In this article I wanted to look into the ways in which you may need to invest in your process in order to get returns.
Would you think about working free of charge with your first client to build social proof?
Social Proof, what is it exactly?
On a number of occasions I have highlighted the necessity for Social Proof. This needs more explanation.
- You have your product/service ready to go then what?
Without social proof very little is going to happen, there will be some apprehension by your potential customer because they don’t want to risk a bad service event when they can see other providers doing a better job with more warmth. You might not even appear on the radar because the customer has filtered by best recommended. Tried and tested equals money.
Social Proof is a marketing term. It relates to a signal that your customers love your service or product and have had a good trust relationship with you. You can think about the artifacts of Social Proof including; Testimonials, Positive Comments and Pure Numbers.
Testimonials are much better than just Positive Comments and Pure Numbers. You know that with the person who wrote the Testimonial, you can contact that individual directly and ask them a question on how the person providing the service handles them. When you see a successful individual using somebody else’s service it may naturally drive you towards further inquiry.
Testimonials show the best side of customer to supplier relationship. (mostly because you’d never put a negative testimonial in front of a prospective customer).
Entrepreneur magazine provides a useful summary on Testimonials here: “How to effectively use testimonials”
Positive mojo in abundance is another sign that your customer will get something good out of what they are spending their time doing.
If your customer decides to take a wander along your site’s blog and sees plenty of engaged customers, they are reassured by this, as supposed to hundreds of negative comments.
Comments aren’t quite as reliable as testimonials, through censorship and through skullduggery; you can manipulate what is shown. Remember that with Testimonials, a potential new client can track that individual down, ask them a true reflection of the service you provide.
With a comment, it is a more static affair, potentially subversive by the way in which the subject has been devised. You could be talking the talk but not walking the walk. You could have employed commentators.
Comments are very valuable and should not be treated lightly.
Ryan Biddulph was able to cement a sizable empire with his blog commenting, he even wrote a successful ebook about it.
I have in the past talked about “Weight of Number”. This is a borrowed philosophy from somebody much older and wiser than myself. Sun Tzu was a famous general of the Chinese army. He was a master strategist and tactician who wrote a short but effective book called the “Art of War”. You should understand that weight of numbers will often conquer resistance.
Attack few with many,
And my Opponent
Will be weak. – Sun Tzu
By seeing number of clients served, numbers of jobs worked to a satisfactory completion, and number of positive ratings, you can be more reassured that this isn’t an overnight flash in the pan. Seeing numbers insinuates that the provider has honed their craft and has developed a suitable operating capability.
There is a dark side to Social Proof
There are those that are honest.
Through a moral code, individuals work from the void of nothing, to gain eventual kudos, this gives them a platform to drive further sales. It is a hard journey that requires a dogged determined streak.
There are those that are dishonest.
These are the individuals who will bypass a moral code and shortcut the process. They will seek methods of driving interest through various “Boosting” activities which will give them an elevated position relative to their time served.
In order to survive in competition, you might have to occasionally embrace the dark side and employ methods of getting ahead because starting blank can be painful.
What methods can be employed to “get ahead”?
I’m going to mention a number of service sites that bloggers tend to use as well as some other examples of e-commerce. You might be able to relate to some of these strategies because you might have tried them.
Amazon: Paying someone to buy your product and write a review.
You don’t want to be a Johnny no star. An obvious tactic is buying a 5 star review with a suitably lengthy and descriptive comment, biased to be positive from the off, jump starting the sales process. One review may not be enough, you may need to obtain a handful of these reviews to get the ball rolling.
This can apply to all sorts of products but is especially effective on unique, untried and untested products that don’t naturally sell.
You can apply this strategy to more than just Amazon. Any outlet that provides reviews can be influenced in this manner. All you need is the capable reviewer and the money to pay the fee. Some reviews can be done in exchange for things other than money (like other reviews or something of equal value).
There is danger with this strategy though. I found two particular articles that highlight this problem.
Huffington Post “Five Stars for Five Dollars”.
Shilling: Attracting that first activity.
A “Shillaber” or the term known as “Shill” is to have someone in the crowd ready to take up the mantle of going first. The origin of a shill was an employee in the times of the circus to get people to laugh or in a magician’s show being a willing participant. Fear is a negative driver and many people are fearful of going first, often they have to be coerced to take action.
Consider a group of tourists in Australia who are about to undertake a bungee jump for the first time. Do you think they are more likely to jump after the instructor takes the first drop successfully to demonstrate the harness is safe and the height is right? Of course they are. If that didn’t happen, the instructor might call for anyone who has been bungee jumping before to step up to the plate.
The act of watching that person go first spurs others to do the same. In some ways we act to do things as a community. Sheep, ducks and cows flock together. There always has to be the first water buffalo to cross the crocodile infested river in Africa. Once the first has successfully navigated that water, the rest follow, with safety in numbers.
You may go as far as asking your mother, father, partner or friend to be that first sale with a full refund. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s that first turn on the turnstile.
The wrong comes in products and services that are sub-standard. Where you have the gall to put high praise on something that is clearly deficient is often a date with trading standards or some furious backlash.
Facebook: Paying for activity.
There are numerous vendors who will provide followers, likes and impressions for cash money. Depending on the quality of the vendor, they have ready established networks to provide warmth, uplifts in number and some form of target to your goods or service.
As mentioned, quality will vary! Depending on what you are trying to achieve, often the numbers alone, in this high-speed world, will be enough to sway your prospective client. Proof of engagement can often be more difficult if the quality is low so expect scrutiny.
This activity can be applied to all social media outlets, all you need to do is find the right vendor for the right flavour of social media you want to uplift.
Would I recommend this activity?
I would initially say NO.
You can lose track of your true engagement very quickly if you hyper inflate your numbers through this method. You can effectively cheapen your hard-won audience and make a mess for yourself.
Taking this as a personal example:
I have a small number of Twitter followers but I know for the most part of this group, they will respond to me if I contact them.
On the other hand I have approximately 1,800 Google+ followers and I know that I have a very small group of individuals (in the 1% range and thus disproportionate to twitter) who will respond if I ask them to.
If you were to ask me which group I prefer, I would say Twitter even though I have been working longer with Google+.
If you put in genuine work to cultivate your audience, it has a better pay out in the long run. Don’t shortcut your audience.
But I said initially….
Social media can be used in different ways and depending on how you are trying to sell your product or service, a significant short-term boost could be necessary. There is nothing like time to drive a sense of urgency. If you have a time limit, paying your way higher might be a necessity.
Separating adverts from the mix
Advertising is not cheating, and is not what I consider; the dark side. Advertising is a genuine activity where you pay to get more exposure to potential. I say potential because even though your advert can be served up on a platter to the right person, this person still requires taking the required action, normally the responses are minimal. It is just those techniques where you move into deception territory where you have to be careful.
You can drag a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
The crux of this post:
I will be launching a number of services on my new blog. I cannot claim that any of these services will be unique in the market but I can claim that I am uniquely performing these services and as I become more competent these services will evolve to become more unique.
In order for me to get traction, I need a willing first participant to be my prototype client for one key service, to help me develop the potential. I have a good idea of the types of clients I would like to attract and also have a good idea on how to expand the operation.
This key service is important because ultimately it could be the biggest driver of profit. The service needs to reach a return amount that could aid to free me from my 9 – 5:30 current day job.
The selection of this candidate is an easy one for me. I know and have commented on this person’s blog for months and know that I can have a good working relationship with this individual but it is not a done deal.
There is a sacrifice to be made however.
I will be working for this client for FREE.
What do I stand to get out of this arrangement when I am likely to be working hard for this person?
There are a number of benefits:
- A Testimonial will be provided straight off the bat. This person knows me, we have a good relationship, we share some affinity. I can rely on this person to speak well of me.
- I am able to feature this person’s work, and the work I do to improve it, extensively and exclusively.
- I can call on this person to improve my prototype service, give me essential feedback on what I need to improve to make the process smoother and more professional, and provide ideas for developing the premium package.
- This person may be able to assist me in isolating future clients who meet the same criteria from their already thriving network.
- I can work a more flexible arrangement to suit my time commitments.
In terms of strategy, I will be driving a lot of traffic around the service page and my writing as part of the blog is going to be more focused around the subject of “writing”.
If you have followed Blog Prefect’s track for any length of time you’ll know that it follows a more general track along the aspects of blogging and how to do it like a boss, along with the occasional useful how tos, the shared traffic report and some rare diversions.
- The important note to draw upon; is that starting out blank, without social proof is a difficult step to jump, especially if it is hard to persuade someone to go first.
- There are many creative ways to kickstart the process of getting that first customer by using others to help. The payoffs are worthwhile. Social proof is not an element that should be ignored in the launch process.
- Not every arrangement has to involve money to be beneficial.
I look forward to having a new site in January and hope to see you there! I’m keeping the domain name under wraps at the moment.