Question: How can you get customers to buy products and services from you instead of your competitors? Answer: You have to find a way to positively influence their opinions – which is where social proof comes in.
In the context of a digital marketing strategy, social proof provides evidence that other people have purchased and found value in a product or service offered by a business. It works because of the simple fact that people are more likely to purchase something which others have already bought.
Once you’re aware of it, you can see that brands and businesses use social proof constantly. For example, when LinkedIn sends you emails about what your connections have been up to, it’s partly to update you about people in your network. However, it’s also conveying social proof – ‘look at all these great people who are part of the LinkedIn community, endorsing what LinkedIn does and proving how valuable it is’ – as a nudge to get you to log in or even sign up for one of its new products.
Social proof is a powerful digital marketing tool for advisers because it can ease any anxieties a prospect may have and make them feel confident about making the decision to become a customer. Social proof can take many forms – from customer reviews, testimonials and case studies to quantifiable data – anything from ‘providing local businesses with expert tax advice for 15 years’ to ‘250 five-star customer reviews’. All of these different tactics help to build trust, convey value, and improve your chances of converting prospects into paying customers.
Look at your best numbers to see which ones are worth displaying on the home page of your website. This could be how many customers you’ve served, how many newsletter subscribers you have, how many five-star reviews you’ve gained, or the number of downloads of product guides or e-books you’ve created. If you haven’t built up a bank of impressive numbers yet, share memorable milestones such as anniversaries. This could be something as simple as – celebrating 20 years serving local businesses – which is strong social proof that you’re a well-established, reputable company.
People want to buy from businesses they can trust – but you need to supply evidence. From showcasing your professional qualifications and certifications you’ve gained to any awards you’ve won, and professional bodies such as chartered institutes or business federations that you’re a member of – make sure you have all the details and logos prominently on display.
Are you more likely to try a restaurant with hundreds of five-star reviews on Tripadvisor or the one without any? Exactly. Online reviews have a major impact on buying decisions, with an estimated 86% of consumers reading local reviews to decide if a business is any good.
Customers feel they can trust other customers, so aim to get positive reviews on all the major sites for your industry, such as Feefo, Trustpilot and Yelp. As well as being one of the most important ways to drive potential customers to your website, positive online reviews can be used for social proof in your marketing materials too. If you have a five-star rating on a major review site, include it on your home page.
Sometimes people are just too busy to leave a review so supplying them with a quick click and send survey could be the answer. It’s easy to build a survey online via sites such as Survey Monkey. As well as engaging with your customers and demonstrating how much you value their feedback, this will help you build up a stack of good reviews and useful data you can share on your website.
Testimonials are a powerful way to showcase your expertise. The key to a compelling testimonial is to explain exactly how you were able to help a customer. Just saying ‘I was very happy with the service’ is too broad. Testimonials can explain what product or service you provided, why a customer was impressed and why they would recommend you – which is top-notch social proof. Get in touch with some of your satisfied customers and see if they’re interested in providing a testimonial. Once you’ve got some, think about how to display them effectively to prompt a prospect into becoming a customer.
Storytelling is a brilliant way to engage and persuade – and case studies are one of the most effective types of social proof because they can tell the complete story of a customer’s journey. For example, a case study could cover how a customer found you, what prompted them to do business with you and what problems they had that needed solving. It could explain how you helped them find the best solution, how happy they were with the service you provided and what difference it’s made to their life. This is really compelling social proof for a prospect researching who to hire.
Customer opinions are great, but you could move things up a gear by getting endorsed by experts and influencers. Social proof can be even more effective if it comes from someone your audience trusts. Find an expert that your target audience knows and likes, and then think about how you could work together. It could be through reviewing your services on their website or writing an endorsement you can use on your site. If you have customers with high credibility, or if there’s a particular group of people that you frequently work with – such as teachers, doctors or local business owners – see if they’re willing to give your business a testimonial.
While your business shouldn’t rely on your number of social media followers as the ultimate measure of success, follower count can be a form of social proof because people feel safer joining in when they see other people already have. Encourage customers to review your business on Facebook because it has such a wide reach. As well as building up your own followers, think about how many friends your followers have. You’re indirectly connected with all those people and, if your customers comment and write reviews on your Facebook page, these will show up on the news feed of all their friends, which is great exposure. Ensure your profile is active by engaging with your customers, liking their posts and responding to their comments.
Twitter chats about a pertinent subject are a great way to see who jumps on board to join the conversation and build your online profile as social proof of your expertise. Or how about collaborating with other experts (such as local estate agents, small business owners or specialist advisers) for a social media event such as a Facebook Live video discussion? This could be on anything that you know your prospects/target audience may be interested in, such as: ‘What’s the best way to invest a lump sum for a child?’, ‘Do you need life insurance?’, ‘Pensions Q&A’ or ‘How to find the right mortgage for you’. Always follow up on any contributors/leads that are engaged by these events to keep those conversations going.
Customers trust other customers – fact. And customer referrals can generate social proof. If someone had a bad experience, they wouldn’t recommend that company to their friends and family. However, if they get a referral from someone they trust, they’re more likely to take that as social proof and follow it up. If you set up a refer a friend scheme, the chances are, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood of converting prospects into paying customers and grow your business.
And remember, an Unbiased plan comes with built-in social proof, thanks to our decades-long reputation for guiding over 10 million people to the unbiased advice they need. Find out more about how an Unbiased plan could help your business.