Social Proof in Action …
Yesterday I wrote about the benefits of using social proof and authority in raising venture capital. If you didn’t read that yet it might be worth having a quick skim as a primer.
Social proof is defined as “looking for others to guide our decisions” and is also one of the most important techniques in acquiring customers in your company. Many of you have read or at least know the primary thesis of “Crossing the Chasm” the seminal book on marketing your products to mainstream consumers by Geoffrey Moore. It influenced a generation of tech marketers.
The book popularized the technology adoption lifecycle curve that originally came out of Iowa State University shown below. We all intuitively know this curve now but we don’t all market effectively to it. Chris Dixon alluded heavily to it in his brilliant post on “Techies and Normals.” People who are “innovators” or “early adopters” like to be at the cutting edge. We like to use new product and gain benefits before our peers. We are evangelists. We check-in when we go to restaurants when everybody else is wondering when we’re going to put away our F***ing iPhones or Blackberries. We have to be first (this image is worth a click, I promise).
In short, innovators and early adopters have faith that there will be benefits to using products that are unproven and even if they don’t they enjoy the process of using new stuff. This applies to business users as much as to consumers. Sometimes these markets never appeal to “normals” (Chris Dixon’s definition) and other times it needs to be more effectively marketed to normals.
So the early part of a technology company is about finding your hard core group of early adopters and making them passionate about your products. You need to give them “back stage” passes to your company. You need to give them advance notice of your product development or better yet let them help influence your direction. Sure, they need a little social proof. If they hear that Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington or Jason Calacanis loves your product they’re more likely to give it a try.
This is what drove early adoption at Twitter, FourSquare, Quora and is now driving people obsessively at FlipBoard. I must be an early adopter rather than an innovator because I DO NOT have my knickers in a twist to get on FlipBoard. It looks cool, but I can wait.
But here’s the thing – the early & late majority will never come without social proof. These are the people who want to see ROI studies (business), read NY Times reviews by David Pogue or WSJ reviews by Walt Mossberg (consumer). And the key to understand how to market to these people is to understand the point made in the book “Yes” by Robert Cialdini. Regarding “social proof” he says,
“Earlier we described the importance of testimonials in trying to sway others’ opinions in your direction. The results of this experiment [the one on hotels listed in my previous post] suggest that the more similar the person giving the testimonial is to the new target audience, the more persuasive the message becomes … You should begin not with the testimonial you’re most proud of, but with the one whose circumstances are most comparable to your audiences.”
This is where heroes come in. Heroes are those every day users of your product who are not overly senior in ranks but are in charge of implementing your solution within their company. If they’re consumers they’re just everyday people like you and me.
Salesforce.come is brilliant at marketing heroes and I think Marc learned it in turn from Oracle. We would take every day users from our customer base and make them heroes. Here are some examples of heroes in action:
- A testimonial / quote from a hero on the banner on the home page of your website with their image and a link to a case study on how they used the product
- Speaking at a “city tour” in which Salesforce.com sales reps and executive management were present. Heroes told our success stories, not us.
- Leading breakout sessions at our annual conference – DreamForce
- Speaking to industry analysts at Gartner Group, Aberdeen, IDC, Yankee Group, etc.
- Taking reference calls from prospects considering using our products
Marketing heroes is brilliant and you should find ways to implement in your organization. On the one hand the early & late majority are more apt to listen to the benefits of your products from their peers through social proof than from any corporate bumpf you can produce to convince them of the benefits of your product.
On the other hand, what better way to build strong relationships with your company’s strongest supporters. How often do every day employees get to appear on the home page of a major website, speak at a conference or get to talk with market analysts? You’re elevating them in ways their own organizations probably do not. And in turn you get not only strong endorsements but even more loyal future supporters.
Think about this – what is more powerful – a VC who tells you how great he/she is or when you read your peers reviews on The Funded?
And heroes work on the consumer side, too. Ever notice all those iPad billboards are just ordinary users like you and me sitting on a couch using a product that they know you’re going to love? OK, I know Apples has an unfair advantage – but the emotion their going after is social proof. People like you use this product. It’s easy. It’s what they do when their sitting on their couch watching TV. Everybody is doing it.
How are you going to cultivate and gain the support of your company’s heroes? How will you work with your heroes to gain more early adopters or to market the early majority more effectively? We already know from Cialdini that this is even more important than your putting a link to a press articles yet how much time do you spend trying to market these to everybody?