'Social Proof' - Part of the Marketing Tools of Today
We all know that the internet has transformed the way we communicate with each other and all sorts of products and services can use them to engage with their audiences.
In most cases, there is the 'message' to be delivered linked to your marketing proposition and then there is the medium of delivering that 'message' such as press, posters or websites.
In my other working world in the food industry we firstly concentrated on the brands and the brand values. Phileas Fogg savoury snacks had brand values built around being authentic, cosmopolitan, fun, international and just plain different (in products, packaging and delivery). These values and principles guided our message and how we delivered it. However, in the 1980's we had limited means of delivering our messages, which I have already touched on. The 'proof' of our product being suitable for our target customers was in the taste and texture delivery of our savoury snacks along with the authentic flavours that people could try. Building awareness and trial are essential parts of the marketing objectives.
To achieve this we only had 'broadcast' media such as radio, press and TV and our distribution points to let potential customers see our product were retailers.
The principles have not changed BUT the methods have.
When Pauline and I started thinking about converting The Old Post Office into a Bed & Breakfast we adopted similar principles for our marketing offer. The market sector was a B&B in Accommodation. Clearly, our Bed and Breakfast had to have really comfortable beds with proper Egyptian cotton linen and our breakfast had to edible, properly cooked and timely. However, part of our real challenge was to create a point of difference to our competitors by making the bed, the breakfast (with as many locally sourced items as possible), the facilities, the ambience and the experience more attractive at a price that also gives value for money.
Having established the above we had to rely on our guests impressions of what we were trying to create and this is where 'Social Proof' comes into play. It is the equivalent of a 'good comment on trial of a product or service' that could be transferred by 'word of mouth'. 'Social Proof' is the collection of the reviews that a site will get from the actual users or guests. It is an important statement of how your offer is working and a recommendation to potential new guests that their purchasing decisions are endorsed.
The fact that these reviews are digital and immediately available to anyone with a device makes it all the more powerful. Several business models have evolved for reviews such as Trip Advisor but even e-commerce Booking Agents such as Booking.com have adapted their feedback processes into marketable reviews.
The 'Social Proof' then becomes a key marketing tool for any accommodation or food establishments and should be embraced as such. Clearly, the only way we can influence peoples comments are through the quality of our offer as well as how they were delivered.
Reviews are generated for different reasons. Reviews from Booking.com are generated as responses to a process of feedback initiated by Booking.com following a stay. On the other hand reviews on Trip Advisor are initiated by the guests or users themselves. Something needs to stimulate them to take the time out to create their review. In this context, Trip Advisor seems to be slightly more relevant in terms of 'research' for us to get an even better understanding of our guests feedback.
Over the past 15 months we have had 53 Trip Advisor Reviews with 48 rated Excellent and 5 Very Good alongside a Customer Satisfaction Index of 98.7%. On analysing the comments we can say that our guests are really appreciating our points of difference and how we deliver them.
In parallel, our reviews from Booking.com have mirrored this status with 71 Reviews and a Rating of 9.8 consisting of 44 giving us a 10/10.
Clearly, these results help us reflect on what we are offering, give us some confidence yet, at the same time, push us to maintain our levels or even improve them. They also become a key selling tool, as an endorsement to other potential guests that they can trust your decision to stay with us because they have the 'Social Proof' from others who have already experienced their stay.
At the end of the day - a pleasurable experience is what we all want, which is based on an 'emotional' level. The purchasing decision is, however, still based on a 'rationale' level, hence the need for the 'Social Proof'.
Always Try to Have Fun.
Keith & Pauline