Back in 1950, psychologists Leon Festinger, Stanley Schachter, and Kurt Back launched a study to investigate how friendships developed among students at the new Westgate Complex at MIT. They found that the strongest friendships developed between students who lived next to each other on the same floor. Where friendships developed between students who lived on different floors, one of those students tended to live near the stairways. These results clearly showed that physical proximity played a major role in the formation of friendships.
Their experiment, later dubbed “the Westgate Studies” was the foundation of what is now called the Propinquity Effect, and has been confirmed by numerous other studies.
The law of propinquity states that the greater the physical (or psychological) proximity is between people, the greater the chance that they will form friendships or romantic relationships.
Research into propinquity originally limited the concept to real-life physical interactions between individuals who lived or worked close to one another, but the advent of social media and other Internet-based platforms has led current researchers to explore the concept of virtual propinquity.
Tapping into this virtual propinquity, I propose that marketing propinquity (a term I coined) can result from increased interactions, both physical and virtual between a prospective customer and a brand. Essentially, marketing propinquity looks like this:
To see me → To know me → To like me → To buy from me
By mapping out key propinquity points both on and offline where prospective customers are likely to “interact with” your brand, and then creating helpful content to share at those propinquity points, you can set the stage to create preference among your prospective customers.
Research shows that the modern B2B prospect gets 57% of the way through the buying decision before ever talking to a sales rep. The fact is, your online content is your greatest salesperson. One way or another, your prospective customers are going to find helpful information somewhere online. If you’re not the one providing them with that content, they’ll get it from a third party source or worse, a competitor’s site. If that happens, you’ll miss out on both useful individualized data about your prospect’s needs and on opportunities to turn education into sales.
Now don’t miss this key component: the content you create must be helpful. Probably the single biggest mistake novice content marketers make is turning content that claims to provide useful information and guidance into just another sales pitch. They create effective white papers, research guides and checklist that purport to be educational, but that just aren’t helpful to the prospective buyer. So what do buyers do? They just click the next link in their Google search. And if that link takes them to a competitor who’s providing helpful information, that competitor may have just one the sale.
It’s easy to ignore the hard sell. But when, right at the moment that a customer is looking for information required to research a product or service purchase, your company displays chivalry and honestly tries to help them make a better buying decision–it’s hard not to like you.
Follow the propinquity approach and when your customer enters a buying mode, your company will become not only the first your customer thinks of, you’ll also become their preferred company—possibly the only company they will turn to for assistance.