B2B review sites have been gaining traction over the past few years, and we have consumer behavior to thank for that. SiriusDecisions calls this “The Yelp Effect.” Our customers want to know about their peers’ experiences with a product or service before making a commitment.
As B2B marketers, we understand the importance of social proof. This is why we weave customer feedback throughout our content and sales process. But many organizations are still working to determine how to incorporate these sites into their existing strategies.
We understand that there is value in customers leaving online reviews, but how do we build scalable and measurable processes to get the most out of this channel?
I’ve talked before about the value I see in these sites, but wanted to hear from others in the industry about the current landscape and future opportunities they see. I turned to Amy Bills, Research Director for Customer Engagement Strategies at SiriusDecisions, for her thoughts on online reviews sites and what marketing organizations should be considering as they build out their strategies.
First some background on this research. We asked B2B organizations to indicate social media platforms on which they had a branded presence, and 38% selected social sites. It was far from the most common choice—nearly every responding organization (more than 90%) indicated a branded presence on LinkedIn, for example. But at more than one-third, it’s worth noting.
That information was captured in our SiriusDecisions Command CenterⓇ benchmark database, and it spans a wide range of organizations but weights toward technology and software. What’s also interesting is those same organizations were asked if social sites are strategically significant, and only 10% said they are.
Takeaway there: It’s still pretty early stages of B2B organizations figuring out exactly where social sites fit into their strategy, but they can’t be ignored.
My colleague Ian Bruce, research director in Brand and Communications Strategies, and I attribute this to a few drivers. First, B2B marketing organizations are very attuned to the extent to which buyers and customers research and shop and compare in forums outside of the company’s control. Our consumer lives have trained us to tap into the experiences of our peers, and that’s been ongoing in B2B as well.
Our SiriusDecisions buying studies consistently show how important peer insight is to the buying decision.
So marketing teams are asking themselves, if our buyers are using review sites, what are they seeing? Second, there are more options. It’s a space that has been developing, and in which some organizations have established a presence and have continued to improve their offering.
Corporate marketing/brand marketing and customer marketing are in the best position to manage a review site strategy. The potential impact areas for these sites are the jurisdiction of those functions, or adjacent to them: reputation management, demand marketing, customer insights, customer advocacy, SEO.
The benefits apply organization-wide—for example, sales benefits from the demand generation impact; product management from the customer insights.
So it’s worth getting input from all of those functions in developing a strategy and in regularly confirming it’s accomplishing objectives and meeting needs. Owning execution, reporting on it, building the business case for it—those activities fit into marketing.
Activating your willing and able customers to share their stories anywhere—review sites, online and offline groups in which they might be involved, case studies—should be part of a well-thought-out customer advocacy strategy. If you are small, or just adopting the idea of advocacy, it doesn’t have to be a big program. Think more about how you are building a relationship with people who are seeing value in interacting with your company. Value in your offering, value in your broader ecosystem. Why are your customers motivated to tell their stories through your case studies?
Sending an impersonal email to customers with whom you have never communicated, frantically asking them to write reviews on a website—it’s not a great look. Making that request part of an ongoing relationship in which your asks are balanced with benefits for those customers is more authentic and a better customer experience. Maybe it’s incorporated in a customer newsletter in which customers are already well-engaged; maybe it’s a conversation at a customer event; maybe it’s part of a series of activities in which advocates are already interested in participating.
The way each organization measures impact should start with what they are trying to accomplish. The starting point can be activity and output metrics (this is described in the SiriusDecisions Metrics Spectrum).
Activity metrics don’t measure impact, but they certainly give the execution teams data. Impact metrics speak to business results, such as growth, retention, efficiency, and doing that at scale requires some enabling technology. A specific example to illustrate: Marketing creates an asset that leverages review content from customer advocates. That asset is used to help optimize website conversion. Its “vendor selection” content in this scenario and its impact can be extrapolated by exploring the impact on opportunity creation and closed business.
At Loop, we see a lot of untapped opportunities for B2B companies reviewing your product or service. Beyond the value of these sites generating interest and demand, this channel can be used to gather important customer feedback that will improve our products and the customer experience.
Not every review you receive is going to be positive, and that’s ok. In fact, research from G2 indicates that people are more likely to trust a brand with reviews ranging from 4.0-4.7 and remain wary of any brands that have a perfect 5 stars.
How you listen, understand, and react to customer feedback shared on these sites will be increasingly important as they continue to gain traction with users. Developing your customer review and feedback strategy early will pay dividends long term.
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