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Social proof: 7 myths, misconceptions and mistakes

As one financial planner once put it, we’ve been “banging on” about social proof for some time now. There’s a good reason for that; gathering and leveraging social proof is fundamental to a successful marketing strategy.

A quick reminder

For anyone still unsure what social proof is, we like to define it as: “Using the thoughts and words of others to demonstrate the value you add.”

I also like what venture capitalist, Aileen Lee has to say: “Think of it as building the foundation for massively scalable word-of-mouth.”

Examples of social proof include:

  • Testimonials; ideally, attributable, showing the client’s location, the length of time you’ve worked with them and perhaps even their business name or job title. Extra bonus point if your client agrees to supply a picture
  • Case studies; genuine cases showing how you have helped clients solve their problems and achieve their aspirations. Written works well, videos are even more powerful
  • Reviews; Google, VouchedFor, Facebook are all great ways of collecting client reviews
  • Client surveys; data demonstrating overall satisfaction levels can be as powerful as individual testimonials
  • Likes and shares of social media posts; the more you get of both, the better
  • Clients; what better social proof is there than your clients telling their friends and family about how you’ve helped them?
  • Awards; they aren’t all equal, but entering and winning awards can be a very effective form of social proof

Everyone understands how important social proof is, right?


Not every adviser or planner is so enthusiastic as we are. So, we thought we’d debunk some common myths and misconceptions while helping you avoid some common mistakes.

#1: “I have a testimonial page, that’s enough.”

Sadly, it isn’t.

Aside from the fact that most testimonials are dull and anonymous, our research shows only 1-2% of your website visitors will look at the page.

Ideally, testimonials should be scattered around your site, so visitors seem them incidentally to your browsing. Think about Facebook for a moment. They don’t build a page of adverts for users to visit, they scatter adverts around the platform and place them in your news feed. You should seek to do similar with your testimonials, both on your website and in printed material.

#2: “People will think testimonials are made up.”

You know your testimonials are genuine. But others might think otherwise. That isn’t a reason not to gather testimonials, nor to impose your views on potential clients if you personally hold this opinion.

Nevertheless, it’s important to demonstrate authenticity. Ideally, the testimonial should:

  • Be 100 – 150 words long
  • Include the client’s name and broad location (e.g. Phil Bray, Nottingham)
  • If relevant, you might include their occupation or business name
  • Include the length of time they’ve been a client, to evidence longevity of the relationship
  • Be displayed alongside a picture of the client

If you’re worried that’s a lot to ask, let’s move swiftly on to the next myth…

#3: “My clients aren’t interested in helping.”

In our experience, this just isn’t true. In fact, we see the opposite, many clients are only too willing to help their financial adviser or planner.

Of course, not every client will be up for appearing in front of the camera or supplying a picture of themselves to add to your website. But if you draw up a shortlist of potential candidates and then approach them in the right way, we’d be amazed if you didn’t find even a handful who agreed to help.

#4: “I don’t want to bother my clients.”

See #3!

#5: “It’s hard work. Is it really necessary?”


Research shows that we are more likely to buy goods or services from well-rated organisations. While common sense tells us that demonstrating the value of financial planning will encourage people to contact you rather than an alternative adviser or planner.

Furthermore, businesses harness the power of social proof, those who don’t will be left behind.

#6: “I don’t have the budget.”

Although it might cost less than you think, there’s no getting away from the fact recording client videos will take time and capital.

However, it’s amazing what can be done with some creative thinking:

  • It costs nothing to get testimonials right and ask clients if they would be happy to provide a picture
  • Asking clients for VouchedFor or Google reviews is something which can easily be built into your processes and costs very little (the enquiries you get from VouchedFor will more than pay for the subscription)
  • You’ve got a portable studio in your pocket, why not ask your clients if they would say a few words as you film them?

#7: “I’ll only win an award if I buy a table.”

Not all awards are equal. You’ve probably had unsolicited emails congratulating you on winning an award (even though you didn’t enter) closely followed by the offer of buying a package to promote your success.

Other awards though require carefully constructed entries, are rigorously judged and highly competitive. It’s these which you should be interested in winning and I’ve never seen any hint of malpractice.

Four steps to developing your social proof

To be blunt, the first thing that’s needed is an open mind, without that it’s impossible to effectively build social proof. After that, the steps are pretty simple:

  1. Review your current social proof and consider where it can be improved
  2. Make decisions, splitting the work down into an initial project (running a client survey, improving testimonials, recording client videos and so on) and ongoing work
  3. Engage with clients by building a short list and approaching them to understand whether they are willing to help
  4. Implement the initial project, then building processes to ensure social proof is collected on a regular basis

We’re here to help

If you would like our help, feel free to reply to this email or give us a call on 0115 8965 300.

We’ve also developed many free resources to help. Here’s a selection:

Client testimonial request template  

Google review request template

12 tips for building great client surveys

Helping you promote your Chartered status

The Adviser Awards Index – Everything you need to develop a successful strategy

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