

He turns, in the middle of me talking, to someone else, and starts speaking to them. He shut me off.

I closed my mouth with a snap. Wow, I thought. What a way to treat a customer standing right in front of you, telling you how much they love you. It was like telling me to go $#@%& myself.

Because now I had a bad feeling. I was made to feel like an idiot and that he didn't care at all that I spent money on his products. There was no way I'd be a) telling other people about them now, or b) buying their stuff when I had the choice.  Notice how I'm blogging about it, too. Now everyone gets to know how they treat their customers.

I was no longer a brand ambassador for them. Which was too bad, because their sauce is tasty.

This has happened before at book or CD signings when I've met authors or musicians. The experience has been so disappointing that I haven't bought further books or music from them. Pet Shop Boys are famous for being utter dickheads (Chris Lowe, at least), but it's different when he's a dick to you. I went off them after meeting them. Two authors at a signing couldn't care less that I was there--and I can't say I ever read another word of theirs. It's why I no longer go to book signings--invariably, the author will turn away just as I get there or scribble in my book and shove it aside like it's on an assembly line. I don't want that. I've read their work and I want to see the person who's behind it all. I don't want to be treated like cattle.

I think authors are really missing the boat on readers as brand ambassadors. If you have published a book and a reader contacts you and enthuses and gushes and says "I adore you!" then you know you have a future reader in them. Don't ignore them. Don't turn them off. Make it a priority to answer them. (I am not speaking of anyone I know here.) Don't take my word for it. Social media expert Scott Stratten has harped about this for a long time.

So, what are you going to do about it if you have a book and  enthusiastic readers? There are endless possibilities. Next week I'll do a post giving some ideas.



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