KEY TAKEAWAY –  If new prospects find you online, they don’t know you from the next person.  You have to convince them you’re legitimate AND trustworthy.

Business owner, unless your business has served someone before, you are a completely unknown entity to them.  They don’t know you at all.

They haven’t had a chance to get to know you yet… and they don’t know enough to decide if they like you or not.  And since don’t like you yet, they certainly don’t trust you enough to give you their money.

You have to make them comfortable with your company & your products or services.  That’s how you market your business online – give new prospects more chances to see you, get to know you, and ideally trust you enough to take a chance doing business with you.

In this day of hyper-connectivity and social media, it seems like everyone is sharing information about themselves with their own “tribe” – their ideas, their interests and their personal experiences.  It has become a normal, acceptable, and expected thing to do.

So what today’s consumers look for FIRST is what we internet marketeers call “social proof”.

It’s a subconscious group mentality that encourages conformity.

Put another way, if others approve of a certain product, service or company, it’s probably safe for me to conform and approve of it too.

Here are 2 examples of social proof’s subtle messaging:

1)  As stated on many McDonalds’ billboards – “Billions of Customers Served”.  Well, now, billions and billions of customers just can’t be wrong, can they?

2)  Some popular nightspots purposely limit entry to create long lines of waiting patrons outside, increasing the perception of popularity to attract more passersby.

THIS is the Social Proof consumers look for FIRST:  Online customer reviews about your business & your overall ratings.

Customer reviews are the most common – and powerful – form of online social proof today.  They are all over review sites like Google, Yelp, CitySearch, Angie’s List, Insider Pages, Hot Frog, Trip Advisor and the online version of Yellow Pages.

In fact, online customer reviews are the 2nd-most trusted form of advertising in use today.

Only personal recommendations from family and friends are more trusted (92%) than online customer reviews (70%).   That’s HUGE!

You yourself have probably made buying decisions – which hotel to stay in, which plumber to hire, which product to buy – based on other peoples’ reviews, ratings, surveys and other “social” data.

You may have even gotten personal referrals from people you know.

A recent study shows what happens today after someone gets a referral from someone else…

87% of the time, they open up their web browser and research the recommendation ONLINE!

So doesn’t it make sense to give your new prospects what they’re looking for, right up front?  Show them your 5-Star reputation.  Show them all those amazing client reviews.

Make that critical first impression of your business a great one and show them why your company is clearly the best one for them to patronize.

NEXT UP:  We’re going to look at “online reputations” – what they are, where they are, and how to get one.

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