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6 characteristics of a great evangelist

guy-kawasaki

Evangelism comes from a Greek term that means “spreading the good news.” That’s what a business evangelist does—spreads the good news about a product or service. Good news, in this case, is not about margins or money but for improving people’s lives. 

I started my career evangelising the good news of Macintosh—how it improved creativity and productivity. I’m ending my career evangelizing the good news of Canva—how it has democratized design so that everyone can communicate better. 

Between these two bookends, I’ve learned about spreading the good news, and I offer these tips to help you become a great evangelist. 

Find, create, or affiliate with something great 

It’s easy to spread the good news if you actually have good news. It’s hard to evangelize crap. So the starting point of evangelism is to work with a product or service that is honestly and objectively great. This recommendation seems like a “duhism” as in “Duh, of course, I want to evangelize something great.” But wanting something great is not the same as having something great, so be picky. 

Localize your pitch 

You may have generally applicable great news such as innovation, productivity, and creativity, but people don’t define their needs in such broad terms. They want to know how they can improve their individual lives. “Macintosh enables you to use a personal computer” is more compelling than “Macintosh is a new paradigm of computing.” Or, to use a medical example, if you have a migraine headache, you’re not looking for a way to foster a healthy society. You want to stop the pounding in your head. 

Look for agnostics, ignore atheists 

My experience is that it’s hard to convert someone from one religion to another. It’s much easier to convert someone who has no religion. Evangelizing someone to use Canva who is a Photoshop power user is hard because that person has so much invested (time, money, and ego) in Photoshop. On the other hand, someone who hasn’t created many graphics at all is easier because it empowers them to do something they could not do before. 

Let people test drive your good news 

It’s good to assume that your customers are smart. The ramification of this is that you don’t try to bludgeon them into seeing “your way.” Rather, you should enable them to “test drive” your product or service and then decide for themselves. You often encounter this as a demo version of software or limited-time trial. You are essentially saying, “You are smart. You try what I have and then decide.” 

Provide an easy, safe first step 

Don’t get me wrong:  you are trying to change people’s minds and behavior. This is scary for them, so don’t ask them to take a risky first step. You want to provide a slippery slope rather than an intimidating wall. “I’m not asking you to convert your entire IT infrastructure to Macintosh. Just use it to do your desktop publishing,” was a pitch that worked well—although, in complete honesty, it took us a few years to realize that this was the right approach. 

Ignore pedigrees and titles 

The people with impressive pedigrees and titles are most resistant to change. It’s tempting to want to bag the “elephant” or the “reference account,” but the odds of success are low because they usually wish to preserve the status quo. It’s the intern, temp, summer hire, new hire, and entry-level employees who are often the most open to change because they are not yet set in their ways and, because they are doing the real work, understand the goodness of your good news. 

I’m not saying that evangelism is the only way to make a product or service successful, but it is a way that has worked for Apple, Canva, and many companies with “good news.” The technique starts with a great product or service and high regard for the intelligence of your prospective customer. Then, by using these techniques to find and facilitate their love of your product, you can show them the good news and become a great evangelist too.