The Surprising Reason There Ain’t No Basements in Oklahoma

by Adam Kreitman

Go into a house in Kansas and odds are you’ll find a basement.

But cross the border into Oklahoma – just a few miles away – and not so much. In fact, according to an interview I heard on the radio the other week, just 3% of houses in Oklahoma have basements.

Now that stat in and of itself isn’t all that interesting. But what IS really interesting is WHY there are so few basements in Oklahoma.

(And, stick with me, because this all leads to something you’ve gotta understand about human nature and marketing!)

Back to Oklahoma first though…

There used to be a good reason for not building basements there. The high water table and clay soil made it difficult to do… back in the 40s or 50s.

But technology, particularly waterproofing technology, has made those issues largely irrelevant for quite some time. Yet the mindset that you can’t build a basement in Oklahoma still persists.

Here’s where things get interesting…

If you know much about Oklahoma, it’s located in the epicenter of “Tornado Alley”, an area of the US known for its frequent and violent twisters.

And, if you know much about tornados, you know that when one’s headed your way, the basement is the safest place to be. Getting to a basement may very well save your life.

Knowing this, the State of Oklahoma is very much in favor of its residents having basements and offers a government subsidy to help people pay for building basements and/or underground storm shelters.

So basically if you live in Oklahoma you can get free money to build something that could potentially save your and your family’s life.

Sounds like something residents would be falling over each other to take advantage of, right?

Well, the basement contractor, Mike, interviewed for the story talked about the huge tornado that hit the city of Moore, OK in 2013 and damaged over 8000 homes and structures. This was a horrific 1.3 mile wide twister with 210 mile per hour winds that killed 25, injured 377 and caused an estimated $2 billion in damages.

After that storm hit, this basement contractor said he got exactly 2 phone calls from people interested in adding a basement to their homes and landed 1 job.

The interviewer asked Mike why more people don’t build basements in Oklahoma. His answer is fascinating and is very relevant to how you market your business.

What Mike said is that there’s a mindset in Oklahoma when it comes to basements that’s very hard to break. Most people in the state have it in their heads that you can’t build basements there and, to paraphrase what Mike says…

If everyone says no, then that must be the way it is. It’s easier to take other people’s word for it then to do the research yourself. It’s’ easier to go with the crowd vs. against the crowd.

And this gets right to the heart of why I wanted to share this with you. Because it gets to the heart of how many people (your prospects included) really make decisions.

These days most people don’t like, or are too busy, to do much research.

Most people put A LOT of credibility into the beliefs, opinions and recommendations of others.

Most people don’t want to make decisions that would put them in the minority.

And that leads us to a topic we’ve talked about here before and one I see becoming a bigger and bigger deal all the time…

PROOF.

I’ve got a good friend, really sharp marketer, who specializes in building websites and doing SEO for attorneys. He recently did an audit of dozens of attorney websites. What he was specifically looking for were the differences between the sites that generate a good flow of calls and leads for the attorney and the ones that don’t.

He looked at dozens of factors and there was one that had a correlation to the number of leads the site generated.

PROOF.

The websites that had more proof were the ones that generated more phone calls. Here’s a partial list of the types of proof these sites have to prove they’re credible and trustworthy:

  • Testimonials/Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • Media Appearances
  • Certifications
  • Association Memberships
  • Badges (ie. BBB and industry specific credentials)
  • Articles published
  • Books written
  • Years Experience

I just submitted an article for the Crazy Egg blog (the article has not been published yet so I can’t link to it here) that provides yet more, well, proof, of why proof is so important.

The premise of the article is this…

Last year for the Crazy Egg blog I used a “Spy Tool” that lets me see who the top AdWords advertisers are for a particular keyword, see what ads they’re running and what landing page they’re sending people to.

I’ve done a series of these posts analyzing advertisers for different keywords, but the first one I did (in March 2013) looked at advertisers for the ultra-competitive word “acne treatment.”

This year, I revisited the keyword “acne treatment” to see how the competitive landscape has changed over the last year.

There were a number of interesting insights that came from doing this, but what was the #1 takeaway?

PROOF.

The advertisers who are continuing to dominate in the market and/or the ones who have moved up the rankings the most since last year have ALL added a lot more proof to their landing pages.

And, a lot of (though not all) of that proof came in the form of social proof where the companies were showcasing the opinions and experiences of their clients (ie. testimonials, often in video form) to make the sale for them.

Which brings us back to how people make decisions.

As Mike, the basement contractor in Oklahoma, has found – most people don’t take the time to do research. They look for shortcuts.

And the most powerful, influential shortcut there is, is social proof.

It’s observing what other people do, listening to what they say and noticing how they behave. And then we use that data to shortcut our own decisions… for better or worse.

Social Proof has always had a huge influence on how humans make decisions.

And as we’re all bombarded with more and more information each day… as consumers become more and more jaded after being screwed by companies that don’t deliver on their promises… as we’ve become so busy and overwhelmed that we seek out shortcuts, cheat sheets, etc. to make our decisions…

Proof has become a bigger and bigger deal to use in advertising.

How good a job do you do at using proof to back up the claims you make on your website and establish your credibility?

Based on every site I’ve seen (this one included!), chances are you could be doing a MUCH better job at it.

It’s well worth the time and effort to add more proof to your website. Don’t be shy about doing this. You don’t want your competitors to “out-proof” you.

Because if they do, you may find new leads for your business becoming rarer than, well, a basement in Oklahoma.

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