Why Customer Reviews Matter
Most marketers have embraced the trust-building necessity of third-party reviews. After all, 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews before making a decision. But stats are one thing, adoption is another. B2B marketers have been slower to embrace the online review than our B2C counterparts. And by “embrace”, I mean strategically impact. LeadMD is one of the top reviewed companies on G2 Crowd (the highly trusted peer-to-peer, business solutions review platform), and it’s not by accident. We got to this point through a customer review strategy, which we designed explicitly and executed with intentionality.
But first – why would we spend so much time and attention garnering reviews on G2 Crowd? At my core I believe in the maxim that you don’t change your needs when you walk into your office – the same desire for like-minded validation exists and with the increased price points that come with B2B purchases I maintain that they matter all the more. Just as your average consumer has come to rely on review sites like Yelp! to find the best-rated sushi in their town, potential customers vet B2B businesses on similar third-party sites to get real, unadulterated insight. Referrals and recommendations are powerful, and at scale they become ever more so.
Everyone knows that a business is going to provide very positive claims and messages about itself to prospects, and buyers aren’t dumb. They expect the glowing messages and case studies they receive from vendors to be, well, BS. Or at least unfairly skewed. So, they look for ways to get validation and the inside scoop on what they’ll really get when they work with a brand. And that’s exactly what they find on reviews sites like G2 Crowd.
So, how’d we get to a #1 spot on the right review site for us? And can you do the same in your industry? I think you can and should – here’s how we did it.
Align Your Brand to the Right Review Site
Different industries will consider different review sites to be their top authority, but G2 Crowd is the clear leader in our line of work. We didn’t land on that conclusion by chance, but rather through a lot of research into where our buyers were going to seek out marketing consultancies like us. We looked at our buyer personas in-depth, and quickly realized they flock to G2 Crowd. After all, every marketing technology software they could want is reviewed on there, and there’s no payment changing hands in order to get reviews. In other words, it’s trustworthy and relevant to our buyer – that’s critical.
The site or app you choose to focus your attention is just as important as where you choose not to. There’s really a diminishing return on spreading your attention too thin and trying to be highly reviewed across an array of third-party sites. For example, we never do anything with Facebook Reviews because it’s just not a fit. Our buyers won’t be looking there, and if they do – then they’re not the right buyer for us. So, you need to find out which review site is the most trusted among your ideal customer audience, and also the one where they spend their time, and focus on that. You want to tap into an audience, not create one. Pre-assigned trust is critical to choosing a customer review outlet.
In a great customer review strategy, you want to tap into an audience, not create one. #b2bmarketing
Create a Customer Review Strategy
Reviews just don’t happen magically. In fact, if you leave it up to chance, you’ll probably get very little participation as a business. Why? Online customer reviews often reflect the ‘book-ends’ – in other words either the really happy customers or the most irate. Extreme experiences are predominately what causes your customer to take time out of their busy day and share it with the world. The rest of the group (the vast majority) just don’t always think to take the time and effort to provide that review. This is a great trend to buck.
To overcome this malaise you’ll need to have a strategic approach to garnering reviews. We came up with a process that our threaded teams could use throughout an engagement in order to get the best engagement from our customer – from sales to delivery the experience had to be consistent. The behaviors we wanted had to be reinforced at each point in the customer journey so that by the time the project was ultimately delivered – everyone knew the definition of success culminated by sharing that experience.
Execute on Your Customer Review Strategy
A strategy without execution is worth nothing and in fact costs you the time you put in to creating it.
Here are the simple, but diligent steps we took to execute to our customer review strategy:
- Set the expectation upfront in the sales process. Before the person ever becomes a customer, use your current high ranking on a trusted review site as a lever to build trust. We direct future customers to the site during the selling journey and reiterate the importance of the reviews to us and our company as a source of pride.
- Circle back to the conversation during onboarding. We depend on our project managers to do this, which Katelyn Fossen outlines in detail in her recent blog. We leverage our sales team during onboarding to say something like, “Remember when we were first talking with you, you saw our reviews on G2 Crowd? Our #1 goal is your satisfaction, and we want to see your review there soon. To that end, please let us know right away if at any point during our work together, you don’t feel ‘5 Star’ work.” This way, you plant the seed that you’ll be asking for a review eventually. It also acts as a preemptive invitation to alert you to any problems as soon as they rear their head.
- Ask for the review. Nearing the end of your engagement, call back to that previous conversation. You can say something like, “My job performance is based on getting a review from you and making sure you’re 100% satisfied. Will you mind providing a review of your experience on this site?” Once you ask, there’s one more key point to remember…
- Make the actual review process easy. It needs to be a piece of cake for your customer to follow through on leaving you a review. Or they won’t. So, give them a direct link and offer some seed verbiage. They can borrow from it, if they need a little help finding the right words. However you do it, just make it as easy as possible and keep their voice intact. The last thing you want is for this raving fan to feel uncomfortable with the messaging.
When you create a process like the one outlined above (which we actually use at LeadMD), you can then teach and empower your teams to follow it. Connecting certain messages to certain customer touchpoints will ensure that everyone adheres to the same approach and has a roadmap for doing so.
Oh, and one more thing. Remember that reviews come from individuals, not businesses. So you can have two or three reviews from different people at the same company. We love when we get a review from a CMO and marketing director at the same brand, because they bring completely different perspectives. And the more specific the reviews, the better.
Internal Customer Review Advocacy
Even the best review process will fizzle out quickly if you don’t have someone (or multiple someone’s) advocating for it in-house. They must have a vision for what it looks like and be diligent about making it happen. And, it has to come from the top down. Anything that doesn’t get executive buy-in won’t have the longevity you need it to.
This goes for anything, but especially for reviews. If your execs won’t spend time and money on following through with the review strategy, the reviews are less likely to get done and won’t be as effective. For example, all the reviews on G2 Crowd are not paid (they’re not allowed to be, and that would ruin the whole point), but we do pay for an enhanced listing of our reviews. This gets them in front of more people and ensures the time and effort we’re putting into this process is yielding us value. But we were able to do this because our C-level team believed in this strategy and have championed it all along.
Change also only happens through small, diligent persistence. Before we built our G2 strategy muscle memory, I owned ensuring it stayed top of mind. We have a Slack channel for project closeouts and customer kudos. I personally congratulated our teams and reminded them to ask the customer to review on G2. I did this so often, so consistently, that it became a running joke. Many people ended their kudos by saying, “… and don’t worry @jgray, I’ve already pointed them to G2.”
Building Customer Reviews Into Your KPIs
Adding yet another process into your team’s day-to-day work might not be met with totally open arms. But if you relay the true value of review to your employees, you’re more likely to get their buy-in. Great customer reviews likely leave your team feeling good. But beyond the intrinsic reward, achieving five-star reviews should be built into their actual compensation structure. People work their comp plans. It may not be obvious, but truly great customer review strategies include tangible rewards for your team.
We believe that exceptional customer satisfaction is the bare minimum expectation for our employees. And we use multiple programs as it relates to performance and good deeds, so our top team members regularly get pats on the back or called out in front of the company for doing things right. But, monetary rewards still move the needle. Balance your reward system, and make sure you’re holding high expectations for your employees because that’s your standard, but also give them a way to be compensated for something like getting great reviews.
A few final tips…
So, you have the extreme ends of the customer spectrum, very happy and the very un-happy. Those are usually the select few who bring it upon themselves to leave reviews. The majority of your customer review strategy is all about bringing in the middle layer. To do this, you have to make it personal. People really don’t review businesses, they review people and experiences. By tying in the process of reviews as someone’s personal measure takes an often in-human survey and puts a face to it. There’s nothing wrong with letting a customer know your personal performance is tied to their review, personal is powerful.
Make sure at the beginning of the engagement, you set a goal with your customer. That goal should be an actual number. That way, at a project’s close, you don’t just vaguely claim your efforts as “successful”. Setting clear outcomes, like a concrete revenue figure, keeps alignment strong and leaves no gray area come review time. It also gives your customer a clear and powerful result they can point to in their review.
Finally, treat the reviews you get as a mirror. You’re bound to get a not-so-great one every once in a while. How you respond to this is critical. G2 Crowd provides a microscope. Any customer who wasn’t wowed provides an opportunity to remedy the situation and win them back. We will move mountains for our customers. That’s a companywide edict.
Review sites can be a powerful tool in creating a network of raving fans. But beyond that, they’ve become pivotal in acquiring customers. It should be a top priority for you to find the right trustworthy site for your business, and implement an intentional process to get to the top of it. Trust me – it works.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.