Highly touted in the corporate world, “social proof” is a phenomenon that has allowed many Fortune 500 companies to up their brand reputation and delve into new markets with their services and products. The idea behind this concept is that consumers are heavily influenced by family members, friends, and others within their social network--even more so than by celebrities and social media personalities.
While well studied and tested within the corporate sphere, social proof is only just beginning to take hold in the special events industry. It is good timing, too, as the shifting dynamics of the current market are calling for a new change of pace.
Fortunately, you do not need the billion-dollar revenue of major brands like Apple or Nike to take advantage of social proof. All you need is a commitment to authenticity as you explore new ways to tap into the market.
Let’s break it down a little further:
Social proof is all about forming strong relationships. Through those relationships, you can earn referrals and third-party validation that will build your reputation and bring new business to your company. This isn’t just your average networking event, though. Exchanging business cards is great and all, especially when they’re serving your favorite wine, but if we’re being realistic, most of those business cards end up in the trash can at home.
The relationship-building I am referring to goes much deeper than networking. In fact, you could do it even if you don’t connect with a single new person. That’s because you already have a network--you just need to use it to your advantage by applying strategy behind your efforts.
Why now? If you’re wondering why you’re only just hearing about this magical phenomenon now, it’s because the industry has grown exponentially, and the standard marketing strategies of the past are starting to become stale.
Just look at print advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing--all of these strategies certainly retain their place as valuable forms of outreach, but they’ve also become oversaturated to the point that it’s difficult to penetrate the market through these methods. Social media isn’t groundbreaking anymore, it’s expected.
With that in mind, it makes sense to look for a new strategy that is groundbreaking. Your marketing should set you apart and, with the help of social proof, you can tap into the pulse of your ideal clients and learn how to connect with them online and off.
In 2019 and beyond, relationships and social proof will be extremely important. As the industry becomes increasingly commoditized, it’s your responsibility to avoid becoming a commodity.
You have far more to offer than just a service. Your work cannot be replicated by others; it’s your creative streak that adds value to your end product.
How to use social proof: Take a moment to dig deep and decide what you want your business to look like in the future. What do you have to offer that will keep the clients coming to you? Look past communications such as online reviews and curated social media profiles--when it really comes down to it, these media don’t belong to you. Algorithms are constantly changing, and you need to find your place in the market without relying on other businesses to promote your work.
Next, consider where you currently stand with word-of-mouth marketing. Do you already get many referrals from vendor partners and past clients? Or do you solely rely on digital advertising and search engine optimization?
When it comes down to it, people are tired of hearing about influencers like the Kardashians. Sure, we may try out Kim’s latest mascara, but at the end of the day, we are looking to our friends and people that we trust to be the true influencers of what we purchase. If your best friend tells you Kim’s new line was of poor quality but that she’s discovered a new brand that she loves, wouldn’t you be more inclined to follow her lead? Precisely.
In terms of business, we need to become micro-influencers in our marketing as well. Part of that has a lot to do with having a strong brand, adhering to your core values, and the ability to identify your ideal client. After all, you cannot be influential if you’re not clear on what your business is all about or who you want to work with.
Still, the large part of capitalizing on social proof goes back to the ever-important factor of building relationships. The best way to do this is to become a true asset to the people in your industry because they are the ones who will be around for the long haul. Off the top of my head, I can come up with a list of vendors that I love working with but I can also list off those that I would never refer to a client. I’m sure that you could do the same.
Your industry peers are your bread and butter. As long as you are good at your job, they will refer you--even if they’ve never met you. That goes to say that your access to word-of-mouth marketing is grounded in your reputation, which develops through your interpersonal industry relationships.
In short, be a team player. Make yourself a resource. If you finish early on-site, stick around and extend your help to others. Think about a rainy event--it can feel like all hands are on deck. Everybody is contributing to make the necessary changes as seamless as possible. Why not extend that same courtesy, regardless of the weather?
At the end of the day, you are all on the same team sharing a common goal: to produce a flawless and spectacular event for the client. While you work towards that, take advantage of your position in the event team and build those vendor relationships that will repay your efforts in the future.
Trust me, the extra effort is worth it when you hear about the glowing remarks a prospect’s photographer or venue had to say about you. Without social proof, you’re missing out on sales and the opportunity to build longevity in a constantly changing industry. Explore new marketing strategies and learn to spread your brand’s influence in order to design a business that can withstand recessions and economic downturns.
It all begins with nurturing your relationships and becoming a vital asset in the industry.
Katie Easley is the owner of Kate Ryan Design, a luxury floral and event design studio based in Scottsdale, Ariz. She is also a successful sales consultant in the wedding industry, specializing in prospecting and client experience.