Don’t Just Use Social Proof – Make Sure It’s Personal

by nils  - March 19, 2014

We have learned – from Dan Pink in Drive, Chip and Dan Heath in Switch, and many others – that to engage and motivate people effectively, you need to reach both their rational self and their emotional self. The research shows that one of the main jobs of our rational brain is to justify the decisions of our emotional brain, and a good way to reach the emotional brain is to talk about personal goals

I’ve been working with clients recently to help them engage their prospects better on their websites. I’m surfacing how the prospect’s personal goals will be satisfied by the product or offering by sharing social proof of how existing customers have achieved their personal goals.

To do this, I’m going through the clients’ success stories (and in some cases, doing more interviews) to find statements of:

  • Low expectations that were exceeded
  • Problems they faced that had personal impact, and were solved
  • Worries about a product solution that the solution didn’t have (especially if a competitor did!)
  • Impact of problems that the solution addressed
  • How they measure the success of the solution in personal terms 
  • How their standing in the company changed after the solution was implemented
  • Unexpected benefits they got by using the solution

For example, one of my favorites is a client who said that after implementing the solution, “I could wake up in the morning and not dread how much will I have to multi-task today.” Now, that’s a personal goal that’s been satisfied – not dreading waking up!

Another client said that as a result of a successful project with the solution, “everyone from management to sales and product management look at us [i.e., her group] as experts” in a particular area.

A last example, showing that you don’t have to help people sleep better to get a great personal benefit – eliminating annoying and tedious work is a great result as well: “The solution has saved our department a lot of time and headaches by eliminating most of the tedious, manual tasks associated with our [old process].”

Now I’ll be working with these clients to use these stories in their marketing at the top level, so prospects can immediately get emotionally engaged with how the solutions will improve their lives.

Taking Action

Here are three things you can do today to start using these ideas:

  1. Whenever you talk to a customer, try to elicit some thoughts about how your product has helped them satisfy personal goals, from being less annoyed by their work, to being more praised by their peers. You can use the list of points above as a guideline for your questions. 
  2. Search through your existing customer success stories and find the quotes that represent personal successes for the speaker, and not just the achievement of business goals – which are not as engaging.
  3. Work with your marketing department to start using these personal goal achievement quotes at a top-level on your website – use A/B testing to confirm they create more engagement than what you might have there already.

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Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.

  • good insights. being able to achieve a personal goal can in-fact be a very good benefit to get from the customers as a testimonial. a good example would be infusionsoft whose customers say "it helps us save time to spend on better things ….". very powerful. check out some other best practices in using customer proof here –

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