How many times have you been driving to someplace new in your vehicle – say to a concert – and, as you get closer, you end up following the large group of cars, as you assume they are going to the concert too, and that they know where they’re going?

This phenomenon is called the “herd mentality” and is very common in the animal world. Think of the behavior of the lemming, which will follow a group blindly off a cliff during migratory patterns, even if it means certain death.

Herd mentality also exists in humans. In fact, a study by researchers at Leeds University reported an experiment in which researchers asked a large group to randomly walk around a large hall without speaking to each other. As part of the study, a few volunteers were given specific instructions on where to walk. After a short while, many of the other volunteers followed the ones who appeared to know where they were going. Based on this study, Leeds researchers concluded that it only takes 5 percent of “informed individuals” to influence a group as large as 200 people. The other 95 percent will follow blindly.

Ok, so this may be a little out there but I found it rather amusing and started to think about how this could be applied to business, especially in marketing. The most obvious thing is that, if you can convince enough people within a group to perform a certain behavior, you are bound to have others who follow. Ironically, this practice is one of the hottest trends going right now in marketing. Influencer marketing is when you identify key influencers in your market, audience or industry and then pay them to spread your message through their channels; such as blogs, tweets, Facebook content, or more. Some celebrities make millions with just one Tweet. Think of it as word-of-mouth on steroids. It’s really not anything new. After all, celebrity endorsements were the original influencer in advertising.

However, here is where it gets more interesting: Since the explosion of social media, plenty of everyday people on the street have built large, relevant audiences on social media. They have become influencers in their town, city, industry or social circle.

The trick is to find who these influencers are. You might even have some working in your dealership. Pay close attention to who refers customers to you on a regular basis. If you have regular interactions from individuals on Facebook or Twitter, some of these might qualify. How much weight do you think a prospective customer would give to a blog articles they came across – on someone else’s blog – that told the story of their great experience at your store?

And, how about video testimonials – on other people’s YouTube channels – in the same manner? All of this type of content provides some excellent ways to begin rounding up your magical 5 percent in order to get the other 95 percent to follow their lead and buy a car from you. I mean, they must know what they’re doing, right?

People are an asset that all dealerships have, but seldom leverage. Consider finding ways to identify brand advocates and soliciting them to spread their story of your experience and you may find that others follow their lead.

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