“We don’t have any social proof yet.”
I hear this all the time.
Whether I’m writing copy for a digital agency, SaaS startup or even an established business who hasn’t ever thought to collect feedback from customers, a lack of third-party proof is a problem that’s WAY more common than I’d like it to be.
That’s because few things are more effective for improving conversion rates than being able to show testimonials, reviews, client lists and places you’ve been featured.
This kind of outside proof lends immediate credibility to your claims and gives your leads a chance to hear from people who’ve bought what you’re offering – hopefully, people like them.
So what do you do if you have NONE of those things, but still want customers to trust you?
In this quick post, I’m going to explore four things you can do to make a connection with customers and get them to trust you, even if you can’t show them social proof.
I’ll also show you real examples of each one that I’ve helped clients implement.
Important: None of these are replacements for social proof. You should still be trying to collect as much as possible on an ongoing basis. However, each of these approaches will help put customers in a buying mindset, and you can even couple them with social proof to make them more powerful!
1. Show Your Process
If you want to show leads that you’re credible, explain how you do things and what they can expect when working with you.
Step back for a moment and think about how many times you’ve gotten emails from people wondering what the “next steps” were or how they could “best work with you”. These aren’t polite formalities – customers are worried about how to engage with you – and this worry can keep them from moving forward.
When you show customers your process, you accomplish three things:
1. You show them how you think through problems:
It’s not enough to claim you’re good at what you do or to tell clients you have a “meticulous process” – you need to back up your claim by laying it out for them.
When a customer can see the way you approach problems like theirs, they take comfort in knowing that you understand where they’re coming from, what they need, and most importantly, how to deliver the results they’re after.
2. You make a new experience predictable:
For brand new buyers and those who have never tried a service like yours, there’s a lot of fear and trepidation surrounding what might happen next.
Are they going to get a surprise phone call? Do they need to have certain things prepared before they can engage you? Are they at the right point to contact you – and if they are, what should they be ready for?
By showing customers the step-by-step way that you plan to work together, they can “live” the experience mentally before committing, making it far less scary to commit.
3. You give them a reference point:
If a customer is comparison shopping (and don’t kid yourself – they are), showing your process gives them just a little bit more information about you than your competitors, and that slight edge might be enough to tilt things in your favor.
BONUS TIP: If you’re a service business, show examples of the deliverables they can expect to receive at every step of the process. Once again, this helps them assess the quality of your work without actually having to hire you.
Three examples of this I’ve worked on are the process page for Minimum Inc, a mobile app developer (who also has a TON of social proof, including some on-stage mentions from Steve Jobs himself), Total Home, a home renovator, and my own process.
2. Mirror Their Beliefs
Psychology has shown us two very important things: We buy from people we like, and we like people who believe the same things we do. If you want to get in a lead’s good books, then mirroring their beliefs back at them is a good place to start.
What’s important here is how you frame it.
It’s not enough to say “Our Values” and spout off a generic list of things you care about (like “quality”) – you need to mimic the language of your customers and be specific about the things you stand behind. It’s also better if you can attribute the beliefs back to the reader by using “You” instead of we.
I used the above for a digital agency client who are excellent at what they do, but relatively new to the scene. They’ve got some case studies, but they need more time and clients to get testimonials that really speak to the quality of their work.
Notice the way I’ve written this – clear, simple statements in a checklist.
This has the reader going through and ticking off their own mental boxes. I get them nodding in agreement, and just as they’re agreeing, I hit them with call to action that isn’t ultra-committal – an invitation to “Talk”. Pushing that button becomes a motion of agreement.
“Yes! I believe those things!”
Here’s another example of something I did for that same client that takes a bit of a different approach:
The above is more centered on the business than the clients they want to serve, but I end the statements of belief with an invitation to work together, bringing it back to being about the customer instead of the company.
I also make each of the beliefs center around a deliverable to the customer – more traffic, honest service, transparent reporting and ongoing success. This makes the beliefs real to the reader instead of a shoulder shrug – I’ve shown how these beliefs will impact THEM.
I’m really interested to see which of the two variants works better for getting customers to call!
3. Make Them a Promise
You’ve probably heard someone from an older generation talking about the good ol’ days, where a handshake was a promise and men were only as good as their word. When it comes to building trust online, that’s still true.
Even if a customer doesn’t know you from Adam, they’re still likely to take a guarantee or promise seriously, because they know that there will be implications for you if you fail to deliver. It’s one of the few places in copy I really don’t mind using “We” – because it’s putting something on the line instead of yammering on about yourself.
Importantly, AVOID HYPERBOLE. Do not make wild-sounding, generic promises like “The best experience EVER!!!!” – this kind of exaggeration destroys the “trust” element of a promise and sets BS detectors off like crazy. Be specific, attainable and deliberate about what you promise, and make sure it’s tied to a pain point the customer cares about.
In the example above, I actually made multiple promises to the customer based on the pain points we identified through research. Each of the sections has a definitive statement:
“If we can’t help you, we won’t try”
“You’ll never pay for a service you don’t actually need”
“You’ll never be kept in the dark”
“Your project manager is never more than a phone call away.”
And each one of those statements can be preceded by “We promise…” and make perfect sense.
Don’t be afraid to make promises well within your means to deliver. Customers are attracted to guarantees – whether that’s a guaranteed outcome, a guaranteed value, or a guaranteed aversion of risk.
4. Show Your Face
Chances are good that if a business owner is willing to put their face on their website, they’re also willing to stand behind the service they provide.
This one can get tricky – like it or not, we do judge a book by its cover and we are biased towards beautiful people. There can also be racial bias or prejudice, and a low-quality or unprofessional photo will send the wrong message about who you are and what you can do.
BUT – knowing all that, showing your face and the faces of your team members is a way to give leads an anchor point that tells them “There are real people behind this business”. In niches where distrust runs rampant, this can be a difference maker.
Take this one with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s not appropriate for a SaaS company (though I think you’d be surprised what happens when you show the faces of your support team), and with eCommerce businesses, it may not make sense to shoehorn in. But, as with everything in CRO, test it.
Above, evolving solutions show their faces where you’d expect them – the “About” page. Interestingly, though, there are two calls to action below each one – something I’m interested in seeing the data on clicks for. Is it possible that reading about the team is enough to make someone want to start their project right then and there?
I don’t know – but I’d love to find out!
Above, TopHatRank puts their staff front and center when someone comes to the home page, immediately proving they’re real people with a real business. What I love is that they named Sarah by name and put her title there, too – not leaving it to the reader to figure out that this isn’t stock photography.
She’s also looking you right in the eye – lending confidence to the headline to the left. It’s a trust signal that’s impossible to miss.
No social proof? No need to wait to launch.
If you’re a new business or you just haven’t done your diligence on the social side, give these tactics a go- and always test the impact. Whenever you CAN get social proof, do so (here’s a quick piece on helping you collect better testimonials).
What do you think?
This list is far from exhaustive.
What else could a company do to try and earn trust while they ramp up their social proof game?
What things have you tried, or found useful in getting more customers?
I’d love to hear in the comments, or chat about it @JoelKlettke on Twitter!