The Reum brothers, Courtney and Carter, are known for their roles on the television show Hatched. They are also behind many household brand names including big names such as Lyft, Pinterest, Warby Parker, and Shake Snack. Their new book, Shortcut Your Startup: Speed Up Success with Unconventional Advice from the Trenches is full of advice and shortcuts for those who want to take a start-up organization and scale it quickly.
In the Introduction of your book, you talk about both how it’s cheaper and easier than ever to start a business but also that the competition is more fierce than ever, too. What are the implications of these market forces?
The effects are twofold. On one hand, an abundance of resources has recently come into existence that—in a vacuum—would make life infinitely easier for any entrepreneur. Obvious examples are Kickstarter, social media marketing, Amazon’s e-commerce platform, data analytics—the list goes on. Obviously, these facilitate the arduous and historically expensive process of starting a business. Just look at the following graph showing the decrease in time needed to scale a brand.
Copyright Reum Brothers, Used by Permission.
The problem with these resources, however, is that everybody has access to them. Since these goods and services simplify business building, more and more people enter the landscape and competition increases. While the increased number of competitors certainly is an implication, a more important one is that it becomes significantly more difficult for the best business to separate itself from the crowd.
Use a Microscope and a Telescope
Another juxtaposition of ideas is from the old saying that you need to have a microscope on one eye and a telescope on another. You also use the speedboat versus sailboat analogy. Talk about this and how aspiring entrepreneurs need to understand the differences and their role.
You’re walking down a busy city street and turn the corner only to see a small crowd of people all looking up in the air, at a point across and above the street. What are the odds you’ll be able to stop yourself before looking up to see what they’re all staring it? I know for me, it’s almost impossible…and I’ve tried!
Similarly, in movies and TV shows, it’s easier to laugh along when we hear the show’s laugh-track. I once watched a funny old movie with no laugh-track, and the child I was watching with didn’t know what was funny. We take our cues from others.
It’s the same online. One of the main reasons that people make a choice is because they have “social proof” that others have done so before. It’s a strong motivator.
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard
Whether you are a business, a blogger, or an individual with career aspirations, you should be harnessing the power of positive social proof. The concept is not a new one, but its importance continues to grow both for businesses and individuals.
Wikipedia defines it this way: “Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”
Helps you stand out. Competition isn’t slowing down, isn’t letting up, and isn’t taking a break. If you want your business to get noticed, then social proof is one way to do it. With more sources competing for our attention every day, it’s vital to differentiate your offering from everything else.
Improves your success metrics. Studies show that we are more likely to share something that others are also sharing. We watch what we see others are watching. Visit a new town and you see two restaurants side-by-side. One has an empty lot and the other has a line wrapped around the block. Which one appeals to you?
Builds credibility. Unless you are already an established expert, a bestselling author, or a of host a worldwide talk show, it helps to build credibility. In Nashville, I see many up and coming music artists using quotes from famous musicians. Authors routinely ask for endorsements for book jacket quotes. Businesses include testimonials from others. All of these are ways to differentiate and add credibility.
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” –Vince Lombardi
Some of you may say, “Sure, I can see that building social proof matters for a business. But it’s not something I need to think about.”
If you want to increase your chances of promotion, see higher raises, or reduce your chances of getting let go from your organization, you should use some elements of social proof. Do you have a marketing plan for YOU? Today, you must promote yourself.
You don’t need to blatantly self-promote. No one likes an egotistical, self-centered know-it-all. But, if I want the boss to choose me for a new project, how do I keep my name out there? How do I stand out? It may not be a blog, but it may be that you wrote an article in your company newsletter or an industry publication. It may be that you are speaking at a customer event. And there is nothing better than the word of mouth social proof because you delivered a key project or pitched in to help when it wasn’t even your responsibility. When your colleagues are buzzing about your performance, that is the best social proof possible. There are many ways to build your social proof as an individual.
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” –Mother Teresa
Recently, one marketer sent me a list of the ways I have used positive social proof on this blog. Here is what she shared (with my explanation).
Shares. On the top of each post, you can see the number of shares. Here’s where I ran into a problem last week. Because I have preferred Twitter to other social media, my Twitter shares are higher than others like LinkedIn or Facebook. Recently, Twitter made a strange, surprising, and I think wrong move by removing counts from everyone’s websites. That turns some posts that were shared by the thousands to showing nothing overnight. Why they did this is answered in a strange post, but I still don’t quite understand it. And, for the record, it alienated a large community of content creators who are now rethinking strategies for Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter.
Does it matter? Adele recently smashed records with the release of 25, becoming the best-selling album in the US of any single week. Large numbers create even more numbers. What would have happened if just as her sales took off Nielsen made a decision like Twitter and just zeroed out the sales?
“A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.” –Cullen Hightower
It’s a honey festival. What would you expect? Honey! And honey is a commodity, right? It’s all the same. If you want honey for a recipe, or to add to some hot tea, you pick up some honey at the store.
My view of honey completely changed when I attended the Lithopolis Honey Festival last year. I left not only with new information about honey, but also with observations on how to make nearly any business stand out.
Arriving at the festival, I see the streets have been closed to allow for tents to fill the streets. People are everywhere, crowding the vendors. With so many people milling about, how do the honey manufacturers attract customers?
As my family walks down the street, we stop to visit each table. I begin to notice how wrong I am about honey. There are innumerable ways that each company is different.
Don’t sell a product. Entertain the audience. Crowds gather around to see “Bee Beard.” That’s where a man of perhaps questionable sanity has somehow managed to create a beard made of hundreds of bees, extending down his body and circling his head. From the number of people crowding around, it’s clear that this team is successful. It’s hard not to stop and take a look.
Use personality to develop loyalty. Some honey producers were present in the aisles with a friendly smile. They were not accosting or overly aggressive. These savvy customer service honey sellers met us in an engaging way, answering questions. Somehow in the first minute, we know the history of the business and the family. You don’t need an academic study to know that you are more likely to buy from someone you know.
Create unexpected flavor. Did you know that honey could come in cinnamon or raspberry? Resisting the chance to try various flavors is futile, so we stop and taste a few. Now we are comparing notes, sharing tastes. Engaging with a product in this way increases the sale opportunity.