“One means we use to decide what constitutes correct behavior is to find out what other people think is correct. The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.” (Robert Cialdini)
This quote comes from the man who coined “social proof.”
And, truthfully, the concept seems like it’s pointing to a significant flaw in humans’ subconscious processes. Social proof feels like we’re doomed to follow the herd blindly instead of using our heads.
But that’s not what social proof is about, whether in B2C or B2B marketing.
That’s where this article comes in.
Read along as we discuss what social proof is in B2B vs. B2C marketing and how you can leverage it to your advantage. We’ve included a slew of statistics and examples to contour our own social proof.
Keep scrolling below!
“Social proof” is a concept first introduced in Influence: Science and Practice, a book by Robert Cialdini. The term is now vastly used in psychology and social science, referring to the phenomenon of copying other people’s actions:
- In uncertain situations, during which:
- You can’t deduce the correct action, but:
- You suppose others have already figured it out.
Social proof is everywhere around us. Social proof is everywhere, from that busy café everyone is lining up in front of to grab a latte to companies who pay serious money for PR articles regarding their high stock prices.
The Internet has turned this tactic into a vital weapon.
- 70% of US citizens read online product reviews before purchasing.
- 63% of potential customers are more likely to purchase from your online website if it has good ratings.
- 90% of consumers are convinced by user-generated content.
Those statistics refer to people instead of companies. However, the mindset is similar because, after all, business entities are led by people.
Studies show that more than 92.4% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase your product/service if they read a good review from a trustworthy source.
Even if B2B social proof is proven to work, its mechanisms differ from B2C social proof. We’ll discuss that later, but first:
There’s a pervasive bias against using social proof in B2B marketing. After all, people who run companies are supposed to:
- Be well-versed in research
- Not go with the herd just because everyone’s doing it
- Know their minds
The stigma of social proof is that people succumb to the mob mentality.
Thus, companies trick them into buying specific items.
So when you’re proposing to leverage social proof in your B2B marketing strategy, your team will be skeptical, to say the least.
Imagine this situation, though.
You’re selling software solutions for businesses. The problem your software solves is decluttering employees’ inboxes. They can see essential e-mails quickly and focus on their tasks.
Many other companies have developed such solutions.
That’s a problem.
Obviously, you want to solve relevant issues in a creative, user-friendly manner for your customers. But you also want to find unique selling points that differentiate you from the competition.
Often, your product’s quality isn’t enough.
That’s where social proof comes in – which doesn’t have to be daft, manipulative, or false. Picture opening your biggest competitor’s website, where you can see:
- An extensive portfolio of their partners – some of which are pretty famous
- Case studies that include statistics and ROI numbers
- Customer reviews from several companies and experts in the field
By comparison, your website and social media focus solely on your software’s features.
Therefore, a new customer who has never worked with you is more likely to purchase your competitor’s products. If those products are of good quality, that new customer won’t have any reason to search for something else.
Still, you have to choose the right content in B2B marketing. Find out how below:
According to Tech Crunch, social proof can come from:
- Experts in the field
B2C purchases are small-scale compared to B2B contracts. People will have a larger pool of peers they can trust or follow for advice.
B2C buyers are more easily swayed by emotion. People purchase products that make them feel special and unique.
B2B buyers are more cerebral and trust fewer sources.
Side-note: Leveraging emotions like empathy is essential in B2B marketing. That’s why HSBC’s Lift Ad showcasing an entrepreneur’s career challenges was so successful.
Therefore, you have to source people/companies that your target audience trusts, such as:
- Successful companies in their field
- Thought leaders or influencers in your industry
- Business owners that have beaten the odds
Side-note: A real-time prospecting tool could come in very handy at this point.
Of course, statistics and hard numbers are your best friends. Also, you have to ask for testimonials from your former customers. You can:
- Contact them directly, or:
- Include requests in post-conversion materials.
Remember: You have to offer some incentives for these endorsements, such as discounts or additional products.
Now that you know the basics of what social proof can look like in the B2B world, choosing the proper channels is essential.
LinkedIn is a goldmine for B2B social proof:
- 61 million LinkedIn users are senior-level influencers, and 40 million are in decision-making positions.
- LinkedIn brings 80% of B2B marketing leads.
- 75% of potential buyers rely on thought leadership to shortlist vendors, and 70% trust information on LinkedIn as much as the WSJ.
LinkedIn is an excellent choice because:
- You’re already connected with your business partners.
- You can easily engage with influencers and other relevant people in your industry. As a result, they’re more likely to notice you and share your articles.
- You can post specific articles and infographics on your business.
Remember to stay consistent, though:
“Companies that post 20 times per month reach at least 60% of their unique audience.”
The temptation for B2B social proof is to focus solely on reputable channels, with an aura of expertise and sobriety.
Don’t make that mistake.
Surprisingly, TikTok influencer marketing plays a significant role in B2B marketing.
- People between 30 and 49 years old compose a whopping 42% of TikTok’s audience. Some of those people have C-level positions in companies.
- Chinese B2B companies selling industrial goods have already had success using TikTok.
- TikTok’s cross-platform promotion means you can share TikTok videos on other platforms. That way, you can target your customers on all fronts.
- Gen-Z will eventually get older, too, and at least 54% of them will want to build their own companies. You can start building your relationship with them today to reap the benefits in the future.
There’s more to TikTok than the substantial captive audience and the opportunity to go viral.
This platform helps you:
- Contour your brand’s persona
- Relate to other business owners
Adrian Brambila is one of the most telling – and successful – examples on TikTok. His TikTok videos about earning $100,000/day went viral, so Adrian has helped numerous people start side hustles.
Of course, most of the start-ups he helped continue their mentorship business relationship with Adrian.
Do you feel that TikTok doesn’t make a good fit for serious enterprises?
Washington Post gives you a good lesson in making laid-back TikToks without compromising your reputation.
From this video reposted by IBM, you find out that the company had always helped female entrepreneurs, even when the industry was male-dominated.
What’s the social proof if you’re making your own videos?
- Crowd social proof: The number of likes, comments, and shares to your posts
- Expert social proof: Clips about your brand from influencers or thought leaders
- User social proof: TikTok videos from regular people/business owners whom you’ve helped
Warning: Using just one channel is one of the most pervasive problems in lead nurturing.
So, don’t limit yourself to channels you’re “supposed” to be using. The world is your oyster, from LinkedIn and Twitter to your website, social media, and marketing e-mails.
Now that you’re here, we should look at several ways in which you can incorporate social proof in your marketing campaign.
Rock those hard-earned numbers to prove to your potential buyers your worth:
- “We helped 80% of our customers to get more leads.”
- “400 companies in 20 countries worldwide are using our last-gen software solutions.”
However, if you’re new to the market and don’t have any essential statistics to display, it’s best to wait a bit.
Receiving a prize or award is expert proof of what you can do. So, display all formal acknowledgment on your landing page, social media, and other channels to underline your expertise.
However, these badges and awards:
- Must be relevant to your industry.
- Should be verified.
You can use different endorsements from:
- Businesses you’ve helped: This content ascertains the quality of your products/services and customer support. Okta is using this tactic rather successfully through a series of videos where its clients discuss how Okta helped them.
- Thought leaders (e.g., journalists, theoreticians, etc.): This tactic proves that your company is innovative and creative, with a high potential of distinguishing itself from the competition. The Cisco Champions community reunites experts and thought leaders that promote Cisco’s products.
- Influencers/ Regular people: Business owners can discuss your relationship and provide unique insights into your work process. This strategy creates empathy and contours your personality. Landis+Gyr, a global energy management solutions provider, uses an employee advocacy program to build its reputation.
4. Reviews on Review Sites
Reviews encompass the crowd’s social proof. These are important because execs will ask their assistants to Google you before proposing a business relationship.
And if these people find only 1-star reviews, they’ll run the other way.
Here’s how to avoid that:
- Always offer top-notch products and services.
- Ask and incentivize your customers to leave you good reviews.
- Don’t censor bad reviews because censorship decreases overall trust.
5. Case Studies
Case studies are gateways for your business. These papers (or hosted webinars if you want a more personalized approach) detail how you tackle problems and identify the best solutions for your customers.
Your previous customers are likely to accept being featured in your case study because it’s free advertising.
Pro tip: To illustrate your thought process and results, incorporate plenty of:
For example, IBM Watson – an AI platform for businesses – boasts a thorough case study section entitled Customer Stories on their webpage.
Incorporating social proof in your B2B advertising campaigns is doable and helpful. The statistics we cited throughout this article clearly point out that social proof works. Your fantastic results, experts’ testimonies, and customers’ reviews build your expertise and personality.
Besides, all this online literature about you increases your reach. Therefore, you can penetrate completely new markets once more audiences learn about your products.
Have you used social proof before reading this article? What strategies did you apply/will apply in the future?
David Morneau is the co-founder and CEO of inBeat, a hybrid micro-influencer marketing SAAS/agency that helps brands scale their marketing efforts. He has helped over 200 DTC brands to date.