Why does that matter?
Because whether you are a business owner, an artist, a creative, or anyone who has to sell anything, social proof can give you an advantage.
James was right. The first priority for a new business is to have “customers who say you are great.” But I think it’s more than that. They don’t just have to say it. You have to make sure that potential customers hear them saying it too.
For someone to say you are great at what you do you actually have to be great at what you do. It’s the first rule. But the effort required is worth it.
As Ryan Holiday observes in this AMA session, “the best marketing hack for a service business is to fucking blow your clients minds.” If you do that, but no one knows about the value you’re providing, you’re missing a trick.
It’s like the Zen koan of the tree falling in the forest. If your customers say you are great, but no one hears them saying it, did they say it at all?
So how can you use social proof to promote yourself?
First, you must recognise that there are two distinct types, used by different people, for different purposes: quality and quantity. Sometimes these are used in isolation, but the ultimate is when they are combined.
When you use the quantity form, you are broadcasting how many people you’ve worked with and delivered value to. By demonstrating your ability to reliably and consistently provide something of worth to those you work with, you are showing your potential customers your proven track record.
Example:head over to Farnam Street to see how Shane Parrish mentions that 65,000 people are signed up to his weekly digest.
When you use the quality form of social proof, you are leveraging the person’s/company’s reputation or status to help bolster your own. What does working with world-class companies like Google say about you? To potential customers, it says that you’re good enough to work with world-class companies like Google.
Example: check out Brass Check Marketing’s site to see how their influential clients are used to establish their credibility.
But what if you don’t have any social proof? This is the dilemma of the new business.
Cialdini states that social proof is at it’s most potent when we are most unsure of what to do. So the time a new business could most use it’s power (when potential customers are unsure of them) is the exact state that disqualifies them from using it.
Seen from this angle, social proof is a way for us to lessen risk.
If we are considering purchasing a good or a service, knowing that others have purchased it before us makes it more likely for us to do so. But with no social proof to rely on, your options are limited.
For a new business, the only way to surmount the absence of social proof is to eliminate as much risk as possible for new customers.
Not your money, but your time and energy and attention into understanding why they won’t buy what you are selling. Understand why they might not and you can figure out how to increase the chances that they will.
If you can find a low-risk way to demonstrate that you can provide value or solve their problem, you’ll get a customer.
And if you deliver and do a good job? If you “fucking blow your clients minds?”
You’ll get social proof. And the opportunity to leverage it’s power to help you lift off.