A crowd attracts a crowd – and just like most people will prefer the restaurant that is already busy than the empty restaurant, people are also more likely to choose your business if you can demonstrate that you’re popular. But it’s a chicken and egg thing, isn’t it? How do you look popular so that you can be popular?
“Social proof” is the term coined to mean any evidence you can give to demonstrate that other people use and like your business. Social proof takes many forms and can be used by even the smallest of businesses.
Here are 9 ways you can get social proof working in your business…
1) Customer Reviews
Use the popular reviews website(s) in your area and industry to your advantage. As the former owner of one of these (WOMO), I can tell you that once you get a few positive reviews, you’ll soon start attracting a LOT more customers. So don’t be shy, simply inform customers (past and present) that reviews are important to your business and you’d really appreciate if they could go to [YourPreferredWebsite] and leave a review. For many businesses, somewhere between 5 and 10 positive reviews started to have a big impact. In lots of industries, these are by far the most powerful form of social proof because they are organised, and they are highly trusted (as it’s possible for customers to give negative reviews). Don’t freak out about this though! If you provide good service and most of your customers are happy, this will be reflected in your reviews (and even if you do have the odd negative one, it won’t have any effect if there are enough positive ones). Restaurants, hotels, book publishers, and podcast operators all know how important reviews are, but many industries haven’t caught up with this yet. Now could be your opportunity to be one of the first in your niche.
Once you’ve got some great reviews, provide links to them on your website, emails or quotations, and mention them everywhere you can.
2) Customer Testimonials
Although, not quite as powerful as reviews, customer testimonials can also be extremely useful and you should also be collecting and encouraging these. The easiest way to do this is to provide great service, and then, whenever you receive some positive feedback (whether that be verbally, on social media, or by email), don’t let the opportunity go to waste. Get on the phone to the customer and thank them for their kind words. Let them know how much it means to you and how it’s often difficult for you to convey to potential customers the quality of work/product/service that you provide. Perhaps pose a couple more questions to them as well. For example, you could ask “where do you think you’d be now if you hadn’t used our service?”, or “what was your situation like before you used our service? and afterwards?”. Take notes the whole time, and then ask them if they’d be open to you using their comments as a testimonial. If they agree, let them know that you’ll write up what you heard them say and send it over in an email to them for approval (it’s usually better if you actually write it). Then include an introduction in your email that gives you permission to use their words in your marketing.
Once you’ve got some great testimonials, include them on your website (especially any sales pages), in your sales proposals, in your drip emails, and anywhere else that customers are forming an impression of your business. Some businesses even make them into advertisements to run on Facebook, Google, or other platforms.
3) Case Studies
For some industries, testimonials are too brief and a case study is a more appropriate choice. The same process can be followed as for testimonials except this time you ask more in depth questions (let you customer know that it might take 20 minutes or so of their time on the phone). You can ask them to describe their situation before engaging with your business, what their hopes and expectations were, why they made certain decisions, what the process of dealing with your business was like,and most importantly, what the end results have been. Try to ask this last question in a number of different ways – for example, “how did you feel once it was completed?”, “what was the impact on your business? your staff? your revenues?”, “what feedback have you had from friends/customers/staff?” etc. You can also ask what they would say to others in a similar situation.
Take some time to write this up into an article and then send it to your customer for approval. Be careful not to be overly gushing about your business or specific about your range of services – you don’t want to turn this into an advertisement. Once you have their approval, it’s important to put this together with a great photo. These can be used as blog posts, drip email content, or included in sales proposals (perhaps as whitepapers).
4) Social media
If you’ve been using social media well, make this obvious in other areas. Display your Facebook like numbers, Twitter followers, or numbers from whichever platforms you use. With Facebook, you can also display a plugin on your website which will automatically show the photos of the viewers friends that also like your business on Facebook. (Of course, if your numbers are pathetic, wait a while before displaying these as it can have the opposite effect.)
On Facebook, you can also run a type of advertisement that simply shows in the feed of your target market and says that one of their friends (it names them) “likes” your Facebook Page. This can be a very effective way of advertising.
5) Customer Numbers
If your numbers are already impressive, brag about them! Tell people how many houses you’ve painted, how much traffic your website gets, how many customers use your software etc.
6) Celebrity / Renowned Customer Endorsements
Have you served some well-known personalities? Brag about it (with their permission of course!). Take a photo of them using your service and display that prominently.There’s a reason why big brands pay mega-bucks for celebrity endorsements.
Keep an open mind about your definition of celebrity though – their are many niche bloggers that would qualify and can have a huge impact on their followers. And for B2B businesses, letting potential customers know about other well-known businesses that are using your services can be highly effective. Consider using their logos on your website and/or sales proposals.
7) Press Mentions
If your business has had some press coverage, get more mileage out of it by highlighting it on your website. Keep records of every mention and provide links, screenshots, scans, or recordings to demonstrate that they’re legitimate. Again you can highlight these on your website and perhaps refer to this page in your sales proposals.
8) Authority Awards / Accreditation
If you’ve won any awards, have any well regarded accreditation, or even if you’re part of a trusted group, let everyone know! That certificate in your draw or on your office wall can be leveraged for much more impact. Use any logos you’re allowed to and make them front and centre – especially on sales proposals and sales pages. At both WOMO and Invizage Technology, we had won several awards and we always tried to keep this prominent. We also had some key partnerships / accreditations which we used to build trust (eg at Invizage we were a Certified Microsoft Partner and at WOMO, we used TrustGuard to verify our online payment processes).
9) Gallery or Brag Book
I once had a tradesperson come around to quote on some cabinets and while he was measuring the spaces, he left a folder on the bench and simply said “you can have a look at some of our past work if you like”. The folder was almost falling apart but it was overflowing with handwritten letters, photographs, and printed emails of delighted clients. Undoubtedly it could have been presented more professionally, but it was extremely convincing regardless.
If your work is visual in nature, you could have an organised photo gallery on your ipad that you show when you are quoting on work. You could and should also have this on your website too. Try to set up a process so that each new customer becomes a source of new customers.
Don’t leave this as an idea for later. Choose one or two of these social proof types and put action items on your to-do list! It’s not that hard and can have a huge impact. Let us know how you go…