The Importance Of Testimonials And Endorsements

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Testimonials and Endorsements are usually for big companies. Today we'll show you how a startup can implement concept of social proof. Find out now!

And here’s how to make them work for you!

A few months ago my smartphone made the decision it was time for a replacement. I hadn’t planned on upgrading and was quite happy with the one I had, being a “50 something” long past the time of life when I wanted to have the latest and greatest anything.

At my cell phone retailer I began the conversation by asking the salesperson a couple of questions. First, what are the differences between the phones available? Second, which do you think I would be happiest with given my situation? It became pretty clear that the Samsung product had a slight edge in features over the Apple iPhone. The difference wasn’t commanding but there was a difference and it was one that I would probably notice in the long-term use of the device. The price was a little better for the Samsung, too. Frankly, the salesperson was somewhat noncommittal when it came to making a “flat-out” recommendation for me, but she made it clear I would be happy if I went with the Samsung. Decision made. I bought the iPhone.

This (very true) story is a great example of a concept that Robert Cialdini, PhD and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, introduced a few years ago. He calls it “social proof.”

Cialdini’s Social Proof

In Cialdini’s body of work called neuromarketing, he posits that one of the most important means that we all use to make buying decisions is looking to the behavior of others in making and validating the purchase. And the best marketers are keenly aware of this principle. You should be too.

The concept of social proof existed long before the Internet but, like so many other areas of life, websites and apps like Yelp and Amazon have supercharged the concept. Many people will not visit a restaurant unless the reviews are plentiful and positive. In the “old” days, if someone received a bad meal, he might tell a few friends. Today, his online review can cost the restaurant thousands of dollars of business or more! Sure, there are the early adopters who are usually the ones camping out overnight when a new phone, game or console comes out. But those are the very, very small minority. In fact, that group is surely less than 5% of us. Most of us are imitators and like to see others succeed or fail in their decisions before we commit.

That’s what social proof is all about.

Why You Should Consider Social Proof

The concept is in practice all around us. Before television, enterprising theatergoers would actually offer to laugh, cry, yell, or whatever at different parts of play to encourage others to do the same. And actors would pay them to do it! Today, that’s called a laugh track. Look at the websites of many startup companies and you will see the names of current clients prominently displayed. Why? Because it helps future customers make the decision to follow suit.

A television series entitled “Brain Games” conducted an experiment in downtown Las Vegas on Fremont Street. The producers simply set up a black rope, like you might see in a movie theater, and erected a sign that said, “Line Starts Here.” After about half an hour, nothing had happened. So they placed a live person “first in line.” When people asked him what he was waiting for, he simply responded, “I don’t know, but I think it is going to be fun.” Amazingly, within 15 minutes, the line was probably 20 feet long. After a while longer, the line was substantial, even though not a single person in the line knew what he was there for! After a bit more wait someone came and told the group to follow him. All of them did without question. They snaked through stores and casinos, did Conga dances and generally had a good old time.

What a testament to the concept of social proof! Hundreds of people signed up for something just because others did it too! So, of course, the question becomes, how can a startup business utilize this concept to grow its business?

How A Startup Can Implement It

  1. First and foremost, on websites, brochures, and any promotional material, include testimonials from others who have used your product or service. If the customer is well known, like a big company, the name is sufficient. If it is an individual be sure to use a quote. The quote will mean more than the name. (You may have seen advertisements that include a quote and a first name and last initial. This is fine and some people would prefer it versus making them identifiable in an age of identity theft. But DO NOT make them up as I suspect some of these anonymous quotes are.)
  2. Encourage all of your customers to post reviews and use their social media accounts to let others know that they have purchased your product or service and had a good experience.
  3. And, finally, be creative in your advertising in relation to social proof. Did your business go from selling 1 a month to 5 in the last 6 months? Congratulations, you are the “Fastest Growing” company in your industry! Do you have more positive reviews than your competitors? How does it feel to have the “Most Satisfied Customers” in your market?

A note of warning here: I am NOT saying to make things up. Whatever claims you make must be true and verifiable. And you should include a footnote explaining how you arrived at that claim. Frankly, no one will read the footnote but those people that are out to disprove you. So be sure to put it in there. (A good example of this is the cell phone provider segment. Each claims to be the fastest with the best coverage. How? They each use a different measurement and bury it in the fine print.)

One of my favorite absolutely (untrue) sayings is that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. The truth is the world is going to see who else knocks on your door first!



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