One of the best ways for businesses to attract more sales is to incorporate social proof into their sales and marketing strategy. There are 3 ways in particular that work time and time again, and that you can easily implement in your business today.
Before we get into the details of these 3 key ingredients of social proof, here’s a quick overview of what social proof is in a business context.
When a person is buying something, he (or she) is much more likely to buy a product (or service) if he knows that others have purchased the same thing before him – he wants to be a part of the crowd. It is a basic human instinct to follow the crowd because of the sense of belonging and reassurance with which it is associated.
Social proof also alleviates some of the perceived risk that comes with making a purchase, because you know that others have done so before; you do not have to be a trailblazer. In essence, it is a numbers game – you can’t evaluate every option under the sun but if enough people have chosen one option over another, chances are this is the best or correct decision to make.
So how can you make effective use of social proof into your business? Read on to discover the secrets (you might want to have a pen and paper handy to make notes).
What do you think happens when a book is named a bestseller? That’s right – even more people go out and buy it.
Why? Because if so many people have bought the book before, the chances are that it’s a good, enjoyable read.
The exact same thing happens in movie advertising. If a particular film has topped the charts one week, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be shouting about it in the TV adverts for the following week. “Number 1 smash hit” is a favorite phrase among movie advertisers simply because it can drive even higher numbers of people to the movie theatre.
Implementing Bestsellers In Your Business
The first thing to do when bringing the concept of bestsellers into your business is to do your homework. You need to know precisely which products you sell the most of and if you can get industry-wide statistics too then all the better.
Then you can either provide this information in your shop displays or include it in your sales patter. If you sell washing machines, for instance, being able to tell a customer that the machine you want to show them is the best selling washer in the whole country is a sure fire way to increase your chances of selling that particular model.
If you are a service provider and you have various packages for customers to choose from, indicate to them which is the most popular and they are more likely to go for that one.
Bestsellers are self-reinforcing because more people tend to buy them which keeps them as the best selling item. Even if the bestseller is more expensive, it can outsell other options simply because of the social proof factor.
Be sure to communicate your best selling options on all of your marketing materials from leaflets and flyers to press adverts and your website.
If you provide a catalogue for customers to look through, ensure that each product range has a clearly labelled best seller to help people reach their decision quickly and efficiently (the longer the decision, the more likely they are not to buy).
2. Utilize Scarcity
Amazon are a retailer that we can learn a lot from in terms of social proof but one of the most effective things they do is utilise scarcity to make people buy then and there.
On their search results you might see “Only X left in stock – order soon” next to a product and something similar appears on the product page itself.
Imagine you saw this, what would you do? Well, in many cases, people add that item to their basket much more readily than they might otherwise have done. You see, they really don’t want to be the one to miss out because they dilly dallied over the decision. They want to be part of that crowd we talked about earlier and if stock is low then it must mean that many have already been sold.
While not precisely social proof, why do you think McDonald’s and the other fast food chains run limited edition burgers and sandwiches that change regularly? They do this because when a customer walks in, looks at the menu and sees a new item with “limited time only” next to it, he is more likely to choose it for fear of it not being there the next time. Scarcity drives action – people want to be one of the crowd.
These limited editions are often more expensive that the regular choices and you can be sure that the profit margins are far higher too.
Implementing Scarcity In Your Business
While scarcity lends itself perfectly to some industries (e.g. artists who create X number of prints with each one being numbered as such), it can require a bit of creativity for other businesses.
You might have to be a little sneaky but if you are talking to a potential customer about a product, you can always tell them that there are only 2 left in stock. Not only might they think that many others must have sold previously, they will be prompted to make a faster decision for fear of missing out.
If you have a website that lists your products, you should do exactly what Amazon do and whenever a product gets down to the last 5 in stock, make this fact clear so that visitors know how popular it is and that they should not delay their purchase.
If you run a small restaurant, it can sometimes be better for you not to take bookings. Not only do you avoid the risk of cancellations, but by doing so you create a sense of popularity and scarcity. With a first come, first served policy, customers will often show up earlier than they intend to eat in expectation of a short wait. Many restaurants do this so successfully that their revenue from the drinks bought by waiting guests contributes significantly to profits.
3. Peer to Peer Proof
When it comes to social proof, the closer a person relates to others in the crowd, the more likely they are to want to be a part of it. So when constructing your social proof, it is important to know what your target audience is.
Imagine an advert for acne cream that featured a 30 year old man. While adult acne can be an issue for some, the majority of sufferers are in their teenage years so an effective advert would show lots of teenage boys and girls with clear skin. This allows the teens viewing it to relate to it on a more personal level and aspire to achieve the same results.
Have you ever seen an advert for shampoo that states “85% of women agree it leaves their hair feeling soft and shiny” and could you imagine how less effective it would be if they replaced the ‘women’ with ‘people’?
Some of the most important demographic factors that you need to consider when trying to encapsulate social proof in your marketing or sales efforts are: age, sex, relationship status, income, location and interests.
Implementing Peer to Peer Proof In Your Business
The first and most important step of the process is knowing who your target audience is. Once you have worked this out, then you can start implementing peer proof into your marketing materials.
If you are a luxury brand who is targeting the slightly older gentleman then make sure you have a picture of one enjoying your product so that others can envisage themselves doing the same.
If you sell products in the horse riding niche, get testimonials from jockeys or famous people who are well known to ride horses.
If you are an accountant based in one location but want to target potential clients in the town over, simply get testimonials from any clients you have in the target town so potential customers are aware that you operate there.
Combining All Three
To make your social proof the strongest that it possibly can be, you should try to incorporate all 3 of the above factors in your business.
Think, for a minute, about some expectant parents looking to buy a new high end pushchair for their baby. The salesperson should work out what the customer’s budge is (in this case the top end of the scale) and then he should say something along the lines of:
“This pushchair is the bestseller in your particular price bracket and we have lots of expectant moms and dads coming in who end up buying this exact model. In fact, we sold one this yesterday so I believe this is one of only 2 we have left in stock right now.”
The underlined portions of that paragraph show the bestseller, peer proof and scarcity tactics respectively and as a standalone sales pitch it would work well, let alone when you talk about the product features etc.
As with all marketing or sales techniques, the best thing to do is test, test and test some more. You have to experiment to get the right combination of factors and methods that work for your situation and your customer base.
The three factors above are some of the most important parts of social proof and should see sales improve in their own right but combine them with other things and keep trying until you find the right mix.