Every marketer and copywriter should read Kevin Dutton’s book Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion as it contains hundreds of insights into persuading people into doing exactly what you want. Dutton’s book includes examples of social proof (also known as social influence) in action and this theory can be applied to successful copywriting and marketing campaigns. According to Dutton social proof “occurs in ambiguous social situations when one is unable to determine what, precisely, is the ‘done thing’”.
Social proof is the assumption that other people know what they’re doing or have the right information to make an informed decision so other people copy them. If you run a business then you will no doubt be delighted if your customers fell for the ‘sheep-like’ effect of social proof.
In many cases the successful split-second persuasion associated with social proof in marketing comes down to the words chosen.
Take the example below, it’s a classic case of tweaking a call-to-action to achieve astonishing results…
“A fascinating demonstration of the power of social proof occurred not so long ago on American TV. Colleen Szot, an American ‘infomercial’ writer, completely obliterated a home shopping channel sales record by changing just three words of a now familiar sales pitch. The record had stood for almost 20 years. Sure, the channel featured all of the usual marketing paraphernalia: celebrity endorsements, catchy soundbites, and an audience that looked like it was on speed. But, remarkably, it wasn’t any of these that finally sent sales through the roof. Instead, it was a change for the worse. Or so, on the face of it, it seemed.
Szot’s masterstroke was to tweak the standard call-to-action line ‘Operators are waiting, please call now’ to ‘If operators are busy, please call again’. At first glance, such nuancing appears disastrous. How does alerting customers to the prospect of inconvenience – dialling and redialling the same damn number – possibly translate into increased sales? But logic, in this case, leaves much to be desired – and fails to account for the magic of social proof.
Think about it. What image springs to mind when you hear the phrase ‘Operators are waiting, please call now’? Legions of bored telephonists staring into space? If so then despite all the flashy, trashy merchandising, your impression of the product is negative. It’s an impression of low demand and poor sales. Why the hell would you want to buy it if nobody else does?
Now ask yourself this. What comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘If operators are busy, please call again’? A buzzing call centre full of overstretched staff struggling to keep pace with demand? Now that’s more like it! If everyone else is getting in on the action – then you’re sure as hell not going to miss out!”
An obvious conversion opportunity
It seems obvious when the logic behind it is broken down, but how many times have you come across copywriting on a ‘Contact Us’ page which states ‘We’re waiting for your call’ or ‘We’re ready to take your call’? The idea behind this theory is to set the scene for the potential customer and let them use their imagination to persuade themselves that they have to call your company. Before writing a call-to-action, think about how you want your potential customers to feel. You want them to feel like they’ll be missing out if they don’t get in touch, that everyone else is choosing your company to do business with, that your company is so busy they’ll be happy to be kept on hold or to be put on a waiting list.
I’m far too busy and important to talk to you
If you’ve ever chosen to wait a few hours (or days) to respond to an email or if your diary has become mysteriously booked up when someone wants a meeting then you’re already applying this theory of social proof to your business. If you’re super busy then lots of people must be using your business which means you must be good.
A call to do what?
The problem with calls-to-action is that they’re often just added to a piece of copywriting as an afterthought instead of being seen as a key way to convert customers. By putting some thought into what you actually want your visitors to do, you can craft effective calls-to-action which see results that Coleen Szot would be proud of.
David Hamill, a freelance usability consultant makes the point that a call-to-action needs to tell people to do a specific action.
“Buttons are for actions, like ‘Get a quote’, ‘Download’, ‘Open an account’, ‘Go to checkout’. The text on the button should begin with a verb. Otherwise it’s not a call-to-action, it’s just a button with some text on it. ‘More information’ for example, is not a call-to-action.
Think about what your user would say if you asked him what he was trying to do. If he would say, “I want to compare the price” then ‘Compare the price’ is what you write on the button.”
Hamill’s take on a call-to-action should be used as a checkpoint at the end of every piece of copywriting to ensure your call-to-action does just that – instructs your customers to take action.
Rules of a successful call-to-action
• Know the key action point – do you want people to download, click, follow, share, buy, open?
• Stand out – instead of ‘Click here for more health tips’ try ‘Boost your health with one click’. Or instead of ‘Buy Pulse aftershave now’ try ‘Buy Pulse aftershave now and never go home alone again’. Or instead of ‘Click for more information’ try ‘Click to discover the secrets of this controversial new marketing tactic’.
• Keep it short and simple – this is much easier to do if you know your key action point.
• Keep calling – include calls-to-action within your content throughout your website instead of just at the end of a web page for example.
• Check your results – monitor which calls-to-action gain you the most clicks, these will have the biggest social proof influence and will be worth keeping.
Here’s our call-to-action. Share your insights into calls-to-action below, what’s worked for your company?
(via Pure Ink )