As reviews become an increasingly important part of the B2B buyer’s journey, many tech vendors are realizing they need to develop a proactive strategy around third-party review platform like TrustRadius, but they aren’t sure where to start.
As head of Research at TrustRadius, I’m responsible for making TrustRadius.com the most useful, authentic, trusted resource for software buyers. To that end, we closely follow trends in how business software is bought (and sold), and we’ve done a significant amount of our own research on how, when, and why buyers use reviews in the purchasing process. Based on what we’ve seen, we recommend a three-step approach to tech vendors who are wondering what to do about reviews and review platform.
Step 1: Evaluate your goals
Step 2: Have a minimum viable presence on all reputable review platform
Step 3: Pick a platform to focus on that attracts your target audience
By following these guidelines, you will be in the best position to see the full value from reviews.
Step 1: Evaluate your goals
The big question here is, what do you hope to accomplish from being present on review platform?
Here are some possible answers:
- Reputation Management: “I’m already on review platform and my scores don’t seem accurate. I need to take action!”
- Brand Awareness: “Buyers are probably using review platform to learn about my category. Get me in front of those buyers!”
- Demand gen: “Buyers who are looking at my product and/or category on review platforms are creating buyer intent signals. I need access to this data to reach these in-market buyers.”
- Third-Party Validation: “I know buyers are doing independent research about my product. I’d love to make sure they can find the information they’re looking for, and that it’s trustworthy and accurate.”
- Social Proof: “My product is amazing, but my prospects don’t take my word for it. I need trustworthy content, directly from my customer base, that I can use on my site and in my marketing campaigns to boost conversion.”
- Sales Enablement: “My sales reps keep asking for references and testimonials. I want to arm them with as much authentic content as possible, without imposing on our customers or creating an inefficient process for reps. I also want to give them accounts that are researching our product or competitors to prospect them.”
- Customer Focus: “My company lives and breathes customer-centricity. We want feedback on our product, and we want a lot of it. We want our customers to know we’re listening and that they’re driving our roadmap, and we want prospects to know we listen to customers.”
As you consider these goals, think about your entire buyer’s journey and your marketing strategy to influence them. Do your prospects raise their hands, or do they require some nurturing? Software is largely sold rather than bought, requiring multiple interactions with a vendor that range from landing pages to outreach emails to consultative calls.
But what do your buyers want throughout this process? Based on our latest research:
- They don’t trust what you tell them
- They seek to validate your claims elsewhere
- They love hearing directly from your customers
Reviews are an excellent vehicle for third-party validation and social proof across your marketing and sales funnel. They can be a scalable approach get your customers on the record, and our research shows they are more trusted than vendor marketing materials as well as vendor-provided customer evidence such as references.
To use reviews in this way, you’ll need to build out a large and diverse base of customer reviews on at least one platform — a place where your target audience does research, where they’re going to find a depth and breadth of content that helps them get the answer they’re looking for straight from your customers. Ideally you want a significant number of high quality, in-depth reviews of your product that span all of your target segments, roles, industries, and use cases.
By taking a holistic look at the buyer’s journey and establishing your goals first, you’ll have a framework for evaluating the various review platform and determining how each one could fit into your overall strategy.
Step 2: Have a minimum viable presence on all reputable review sites
Regardless of your goals, you’ll want to make sure your products are represented on all reputable review sites that are relevant to your target market. This is table stakes for a review strategy.
First, what do I mean by reputable? Here are some requirements:
- Reviews are authenticated. The site should have steps in place to ensure reviewers are real users and have no conflicts of interest. Most do this with LinkedIn authentication.
- Reviews are moderated. Someone should read the reviews before they are published, to ensure feedback is valid and objective… and of the right product!
- Not pay-for-play. Product placement, feedback or recommendations should not be driven by whether or not a vendor is a customer of the site. End of story.
- Follows FTC guidelines. The site should not allow for the use of incentives to be tied to a particular response, and all incentives should be disclosed on the review.
Second, what does minimum viable presence look like?
- You want your product to be listed, and you want your product details to be correct. Most sites allow you to claim your profile, write your own description, and enter feature details. (Some may charge for this, or have a listing fee.)
- You’ll want a handful of reviews on the sites that are relevant to your buyers—depending on how many customers/users you have, you may want to narrow which sites you choose to drive reviews. A respectable number is usually 10 reviews — often this is enough to get you on comparative charts like our TrustMaps. Here’s some info on how to drive your first reviews.
If you’re exclusively thinking about general brand awareness and buying leads, you’re not thinking strategically. More precisely, you are thinking like a traditional vendor, but you are not thinking like your buyers and how to use a review platform as a marketing channel. Therefore, if you’re also interested in using reviews more strategically with your buyers, you’ll want to pick a review platform to invest in.
Step 3: Pick a platform to focus on
There are three key questions to ask yourself when deciding which review platform to focus on if you’re interested in going beyond brand awareness and paid leads to use reviews as a valuable, trusted source of content for your potential buyers.
Question 1: What will happen to your buyers when they visit the site?
What I mean is, are your buyers going to be converted into leads and sold back to you or to your competitors? Are they going to find a level playing field, or are vendors allowed to stack the deck by inviting only their biggest advocates to write reviews? Are buyers going to be pushed toward vendors that are in a paid relationship with the site, or is there an objective logic to how products are sorted and compared?
All of this boils down to the site’s business model, and whether it allows the site to remain focused on serving buyers objectively.
Note: If you interpreted the above question as “will buyers find anything critical about my product?” or “will I have a higher score than my competitors?”, let me stop you. Buyers are savvy and they’re looking for balanced, honest feedback. If there’s nothing critical, if there are only glowing reviews with positive feedback, buyers aren’t going to trust the content and they’re going to look for information elsewhere. Think of your own experience as a consumer — do you trust a set of all 5-star reviews of a product on Amazon?
Our buyer research has shown that they are also more focused on qualitative feedback than differences in scores. They’re thinking about their own use case, and wanting to hear from customers like them.
Question 2: Will your buyers find the answers they’re looking for?
Prioritize depth and quality of content on a review platform. Read some reviews on the site yourself, maybe for a product that you use or are considering purchasing. Are reviewers offering detailed insights? Do the questions asked make sense for the category? Is there enough context in the review for it to be useful? Can you tell how the reviewer is using the product? Does the reviewer know what they’re talking about? Do reviewers consistently offer both positive and negative feedback? (Something buyers want to see, to know they can trust the content as well as determine the right fit for their use case.)
No site will be perfect, but you should be able to read a set of reviews and have a sense of how well the site does at getting reviewers to offer up detailed insights without taxing them too much.
You’ll also want to think about usability. Can your buyers filter reviews based on what they care about? Can they easily scan through reviews or answers to certain questions to find what they’re looking for? Will they find the content helpful and trustworthy?
Question 3: How will you be able to use the review content?
Reviews aren’t just a destination. They are a source of valuable, detailed, trusted content that you should be actively analyzing and sharing with your buyers. Some portion of your buyers will stumble across reviews of your product, but if you’re not actively sharing it with them, you’re missing out on an opportunity to be more influential.
So once you have a robust base of review content on a site, how will you be able to use it?
Besides pointing your buyers to the review site, will you be able to organize and tag review quotes? Can you pull the right quotes into your landing pages, based on audience and theme, to boost conversion? Can you use them in sales materials? Emails? Can you syndicate the content internally? Can you funnel feedback to your product teams?
You’ll want to pick a review platform that:
- Objectively serves and is trusted by buyers
- Helps you to build a robust base of high quality content
- Provides tools and methods for packaging that content, bringing it into your own channels, and learning from it
In upcoming posts, we’ll address how to develop a comprehensive review strategy to support your marketing and sales goals. If you want to learn more about how TrustRadius aims to objectively serve buyers, read about our research practices here, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to learn more about how we help vendors leverage review content, read about our products and services here.
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