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By Stacey MacNaught.

How telling your customers you’re too busy to deal with them actually improves sales.

Infomercials are my guilty pleasure. The marketer in me loves watching persuasion techniques at play but I also get a lot of joy from watching the more creative sales pitches for the less inspiring products.

There’s a real science to the scriptwriting for infomercials, with the best scripts being a smart combination of persuasive and engaging.

“Operators are waiting. Please call now,” was a familiar line used on infomercials for all sorts of products. But celebrated infomercial screenwriter, Colleen Szot, made an eyebrow raising change to the line.

She changed it to,

“If operators are busy, please call again.”

This was a fairly counterintuitive change. After all, this could be perceived as putting your customers out, as inconveniencing them and making it difficult for them to buy.

As a marketer, I spend so much time trying to work out how I can make it easier for my customers to find and buy. So, why would Szot want to make potential customers believe operators can’t even take their call to sell to them?

But it worked. This single change sent sales of a fitness tracker soaring.

Why?

It’s because this change was a subtle way of saying,

“Loads of people just like you want this product.”

And this is the “Wisdom of the Crowd,” social proof, the same principle that makes people want to eat in restaurants that look busy.

You can apply the same basic principles to any website or business with subtle copy and even imagery that hints at the popularity of your product.

Here are three other types of social proof you can use too:

Expert Social Proof

This is the use of experts in their field to essentially reinforce the idea that your product or service is amazing. So if you sell a health product, getting a doctor to explain why yours is so good is expert social proof–another layer of reassurance for would-be buyers.

Sell sports shoes? Then a professional marathon runner explaining why they use your product is a vital social proof element. Or if you sell cookers or kitchen utensils, then a chef giving it the thumbs up has the same effect.

Celebrity Social Proof

Why are so many fitness books and programs associated with celebrities? Why are we likelier to see TV presenters than professional athletes fronting fitness programs?

It’s because people aspire to be like celebrities. So when famous people in great shape who are genuinely likeable and relatable front these things, the public looks at this as a way to be a little more like them.

It works the same way with famous soccer stars endorsing certain soccer boots and TV chefs endorsing kitchen appliances.

User Social Proof

If you’re about to spend your cash on a product or service, you want to know it’s of the quality you expect. And as consumers, we don’t simply take the word of the seller.

You can write about your high quality products in your descriptions as much as you like. It’s no substitute for having your real users, people who are already using your product, tell your potential customers about it.

For B2B sales, this is where in depth case studies work. And for consumer products, it’s all about reviews and testimonials. We’ve become accustomed to hunting out reviews for almost everything now–from hotels to home furniture. And if a business isn’t already displaying its reviews on its website, then many consumers will simply go off and search for them on third party platforms.

Making Use of Social Proof

I’m not suggesting you simply put a banner on your website proclaiming that,

“If operators are busy, please call later.”

Or even that you claim your website is down because you’ve got so many people virtually queuing to buy your wares.

But considering how you use social proof in your landing page content, imagery, offline marketing materials and right throughout your brand is a key component in the process of selling.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

By Stacey MacNaught

Stacey MacNaught is a digital marketing professional based in the U.K. Full bio

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