Evangelism, Sales, and Marketing

After posting some thoughts on the topic in January, I shared some back and forth Facebook comments with my father-in-law around the role of evangelists, in which he insisted evangelism was just part of marketing. While its easy to disregard anything he SPSHOU_2011_5says because he’s getting really old, his mind is shot, and rumor has it that he’s completely insane – I would like to challenge his assumptions. The fact that I started the rumor (no matter how true) is irrelevant: evangelism is more than just marketing. Marketing is part of it, sure, as is product management – as the role can provide a conduit from customers, partners, and industry straight into the development team.

But there’s also a difference between evangelism and sales – and marketing and sales, for that matter. As I was cleaning up some old email this afternoon and came across a couple comments around this old post, I thought it was important to more clearly describe the differences between evangelism, sales, and marketing.

It is sometimes difficult to see the benefit of qualitative activities (under which fall marketing, evangelism, and sometimes even support) over quantitative activities (Sales). I view evangelism not just as a qualitative activity, but as an enabler. The output of my work drives both marketing activity (and not just the spending of budget dollars) and sales activity. While the effects of evangelism can be difficult to track, the benefits can help elevate the business if done consistently and correctly.

In a presentation to my company in January, I put it this way:

  • Evangelism changes perceptions, which
  • builds credibility and creates trust, which then
  • creates momentum, influencing the pipeline, and
  • provides tools that Sales can leverage, leading to
  • more sales and stronger customer advocacy

While difficult to measure, the last line is a key goal of evangelism: to build advocacy. Marketing is often measured based on things like website or email campaign metrics. Sales is measured on movement through the pipeline and, ultimately, on revenue booked. Evangelism enables both of those things, but is measured through somewhat fuzzy concepts, such as “good will” and customer or partner advocacy.

At the end of the day, marketing, sales, and evangelism are all about selling more products or services, but the distinctions are important because all three are different roles, and equally essential to the growth of the business.

I’d love to hear about how others treat evangelism in their companies, whether in a full-time role, or at least in a formal strategy across multiple roles. How do you perceive evangelism, and how do you measure it?

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.