The term “social proof” was first coined by Dr. Robert Cialdini, an American investigative author, in 1984. Basically, when people need to make a decision, they are affected from others who had already made the decision. If the accuracy of the decision made is crucial and there is not enough data to make the decision, then people tend to make the same decision with the others.
When I was a university student, I began working as a waiter at a cafe-bar in Bodrum, Turkey. On the very first day of my employment, when tourists started to fill the streets during evening hours, my boss called me and a waitress, gave us both a drink and let us sit to a table by the street. I was so cheered up and remember thinking “I think our boss is rewarding us” because I worked so hard on my first day; and then lit a cigarette. After only a few puffing at the cigarette, the boss called us and said “Enough with the laziness! Come on, let’s work!”; and he sent us back to working. Then, I learned that this was a frequently used tactic. Because, regardless of how fancy a cafe-bar is, people would hesitate to go in if it is empty. That was exactly why, cafe-bar owners made their employees sit on the tables like they were customers to keep the place not seen empty. This was how I was introduced to the “social proof” concept.
My second experience was when I was abroad, looking for a restaurant for something to eat. I like a nice burger very much and the F&B court in the shopping mall I was visiting had 4-5 burger serving restaurants. Of course, I would like to eat the best burger; but I had no idea which restaurant would serve me the best burger. In other words, the information I had was very limited to make the right decision. Then, I saw a big poster on the wall of one of the restaurants saying: “Gordon Ramsay ate burger here!”. Of course, I went directly into that restaurant. Gordon Ramsay, the almighty chef, could not be wrong.
These two cases are the most basic examples in my life in terms of social proof. Almost every day, we are influenced by the decisions of others on any issue while making our own decisions, although not explicitly as given in the examples. For example, we check the scores of the sellers on an e-commerce website or read the comments regarding the hotel that we will be visiting for our holiday or ask a friend’s advice who is familiar with computers when we want to buy one. The number of these examples can be increased. When we take a look at B2B buying processes, we can find out that social proof is very much important -even more important than in B2C purchases as far as I am concerned. When people are going to buy a product or a service for their companies, they become much more selective. Because any mistake can lead to massive costs and even may cause them to lose their jobs. During B2B buying processes, generally very technical concepts are in question; so, decision-makers may find it difficult to choose the right option. At this point, please let me make a comment based on my personal experiences. During my 15 years of sales and marketing career, I have seen only a few companies making decisions based on completely rational values. In almost all cases, the main perspective of decision-makers was focused on not finding the most accurate option, but on not making the wrong (or to be considered wrong) decision. One of the reasons for companies that managed to become a brand to be awarded the job, even they are more expensive than the competition which is an expert on that specific issue, is that they are afraid to make mistakes due to insufficient data the decision-makers have at hand; so they choose to move with the majority.
We have explained the significance of becoming a brand in our previous blogs. The main subject of this blog is what B2B marketing experts can do as a social proof...
- List their references on their websites: Your probability to be preferred by the companies who are looking for your products or services will increase if they see you have already worked with similar companies.
- Prepare testimonials: Even a few nice sentences from your customers on your company and products will worth more than tens of pages that you will explain yourself.
- Prepare documents of case studies: If you explain how you solved a specific problem of a customer, then it will be attractive for leads who suffer from the same problem.
- Shoot a success story video: Your customers talking about the successful works that you carried out on behalf of them will increase your reliability for your leads.
- Organise a webinar together with customers: Webinars in which you explain how you solved a problem of a customer on a specific issue, such as in case studies, will create a good impression for your leads.
- Be awarded or certified by a highly prestigious organisation: Crowning your successful products or services with an award or certification granted by a highly prestigious organisation will turn your success into a quantifiable value.
These activities are basic components of social proof in B2B marketing. Customers are sorted into three parts in the marketing funnel. TOFU, MOFU and BOFU. Customers at MOFU (middle of funnel) and BOFU (bottom of funnel) stages place utmost significance to social proofing. Using social proofing at the right stage of the buying journey will be very important for your leads to prefer your company.
Please contact us to develop a marketing plan for your company based on social proofing.