In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about Social Proof. They share the top tips for using social proof to benefit your business and explain the importance of why to use it. They share a case study to show you the mistakes that can be made and the steps to take to correct them.

If you have ever purchased a product because you read a positive review or brought a service because you heard that it is one of the best. Then you have been influenced by social proof. People hate to make mistakes, the hassle of buying the wrong thing or being stuck with poor service, drives people to look for guidance before they make their buying decisions. Social proof can offer huge growth for your business, as it serves to use the need for people to align their actions with the actions of people who have already succeeded.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to learn to boost your marketing effectiveness with social proof. Steli and Hiten look at how social proof can increase your conversions and help you to understand the importance of social proof. Steli and Hiten’s also share their key tip for getting your startup on top, by using social proof.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

01:14 The definition of social proof.

01:32 Where should social proof be used.

03:28 What social proof is and what it is not.

04:00 How to find your credibility.

04:54 Examples of social proof.

05:36 How to power-up your social proof.

07:15 How do you get started.

07:45 Key advice of how social proof supports your startup.

08:30  How to structure your social proof.

08:50 The social face of social proof

3 Key Points:

  • If your product is of value there is always someone who is going to be someone singing your praises.
  • As soon as you have the tiniest bit of social proof you need to use it.
  • People will seek external reinforcement to either trust you or run away from you.


Steli Efti: This is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this Hiten Shah, and today on The Startup Chat, we’re gonna talk about Social Proof, and specifically social proof when you communicate with prospects. Is that right, Steli?



Steli Efti: That is indeed correct, my friend.



Hiten Shah: Then teach me because I don’t know how to do this very well.



Steli Efti: Ar light, alright. So here’s why I wanted to talk to you about this. Yesterday, I had the honor and pleasure to talk virtually at a conference and what they did is basically they had a bunch of startups submit there sales emails to me and I was able to just do a cold email tear down or sales email tear down virtually through Google Hangouts. And one thing that struck me was that I looked through 10 different sales emails from 10 different startup teams, and not a single one of them … Every single one of them, I had to give feedback about the absolute and utter lack of any type of social proof in there. And so here is what I mean by social proof. Social proof means can you point to things you have done or people, and organization, that have recognized you in a way that tells me I should trust you, or I should believe the things you say. And so when you start a relationship with prospect, it doesn’t matter if it’s a cold email or a sales call or even at a conference if you walk over and you say hello to somebody, you try to coney who you are and what you do or what you might be able to do for them. If I understand what you do and if I believe or think maybe this could be interesting to me, the next most important hurdle is for me to then believe that you’re telling me the truth. And the best way to accomplish that is by creating and including some type of social proof. So I was baffled that nobody was doing that. And I thought that might be a good tip to give to people and to point out what are all the different types of social proof, what are kind of cool ways to use it, so that nobody who listens to this podcast ever again makes a pitch, sends an email, or makes a call and just rambles on about what their service does and how valuable it could be without including some kind of social proof to really help them convince others to trust them to give them their money.



Hiten Shah: So how do I do this? Like how do I actually do this and it be genuine, it not seem wrong. Because there’s psychology in two ways. One is I, myself, writing the email need to do a good job of not feeling guilty for putting it or feeling like I shouldn’t do it and things like that. Then there’s the other aspect of it, which is how do I do it right so that the prospect actually engages me and it actually helps the situation. I guess that’s my psychological barrier to doing it.



Steli Efti: Yeah, so you’re a unique case because you have so much social proof that it feels awkward for you to use that social proof, to talk about yourself. I think that most startups will not have this problem, but I personally do get what you mean. But here’s the way I think about this, or the way that I think most start ups should think about this. When I say social proof, I don’t mean bragging. I really don’t. I don’t mean tell me how awesome other people say you are. I mean, maybe a little bit of it. But what I’m saying is that you need to create some kind of credibility, especially in situations where the person you’re talking to does not know who you are or what your startup is and so is trying to wonder should I believe this person or not, should I trust this person or not. Does this person hae any kind of credibility? And I’ll give you an example. One of the cold emails, it said a lot of very technical things in terms of describing what their product and service was doing. And some of those technical things, I was like should I believe this or not, is this hyperbole, can this be trusted. I really didn’t know. And then in their second cold follow up email, at the very end of a very long email, they actually included that they are all MIT engineers and they were researchers at MIT and that’s how they stumbled over this solution. And to me it was like “Well, holy shit. That’s the thing you should say very early.” Because being a highly technical team of people at MIT is different from being another group of engineers that might have as much credibility as the institution that MIT has when it comes to technical things. So what university you’re from. What press you have received. What customers you have been able to acquire. Customers could be … You could create different types of social proof. It could be a very big logo, a very recognizable brand, but it could also just be a very relatable brand or a local customer. I’m a business that’s in Santa Barbara. Do you have other businesses that are using your service that are also in Santa Barbara. Location and proximity can really create a high level of social proof. Using customer quotes or customer case studies. So instead of just telling me we’re helping lots of customers like you increase their revenue by 10 percent. That’s okay. But now I’m like, is this bullshit, is this not? Rather than just tell me about what you do generically for an anonymous crowd, tell me hey there’s a customer in Santa Barbara just like you. That customer is called XYZ and here’s what we’ve been able to do for them specifically. We helped them include their revenue by 11.25 percent or whatever. Or here’s a customer quote. Here’s a quote from that customer in Santa Barbara. So using real proof from other institutions or people individuals and customers to convince me that what you’re telling me you can do, other people and other groups can verify, versus you just telling me everything that you think you can do for me. I think that that’s not rocket science, but it’s surprising that nobody does it. And I think the more important part may be the one thing that we can touch on is how do you generate social proof in the early days when you don’t already have a ton of it. You don’t have that many customers, you are not famous, you don’t come from a great school, you have not received any press or awards. How do you do that in the very early days. I think that that might be maybe a different episode or maybe we’ll address it in this one. But if you have any, you should always use it and you should never feel ashamed of using that.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Huh. I get it. I totally get it. And I totally get that if you’re somebody that’s starting out, it’s super important to go get it. I guess my approach is always like if your product has a value, there’s always gonna be somebody who is gonna say that. And them saying that is an opportunity for you to sort of take it and use it. And so for me, you hear this commonly in customer support, or live chat, if people are singing your praises, your product’s praises, or how good your support is, or whatever. So often times, what I’ll do is, I will ask them if do you mind if I attribute it to you and your company. And so I found that to be a pretty easy way to sort of put this type of social proof into different places, especially even like a cold email.



Steli Efti: I love that. And I think just being aware … We’ve done a previous episode that you guys are gonna be able to find pretty recent where we talk about how to do testimonials and how to ask for testimonials from customers. That should be part of the process in how you build your marketing, your branding, you build up your company and then utilizing those testimonials and case studies in your outreach, in your marketing, in your sales, is super, super effective. But really just recognizing that in the beginning, you wanna create social proof as quickly as possible because it’s a very valuable currency as you are trying to convince more and more customers to purchase your solution, trust your business. And then as soon as you have the tiniest bit of it, you really need to use it. You can’t just send me generic emails and tell me all the great things you’re doing for people when you can’t give me a name, an example, point to something specific that I can trust. And the other thing I’ll say, in today’s world, social proof, you can talk about it from a company level. Here’s what our startup, or our product, has done for customer XYZ, or here’s how we’ve been highlighted by this important media outlet, or whatever it is. Or this big investment firm has put a lot of money in us. Anything that people take as credible. But the other thing is yourself. Often times, I’ll look at emails and things people are trying to pitch me and I will go directly to the person and I will either pop up their Twitter account or their LinkedIn and try to figure out who is person talking to me and if their footprint online isn’t existent or if it is existent but it’s very lacking or not impressive, or maybe off-putting in some way, I will immediately dismiss everything they are telling me and I will decide that this is not a person that I wanna engage with or probably worth my time. So being conscious and aware of yourself, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook, your Twitter, your Instagram, whatever the hell you do, and knowing that people … Because it’s easy today, when you send them an email or you reach out to them, people will quickly check who you are online and will try to find social proof that you are a trustworthy person or a person that people like and find credible and want to business with. That matters more and more and more and that can be something that you don’t recognize or realize how important it is because nobody will ever tell you. If I click on your LinkedIn profile or Twitter and I find you to be not credible, I’m not gonna email you and give you that feedback. But being aware that people will seek any kind of external reinforcement to either trust you and wanna continue the conversation with you, or run away from you, you need to be aware of that and you need to prepare for that and invest in these things, because they’re gonna make a big difference on the results you’re gonna be able to generate.



Hiten Shah: Yep, couldn’t agree more.



Steli Efti: Alright. I think that’s it for us for this episode. More social proof please. That’s the call to action. We’ll hear you guys very soon.



Hiten Shah: There you have it. See yeah.