Riding the proof train

List member Ryan asked this question about a recent email:

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Just want to say I love the series and all the advice. Could you give a concrete example of aligning proof with you claim? Like how in one scenario it’s joined at the hip and another one trumpets the other?

Yes. Yes, I can give a concrete example of aligning proof with your claim!

In fact, I’ll spend the next several emails to y’all doing just that. We begin today.

There are at least ten distinct ways to offer proof in your marketing. Before I dive into those, I want to remind you of the Bencivenga quote that spurred Ryan’s question:

Never make your claim bigger than your proof. And always join your claim and your proof at the hip in your headlines, so that you never trumpet one without the other. — Gary Bencivenga

Proof supports your claim, ideally in a completely convincing and harmonious way.

Quick tangent: What’s your claim?

It’s usually one of two things. It’s either a claim of expertise (potentialability to produce results), or a claim of actual results you have produced for some and claim to be able to re-produce for others.

A well-positioned professional services business will make a claim that is relatively narrow in terms of the target audience or problem solved. The claim should promise a significant or even dramatic return on investment.

And that’s why you need proof: bold claims are inherently interesting but also inherently not credible because they’re so commonly used.

The first of those ten forms of proof is relevant testimonials, case studies, reference accounts, or other social proof.

I know you just had to pick yourself up off the floor because what I said there is so shockingly original!

:troll:

“Relevant testimonials, case studies, reference accounts, or other social proof” is nothing new. In fact, it’s the “table stakes” of marketing your business. If you’re not using at least one of those proof elements, start there before you do anything else.

Here are a few relevant things to keep in mind as you’re thinking about how you could integrate this proof element into your marketing:

  1. Video advertisements use actors and models for social proof. You should use real clients and real stories.
  2. Always look for ways to add value in your case studies. Could you do a case study or webinar where one of your most successful clients actually teaches prospective clients what they learned from working with you? How much better would that be than a boring ole “challenge, solution, results” case study?
  3. Unscripted recorded video conversations with actual clients may beat the pants off of text case studies in terms of credibility. I’m currently testing this and will have more to share later.
  4. To get the single best advice I’ve found on testimonials, read Sean D’Souza’s book The Brain Audit.
  5. A good logo strip or client list can really punch above it’s weight in terms of proof. It’s 100x easier to get permission to use a logo than a good case study, and saying that you’ve worked with a bunch of heavy-hitter clients is still very powerful even if you don’t have full case studies to go along with those logos.

Lastly, I want I promised to touch on alignment. How–in the case of social proof–do you align your proof with your claim?

  1. Make it relevant. Make sure any testimonials, case studies, reference accounts, or other social proof are relevant to your claim of expertise. That often means doing some painful trimming of irrelevant items from your marketing to avoid sending a confusing message about your market position. Sometimes it involves doing a bit of rework of other content that needs to be more closely aligned with your positioning message.
  2. Make it closely integrated. Look for opportunities to integrate your proof with your claims, or even make them one and the same thing. Some quick examples:
    1. A headline that reads: “Our clients save 37% on their inventory management costs using software we built for them. Would you like to do the same?”
    2. An article on your methodology where you reference authoritative sources and your own client successes every time you make a claim.
    3. A sales page for a service that includes proof elements at every opportunity to back up your claims.

If you have no compelling claim to make in your marketing, you probably need to narrow your market position. I have a resource to help with that right here: http://thepositioningmanual.com

Proof element #2 comin’ at you next time,
-P

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