Ahhh. Summer. Traveling. Baseball. Outdoor concerts and events…
As I was exploring my options for this Friday’s Fourth of July festivities, I became even more keenly aware of what a potent persuasion technique the use of social proof is.
As you know, many people turn to the web, and/or their smartphones to explore their choices when traveling, dining out, making plans to go out or just about anything they plan to spend time and money on.
This is good news for small business owners.
It allows you more opportunities to sell your products, services and events—even extend your reach further around the world should you choose to.
However, this also gives a stronger voice to the consumer. It used to be that whether you were happy with your service, or wanted to make a complaint, you had to write a letter or make a phone call. The consumer might also tell a friend, family or neighbor about their experience too. But usually not more than a couple of handfuls of people would hear about it.
Now-a-days your customers can share their story about an experience by leaving a review of your product or service immediately online –where the whole world can see what they have to say. In fact, next to nearly everything you search for online, you’ll find “customer reviews” telling you what other people think of whatever product, service or event you are searching for.
Want to find a resort to stay in for your vacation get-a-way? You’ll see what customers had to say about the resort. And I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that you’ll consider what they have to say before you reserve your room.
Want to choose a restaurant near where you are, you might check out what people have to say on Yelp.
Everything from restaurants to dental care to products we buy have customer reviews.
This increased consumer power can be good or bad. When they aren’t happy with the service and/or product they can let the world know. On the flip side, if they are happy, they can also let everyone know by leaving a review, tweeting about it, posting photos on Facebook, blogging about it and more.
Making this even more important is the fact that consumers trust their fellow consumers more than they trust professional critics.
According to market research by Weber Shandwick, 88% of consumers say they still consult consumer reviews even when they are “somewhat” or “very knowledgeable” about their purchase. Furthermore, consumers report that they pay more attention to consumer reviews (77%) than they do to professional critic reviews (only 23%.)
Which means the use of social proof is an even more potent persuasion technique in your marketing and sales process than ever before.
And if you can’t prove something, then don’t say it.
You need an overwhelming quantity and quality of proof to prove that what you’re saying is true too.
So what is “quality proof?” Basically you want testimonials with full names, details, pictures, and precise numbers to back your case.
Six rules for “quality” social proof that will be the most potent persuasive tools:
1) Include specifics. In Weber Shandwick’s research, it was found that the most influential reviews include certain elements. For example, they needed to seem fair and reasonable, be well-written, and contain statistics, specifics and technical data when applicable.
2) You need a lot of proof. If you only have a few testimonials, don’t put them on a page that looks like there is space left over. Put them on a small piece of paper (or website) so it looks like you really had to cram them in.
3) Let your consumers answer objections. You want to have testimonials that answer objections and questions that your prospect typically has. Many times your best customers, clients and patients will come to your defense and as Dan Kennedy says “What others say about you in 1000x more powerful than anything you say about yourself”
4) Round up a sampling of informative reviews on your website. Simplify the process for consumers and reduce the likelihood of them being lured to your competitor’s website by including a sampling of consumer reviews on your website. By including the information consumers seek when making buying decisions, you’ll make it easier for them—and quite frankly more persuasive for you.
5) Keep your reviews and testimonials authentic. Publically announce a policy that prevents employees from commenting or leaving reviews about your product or service.
6) Encourage customers to review your products and services. Dedicate resources to getting customers to review your products and services and ask for testimonials. While you can’t directly influence user reviews, you can encourage people to give reviews. Then pick those with the most potential to have the biggest impact and post them to our website, social networks, and so on. If you sell products online you probably have the e-mail address of buyers…after a few weeks send them an e-mail asking for them to review your product with a link. If you sell through a retail location, simply give them a card on their way out that has review instructions and on the other side give them some kind of offer for returning or referring others to your business.
Also, ask for written testimonials. When asking for testimonials from your customers and clients, ask questions that will help guide them to give you specific answers. You might also ask questions such as “What were your doubts about trying our product?” and “What specifically do you like best about our service?”
Bottom line: The more proof you have, the easier selling will be and the more money you will make.
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