Business lessons from this year's presidential candidates are popping up across the web from Inc's look at the changing role of technology to Aaron Orendorff's in-depth comparison of Clinton and Trump's online presidential marketing. Why? "Because no matter which side of the political aisle you're on, these could very well be the highest stakes online funnels in the history of the world."
Two tactics, however -- direct from the most polarizing figure in this election, Donald Trump -- present especially ripe lessons for your business' use of what's called social proof.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is shorthand for the natural human desire to lean on the experiences and recommendations of others when making choices. Building off the research of persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, Omri Yacubovich -- head of marketing for Commerce Sciences -- relates social proof directly to marketing "as the psychological phenomenon whereby your ... visitors [or market] are influenced by the actions of others and are more likely to take the same action."
Easily the most powerful form of social proof are endorsements, and Trump has been able to leverage both positive and negative endorsements for his advantage. Here's how you can too.
Positive Social Proof: Non-Expert Endorsements
Love him or hate him, Trump has an intimate relationship with his followers. His marketing message is easy to summarize: "I am not a politician. Because I'm not a politician, I can be a better politician." This message was driven home in the culmination of his acceptance speech at the RNC:
My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: "I'm With Her." I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: "I'm with you: the American people." I am your voice.
In and of itself, that is a potent claim. Identifying yourself with your audience creates a bond that goes beyond mere products and services. Still, it's one thing to make a bold claim about yourself and another thing to get someone else to make that claim for you. Throughout last month's convention, Trump brought out endorsement after endorsement to do exactly that. Pundits and comedians have taken shots at Trump for this tactic, calling into question the political credibility of such people.
But lack of political credibility is exactly the point. Trump's "I am your voice" message is fueled by endorsements not only from outsider celebrities but especially from business leaders like Robert Kiyosaki -- author of Rich Dad Poor Dad -- and even Steve Forbes.
Your marketing's use of social proof should do the same thing: endorsements from "experts" are rarely as powerful as endorsements from non-experts. For example, Ellen Degeneres and Queen Latifah's partnerships with CoverGirl Cosmetics are ranked as two of the most successful celebrity endorsements of all time precisely because neither woman is a model and both represent the ideal, non-traditional audience CoverGirl is trying to reach.
Even more powerful is using non-celebrity non-experts. Featuring testimonials from everyday customers might feel "small," but it sends prospective customers the very message they need to hear most: "You can trust this business because other people just like you already do."
Negative Social Proof: An Expert's Non-Endorsement
Ironically, it was one particular non-endorsement that reinforced Trump's claim to be the voice of the people most powerfully. Ted Cruz's speech at the RNC and Trump's response to it was a thing of social-proof beauty, although I doubt it was a coordinated effort. By refusing to lend Trump his name, Cruz drove home the very message at the heart of Trump's success.
And -- savvy marketer that he is -- Trump pounced on the opportunity, immediately heading to his favorite stomping ground, Twitter.
Two days later, Trump doubled-down on Cruz's non-endorsement, which again garnered media attention and lent credibility to the very thing upon which he's built his campaign.
The lesson here?
Negative endorsements are just as vital as positive endorsements for your business' social proof. In fact, the people against you are often more powerful marketing allies than the people for you. In politics that readily makes sense, but is it also true in business?
Yes. Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and the MIT Technology Review all chronicle case after case where negative social proof created bottom-line wins. How? By being proactive, publicly responding to negative-social proof, and using them as examples of your own transparency and honesty you can transform bad reviews into good business. After all, there's no such thing as bad press. And nobody embodies this principle more than Trump himself.