This third post in the series describing how to implement Professor Robert Cialdini’s six ‘Weapons of Influence’ in your business covers Social Proof.
Social proof relates to our tendency to behave as pack animals. In many circumstances we do what others do, we want to fit in and we don’t want to be seen as radically different. Cialdini offers a very apt quotation. ‘Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.’ This is another manifestation of people acting on autopilot much of the time. Often we mimic the actions of those around us unconsciously. One of the most ridiculous examples of the use of social proof is the deployment of canned laughter. Logically we know it is canned, it is not genuine and it is a device. But so often we play along laughing in unison, particularly when in group situations. We know full well that the hilarity we hear has been created artificially by a technician at a control board and not generated spontaneously by a genuine audience. We know full well that this is a transparent forgery. Yet we laugh along – it works on us!
Applying this principle to your business involves reassuring prospective clients that doing business with you makes them part of the crowd, that they belong, that such behaviour is completely normal. One small example of deploying this principle is illustrated in the following scenario. Suppose you are a service business and you are promoting a series of workshops to attract new customers to your business. Showing the number of people who have already booked to attend your workshops on your website or, even more powerfully, identifying them by name, provides reassurance for prospective attendees that they will be joining like-minded people at your event. ‘It’s okay; lots of people just like you will be attending!’ How about a scenario for a product business? You are about to launch a new product, having previously done some pilot testing. Again you have a website. Putting several testimonials from those who were involved in the pilot on that website will provide social proof for prospective buyers.
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