I attended the Boston World Partnerships “Evangelizing” program sponsored by Grasshopper (some weird tech company with a big budget for this kind of stuff) at a nice big restaurant at Quincy Market on Tuesday the 17th.
BWP is a meetup-type group that gathers people together who somehow signed up because they like to network, with some kind of international dimension. I have been attending TiE (The Indus Entrepreneuers) programs for the past year and got onto the BWP list. I have an old friend who is on the board of TiE, who dragged me into this “social entrepreneurism” thing, and I enjoy the presentations and meeting people at these events.
Actually, I’m a long-term social enterprise afficionado and instigator, so I’m definitely the profile for these things. I started selling candy bars (actually, Little Debbie snack cakes) when I was 12. Still selling good things. Lately it’s been sustainability services, but over the years it’s been apartments, vegetables, office space, constituent services, tree services, and even hydro-electric power systems. That was fun!
The BWP program this past Tuesday was energizing and educational. The main presenter/moderator was Jonathan K from Grasshopper, who admitted his firm sells boring stuff. But he was great at “evangelizing” and getting people to think about the firm and I think they will be doing good with him on the team. As I watched, I recorded his style and actions as a model for enthusiastic brand-building. I’m just like that guy, I just need to focus on one product! I tweeted: “The Experience is the differentiation. The features/services eventually equilibrate. The face behind the brand makes the difference.” Not a quote, but my reaction. This is me already.
A panel of three presenters came up, each talking about how they use the concept of evangelizing to promote their brand and work. Abby Fichtner works for a big-bad software company “that everyone hates” as she put it, but she has really helped build the biz for the niche she is focused on. She also has a hacking oriented site: http://www.thehackerchickblog.com/ Also at the event was Tess Cychosz (she said it rhymes with “Szechuan?”) the “Community Builder” at SonicBids, a group that matches musicians and other artists with promoters and venues. Cool stuff, and she blogs about how music tastes. I talked with her later about how “evangelizing” types fit with standard marketing MBA types, and she said there is a lot of overlap and camaraderie.
The best presentation came from Josh Bob, founder and CEO of Textaurant. This firm is helping restaurant-goers wait less and helping restaurant-owners connect with their customers beyond swiping their credit card. By engaging customers through their phones, managers can alert them when a table will be ready instead of using those weird flashy-buzzy things. But then they can communicate and send links to webpages with discount coupons, alerts, and other specials. One specific add-on service is to help managers shift the weekend crush to less-full evenings through promotions. This benefits everyone.
Textaurant is using the social media and evangelizing model very well. I tweeted a few things through Josh’s presentation: “Go beyond your product. Build community. Take the stage: this guy knows the way to pitch. Nice example” And:”Mobilize your fan base; evangelize using your hardcore proponents; monetize their efforts – @joshsambob” That was good stuff. I’ll be following him. He has regular people promote his product – they come into a restaurant, and if they don’t see the service, leave a card suggesting the manager get in touch with Textaurant. His product makes these third-party people happy, so they will mobilize to get his customers (restaurant owners) to but the service. This is a great model. Wait til you see how we do this with sustainability consulting and real estate!