Why UX is the Key to Product Evangelism (Even if your Product is Flawed)

Part I of my series on how to create product evangelists by using UX research to identify their greatest needs.

Do you ever find yourself talking nonstop about a product or experience to friends, family, and strangers? Telling them they “have to try” this new thing that you’re obsessed with? Reflect on how powerful it is that you would be so blown away by what a product brings to your life as a user that you cannot wait to share it with everybody. If you feel this way about one of your favorite products, then you might be a product evangelist.


What is product evangelism, and why do I care?

A product evangelist is someone who is so delighted by the (potentially unrecognized) needs that your product meets that they’re actively pounding pavement to alert others to your presence. While this may mean that they have taken the time to sing your praises on social media, it more likely means that they’re telling acquaintances, friends-of-friends, and that lady standing in front of them at the grocery store about your product.

This is great news because it means that your free advertising outlasts the ephemeral nature of a simple post; rather, new potential customers are seeing the passion firsthand that you’ve created in a user, which is definitely more intriguing, more compelling, and longer lasting.

Now think about what it is you make at your job -- do you feel passionate about it? Do you know anyone who does?

Source: National Rent a Car

Case Study: National Rent a Car

The best way for me to explain my own personal experience with product evangelism is to tell you the story of how I became an evangelist myself.

A few years ago, when I was traveling and needed a rental car, I’d arrange to rent the cheapest one available. This seemed like a logical thing to do. How many differences could there possibly be between rental car companies? Renting cars in general is not the greatest experience: it’s unfamiliar, frustrating, and uncontrollable -- or so I thought.

At one point in my previous career, I spent more time on regional jets in a month than I had in my entire life (which is impressive, because I grew up in Milwaukee and went to school in St. Louis).

Although my company had well-established partnerships with several different rental car vendors, my boss (who was the real-life equivalent of George Clooney from Up in the Air), recommended that I give National Rent-a-Car a try. After using our corporate travel partner to make the reservation, I heard from a National representative, who recommended that I sign up for their “Emerald Aisle” program.

The rest is history.


In my first rental experience with National, I discovered that renting a car, even for a business trip to West Texas, could be an incredible experience. Becoming an Emerald Aisle member -- which required less than five minutes of my time and zero commitment from me -- was like being given the keys to the kingdom.

Not only did I not have to wait in line at the desk to talk to a person who’d assign me a random car, I got to pick any car with any set of “latest and greatest” features that I wanted.

That first incredible experience happened half a decade ago. To this day, I can proudly say that I have never rented from another rental car company. Ever. I rent exclusively from National for business and leisure travel and have not even compared them to other options since that first time I walked the Emerald Aisle many years -- and trips -- ago. I’ve encouraged friends and family to sign up and rent through National and have converted many people to loyal brand advocates based on the Emerald Aisle alone.

It’s important to point out that my evangelism here stems exclusively from an incredible experience that gets at the heart of a need I didn’t even know I had.

National eradicates all uncertainty from the post-landing airport process and empowers me to go -- quickly and without interruption or uncertainty -- where I need to be. However, the end-to-end experience is far from perfect.

Their website and app aren’t stellar. Even their fantastic “One Two Free” program could benefit majorly from full integration into their site.

I also hate that I have to know my Emerald Aisle number to log into some parts of the experience -- and that I can’t find that number anywhere.

The point is, you don’t have to get everything right at once to create evangelists. You just have to get the most important thing right first.

Getting to the core of the experience--giving me back control, freedom, and predictability in a system where I have little of each--is what made all the difference. Truly understanding needs--recognized or unrecognized--was the key to unlocking the experience that has converted me for life.

Next time...

In Part II of my series on Product Evangelism and UX, I’ll explain how you can use UX Research methods to discover those underlying user needs, especially when the users might not know they exist. Learning the tricks of the UX Research trade will equip you to innovate and develop products and services that delight users all over the world in each and every experience.