Catering exclusively to the desire for uniqueness is a fallacy. No matter how unique we think we are or how individualistic our customers are, research shows that the herd culture prevails. Are you giving your customers the right herd to follow?
Businesses, big and small, are trying to customize their customer service, their products, their softwares, and their entire business processes for each of their customers. I won’t disprove this strategy, but in this post we’ll discuss a human behavioural tendency that is being ignored in this rush to customize.

For Businesses
Herd mentality rules!

The Principle of Social Proof

According to this principle, when people are presented with proof of a social tendency to choose one action over another, they tend to follow the same action, i.e., if they know that a lot of people prefer doing a certain thing, their preference also changes to the same thing.

Use of Social Proof to Increase Desirable Behavior

Here are two examples that prove the principle of social proof and its use as a persuasion tactic:
#1: Operators Are Busy – Company A, a successful health supplement manufacturer, had their advisor suggest a simple modification to their customer service process that led to a dramatic increase in sales.

Initially, when a customer/prospective customer called the company at a time when all their customer service representatives were busy, the message played was: “Operators are standing by, please hold on.” The advisor suggested that this message be changed to: “Operators are busy, please call later.”

On the face of it, the new message seems counter-intuitive. Why would you tell callers to call back rather than stay on hold? But, the results proved that this was a fantastic move. Why?

What imagery comes to mind when you hear “Operators are standing by” versus when you hear “Operators are busy”? The first one makes you think of people who have little to do or are too lazy to do their work and are standing around doing nothing. The second one, on the other hand, conveys the impression of a successful company a lot of people want to do business with and hence the busy operators.

This impression makes the caller, who may be a customer/prospective customer, believe that they are doing the right thing by dealing with this company since a lot of other people seem to prefer them too.

#2: Reuse Towels – Most hotels tend to have signs that exhort their customers to “Save the environment, reuse towels”. A team of experimenters approached a hotel to conduct an experiment wherein they changed this sign to say “75% of people reused their towels during their stay in the hotel. Help the environment, reuse yours.” This change led to a 20% increase in reuse.

They then took this experiment a step further. The sign now said: “75% of people in your room reused their towels. Join them and save the environment.” Towel reuse now increased by 33%.

This experiment not only proves the principle of social proof, but it also brings up the fact that the more similar the herd to your target audience, the more likely they are to follow the action you want them to. In this case, narrowing the herd from the people who’ve stayed in the hotel to the people who’ve stayed in the room led to a signification increase in the desirable behaviour.

One Use for Online Marketing

If you think about the principle of social proof, you’ll realize that there are several customer touchpoints within your business where you could effectively use it to improve engagement, sales and success.

There’s one use of social proof for online marketing that I’ve seen time and again on several successful websites. They use it when they encourage people to sign up for their newsletters or email lists, like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter – see below:

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Author: Urooj Kazi is a professional freelance business writer. To hire her to write content for your business, visit this website's Contact Urooj page. 
6/7/2013 18:26:52

I've surprised about the first one - I get annoyed if an answer machine says we're busy call back later - I don't want to call back later nor do I have the time. I would prefer my call to be answered now.

6/7/2013 21:43:35

I totally agree about the herd mentality. I had joined a site that allowed artisans to offer custom work. I thought it would be interesting to see what people actually wanted, rather than try to offer just my take on the arts. I watched the requests for several months. The vast majority of requests I saw were:
"I want a copy of this item".

6/8/2013 19:56:13

Hi Urooj,
Thanks for the post and for sharing with the BizSugar community. I'm not sure the trend toward customization is necessarily at odds with the trend in affecting customer behavior. It's true that, on one hand, products and services are being simplified with less of an emphasis on trying to be all things to all people. But customization means there is room in the market for more kinds of products and services for more preferences, even if most of those products and services offer fewer choices.

6/13/2013 11:29:12

Food for thought here Urooj that's for sure specifically about consumer (human) behaviour and how this relates to business. Just highlights to me that you have to be measuring results of strategies to define your business and refine it. I hold to the rule that from either extreme of thinking, the truth tends to always be in the middle! I think this is probably true in most cases in business and life.

11/2/2013 16:49:51

I lot invest in marketing his private business

9/6/2014 08:56:12

Thanks for sharing such a good content :)


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