How to increase your visibility? How to raise awareness among your prospects? Your products and/or services are excellent and you devote lots of attention and effort to satisfying your customers. Even so, reaching success levels is harder that you had hoped it would be. How to attract potential customers if you don’t (yet) have the reputation of a Microsoft, a McDonald’s, or a Coca-Cola?
You may lose half of your break time, the sandwich may be neither better nor worse than the one from the other store, however, you will be happy with your decision, due to the fact it is validated by all those who came before and after you in desiring the same sandwich.
This reflex dates back to our years as hunter-gatherers, when danger lurked behind the long grass and a bad choice of berries or roots meant becoming somebody else’s dinner.
Although buying a chocolate croissant is less dangerous than gathering berries all those many years ago, we have still held on to this reflex: before buying, we like to know more about the company, about the product. This applies even more when the differences between two products are of little significance and there is no good reason to allow a rational choice. Or when we have no time to consider the pros and cons at ease. Then we take a shortcut and rely on the opinion of our contemporaries. These may be close acquaintances and people we trust, or unknown people hidden behind a computer screen. In psychology, this mechanism is known as social proof. And it’s a marketing tool that is well worth remembering.
One of the best books on this subject is undoubtedly the one by Robert Cialdini: Influence – The psychology of persuasion. It is among the true classics in social psychology. In this book, Robert Cialdini recounts 6 principles of influence, applicable at any time, and particularly today:
With this sentence, the author of Influence – The psychology of persuasion pinpoints the main use and risk of social proof. The key advantage is allowing us to take a rapid and relatively reasonable decision, without having to study all the options ourselves.
The danger, however, lies in those who take advantage of this, as people who understand the principle and our psychology, and make use of it for dishonest purposes.
There are plenty of good or bad reasons to apply this principle. And without judging the merits of yours, you will see that it is possible, to use this in your marketing to develop your community, your sales and your business.
Allow social proof to validate your product, and it will automatically gain the credibility it was lacking among potential customers who were not (yet) aware of you. This influences consumer behaviour, modifies the perceived value of your product and creates a trust relationship with them.
However, it is important to note that the principle of social proof applying to a bakery does not apply to various other businesses:
Before making a purchase, consumers tend to seek information. The bigger the purchase, the more likely they are to make enquiries about the product, service or company. Thanks to the internet, their enquiries can almost go on for ever. And while we are on the subject of the internet, let’s continue. More and more businesses are launching their own e-shop. When the company sells services rather than products, it is likely to present them on its website. And even if the brand does not have a website, it is likely to be active on social networks, to the extent that more and more platforms facilitate direct sales. These days, companies depend on digital, whatever their business model and activities are.
How to make use of the phenomenon of social proof at a digital level?
A good product benefits, for example, from positive opinions and welcome recommendations, while a poor product will soon suffer from a bad reputation and customers who prefer a better-scoring competitor
There are different methods, according to the type of business.
But watch out! The fact that this principle can boost your sales, create a solid customer base and develop an unfailing reputation, means the opposite is also true! Social proofs works in both directions: a good product benefits, for example, from positive opinions and welcome recommendations, while a poor product will soon suffer from a bad reputation and customers who prefer a better-scoring competitor. Another example, low usage statistics are not appreciated and generate suspicion. Lastly, a poor choice of ambassador risks undermining your credibility, more than building confidence!
So, pay attention to your quality, your solutions, your products and your services, if you decide to apply social proof in your marketing.