If you didn’t see on my Twitter, I spoke to a room of over 2000 people a few weeks ago on a massive panel about product development & innovation.
This is absolutely a WTF moment for me because six months ago I would have thrown up 5 minutes before I took the stage due to public speaking anxiety and secondly because it’s Alibaba asking me to speak at the CoCreate Conference.
The moment you stop caring what other people think is the moment you start crushing life. People are always going to hate. Everybody wants you to succeed until you do and are ahead of them. Put yourself out there. Create content. Make goals. Crush them and keep going.
Today, I want to talk about a topic that's been crucial when building my business, CROSSNET: leveraging social proof and storytelling. I really don’t think we’d be where we are today without our loyal customers sharing our story and getting content created about a product they genuinely love.
So, grab a beverage or Juvee (my favorite energy drink), and let’s do this. I’m hoping a few of these resonate as we get closer and closer to Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM).
How to Leverage Social Proof: UGC & Case Studies
Lean into UGC
Sure, beautiful photoshoots and staged commercials are amazing and serve a purpose, but in this world of over-glamorization, people want the raw thing like the iPhone 4 photo from the dad with half his finger over the lens. Or the 25-second video from the grandma of her grandkids playing CROSSNET in the backyard. I’ve seen these videos go viral.
We saw a massive conversion boost when we started to add real videos and content from our customers. Out with the staged photography and in with the real stuff. Customers love to see people like themselves using the products and also are more apt to share in 2023 if they think they have a chance of having their content repurposed.
Even at a macro level think about it personally as an entrepreneur. If a brand shares your story or a photo you took on the timeline you will gain new followers and increase your engagement. Its all a calculated game.
Show off your journey and get your customers involved, whether testimonials, sales figures, or social media followers.
Mid-Day Squares is doing this now as they make their way to becoming a $100M brand. Stop reading currently and follow them on social for inspiration. They do 100 X better than I’ll ever do in teaching you.
Tell a story with case studies
If you’re a B2B brand or have a more complex product (like hair, makeup, and vitamins), I recommend you turn your most satisfied customers into case studies.
Use it in your emails, post purchases, and have them lead your Facebook groups. If you can have people paying for your product do your marketing, there is no better situation.
Pick up the phone. Send the email. Put in the work and build that relationship. They paid money for the product so give them your time and watch it reciprocate for months.
One way that has worked great for us to develop our relationship further is cutting them in early on in products and product improvement. Ask them what could be better. What would they do differently? What do they want to see?
Influencer Marketing: Riding the Wave
One of my favorite things we’ve done over the years was mapping out partnerships with an influencer in each demo. You all have your niches, but for us, it was building a partnership with one mom, one dad, one TikTok kid, one professional women’s volleyball player, one professional men’s volleyball player, one well-known physical education teacher, and one social media celebrity.
From there, we gained the trust of others in their space and kept the spiderweb growing. The mistake we made along the way was overpaying for these people. If people really love your product, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. If they do and you don’t have the money budgeted, don’t spend it!
Building an annual influencer budget and sticking to it on a monthly deployment schedule based on how the business is performing is vital.
Choose the right partners
Don't just go for influencers with a massive following. Make sure their values and style align with your brand. You don't want to get caught up in a partnership that is a quick money grab. Choose long term partnerships and watch your empire grow.
Don't just treat the influencers as transactional partners. Treat them like human beings and build a lasting relationship with them. Think about what you can offer them besides money. CROSSNET had 317 influencers on monthly retainers at the height of our influencer marketing. Each of them had a personal text thread, a WhatsApp group, and we let them all connect and form new friendships. I can’t take credit for it, but some have even partnered up on the AVP World Tour (the NBA for volleyball).
Give them creative freedom
Influencers are influencers for a reason—they know their audience best. Give them the creative freedom to create content that resonates with their followers and speaks to your brand. Don’t give them a script or shit to do. Pick and trust them for a reason. It does help to have brand guidelines and examples of what you do and don’t like, especially if you’re putting up money.
Utilizing Customer Testimonials: The Real Talk of Credibility
I just saw somebody on my timeline getting sued for $2M for hiding all their 1-star and 2-star reviews. I don’t know why the review apps would allow this feature if its against the law, but apparently lawyers are attacking brands for this.
In short, it pays just to be authentic. Don't edit your testimonials to sound perfect—real people have flaws, and so do products. Honesty is the best policy. However, it’s critical to use those reviews to improve your product and business.
Whether it's a phone call or a written response, take the time to respond to negative feedback. The customer will appreciate it (even if they are low-key difficult), and prospective customers will love that you’re taking the time to make that person feel heard and resolve the situation. We’ve even seen that our top-performing ads stay in rotation better when we take the time to respond to each question or comment.
Remember that people connect with faces, so do everything you can to get photos of satisfied customers enjoying the product. This adds an extra layer of credibility and humanizes your brand. Regardless of whatever review app you’re using you can motivate your customers to upload photo content by giving them a discount or a reason to return and shop again.
The Psychology Behind Storytelling: Winning Hearts and Minds
Here’s my favorite checklist that we use during our marketing meetings:
What is your audience’s pain point? How can we craft a narrative that speaks to them? Put yourself in their shoes and use that as the foundation for your storytelling.
Your brand and personal stories should be authentic. Nobody wants to live a lie. Don’t try to be something you’re not, or the audience will tell. I try every week to be honest, vulnerable, and real. I hope that plays a small part in why you read this.
✓ Emphasize Emotions
Consider the emotions you want your brand to evoke in your audience. What can you get your audience to feel? For CROSSNET, it’s nostalgia, destressing, and disconnecting from technology. For this blog, it’s all about allowing my readers to get 1% smarter.
✓ Keep it Simple
Keep your storytelling straightforward. Don't try to cram too much information or stick to industry jargon. Less is more. That’s why I’m ending this blog now.
Go the Extra Mile
The nice thing about everything I shared today is that its all almost 100% free. Being thoughtful and going the extra mile with your story and messaging is all the difference between the brands that make it and those that don’t.
Trust and engagement take time and a lot of effort, as long as you’re creating positive traction weekly, pat yourself on the back for making progress.
Remember, you're not alone in this; we're all just trying to improve.
P.S. If you have any specific questions simply shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoyed this I write a weekly newsletter on entrepreneurship called Crossed Commerce. You can subscribe here.