The Science of Persuasion – How to Use Social Proof

science of persuasion - social proof

If you haven’t read Robert B. Cialdini’s book, ‘Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion’ then I highly recommend it. It’s probably the best, most engaging book of any kind I ever read and relevant as much to how you’re marketed to in every day life as to growing your B2B high tech company.

This is the first of a series of posts that looks at how the Science of Persuasion can be used in B2B marketing and begins with the principle of consensus (or social proof). In future posts we’ll cover each of the other five principles in depth.

Before talking about how social proof can be used to grow your business (as well as help establish your target market), the following video is an excellent overview of the six principles of influence.

If you didn’t watch it, the six principles of influence are the universal shortcuts that people rely on to help them make decisions. They are:

Reciprocity – simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of behaviour, gift or service that they have received first

Scarcity – simply put, people want more of those things they can have less of

Authority – the idea that people follow the lead of credible knowledgeable experts

Consistency – people like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. Consistency is activated by looking for and asking for small initial commitments that can be made

Liking – people prefer to say yes to those that they like

Consensus (social proof) – especially when they are uncertain people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own (actions and behaviours)

Each one of these can be used (ethically) to influence your buyer’s journey. Let’s start with the last one, consensus, more commonly known as social proof.

As a B2B tech company with some level of repeatable sales, you already have customers and, as we discussed in the post on defining your target market, if those early adopter customers coalesce around a particular sector, functional use, etc. and that grouping is a good fit for your product/solution and where you want to go as a business, then you may have defined your first focus target market.

The principle of consensus/social proof basically says that if your buyer sees other people using your solution to fix a problem they themselves are having then this is a good shortcut to a decision in your favour. If the buyer sees that people similar to themselves are using your solution then the effect is amplified.

So there’s another reason why you need to identify your target market – you can leverage the power of social proof much more powerfully. Not only can you focus your limited marketing budget to a niche you can readily address, your social proof will show people within that target market that you’ve solved their problem successfully before.

We talked in our post ‘The Emotion and Logic of Buying’ about how people make emotional decisions and then use logic to justify them. The early stage of the buyer’s journey deals with the emotional, the middle deals with the logical. What content can you provide to influence using the principle of social proof?

What about quotes from clients (who look like your buyer) early in their journey and case studies for the middle/logical stage? That would work. Even if you only had 3 or 4 quotes you could get from your early adopter customers, you could use those extremely effectively across your website and through other communications. Even a single case study from a client in your target market would be equally effective when used as part of the logical justification.

Then, depending on the types/size of company you’re targeting, customer references might be needed right at the end of the buyer’s journey. You might be concerned that having a prospect speak to an existing customer is a risk so late in their journey. However, the end of the journey is more emotional than logical for the buyer and the principle of consistency will be at play. In short, your buyer has made a decision and doesn’t want to hear counterarguments. As Cialdini put it, “Sealed within the walls of rigid consistency, we can be impervious to the sieges of reason.”

To discuss how we can help your B2B tech company grow, please get in touch with us here.

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