Demand Curve: How to get social proof that grows your startup

When people are uncertain, they look to others for behavioral guidance. This is called social proof, which is a physiological effect that influences your decisions every day, whether you know it or not.

At Demand Curve and through our agency Bell Curve, we’ve helped over 1,000 startups improve their ability to convert cold traffic into repeat customers. We’ve found that effectively using social proof can lead to up to 400% improvement in conversion.

This post shares exactly how to collect and use social proof to help grow your SaaS, e-commerce or B2B startup.

Surprisingly, we’ve actually seen negative reviews help improve conversion rates. Why? Because they help set customer expectations.

How businesses use social proof

Have you ever stopped to check out a restaurant because it had a large line of people out front? That wasn’t by chance.

It’s common for restaurants to limit the size of their reception area. This forces people to wait outside, and the line signals to people walking past that the restaurant is so good it’s worth waiting for.

But for internet-based businesses, social proof looks a bit different. Instead of people lining up outside your storefront, you’re going to need to create social proof that resonates with your target customers — they’ll be looking for different clues to signal whether doing business with your company is “normal” or “acceptable” behavior.

Social proof for B2B

People love to compare themselves to others, and this is especially true when it comes to the customers of B2B businesses. If your competitor is able to get a contract with a company that you’ve been nurturing for months, you’d be upset (and want to know how they did it).

Therefore, B2B social proof is most effective when you display the logos of companies you do business with. This signals to people checking out your website that other businesses trust you to deliver on your offer. The more noteworthy or respected the logos on your site, the stronger the influence will be.

Social proof for SaaS

Depending on the type of SaaS product or service you’re selling, you’ll either be selling to an individual or to a business. The strategy remains the same, but the channels will vary slightly.

The most effective way to generate social proof for SaaS products is through positive reviews from trusted sources. For consumer SaaS, that will be through influential bloggers and YouTubers speaking highly of your product. For B2B SaaS, it will be through positive ratings on review sites like G2 or Capterra. Proudly display these testimonials on your site.

Social proof for e-commerce brands

E-commerce brands will typically sell directly to an individual through ads, but because anyone can purchase an ad, you’re going to need to signal trust in other ways. The most common way we see e-commerce brands building social proof is by nurturing an organic social media following on Instagram or TikTok.

This signals to new customers that you’ve gotten the seal of approval from others like them. Having an audience also allows you to showcase user-generated content from your existing customers.

How to collect social proof

There are five avenues startups can tap to collect social proof:

  1. Product reviews.
  2. Testimonials.
  3. Public relations and earned media.
  4. Influencers.
  5. Social media and community.

Here are a few tactics we’ve used to help startups build social proof.

Product reviews

Product reviews matter a lot. About 93% of consumers say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions, and 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to Qualtrics.

If you lack reviews, customers will feel uncertain about how legitimate your business is. This will drastically reduce your likelihood of getting a sale. The fastest way to collect product reviews is by surveying your customers.

Here’s how:

  1. Send a post-purchase email about a week after purchase asking them to leave a review. The best way to do this is to link to a review service like Okendo or PowerReviews. Customers can answer two to five questions and attach any images they think are relevant. These review tools then plug into your e-commerce store and you can display new reviews next to relevant products.
  2. Offer a promotion to those who take the time to review. You’ll benefit from the review and they might use the promo to buy from you again. For best results, offer them three coupons — one for themselves and two to share with friends.

What about negative reviews?

Surprisingly, we’ve actually seen negative reviews help improve conversion rates. Why? Because they help set customer expectations. When a partially negative review concludes that the product was worth purchasing anyway, it signals authenticity. Showcase it toward the top of your product page for better conversion.


Collecting positive testimonials from your existing customers takes the benefits of user reviews a step further. The most effective testimonial is one that not only mentions why your customer loved using the product, but also describes the transformation they experienced.

Here’s how to collect testimonials that move the needle:

  1. Reach out to your most engaged customers. To find them, segment your customer database by recency and lifetime customer value. This will tell you who has spent the most and is still an active buyer.
  2. Email them asking to chat for 15 minutes over video to learn more about them and their story. Ask to record the conversation so it can be transcribed later. Ask if they’re willing to let the video be published on your site.
  3. During the interview, ask the following questions:
    1. What did your life look like before buying X?
    2. How did you hear about X?
    3. What made you choose X over the competition?
    4. How has your life changed since using X?
  4. Thank them for their time by sending them some swag, gift cards and coupons for your product.
  5. Edit the video to create a streamlined story that demonstrates the transformation your customers go through.
  6. Turn their language into homepage and sales copy. Transcribe it and add a testimonial section to your website. Feature their quotes in sales collateral like email campaigns, social media posts and landing pages. (Tip: Including a headshot of your customer will increase the level of trust in the content. Photos are more memorable than a testimonial without one.)

If you know you’ve got an influential customer with a large following or position, reach out to them specifically. They’re likely busier than most, so make it easy by writing a testimonial in their voice, and send it to them for review. If they’re recognizable in your niche, their credibility will lead to higher conversions.

Public relations and earned media

“As seen in” is a powerful way to show off. As a startup, you do not yet have a large amount of influence in your industry. To accelerate your brand awareness, make use of established brands that can add credibility.

You’re going to need to do your due diligence to make sure the brands you’re associating with your startup align with your target market.

Here’s two ways to figure out what media sources your target audience respects:

  1. Customer research: When interviewing your customers, ask them what kinds of media sources they consume. Make a list of podcasts, blogs, news outlets, social media personalities, magazines or YouTube channels they consume.
  2. SparkToro: SparkToro allows you to see which media sources audiences subscribe to based on keywords in their social media bios. So if you’re selling to VPs of Marketing who work in e-sports, you can filter the results to show media outlets that have people with “esports” and “VP Marketing” in their titles.

Once you have this information, reach out to these media sources. When pitching, don’t make the focus just about your startup. Craft a compelling story that makes your customer the hero and your startup the assistant.

When pitching to reporters, do the heavy lifting. Providing quotes, access to your leadership, photos and other resources will increase the odds they run the story. Once the story goes live, be sure to amplify it on your social media channels. Include the logo of that media outlet on your homepage to signal to new visitors that you’ve been vetted by trusted sources.


Working with influencers will take some experimentation, but once you find an influencer who aligns with your brand and loves your product, you’ll find it’s an extremely lucrative channel.

Here’s how to work with influencers to generate social proof for your startup:

  1. Seed your product to 100 influencers that create content related to your niche. Seeding is when you send them your product for free. It’s important to start the relationship on the right foot and not ask for content in return right away. Why? Because a fraction of those influencers will make content using it for free. This is a great sign that they’re legitimately interested in working together.
  2. Use the content these influencers create on your social accounts and turn it into ads.
  3. At this point, begin to scope out a working relationship with the influencers who actually like your product and are professional.

For best results, think of influencer marketing as a long-term relationship. You want to earn the trust of their audience, not bombard them with promotions.

Social media and community

One of the many benefits of growing an active social media following and community is that it generates testimonials organically.

If you’re going to use social media posts as testimonials, it’s important to ask permission before promoting it off the platform. We’ve yet to see a situation where a happy customer wasn’t alright with turning their post into a testimonial.


Social proof can double the conversion of your marketing. Make sure your social proof is:

  • Credible: Sketchy social proof lowers conversion. That’s why 4.5-star reviews outperform 5-star reviews.
  • Relevant: It must support your product/brand.
  • Attractive: Does your social proof signal a positive change?

Use social proof near friction/objection points:

  • Near pricing pages.
  • Next to claims that seem too good to be true.
  • Near critical CTAs.

Generic praise for your product won’t convert as well as objection handling.