Believe it or not but expert opinion still matters. But it’s a good news — you can use it in your favour to boost your sales.
Social proof series
Social proof is a part of the process around the herding instinct — we are more likely to herd when we see signals that others choose a product or a service (aka, social proof). But it is not limited to the herding effect. There are other types of social proof concepts that might be very helpful in your startup marketing. This time I want to introduce you to the very basic type of social proof that is called “Expert opinion” . How does it work and how can you use it to grow your business?
Why people believe experts
People believe experts. No kidding, it’s just a part of our social training and a feature/bug of our learning process. Why do you think an average person can learn more throughout their life than an average baboon? Because we have language? Yes. But it’s not because of language itself. It’s because we use language to transfer knowledge. And knowledge is a set of insights — not data but the results we have collected from it. It works because we trust the source, we trust that others before us did a great job collecting the data, analyzing it and driving insights out of it. We don’t have to go out there and check the premises every time we acquire knowledge: when they tell us that the Earth is round, we don’t rush to the observatory to check this fact out. When they say that LinkedIn is a great platform to grow a B2B Saas we don’t reach out to 50 other founders to get their point of view. This mechanism prevents us from stalling and sends us acting upon the acquired knowledge straight away.
But this is also a double-edged sword. If the transfer of knowledge is based on trust, the level of trust also defines our desire to act upon it. In other words, we trust authoritative sources and we ignore the information that might be coming our way from the sources that we don’t consider authoritative enough. You are a parent and can’t establish your authority with the child? Now you know why they don’t listen to you. You’re a founder who has invested nothing in building our own brand? No wonder, when you start talking about an area of your expertise that you probably know much better than many others, your wise words and data-backed opinions are…well…generally ignored.
How you can use it
1. Become an expert
The first, very obvious strategy, is to become an expert yourself. You don’t have to build a 20K- following audience to increase the level of trust in your expertise. It would be useful to be more active on social media and post at least weekly (if you can’t manage daily) on Twitter and LinkedIn (those platforms contribute in the level of trust you as an expert the most, the one that performs better than they both is YouTube but creating video content is not for everyone, if you can do it definitely go for it!). But if for some reason you can’t post often, make sure your profile is optimized for your area of expertise.
You might think — Nah, it’s not important for me. I’m not a copywriter, a freelancer or a consultant. I’m a SaaS founder, I don’t need this trust sht! My customers are not going to check me out on social media.—
Fair enough. But here’s what Roberto Robles, a founder of KatLinks says: — When I first launched KatLinks, I went with the opt-out framework. It’s when customers have to provide their credit card details while creating an account, even though they have a 7 day free trial. It was a strategic decision: I had to figure out if I have a product-market-fit, and getting customers who are eager to pay is considered to be the best proof. But that’s what happened: I had great traffic after the launch day but very few sign ups. Then people started reaching out to me in emails saying “Hey, dude, we like your tool. We want to try it. But we don’t know you, so it feels funny that you ask us to provide card details upfront”. —
2. Use a reference to an expert
Have you noticed how often big brands use this line in their commercials? “Approved by 9 out of 10 dentists”, “recommended by The Industry X association”, etc.? All this small stuff triggers social proof and increases the level of trust users have to anything you're about to say next (that’s why it makes sense to use it closer to the top of the message than at the bottom).
The rules of thumb:
Use references to industry leaders as much as you can (”Company X recommends us”, “the leading magazine in Y featured us in a publication”)
Use ratings from the experts and industry leaders BUT only if they are in your favour. If the raring is nor so favourable it makes sense to relaunch or change a brand name after you improved the product. It’s harder to restore a ruined reputation that to acquire a brand new one.
You might think: — Nah, I know people don’t trust experts’ reviews anymore. People trust peers. I will focus my attention on the users’ reviews instead.—
Fair enough. But for the reasons I outlined above (how expert figures are ingrained in our learning process) people would still likely trust experts (unless they have a brain damage that also impacts their learning abilities) even if they don’t admit it. But hey, we all have things going in your heads that we don’t admit and don’t even notice.
Besides, studies show that there are areas of knowledge where people openly admit that they trust experts more than peers. A survey run by the BestCompany in 2016 offers these results:
3. Get an endorsement from an expert
Endorsement can come in different types and shades. Getting a testimonial or a shout-out from an industry expert is amazing. But it’s not always possible. Other ways you can “piggyback” on someone’s expertize.
Just putting an expert picture on your landing page can be powerful. Especially, if you’re in a community business and you’re selling access to network and knowledge. The fact that you already have experts on your team propels the value of your offer x10 times. Check out the example of Swipefiles.com by Corey Hanes.
2. Get an expert to be a speaker at your Twitter Space, podcast show, YouTube channel, write a guest post for your newsletter, etc.
Many industry experts keep on actively working on their reputation. Therefore, they are motivated to speak as widely as they can. When you offer them this opportunity they are more likely to be happy than not.
Pro Tip: getting an expert on your show/in your newsletter is not only great in the short run as it increases the level of trust in your product. But it also helps you establish a relationship with an expert that might come in handy in the long run.
You might think: — Meh, I would never be able to make an expert use my product/get on my podcast/ write a testimonial. I’m too shy to reach out, I don’t want to be pushy.—
Fair enough. But there are other ways to create a “Halo effect” around your product that is associated with someone’s expertise. For example, even such simple thing as an expert liking your content can have a huge impact on your credibility, reputation — and let’s be honest, impressions your content gets online. It’s one thing if your blog post is liked by someone with 25 followers. And it’s a totally different thing if your blog post is liked by an expert with a great reputation and thousands of followers..
How to get expert’s likes?
Engage with their content in a meaningful way leaving smart but never aggressive comments.
Eventually, in a couple of weeks, an expert would check out your profile at least — who is this smart person who leaves all these nice comments and is always so supportive? If they see something worth sharing or liking on our page they will do that.
Experts are motivated to provide access to relevant content to their audience. If your content falls into this category they’d love to share it.
4. Look matters
I know it’s a controversial topic. That’s why I’m getting down to it in the end. You might trust me or not (though, I hope I did enough to establish it 😉) But there are studies that prove: people trust other people more if the later are dresses “officially”. For example, a 2005 study shows that doctors are trusted 70%(!) more when they are dressed in a white coat vs casual dress. But what’s more astonishing: people trust doctors dressed in professional attire more even if they are talking about non-medicine related topics (for example, about crypto). Another study shows that a person dressed in constructor shrubs also enjoys a higher level of trust than a casually dressed person, no matter what they talk about. Crazy, right? But that’s again the Halo effect at work — as soon as the level of trust is established it covers everything a person would say.
How can you use it if you’re far from the medicine or construction industry?
If you have demo calls make sure you’re dressed neatly and you don’t have a horrible mess showing up in the background. Instruct other team members to do the same.
Always switch on the camera — what can be worse than a mess? A switched off camera!
If you use people or demo with real people on your landing page, make sure they are also neatly dressed. If there’s some kind of professional attire associated with their role make sure it is clearly visible in a clip.
I’m definitely not a fan of Facebook-like generic illustrations with zero message value. Get rid of those if you still have them on your landing and use an image of someone who is considered to be an expert in your industry. Even in a “hacky way” — for example, making a screenshot of their tweet that resonates with your messaging.
If you have any other suggestions on how you can use social proof by experts I’d love to hear from you.