Cultivating Brand Evangelists | Tory Burch Foundation

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Cultivating Brand Evangelists

4 simple steps to cultivate brand evangelists, from SURFSET Fitness founder Sarah Hartwick.

Entrepreneurs are notorious for trying to do everything ourselves. But when it comes to growing your business it is so important to develop a broad team of influencers, who believe in your company and who will work to see it grow.

These ‘brand evangelists’ are the people who carry the torch of your company’s message with passion and authenticity, and their ability to spread a positive image of your brand dwarfs the power of advertising for a fraction of the cost. A brand evangelist can be an employee, a contractor, a distributor, a partner, an industry influencer or even a consumer.

At SURFSET Fitness, we have cultivated a strong network of passionate trainers, studio owners and consumers who have enabled us to grow our fitness products and programs into a multi-million dollar business, without ever spending a cent on traditional advertising.

Here are the steps that we followed to expand our global team and broaden SURFSET’s reach:


In my experience, everyone comes to entrepreneurship with a unique set of goals and expectations. Did you start your own company because you were inspired by a particular idea, or have you always had the entrepreneurial flame? Are you driven to change the world by providing consumers with a new product or service, or is it managing people and living by your own set of rules that gets you through the difficult days?

It is so important to slow down and look within to determine what motivates you. As an entrepreneur, you and your company are intertwined, and you will be the driving force behind everything your company stands for and accomplishes. In order to craft a powerful branding strategy and recruit successful influencers to support your vision, you have to start by getting personal. Once you identify what drives you – you can expand your personal vision to a broader company-wide mission.


The next step is to distill your company’s mission into a succinct and powerful statement, keeping your own motivation in mind. In other words, step one is ‘why am I doing this?’ and step two is ‘why are we doing this?’ with the question expanded to your entire brand’s purpose, unique advantage and product or service benefits.

For me personally, the answer to the first question is that I have always wanted to create something new, innovative and deliver it to the world. My pride and motivation comes from expanding the reach of SURFSET, from the garage where we built the first prototype to now more than 350 locations in 32 countries.

My answer to the second question is that collectively all of us at SURFSET, from our newest trainers to our brand ambassadors and studio owners, are determined to shake up the world of fitness and embrace challenge and adventure every day. Simply put, we live to make working out fun again, like it was when we were kids learning to ride a bike or surf in the ocean, instead of counting the minutes on a treadmill. This mission unites all of us and is broader than just the specific features of our products and training programs.


Now that you’ve identified your own personal motivation and outlined the driving force behind your company, its time to draft an actionable strategy to communicate the mission with everyone along the chain to your consumer.

At SURFSET, we employ Enterprise Social Network (ESN) software to connect all of our trainers and deliver brand messaging that keeps everyone on the same page. This allows us to share our vision for the brand with all of our global partners in a very efficient way.

While we deliver a comprehensive virtual training course on the fundamentals of SURFSET to each trainer and owner, it is important to understand that this process cannot be fully top-down. We empower our trainers and studio owners every step of the way to make the mission their own. We ask them what makes them identify with SURFSET and what drives them to incorporate our brand vision into their businesses. We encourage all partners to hear our mission and apply it to growing their companies in a way that makes sense for them, as each one is an entrepreneur delivering their own version of the SURFSET experience.


The last and arguably most important step in this process is ensuring that every transaction with an employee, contractor, brand representative or partner is a win-win scenario.

We’re often taught that business is cut-throat and the most vicious amongst us will come out on top. In my experience as an entrepreneur, it is so much more important to nurture positive relationships with your partners and ensure that everyone you deal with is having success with your product or service.

Word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing that currently exists and it is our job as entrepreneurs to craft a mission and strategy that empowers those around us to help deliver our brand messaging to people worldwide.