6 Great Social Proof Strategies for Architects and Contractors
It’s a Friday evening. You and your wife are walking down the street looking for a place to eat. Of the five restaurants you see, three are full and two are empty. Where do you go?
If you’re like most people, you will go to one of the three restaurants crowded with customers.
That’s the principle of social proof. We do what the crowd is doing.
And nowadays, thanks to the internet, this principle is hotter than ever.
In only 10 minutes of browsing, potential customers can know A LOT about you and your business without even picking up the phone or talking to an employee in person.
According to a report by Mintel, 69% of consumers seek for other people’s opinions before buying a product or service. The same study also found that most consumers visit review sites and look on social media for recommendations.
This social principle is referred to as the rule of Social Proof. Just like your Friday night date, we use the endorsements of others as a guide to help us find the best experiences for ourselves. You can easily use this social principle to catapult your architecture or construction business to the next level.
If you are a smart marketeer, you can use this powerful principle of influence to your advantage.
What’s more, it won’t even take very much additional effort or expense to do so.
Here are the 6 best social proof marketing strategies for architects and contractors:
- Social media following
- Trust seals and badges
- Ratings and reviews
- Use visuals to showcase what you do
Let’s look at these ideas in more detail.
1. Referrals (aka “word of mouth marketing,” or WOMM)
During the last few years, marketing has often been talked about with a focus on “collecting” (for example, Facebook “likes”) instead of “connecting” (for example, with customers).
In other words, many brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.
Having 10 really passionate fans that love your brand or product is exponentially more effective than having 100 “fans” who signed up just to win a free iPad from you.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe in recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
Recommendations by friends are much more effective than sales talk or ads.
A friend of mine has a KitchenAid blender. She loves it so much that she is telling all her friends about it: she gushes about the quality and robustness of the thing, and—of course—also how nice the retro design fits into her kitchen. :)
But her friends will never perceive this KitchenAid promotion as inauthentic “sales talk”. It’s genuine and authentic and comes from a trusted confidant… which makes it very effective marketing.
Having an army of ambassadors that are so happy with your product or service they naturally promote you whenever they can is the ultimate marketing channel. And not only is it super effective, it’s free.
So how can you achieve that in the construction industry?
It’s a matter of always doing a great job, consistently offering top quality and service to your current customers.
Instead of searching for growth and new projects by doing labor-intensive, costly outbound marketing, make it your strategy to over-deliver and offer top service to your existing customers. (Find out more on this topic in our article on customer service marketing.)
In this sense, “marketing” becomes the normal operation of business, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. (And besides, you already want to be delivering the best possible service for your customers, right?)
Put in your top effort in everything you do: sending a newsletter, taking pictures of your projects and sharing them on Facebook, answering the phone, and even talking with contractors on the construction site.
Because make no mistake about it: everything is marketing.
And this kind of marketing can naturally and effortlessly lead to new leads and projects.
So the first step is always to create an epic experience for your customers.
As a contractor, engineer or architect, you should always aim to:
- show up on the job when promised
- perform the tasks at hand with professionalism and timeliness
- communicate clearly with your customers and other parties involved
- follow up and manage the project as if it were yours and you were the owner
- replace the checkbox mentality (“done with that task, on to the next one”) with an attitude that radiates dedication and involvement
- to be proud of the job delivered
If you’re willing to set these standards, your customers will be happy and recommend you at the next opportunity.
That is the ultimate goal.
At ArchiSnapper, we make it our priority to focus on our current customers first (by making our product better and by offering amazing customer service) and then, when there is time left, we spend it on other marketing strategies (mainly blogging).
When you give your all to your customers,
- they will come back when they have new projects
- they will refer you to their friends and family
- they will be happy to provide you with testimonials and reviews
- you will have a project to be proud of and to include on the portfolio on your website
Working towards a portfolio of happy customers means creating an advertising network by doing nothing more than a great job.
No paid advertising, no sales. Just doing a great job.
So my best advice: start with this step. Start with optimizing your processes for customer satisfaction.
Focus on making your customers really happy so they become your free—but highly effective—marketers and sales reps.
A 2014 State of Multichannel Customer Service Survey commissioned by Microsoft shows the importance of word of mouth marketing with a couple of illustrative numbers:
These numbers don’t lie, so make sure you’re providing the kind of service that gets people talking.
Now, let’s move on to the next step in the process.
When you get a referral, what do you usually do?
If you’re like me, you’ll Google the company and check out their website and any other type of online presence you can find—the more, the better.
The more likes and recent posts, the better. The more reviews, the better. The more testimonials, the better.
All these things make me trust a company and take steps toward purchasing from them.
Let’s continue with an example to illustrate how you can implement this.
Let’s say we’re looking for a Chicago-based home remodeler. When asking our friends if they have experience with a firm, someone tells us to check out Michael Menn Ltd.
So the first thing we do is Google Michael Menn Chicago and land on their website.
Now, starting from their website, let’s take a look at the other social proof elements that come to play.
2.Social Media Followings
Basically, when we’re researching a company online, what we want to know is simple: are these guys good at what they do? Will they offer me quality service?
Since it’s impossible to know the answers without actually hiring them, we need to look for proxies. And one of these proxies is embedded in their social media channels.
In order to get an idea of how good a firm is at whatever service they offer, most people go check out their social media channels first.
They have a look at how many followers they have (and what these followers say about the product or service).
Here, for example, you can see Michael Menn’s Twitter page, with quite a few tweets, followers and likes.
A social media presence adds to a company’s overall digital footprint, lending them credibility.
Given a relatively high number of followers and likes, a prospective customer might think, the company must have been around for some time, amassed a lot of happy customers, have a lot of knowledge and experience with home remodeling, etc.
And when we check the content listed on these platforms, we’ll also check if they have recent posts (with recent likes and shares). If they didn’t post anything new during the past year,that’s generally not a good signal. (“Where’d they go?” you might wonder.)
On Michael Menn Ltd.’s Facebook page, you can see a lot of recent photo posts.
The company is adding daily to a portfolio of posts and pictures, and thus engaging with their customers. And in the best-case scenario, those customers actually share this content with their own followers—which goes back to the referral strategy we talked about in step one.
Social share buttons are what we can see at the bottom of the page.
They are meant to make content shareable, giving it viral potential.
A high number of shares gives more credibility to a post and its author, and encourages even more shares.
When we click on a social share button, a new window will open up so we can immediately share something we’ve discovered—in this case, Michael Menn’s company.
Check out the footer of their website here below and the different social proof elements:
- the social share buttons (220 shares)
- the best of home guide label
- the best of houzz labels
- the AIA label
- the testimonial
All these things increase our trust in their services. Working with them looks like a safe bet.
An important note to add here is that your business should not rely on your number of social media followers as the ultimate measure of success.
Only real, live satisfied customers can provide that feedback.
But as you know now, follower count is an important element of social proof. People feel safer jumping on board when they see other people have already done so.
A wonderful example and proof of this is Derek Sivers’ TED talk on “How to Start a Movement.” Not only will it further illustrate this point… it will also make you smile.
So let’s move on to the next strategy.
3. Trust Seals and Badges
Continuing with our Michael Menn Ltd. example, notice what else we see on their website: badges, logos, and icons of associations the company is linked with or prizes they have won.
We can see badges for specific certifications the company has achieved through The National Association of Home Builders—also known as the NAHB, the biggest housing association in the USA with more than 140,000 members, of which one-third are home builders and remodelers.
This, of course, is yet another way to establish credibility.
Little by little, we’re getting to know the company, based on what our friends told us, what their website looks like, the robustness of their social media following and content, and now these official designations.
And more importantly, we are starting to trust them… without ever even talking to a sales person.
And that is what it’s all about.
“When you say it, it’s marketing. When your customer says it, it’s social proof.”
We found out about Michael Menn through a friend’s recommendation. But obviously, any additional recommendation or testimonial will reinforce that friend’s message, further convincing us to buy their services.
Check out this testimonial:
The power of testimonials lies in their objectivity. When someone outside of the company—as opposed to a company official who obviously has a vested interest in the firm’s success— praises the offered goods or services, their credibility is much higher.
You can make testimonials even more powerful by putting a face to the words. Research on what Stephen Colbert called “truthiness,” or our subjective feelings of truth, suggest trust increases with photos and testimonials are thus more likely to be believed when they are accompanied by a corresponding picture.
And of course, make sure it’s a professional, high-quality pic of a happy customer. :)
Testimonials are super powerful because they contain a story element.
Various studies have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than just hearing cold, straightforward facts.
When reading or hearing straight data, we only use the language-processing parts of our brains to decode the meaning.
But when we read or hear a story, not only do the language parts light up, but we also activate all the other parts of the brain we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading or hearing.
According to a Onespot infographic on the science of storytelling, “Messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts.”
Whoa — 22 times! That’s an impressive narrative.
Here is another good example by Florida Architects:
5. Ratings and Reviews
Just like testimonials, ratings and reviews are very powerful.
Think about the last time you booked a hotel or bought something from Amazon.
What did you do first? Check the rating score and reviews, right? That’s what I do, for sure, every single time.
We’re all inclined to seek the opinion of others when trying something new.
A staggering 86% of consumers read reviews before buying from a local business, and 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has four or more stars.
Some good places to collect reviews are Facebook, Google and Yelp.
Here’s a good example of a Google review collection, by an architecture firm called Fontan Architecture:
Good reviews will also help you rank higher on Google, so this means a double win: attracting more leads (by ranking higher on Google) and experiencing a higher conversion from leads to customers (thanks to the trust established by the reviews).
6. Use Visuals to Showcase What You Do
Construction is a visual industry. And we humans are visual by nature.
As mentioned above, images do more than grab a reader’s attention. They also aid in recall; people retain 80% of what they see, 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear—and are processed 60,000 times faster than text.
Dedicate a whole page on your website purely to your portfolio, with a description of the projects and lots of great photos.
The guys from Boston-based architecture firm FLANSBURGH are doing a really great job at this. They’re taking amazing photos of their projects, which they bundle on their portfolio page with a link to every project listing more details and even more great photos.
Don’t underestimate the impact high quality photos can have on potential customers.
Every time you end a project and you are happy about the result, make sure to make a professional-quality picture and upload it to your portfolio page. Your prospective customers will be just as impressed with your work as you are, if not more so.
Simon Oswald & Associates is another architecture firm that takes professional photos of each project they complete. In the What We Do section of their website, you can find all their images—which are decent sized thumbnails to allow visitors to see all the details.
By sharing these pictures on your website and social media channels on a regular basis, you show that you are an active architect or contractor, and one who’s rightfully proud of the job they do. After all, you deliver quality. (That’s how this whole thing works, remember?)
Another good piece of advice for both architects and contractors is to make Before and After pictures of projects and then share them (with your client’s permission, of course).
They can be a great showcase of your abilities.
And do not forget to ignite the social proof marketing flame by sharing your photos on social media with captivating descriptions.
As we know now, our brain processes and retains visual information much faster and much longer than plain text.
So take advantage of the visual nature of the internet and share your finished projects on the main social media platforms that matter: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Youtube. And don’t forget to take the extra step and tag the customer.
When you tag a customer, he’ll get a notification— and if he’s happy with your service, he’ll probably like or share the post. As a result his friends will see it… and the social proof principle will do the marketing for you.
Well, that’s it.
Remember, these 6 social proof marketing strategies form a loop. They are interconnected and have an increasing effect on each other.
- Social media following
- Trust labels and badges
- Ratings and reviews
- Use visuals to showcase what you do
Deliver awesome work so people refer you and start to follow you everywhere. Build credibility by displaying designations, testimonials and reviews. Add regular posts on media platforms, and make sure to add quality photos to your portfolio.
A marketing loop that does not fail! You’ll see ;)