When was the last time you researched something you wanted to buy?
If you’re like me, you probably do some online research for price, reliability, comfort, or whatever other features you consider important. Then you ask your friends. You look for social proof that you’re making the right decision, before you make it.
I usually ask on social media and I get at least 25 to 50 answers. I read through all of them and make my decision.
Why do we do this? Why do we ask for social proof from our social circles (some of whom live on the other side of the planet and we’ve never actually met in person)?
Because we tend to give more weight to the opinions and experience of others over trusting what the company selling the product says.
We all know that companies can manipulate the data they find in their studies to say their products are safe, effective, well-made, (insert other qualities here). But we believe it when we hear it from someone we know and trust.
Because it’s different when you hear about a product or service from someone who has actually used it. Even if you don’t know that person, you’re inclined to put yourself in their shoes.
Yelp is a classic example of social proof. Companies that get good Yelp reviews tend to do well. But the instant a bad review comes up, the owner of a company works hard to remove that review, or get other customers to review the company to push the bad review further down on the list. That way the company doesn’t suffer from one person’s bad experience.
Why does this matter? Because people rely on Yelp for opinions on whether they should buy a product, use a service, eat at a restaurant or go to a venue. People want to know what kind of experience to expect. They want to know if they should spend their hard-earned money on something before they plunk it down on the proverbial counter
Since this is something your potential customers want, give it to them. Prove to them that your product or service is worth their money, time and effort.
Here are three ways to use social proof in your marketing.
A testimonial is a quote from a current customer, singing the praises of your product or service. Testimonials are particularly powerful social proof, because they show that another customer had a positive experience. The reader will usually consider this a positive sign and it can make them more likely to buy.
Where to Use Your Testimonials
If you glance at the top of this page, on the right, you’ll notice that I have a few testimonials from former clients listed prominently for all to see. You can list your testimonials on every page, as part of your template, like I do. You can also have a page on your website, specifically for testimonials.
If you’ve just started collecting testimonials, I recommend having them as part of your template. Once you have a good long list, make a page just for testimonials, and keep the best ones displayed prominently on the rest of your site.
Here are some other great places to use your testimonials:
- As part of your email signature
- On your landing pages
- On your checkout pages
- On your opt-in forms
- In your printed marketing materials
How to Get Testimonials from Your Customers
The great thing about happy customers is they love telling you how pleased they are with your work. The best time to get a testimonial is while that customer is raving about your product.
To get this precious social proof, you can:
- Ask your customer if you can quote them: If someone says something wonderful about your product or service (especially if it’s incredibly quotable) ask them if you can use it as a testimonial.
Come right out and say, “Can I quote you on that?” If they say yes, get them to repeat it and write it down or record them saying it. (Your mobile phone should have a voice memo feature.) Let them know you’ll be using this as a testimonial in your marketing.
If the quote is in an email, write them back immediately and ask if you can use their comment as a testimonial. Copy and paste the quote you want to use, so they can see exactly what they’re putting their name to.
- Ask your customers for a testimonial: I tell all of my clients that they need to use testimonials in their marketing (just like I’m telling you now). It makes it easy to ask for a testimonial once the project we’re working on is complete.
You may not have this little advantage, but you can still ask. It can be as simple as training yourself and your sales staff to say something like, “The best promotion for our business is when our customers say good things about our product. Can you take a moment to write down a positive comment about our product?”
Not everyone will do this, (and you’ll want to ask if someone is a regular customer before asking this question) but people who do like your product will happily give you a good testimonial when asked.
- Send out a survey: Survey Monkey, Typeform and Google Forms are all great survey platforms to collect information from your customers. (And they’re all free!) When you create your survey, make sure you ask open ended questions so you can get those fabulous quotes.
Add a link to your survey to:
Case studies are a great way to get social proof for your business. They are literally proof that your product or service works. Better yet, they show exactly how your product or service made someone’s life, business, or day better.
What is a Case Study?
Another common term for case study is success story. It’s basically telling the story of how someone had a problem, they found your product or service and their problem was solved. They tend to be about 1 to 3 pages long and are commonly used as handouts, blog posts or lead magnets on websites or landing pages.
Here is the standard outline for a good case study:
- Problem: Tell the story of your customer and the problem they were having. You can go into as much or as little detail as you want here.
- Enter your product: Talk about how your customer found your product or service and what they found appealing about it.
- Customer’s success: Show how your product or service solved your customer’s problem. Give detailed information on what your customer did and how they got their result. Whenever possible, use numbers, photos or other evidence to show the result.
- Wrap-up: You can do a few things to wrap up your case study:
- Write a quick summary of the case study.
- Talk about your customer’s plans to use your product or service going forward.
- Create a “How This Applies to You” section that shows the reader why your product or service is a good fit for them.
What Makes a Good Case Study?
The best case studies are the ones where someone got a definite and measurable result from using your product or service. Here are a few examples:
- A customer lost 20 pounds in 4 weeks using your diet plan.
- A customer went from having 5 days of serious pain a week to just 2-3 hours (or no pain at all) using your pain reliever.
- A customer increased their sales by 75% in 2 weeks using your software.
You want to prove to potential customers that not only does your product work, it can make a huge, positive change for them and solve whatever problem they’re having beyond their wildest dreams.
How to Get Your Customers to Let You Use Their Stories as Case Studies
Again, if your customers are happy with your product or service, they’re going to tell you about it. So strike while the iron is hot.
Here are a few ways to collect case studies:
- Come right out and ask: Ask your customer if they’d like to be interviewed for a case study as soon as they tell you their success story.
- Request success stories on your website: Link to a form where a customer can give you a brief synopsis of their story as well as their name and contact information.
- Search those survey results for possible case studies: Remember that survey you sent out? Some of those responses could be excellent case studies.
How to Get the Information to Write a Case Study
You’ll need to interview your customer (or have your copywriter interview your customer) to get all the details. Use the basic outline above to come up with a list of questions for your customer.
As you’re talking to them, get them to go deeper into the story whenever possible. I tend to use, “Tell me more about that…” to get people to divulge more information about a subject or situation.
I recommend recording the interview (with the customer’s permission) so you don’t miss anything. I know I can’t type as fast as people talk. When I record an interview, I can go back later and fill in details or check my facts.
Always ask your customer if they want to see the case study before you publish it. Some of them may not care. Others may care deeply and want to see how they’re being represented.
You may need to do a bit of online research to fill in some blanks. You can also talk to your colleagues and employees to get more background on your product. I recommend the sales team and folks that build your product (if you’re not all of those things yourself.)
Great! You have all the information you need. Now tell a compelling story that makes people want to get these same results themselves. As I mentioned above, show the results whenever possible. Before and after pictures are great. And people love it when you use numbers to show results.
Graphics are also a wonderful way to illustrate a change. Give the information to a graphic designer and let their creativity loose to come up with a fabulous image.
I always recommend having a few people read your case study before you show it to the world. They may find holes in your story or ask questions you hadn’t thought of before.
Once your final draft is finished, you’ve got a great lead magnet to use on your website. You can also print it out and give it away at trade shows or use it as part of a presentation.
Sometimes the best social proof is you backing up your product with your own money. That’s why guarantees work so well.
When you say, “If you’re not completely satisfied with my product, I’ll give you your money back,” it’s less of a risk for your potential customers. That way, they can try your product and fall in love with it on their own terms. They figure, “This company wouldn’t be willing to give me my money back unless this product really works.”
Companies in all industries use guarantees to convince customers to buy. You see them all the time.
Duluth Trading Company offers a “No Hassles, No Nonsense” guarantee. No conditions, no time limit. If you’re not happy, send it back and they’ll return your money.
Valspar Paint guarantees that you’ll love their paint colors on your walls, or they’ll give you a rebate for the can so you can get another one.
Yes, some customers do return products or cancel services. But generally speaking, offering that guarantee increases your sales and improves your bottom line.
You can make your money-back guarantee any length you want. 14 days, 30 days, 90 days, a lifetime. And it’s always better to make it unconditional, like Duluth Trading Company’s guarantee. Don’t argue with your customer, that makes them angry when they’re already disappointed in your product. Giving them their money back with no conflict will leave them with a better impression.
Worried you won’t be able to remember all of the techniques I’ve talked about here? Download the Social Proof Cheat Sheet. Just click on the button below and you’ll have all of this information at your fingertips.
How Do You Use Social Proof in Your Business?
How do you get your customers to rave about your product or service? And how do you use that in your marketing? Tell me about it in the comments.