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Authority Bias: What It Is and How to Use It For Your SaaS Brand

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The buyer journey is not a straight line from discovery to purchase – especially when it comes to B2B and SaaS brands, it is much messier than that. Potential users are exposed to an overwhelming amount of information about different solutions to their problem and choosing whom to trust can be a long and difficult process.

In this article, we’ll talk about a surefire method to earn your customers’ trust – the authority bias.

What Is the Authority Bias?

Before we talk about the authority bias, let’s recap what the Messy Middle of the buyer journey is. This concept presented by Google helps us understand how people decide what to buy. It shows that in between discovering the problem and choosing a solution, customers get stuck in a loop of exploration and evaluation.

The good news is that there are certain ways to influence the buyer journey – cognitive biases.  Some of the most widely used biases, or mental shortcuts, are the power of free, social proof, authority bias, category heuristics, scarcity bias, and the power of now. They can be used to pull customers out of the exploration-evaluation loop and nudge them to take action.

Let’s take a closer look at the authority bias. In a nutshell, the authority bias describes people’s tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure, regardless of the actual content, and be more influenced by that opinion. In other words, people align their opinions and actions to match what they consider authority and can be more easily persuaded by an expert or a trusted source.

How Does the Authority Bias Work

It’s in human nature to look up to authority and comply when requested by an authority figure. When we are children, we listen to our parents and role models, learn from them and comply with them.

The same applies to sectors where people feel that they don’t have enough knowledge on the subject to make an informed decision. This is especially true for SaaS brands and B2B – customers seek relevant information from trusted sources to make sure their business is going to the right place. So, you can do them (and yourself) a favor and prove to them that your brand can be trusted using the authority effect.

Combined with the social proof cognitive bias which entails providing reviews and testimonials from other users, you have the perfect recipe for earning customers’ trust.

What Is an Authority in Marketing

Who or what could be considered an authority when it comes to your brands’ marketing depends on your industry. Consider putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and thinking of a person, brand, or organization they would know and trust. Here are just a few examples:

  • Other well-known brands
  • Subject matter experts
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Influencers
  • The media
  • Expert organizations in your industry
  • Educational organizations
  • Awards and badges

Apply the Authority Bias to Your Brand

There are endless use cases for authority bias in marketing. The technique is omnipresent in ad campaigns – just think of the numerous experts or influencers used in advertising.

From showcasing authoritative publications, posting the logos of your well-known clients, or presenting the awards you’ve received, brands are using the authority bias to influence their prospects and nudge them from consideration to action.

Here are some actionable suggestions of how to apply this bias to enhance your own brand:

       1. Showcase Your Partnership With Other Well-Known Companies

A fail-proof strategy would be to mention brands that you have worked with or that use your services. Make sure that these are brands that your target customers can recognize and relate to. This way, your prospects will have a positive association and trust you more.

       2. Display Badges and Awards

Your brand has been recognized and awarded? You’ve earned a third-party review badge? This demonstrates your hard work and the quality of your services, so make sure to showcase that on all of your channels.

       3. Recommendations by Industry Leaders and Experts

If you have earned the recognition of an industry leader, this is something definitely worth sharing. Get some expert opinions and recommendations on your brand and show them to your customers to assure them they are getting the best quality of service by choosing to work with you.

       4. Media Mentions

If you have been featured in media, especially well-known media that your target audience follows and trusts, it would be a good idea to mention it on your website. Just keep in mind that a publication in a media that is known to be impartial would carry more weight than an industry publication.

Authority Bias Examples in SaaS Marketing

Let’s take a look at some authority bias examples to give you a better idea of how you can apply this knowledge to your SaaS brand.

Media Reviews and Collaborations with Other Well-Known Brands

Hopin, an event management platform, is a classic example of displaying media mentions and well-known brands they work with. They have included logos of well-known media websites that have reviewed their platforms, such as TechCrunch, Forbes, and Fortune.

You should also think about where you can position these in terms of user experience (UX). We recommend including it near the CTA button, after you have introduced your service and its functionalities and benefits. With this strategic placement, if the customer hasn’t been convinced yet, this might win them over.

Leading investors have decided to believe in your company – with their money. Two million dollars, to be exact. This is the case with Outplay, a fast-growing SaaS company competing with really big players such as Outreach.com. When Sequoia, a venture capital firm, decided to invest 2 million dollars in them, they not only saw this as an achievement but also as an opportunity. To achieve the authority effect, they pinned this announcement on top of their homepage with an animated button to make sure every website visitor sees it.

Next, they make a good transition to the next part of the homepage –  booking a demo. Now that customers know that Sequoia has trusted Outplay with 2 million, they would feel much more confident to choose their services because of the authority bias trigger.

Using Badges and Awards

To show you a good example of how to display badges and awards, we would like to introduce you to Chorus – a SaaS conversation intelligence company. After describing what they can deliver – how their service works and what the benefits are – they showcase several badges and rewards they have received, right before the sign-up form where the customer can take action.

The authority bias is a key driving force behind Chorus homepage. As you can see in the image below, they have also mentioned some of their instantly recognizable clients and, from the very beginning, they show the potential customer that they are a good company.

Industry Report Mentions

Another impactful example of how to use the authority bias is to demonstrate your mentions in leading industry reports. This can be even more valuable than media mentions as it is very difficult to earn a spot in the Gartner Special Reports, for example. This is what Qlik, a business analytics platform, has done on their website, successfully applying the principle of authority. They have not failed to also list some of their big brand clients.

Where to Use the Authority Bias

So far, you have seen examples of how the authority bias works on homepages. However, there are many other spots where you can make use of this cognitive bias. Consider these few examples:

Ad copy: A good example here is Soprano. In a long list of Google search results, terms like “award-winning” really catch the eye.

Chatbot scripts: Chatbots are there to help your customers get relevant information. What if your chatbot mentions some big brands that have trusted you to help them make an informed decision?

Email marketing campaigns: If a well-known brand decided to collaborate with you, or you’ve just won an award, make sure to let your customers know in your email marketing.

If you want to make people stay longer on your landing pages, learn how to use the social proof bias in combination with the authority bias.