The Business Evangelists

They have a message and a mission. Will you be converted?

I have noticed more and more business cards with the word Evangelist as part of the card owner’s business title. My interpretation of this recent trend is that the word is meant to imply that one of this person’s key responsibilities is to spread the news about the company or its products. The purpose is to convert others to a new way of thinking or to encourage them to embrace a different point of view or belief about a technology. The connotation is that an “evangelist” has an unusual zeal and passion for making converts. An evangelist, it seems, seeks to do more then sell a product or promote a company’s business goals. An evangelist wants to change minds, even hearts. An evangelist is on a mission.

I have also noticed that the self-proclaimed evangelists usually do have a radical concept or business model to announce. That is, some profound change may be needed in the customer’s thinking or outlook before a new product or service can be accepted. There is also the suggestion that the card carrier is offering a fundamental transformation that promises sweeping benefits or results: “My company and its products will change your life!”

In our industry, evangelists may be preaching a move to cloud-based computing, open systems or collaborative methodologies, for example.

Traditionally, an evangelist has been the religious sort. This tradition is rich in meaning—not all of it entirely positive. The aggressive, intrusive, proselytizer type of evangelist comes to mind as an unwelcome person to encounter. More welcome may be the earnest and sincere believer who takes a gentler approach to winning over new followers by providing a good example and an open invitation for testimony or witness. It’s the latter kind of evangelist that I hope and expect the business evangelist to emulate.

An explicit intent to be an evangelist for a technology or a business practice of a transformative nature may be a very good thing. This approach acknowledges that there is more to making changes than simply buying a product or contracting for a new service. Dealing with an evangelist may involve a different relationship than is typical of most business transactions. The evangelist is gathering followers, not simply attracting buyers or customers. The evangelist may seek to become your teacher, guide or mentor in order for the full conversion to take place.

The idea of applying missionary zeal to business activities has genuine appeal to me. It implies a higher level of engagement and a deeper personal commitment to doing business. Also, the concept of being an evangelist for any worthy cause (especially for its altruistic benefits) has merit. Perhaps we should consider becoming evangelists, spreading the news about the importance of manufacturing to our national economy and the well-being of our fellow citizens, for example. We should be evangelists to a new generation of young talent that may find rewarding and personally fulfilling careers in manufacturing.

Finally, this open talk of evangelists is a stirring reminder of the most famous four of history and how the good news of their message changed the world.