Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Social Proof: How To Use It In Your Referral Marketing

A shopping trip got me thinking ...



I was in a shopping mall looking for a new dress and getting dispirited because nothing seemed to fit. My feet were killing me, and I badly needed a sit-down and a coffee ...

Why did I choose that coffee shop? Because everyone else did. That's social proof in action!

Why did I choose that coffee shop? Because everyone else did. That's social proof in action!

copyright: sandralise / 123rf stock photo

The mall had three coffee shops all situated together in a separate part off the main thoroughfare. The first two looked empty with big signs up offering two coffees for the price of one.

"The third one had a queue stretching
outside the door!"

Guess what I did? With a sigh and a resignation that my feet would have to hurt a bit longer, I joined the queue. It took over 20 minutes to reach the front and then I had to squeeze into a corner sharing a table.

Was the coffee and cake really that much better than the other places? I have no idea, I never went in the others. That's the power of social proof. All those people must know something I didn't about how wonderful this coffee shop was or how bad the others were.

The internet has pushed strategies for gaining social proof right up the marketing agenda, but it isn't a new concept. We're hard wired to follow the crowd most of the time. We're also sensible enough to trust the opinion of other customers rather than what the supplier says.

According to a survey reported some time ago (Feb 2010) in eMarketer, that's by quite a large margin. We're twelve times more likely to believe our fellow customers.

And, of course, referral marketing is all about getting others to tell your prospective customers how great you are. There's that social proof again. The more your network of contacts tells everyone how marvellous you are, the more people will want to work with you.

"So give them something to talk about!"

I'm going to take it for granted that you are providing an excellent service, but then so are others. What you want your network to do is make it so compelling to use you that they never even look at the others (remember me and the three coffee shops?) Here are some things to do to get them talking.

First of all, get them to have some kind of personal experience of your knowledge and services. How wonderful if they become your clients as they should be thrilled with what you've given them and talk about you all the time. However this approach does have limitations.

Who's going to be first to use you? Where do they get their social proof from? Many of you may remember how elusive that first customer was only to have two or three follow quite quickly afterwards.

Your service may be confidential and sensitive in nature. Your clients may not wish others to know they've used you, so will not talk about you to others. Or they may not want their competitors to use your services too.

Lastly, using your services may be inappropriate. The example I always give when training is that I am not prepared to get divorced just so I can recommend the family lawyer in my network.

"However there are others ways that you can give them a personal experience of you at work!"

Free or low-cost taster workshops are a great way of letting people experience your services. It's important to make these of real value with interesting content to draw in lots of people.

Remember you want them to experience your knowledge and style and equally to see the social proof that others think you are worth hearing.

So work on filling the room as part of your marketing, not as a money spinner. And if you're really new in business, maybe a joint session with someone who has already got a following can help you fill the room?

If a full workshop isn't appropriate or feasible, then get on the circuit for speaking engagements where someone else has filled the room. Make sure you tell your people where and what you're speaking about and invite them to come along.

If you're nervous or a novice at public speaking, many network groups give you a short slot and your fellow networkers are usually a supportive audience. Do be prepared to invest in some personal development to get past your nerves and present at your best.

In support of all these experiences, offer a flow of supporting material such as books, articles, video and blogs, all designed to provide your network with a personal experience of who you are.

All of this is to give your network the ammunition to talk about you. Even those who may never refer you directly can add to the voice that says you're marvellous. Ask them to spread the word, promote your next workshop or invite people to come along to hear you speak or meet you.

"And, as referral marketing is all about the law of reciprocity, take every opportunity to do the same for them!"

If you'd like to know more about referral marketing, social proof and how to grow your network, call me on 07970 638857 or click here to send over an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...


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07970 638857