Don’t Forget “Social Proof” in Your Referral-Based Marketing Strategy

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Generally speaking, when looking for a product or service, family, friends, or other professional contacts have referred us all to a company at one time or another.

Usually, the endorsement of a person with whom you have a close relationship is going to be enough to get you to reach out to the company in question. However, most of the time a prospective referral will still do their homework on a company or service before they reach out directly.

Knowing this, as a business owner, you will want to do everything in your power to make sure that your brand is positioned in a way to land the sale or account when the referral calls. One of the main ways to reinforce your referral marketing activities is to tactfully solicit and incorporate some “Social Proof” from clients who have used and are happy with your services. Simply put, Social Proof is the positive influence that is created for a business when someone finds out that other like-minded individuals are taking some type of action, and are more likely to do the same thing as a result.

Let’s look at a few different reasons that this strategy helps to increase your chances of landing not only more referral business, but also serves as an active effort for your company’s marketing efforts as a whole.

Testimonials Offer an Unbiased Voice and Establish Trust

Whether a prospect is referred directly to you, or if they come from another source, the first thing they typically do is visit your website to learn more about you and the services that you offer.

By utilizing testimonials as a form of social proof on your site and in other marketing collaterals, you are giving your prospects an easy way to hear from other people who have used your product and are pleased enough with your work to allow you to use their name to vouch for you. This type of “social proof” has been proven time and time again to have a direct psychological impact on helping prospects to decide whether or not to make a buying decision.

Testimonials can be used in a wide variety of ways, and can come in the form of text, images, and videos. It is usually a good idea to put your best testimonials on the homepage of your website, but they can also be used very effectively used to enhance your conversion by strategically placing them on a checkout or lead capture page to push your prospect into taking your desired action.

Don’t Forget to Solicit Reviews on 3rd Party Networks

3rd party websites like Google, Yelp, or Angie’s List are also going to be essential for providing additional social proof for any prospective customers. These websites are frequent destinations for consumers who are looking to get either contact information or learn more about the experience of other past customers of a business.

Review sites can be just as, if not even more powerful, than some of the testimonials that are used on your site. Since a business owner has control over the exact content that appears on their web property, they will undoubtedly only place the most relevant (and beneficial) testimonials for visitors to review. On review websites, anyone can weigh in and disclose their exact experience for the public to see. This tends to remove any type of bias, and is typically trusted more by the end reader.

A few interesting statistics about reviews include:

76% of Americans look at reviews when determining which local business to use

72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

As a result, it is a good idea to proactively direct happy customers to these websites to leave a review about their experience. This can effectively be done by placing signs at your location, include calls to action in your emails asking for feedback, and also directly asking existing customers.

Other Types of Social Proof Your Business Can Use

Social Proof comes in many different flavors. Depending on the stage of your business, and your access to additional resources, you may want to include the following types of social proof into your website and marketing efforts.

Expert or Celebrity Social Proof – Do you know anyone who is well known locally or nationally, or is an expert in a related field who has used your product or service and wouldn’t mind attaching their name to your brand?

Wisdom of the Crowds Social Proof – Be sure to use any statistics that show that your business is widely used. For example, phrases like “Best Rated Dentist by {insert publication here}” or any awards that your business has won are great things to include.

External PR – Have you ever been quoted in a publication about your business? Not only can you effectively use the quote in your marketing, but many times it helps to include the logo of the publication if it is recognizable.

Case Studies and Whitepapers – Do you have any in-depth examples of how your business has made a large impact on a customer? Create a case study to tell others their business problem, how your company helped, and the supporting statistics. This can be very effective when you are dealing with B2B customers.

Social Media – If you aren’t doing so, make sure that you have active social profiles, and you also have them incorporated into your website. This allows customers and passersby to share your brand and start conversations out in the marketplace with their peers.

How to Start Building Your Company’s Social Proof

More often than not, you will need to focus on a few different kinds of social proof when starting your strategy. It is usually best to start with the low hanging fruit, like testimonials and review websites and build from there. Figure out the best ways that you can incorporate these into your site and other marketing materials to make sure that they are working on your behalf.

Keep in mind though that much of social proof is going to build upon a great product or experience, and that people like it enough to tell their friends. If you don’t handle that aspect of your business well, then all the social proof in the world won’t help.

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