I often get asked what are the quickest ways to grow a business, find more clients, and make more money. There are several great options that will get you quick results, but using social proof is one of my top recommendations for growing your business. It is key in your sales and marketing, and something that's also easy to do. The principle of know, like and trust is paramount in growing any business, and social proof helps to build trust with potential clients and customers.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is a set of tools that builds your credibility as a business. It is a concept in which people are psychologically influenced to behave like others in a particular situation. What this means for your business, is that providing evidence of a similar demographic of clients enjoying and benefiting from your product or service can strongly influence a prospective client towards your business, rather than a competitor.
What Social Proof Includes
Social proof includes things like testimonials, case studies, evidence, and the number of products already sold. For example: 20,345 delicious coffees served so far this year. Prospective clients see a large number of coffees here and think “If that many people are buying coffee, it must be good”, and are influenced to buy themselves. The Grind coffee in London (https://grind.co.uk) is currently targeting me with messaging that they are serving thousands of coffees each day in London. I know this brand well (as I used to live beside the original shop), and I do love their coffee so it further enhances their credibility in my mind as a go-to place for amazing coffee.
Social proof also includes endorsements. The word endorsement often triggers thoughts of celebrities and whilst celebrity endorsements can be effective (for the big brands with very deep pockets), there are ways that smaller businesses can effectively use endorsements. If there are key people in your industry who are influencers or any of your clients are particularly known in a relevant field or your geographic area, potential clients may see the connection and think “If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.”
Sometimes social proof can be as simple as showcasing people who have already bought the products and are enjoying using them. This can take the form of social media shares, testimonials, or case studies on a website. It may even be a photo gallery to showcase existing, happy customers - literally a wall of hundreds of tiny, smiley faces - showing the prospect that people just like them are using and enjoying the product.
Depending on your business sector, membership of professional bodies such as trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, sector societies, and memberships also provide important credibility that will influence prospective clients or customers and help them to trust you by association.
Why Social Proof is Important
Social proof is essential in building your credibility as a business. It is important because when people buy your product or use your service, they often don’t see the results or benefits for many months to come - they might not get the instant impact and instant confirmation that they have made a good decision. Social proof helps people to trust that your product or service is going to work and get them their desired result. It showcases people just like them who are reaping the rewards of being a customer, and it influences prospects to adopt the same buying behavior.
I was explaining this to my husband recently and I used the example of a restaurant local to us. They had just opened up this new downstairs area, and it's absolutely beautiful. A coffee there in the sunshine on the deck, overlooking fields and forests with chilled Ibiza music in the background, funky furniture, and whitewashed walls - I could have been on holiday. It was an idyllic moment that I have since repeated many, many times. But I would never have visited it without social proof.
I discovered the new downstairs area quite by chance when friends and clients started posting about it on social media. Now I’d been to the venue previously and actually quite liked it, and I’d even seen the venue’s own posts about the new area but dismissed them without much thought. However, as I saw others sharing, and then saw the venue itself sharing posts from other happy customers who had been turned into raving fans, I started to pay attention and I had to check it out for myself. This is social proof in action. It’s leveraging that customer or client love, that fan base that already knows, likes (or loves!), and trusts you, and using that to help prospective clients decide to do the same.
For me, one of the most powerful types of social proof is a testimonial. Testimonials are essential in your sales and marketing and every small business should be using them as much as possible, in as many places as possible. Be sure to include them on your website, social media, or any physical or online marketing piece. Here are my top tips for sharing great testimonials:
Testimonials must be relevant to your target market, so be sure to choose an individual or business that would best resonate with your ideal client. (If you’re not sure who your target market is, I highly recommend checking out my blog post: How to Grow Your Business by Identifying Your Target Market
You should provide all the relevant details of the person giving the testimonial, such as their name, title, business name, geographic location (if relevant), and ideally, a photo. If you’re sharing on social media, it’s even better if you can tag them in the testimonial. Please be sure you have their permission first!
Use quotation marks (“ “) to emphasise that these are your client's or customer’s own words as this increases the credibility and power of the testimonial itself.
Be specific as to the benefit gained. It’s all well and good for one of my clients to say “I've had great results coaching with Ruth”, but what does that actually mean? Testimonials need to be much more specific than that. For example, things like - one of my clients had a 240% increase in income in the time we've been working together. That’s great, we are both pleased with that. Another has had a 6x increase in monthly profit - they are beyond delighted. Another one of my clients has increased from being a team of one to having a team of six- that's good progress. But what is important from a social proof perspective is that it's really defined good progress that will speak to a prospect and make them think “That sounds great, I need that.”
The same rules as testimonials also apply to case studies. The case study should explain how you've solved that client's problems, and include some testimonials from the client as well. Most importantly it should be focussed on the client and how your business helped them to solve their problem, rather than being about your business.
In addition, in a case study, it is important to highlight your Unique Selling Proposition, your USP or differentiator. The thing that sets you apart from the competition and makes your ideal client think “That’s the one, that’s who I need to work with”.