Over the past year, we’ve seen millennial buyers (ages 25-39) emerge as the primary tech buying market (over 60%). This audience has created a seismic shift in the market, as we’re seeing them develop different buying preferences than their predecessors. Millennials are focusing more on self-service options and a non-linear buyer’s journey, meaning they’re no longer talking to sales reps or taking a clear, trackable call-to-action (CTA) as their first step. What does this mean for vendors?
At the 2022 B2B Marketing Exchange, Allyson Havener, VP of Marketing at TrustRadius, and Rebecca Stone, SVP of Customer Solutions Marketing and CMO at Cisco Meraki, discussed the best way to respond to these behavioral changes: an emphasis on word-of-mouth marketing.
Why word-of-mouth marketing? In a survey of millennial buyer preferences, 58% of respondents reported that their top source of discovery was word of mouth. Today’s buyers are looking for authentic insights from trusted peers. When they read a product claim from a vendor, they no longer accept these claims as truth, and instead go to peers to verify what they’re seeing.
Because buyers rely so heavily on word of mouth when researching new products, we as marketers need to focus on providing it as a channel for our audience. In addition, word-of-mouth marketing gives us the opportunity to reach our audience at any point in their research, rather than aiming for a specific stage in their journey.
You have to really think about your strategy [as] being wherever your customer is, whenever they are ready to look for you.
Scaling word-of-mouth marketing
When we hear “word-of-mouth marketing,” a few traditional tactics might come to mind, such as publishing case studies, requesting for customers to speak at events, etc. However, these tactics don’t have the capacity to reach a widespread audience, as they don’t truly reach the audience at scale or when they’re ready to engage. In addition, they require extra work and approval from customers.
When you think about the traditional way of getting customer advocacy, it’s typically the case studies, the videos … and that can only hit a certain number of people at a time—it’s not scalable, it’s not when they’re ready. You have to be pulling them in to be paying attention.
Instead of traditional word-of-mouth tactics, Cisco Meraki uses a multi-review platform strategy to create effective outreach for today’s audiences. Review platforms, as opposed to traditional customer advocacy approaches, focus on providing on-demand, peer-written content for potential buyers to consume, in their own time. Authentic peer reviews check off most, if not all, of the boxes of today’s buyer preferences. Because review platforms are so relevant to the needs of today’s buyers, and since such disparate groups of people visit each review site with very little overlap, it’s also important to have a brand presence on more than one.
As Rebecca said, “it’s about where your customers are, not necessarily where you have the most influence.”
When your organization starts to leverage peer reviews as a top marketing tool, several byproducts can come out of them. Rebecca and Allyson discussed a few of them, including:
Marketing is not the only department that benefits from collecting customer reviews. Sales, customer success, and product development can all garner helpful knowledge from customer reviews:
- Sales: Rebecca cited a better collaboration between sales and marketing as Meraki’s multi-review strategy developed. It stands to reason, as peer reviews enable the sales team to leverage customer quotes and intent data, it will then create a feedback loop with marketing to collaborate on developing helpful assets.
- Customer success: Rebecca also mentioned how reviews can inspire the customer experience (CX) team by helping “create community information, like documentation, that addresses specific bugs that we’re seeing come up regularly in that feedback.”
- Product Development: Similarly to CX, product teams can take customer reviews and use them to improve their products from real-life experiences that users are having.
In addition, reviews enable teams to create valuable assets for teams across the organization. The content from reviews serves as great snippets for customers to engage with across the buyer’s journey.
Some vendors think it’s all about a score, it’s all about a star rating, but what we see is buyers really care about the in-depth content from reviews.
To generate great content from reviews, Allyson and Rebecca touch on the subject of “custom questions:” creating tailored questions that inspire customers to respond with quotable details on specific product features and use cases.
As they collected these useful quotes through customer reviews, Cisco was able to repurpose snippets from 150 total reviews into over 8,000 quotes to be used on landing pages, email signatures, ad creative, and sales enablement materials.
The self-fulfilling cycle of word-of-mouth
Throughout their session, Allyson and Rebecca touched on the multi-purpose and relevant nature of conducting word-of-mouth marketing with review sites. By putting a multi-review strategy into motion, Cisco Meraki had the opportunity to be present where their customers were already spending time (searching for self-service, peer-written resources). By leveraging customer reviews, they created helpful assets for several of their internal teams and developed an end-to-end approach for their entire team to reap the benefits from customer reviews and scale their word-of-mouth marketing efforts.
We definitely think about it as a self-fulfilling cycle of acquiring the customer, understanding the customer need, improving the product, getting that advocacy back into the market, and then making sure that our sales and marketing [are] sharing that as well.
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