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Avoid the ‘Amazon trap;’ and develop truly authentic social proof using our 8 top tips

Every business needs social proof. As a financial adviser or planner, yours is no different.

But there’s a problem; authenticity.

New research by Fakespot Inc. has shown that approximately 42% of 720 million reviews on Amazon from March to September were unreliable. That’s up around 36% year-on-year and is a real problem for the online shopping giant.

Frankly, though, Amazon’s problem is also your problem. Fake reviews undermine trust in all social proof, including yours. So, in an age of fake news and fake reviews, how can you set yourself apart and demonstrate the authenticity of your social proof?

Here are our eight top tips to do just that.

1. Accept that traditional testimonials are dead

Too many financial advisers and planners believe that a single testimonials page on their website is all the social proof they ever need.

They’re wrong.

Our research shows that only 1-2% of all visitors to your website will look at a testimonials page. Even those who look at the page are generally greeted by short and anonymous testimonials, which are little use to anyone.

The sooner we all accept that traditional testimonials are dead and that we need to do more, the better.

2. Don’t cherry-pick the clients you ask to complete surveys

Client surveys are a fantastic way of learning about your business. They will tell you:

  • What you’re doing right
  • Where you can improve (which is always more useful than praise)

They are also a great source of social proof.

However, a handful of firms have asked us if they can exclude certain clients from the survey in case they say something negative. We understand the temptation, we really do. However, excluding clients is counterproductive for two reasons:

  1. If you exclude people who are likely to say something negative, you’ll miss valuable lessons which you can use to improve your business. As hard as it might be, you have to embrace criticism so you can change and improve
  2. The results will be inauthentic and consequently less valuable to potential clients.

Our recommendation? Bite the bullet and include all clients.

3. Publish your client survey results

Too often client survey results are only shared internally. This is a missed opportunity.

We recommend that results are published for clients and prospective clients to see.

Sure, not everything will be perfect. That’s fine. It demonstrates authenticity and because you’ll also explain the changes you’re making, that you’re listening.

Publishing client survey results is brave. But it’s the right thing to do.

4. Add detail

Short testimonials lack authenticity and are useless to potential clients.

I saw an insurance broker recently who had over 1,100 testimonials on a well-known rating and review platform (not Google or VouchedFor, before you ask!). Around half were extremely short (often only three or four words) and anonymous. They may have been genuine, but the problem was that they looked inauthentic.

Ideally, all social proof, including your testimonials, should tell a short story by answering three questions:

  • Why did the person need help?
  • What did you do?
  • What changed?

This probably needs 100 – 150 words. The detail will help the prospective client understand more about how you can help them while also demonstrating authenticity.

5. Use genuine images of your clients

Adding an image of your client to testimonials and case studies is a great way of demonstrating authenticity.

The barrier to this is often the adviser/planner who is nervous about asking. However, in our experience, most clients are prepared to provide an image of themselves.

6. Get your clients on video

There’s something about your clients putting themselves out there and appearing on camera which is immediately authentic.

That’s why, for us, it’s the most effective form of social proof.

However, there are still only a handful of advice firms who include client videos on their website and in their wider marketing. That’s a shame because technology makes them incredibly accessible.

Click here to learn more about how our client stories starter packages can help.

7. Be careful not to break the rules

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally we’ll see a firm break the rules or make simple errors with their accreditations.

Common mistakes include:

  • Using the FCA logo; the regulator doesn’t allow advisers and planners to use their logo
  • Using the wrong Chartered logo; it’s easy to mistakenly use the Corporate Chartered logo in the wrong place because they are so similar
  • Using the Chartered planner logo on a website in a way which could potentially lead the visitor to conclude that it is the firm, not the individual planner, who is Chartered

8. Choose the right platforms to collect online ratings and reviews

We recommend that financial advisors and planners should use two platforms to collect their online ratings and reviews.

Firstly, Google, because reviews are usually immediately visible after a brand search and also because anyone can leave you a review. There’s something incredibly authentic about being so open that you allow anyone to go and leave you a review.

Secondly, VouchedFor, because they go to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the review and will not take down poor reviews.

Build your social proof carefully

We’re sure that no one reading this blog would ever consider posting fake reviews. But your potential clients don’t know that. At least the more cynical ones don’t!

So, in an age of fake news and fake reviews, it’s never been more important to demonstrate the authenticity of your social proof. Working through our checklist will certainly help you do just that.

If you’d like our help, don’t hesitate to ask by emailing or calling 0115 8965 300.

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