Planting the Evangelism Seed (Apply Water, As Needed)
On the last day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (www.digitalwpc.com) I was scheduled to give a third Social 101 session over in the Microsoft Partner Network (#MPN) social hub, but was pulled into a last-minute meeting with my company’s Microsoft partner rep, and so had my session back-filled by someone else from the WPC Social Squad, on which I had been participating all week. As soon as my meeting was completed, I was back in the hub, and was approached by several people interested in the topic – so I tweeted out the presentation below, and thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic of evangelism, and how the role can benefit your own business.
Of course, there is no single standard of evangelism. There are many differences within the role, based on the background of the individual, on the technical focus of the organization (many evangelists come from engineering teams), and most of all – based on the needs of the business. If you’ve been considering adding an evangelist to your team, you must be clear on what you want to achieve:
- Improved branding
- Partnerships and alliances
- Product or service feedback
- Competitive intelligence
- Corporate strategy
- Community development
- Internal cultural improvements
You may want all of these things, but the person you put in this role may have certain strengths, so its best to prioritize these things (and whatever other goals you may have) and hire based on those priorities. Of course, I’m a bit of a renaissance man, and cover all of the above
In my presentation, I provide a bit more detail around the five primary areas of focus within my own role, and hopefully give you more insight into the potential value of this role:
As organizations grow, roles tend to become more focused and specialized. Honestly, I had a difficult time transitioning from a business owner and consultant, managing a couple dozen direct reports and smaller teams, to a sole-contributor role when I first moved to Microsoft a few years back. Although I am back in a sole contributor role at Axceler (www.axceler.com), my role provides me with a great deal of autonomy is what I do and how I do it, and yet I am able to interact with just about every team and individual in the company. Sometimes it very much feels like I am once again the consultant, but with a fixed set of internal customers. I have variety, and I am able to influence many different parts of the company.
Do you need an evangelist? As I state in the presentation, there are probably already people within your current organization who provide some level of evangelism today. At Axceler, our product management organization is constantly out in the field, leading webinars or speaking at conferences – and most importantly, engaging with customers and partners. But our Solution Engineering team also gets around, from conferences to conducting webinars, and are often joined by members of our sales team for on-site customer meetings. To some degree, everyone plays a role in your company evangelism.
However, there can be tremendous value in having a dedicated evangelist on staff – but it all depends on the capabilities of the individual, and the priorities of the business. My best advice is to talk to several evangelists within your industry, or in similar organizations. Take the time to learn more about what they do, where they are successful, and get an understanding of their commitments, if they’ll share. If you can find out how they are managed and measured, you can then begin to shape the role for your own cultural nuances, and begin the search for the right evangelist.
I’ve shared some insight into my role, but I am always happy to share additional detail. If you’ve been thinking about opening an evangelism role within your organization but are looking for some guidance, drop me a line. Happy to help.