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Your marketing plan is important, but so is the customer experience

Make sure  you’re keeping an eye on reviews.

Technology has largely influenced the way businesses operate today. Most companies operate their branding, sales and marketing strategies online. Small, medium and large companies enjoy the level playing ground that technology provides them – well, small and medium-sized companies anyway.

Just as technology provides companies the opportunity to achieve their business goals, so does it provide prospective customers the opportunity to research and make informed decisions before making purchase decisions. According to a recent study, 80% of consumers research online before making a big purchase. This research and subsequent purchase are largely influenced by social proof, which should be a large part of your content marketing strategy.

Social proof is defined as a psychological occurrence where people copy the actions of others in a similar situation. Some examples of social proof are customer testimonials, celebrity or expert endorsements and earned media attention. A less scientific name for social proof would be “following the crowd” and it is a very useful tactic that big businesses have been using to generate sales for decades.

But nothing stops you from leveraging social proof for your small business as well. In fact, using social proof is good for your small business because you often find yourself going head to head with bigger, more established companies and social proof can help you harp on what makes your product or service better.

Benefits of Using Social Proof for Your Small Business

  • It helps with building confidence in your company, its product or service and in your overall brand. This is very important as a small business because very few people know who you are and therefore, how good your products or services are. But by leveraging social proof, you can quickly build up confidence in potential customers.
  • Social proof can help your small business generate sales-ready leads. When people are actively looking to buy a product or a service, their first point of research are review aggregator websites like Yelp, Angie’s List because these platforms have carved a niche for themselves as a go-to resource for unbiased reviews.
  • Testimonials could also be used as marketing materials on your website, blog, email newsletters, social media profiles, brochures, and eBooks. If you’re selling a product, you can encourage customers to take pictures of them using your product and you can showcase these users generated content on your social media pages. A great way to use it as part of your marketing material is to include case-studies within content offers such as eBooks and Whitepapers. This shows customers that others have a positive experience with your product or service and so could they too.
  • It helps your company appear transparent, trustworthy and credible. Because not all reviews and testimonials about your product or service would be great or have five stars, you’re able to reach out to these unsatisfied customers and resolve their complaints, all in the public eye. This gives your prospective customers an unbiased view of how you treat your customers and what they expect when they do business with you.
  • Social proof helps your prospective customers over skepticism about your company or offerings.

Critical Components of Social Proof That Generates Sales-Ready Leads

Not all testimonials are useful for lead generation. When working on generating customer reviews, the following are valid points on what makes a great social proof for your business.

  • Great testimonials should describe the benefits of using your product or service. A generic “this product is great” or “they offer excellent service” is nice to hear if you want to boost your ego. But if you want to generate sales-ready leads, you need testimonials that are filled with benefits.
  • Sales-ready lead generating testimonials should substantiate your claims not refute them. What makes your product, service or company unique must be evident in each testimonial. If your product or service helps people save money or time, for instance, your testimonials should clearly state that.
  • What makes social proof so effective is because people always look towards those that are similar to them. If you want your testimonials to increase your conversion rates, then you should consider using testimonials and reviews from customers who represent your ideal customer. This helps prospects see that your product or service has helped someone just like them, making them feel much more inclined to try it out.
  • Your testimonials, reviews and other forms of social proof that you use must be credible and from actual, reliable sources. This means your testimonials must have a photo, full name, social media handle and any other proof that makes the testimonial and person giving it credible and trustworthy. This is why case studies (especially those that use videos) are so powerful at converting because they help your prospects connect on a more personal level.
  • Another component of a customer generating testimonial or review is that it is comparative i.e. it compares your product or service to those of your competitors in an unbiased way. This shows your prospective customers that your products or services can do what your competitors can’t. Always be on the lookout for these types of testimonials, especially if you’re in a very competitive market (as most small businesses are).

Creative Ways Small Businesses Can Generate Valuable Social Proof

The advantages of using social proof for your small business are too much to overlook. But how do you go about generating enough credible and valuable social proof that will help your small business increase revenue, stand out from the crowd and increase your brand awareness?

Listed below are four simple ways you can use to generate valuable social proof for your small business:

Facebook Reviews

If you don’t have a Facebook already, consider setting one up for your small business. Choose the “local business” option when setting up your Facebook page because it comes with a Reviews tab.

Once you’re all done, simply make this tab visible and encourage your fans to use it to leave reviews about your product or service.

When prospects first encounter your Facebook page, these reviews and the stars that come with it will either make prospects trust you completely or not (depending on the majority of your reviews)

LinkedIn Recommendations

While customers can’t leave you reviews on your company’s LinkedIn page, you can still get Recommendations and Endorsements that can be used (with permission of course) on your website and other marketing materials.

If you’re running a one-man business such as a consulting company or you’re a freelancer, LinkedIn Recommendations can be a great source of social proof for your personal brand, especially when prospective customers are researching you online.

YouTube Video Reviews

Video has always been a powerful medium of communication, which makes it a very good option for obtaining social proof. And with YouTube being the second largest search engine in the world, it makes perfect sense to use YouTube not just to collect the reviews, but to also showcase them.

Simply encourage your customers or influencers to share video reviews of them using your product on their own YouTube account and you can simply add their link to your Testimonial Web page and also create a playlist on your YouTube channel to host these videos.

They will do a lot of good for not just generating leads and building credibility, but also for improving your websites’ search engine ranking.

Local Search Directories

Local search directories such as Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, and CitySearch are great for generating user reviews that will help you drive traffic to your website long after the reviews have been written.

One of the great things about local search directories is that they help with search engine optimisation, especially if you have registered your account on these platforms and “claimed your business.”

This is especially effective if you have a Google My Business account that is connected with your Google Places account, which is also connected to Yelp. All these can work together to make your to increase your company’s rankings.

Quick Tips on Using Social Proof Strategically

  • Set up a Testimonials and Case Study page on your website
  • Add customer Testimonials on every web page
  • Use Testimonials and seals of approvals on your Home page.
  • Always make sure to use your BEST testimonials first and foremost.

Social proof is a great way to set your company apart from its competitors and generate high-quality, sales-ready leads. But, it shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone tactic. Using other digital marketing strategies will make your marketing much more effective and help you add credibility to your small business.