In sales, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Your customer will want to see actual proof that what you’re selling is beneficial to them.
Enter social proof.
The term social proof was first coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence. It is known as "informational social influence" and describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.
Social proof serves to validate and endorse the quality of a product or service.
We’ve all been influenced by social proof. How many times have you tried out a new restaurant based on a food critic’s review or the recommendation of a friend? Or simply because you saw the long line of people waiting to be seated?
That’s social proof, and there are different kinds:
- Expert: People trust those they believe know more/better than they do: a doctor, a professional athlete, or that food critic in the first example. They are the so-called experts in their field.
- User: Someone who has tried a product or service, or is currently using a product or service, is a user. We believe them for their experience.
- Celebrity: Celebrities are fascinating creatures, and people are naturally intrigued by them. This interest is also hinged on aspiration: some people aspire to live the life celebrities lead. They seem to live a good life and have it all. And so when someone who seems to "have it all" recommends a product, you listen and believe.
- Wisdom of the Crowd: That long line of people in the restaurant, the impossible wait list for an in-demand product, the droves of people who like a brand and follow it on social media—these are all examples of the wisdom of the crowd. We are quick to believe that if it’s good for a huge amount of people, then it must be really good.
- Wisdom of Friends: Simply put: we believe in what the people we know and trust say.
So how can social proof help you convert leads? Here are different types of social proof that you can use to accelerate your sales.1. Reviews
This is what we believe to be the most effective type of social proof: customer reviews. Consider the statistics on them:
- Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
- 94% of customers read online reviews (Fan and Fuel, 2016)
- 93% of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad (BrightLocal, 2017)
- 72% of customers don't take action until they have read reviews (Testimonial Engine)
- Given two products with similar ratings, consumers are more likely to buy the product with more reviews (Psychological Science, 2017)
To make your reviews even more effective, try these tips:
- Highlight the reviews. Displaying reviews can increase conversion rates by 270%.
- Make the reviewer’s identity known. Do not keep it anonymous.
- Do not filter reviews. Keep everything—the good and the bad. Besides, 95% of consumers get suspicious of fake reviews if there are no bad scores.
- Reply to the reviews. 41% of consumers say that brands replying to reviews makes them believe the company really cares about their customers.
Customers would be willing to leave reviews if you ask them, so just ask. Then post these reviews on your website and include them in your pitches.
Testimonials are great “sound bites” for your website and presentations. They’re short, easy to read, but pack a lot of punch.
Ask for quotes from past and current clients on how they have benefited from your product’s features. Try to avoid generic statements like, “It’s a great product!” Get your clients to be very specific. What value did your product give them? Is it convenience? Have they become more time-efficient? Also, the more authentic and relatable, the better.
3. Case Studies
We all love a good story, and we especially love stories of success. Your case studies are your customers’ success stories. And for a prospect, these are valuable. They see the whole plot: the beginning, the conflict, and the happy ending. They get a clearer picture of what can happen should they purchase from you.
It would be a good idea to include some of these case studies on your website—have a whole page dedicated to them or include some stories within your blog, if you have one. This way, your site visitors can see them immediately. You can also quickly share the website links to prospects when doing your email campaign.
4. Social Media
Use social media to share these reviews, testimonials, and case studies. You want to spread the good news!
Use your social media accounts to share other stories, too. Did you just acquire this promising startup as a client? Are you working on an exciting partnership with a new client? Are you about to do a contract signing with a major company? Take pics and share the news (with client’s permission, of course)! All these activities in your social media posts are proof that customers are acquiring your services, and these new customers serve as your endorsers.
5. Thought Leaders
The thought leaders in your industry are the experts. To get an endorsement from them is great social proof.
It won’t be easy, but if your product is great then that should do the job. The really respected thought leaders love to endorse really great products and services without any fee. They exist to impart knowledge and gainful information. They don’t see themselves as celebrities. Besides, they value their credibility too much to have it possibly diluted by endorsing just for the sake of money.
Besides getting an endorsement from them, you can invite thought leaders to be a guest writer on your company blog. It’s hitting two birds with one stone: you get an endorsement and great content!
Social proof will help you get your message across—loud and clear. Generate as much as you can and actively share them to convince and convert prospects.
Photos from Unsplash. Main photo by Jason Rosewell