Many of us routinely check a Better Business Bureau® rating for a contractor we’re about to hire, or look up online reviews for a new restaurant we’d like to try. In some cases, we use the information just to verify our choices. But in other circumstances, we may use that information as our primary criteria for making a buying decision. We tend to trust vendors with whom others have had good experiences. In fact, we increasingly use the web to learn more about companies or individuals we encounter in our personal lives.
Likewise, in the B2B environment our potential customers frequently check out our business’ services and products online, often before we know they might be interested in what we have to offer. What they find helps determine if they will engage with us as a potential buyer, whether it’s advance research or supplemental information used as part of the buying process. And even more important for your revenue performance, online reviews help increase the sales funnel conversion ratios of qualified leads to opportunities to sales.
Is it Worth the Effort? Do Customer Reviews Impact B2B Sales?
Regardless of why a prospect chooses to weigh what others say about our products and services online, we know that online reviews and ratings have a huge impact on new leads. In our work at Fusion Marketing Partners with a variety of companies, we’ve found that strong online reviews, ratings, case studies and testimonials have a significant and positive impact on the revenue stream in a variety of ways. Customer proof of your product’s value is a strong influencer to attract and persuade new customers.
- Online reviews help build the flow of free leads. Over time, this has a huge impact in building steady lead flow and decreasing the average cost per lead.
- Online reviews help build the flow and lower the cost of paid leads. A great example is a pay-per-click online product directory, where we’ve experienced the following with a few positive online product ratings.
- An increase in click-through-rates. Buyers tend to look at ratings in choosing their best options.
- Lowering the cost of conversion. Positive ratings tell your new prospects that others have had success with your product and they can be confident in doing business with you.
- Online reviews help improve conversion ratios for free trials, free offers and closed deals. Reviews help build online trust and credibility—no small feat to achieve. In fact, we’ve see significant increases in the free trial conversion ratio for inquiries that come from a lead source that includes product ratings. For example, one highly effective tactic to improve the conversion ratio for a free trial is to include customer testimonials from online reviews on the sign-up page itself. Testimonials help reinforce the value of the product.
- A quantity of positive reviews helps protect your business from the occasional negative review. There are always haters, trolls and naysayers who seem to only be negative and are quick to criticize. And the anonymity of an online review emboldens some to be particularly negative. But rather than wait for those reviews to appear, why not be proactive and start building a base of positive reviews that outweigh the occasional negative comments?
And the reviews don’t all have to be perfect. Buyers read reviews to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of a product and the company. A perfect rating is less credible. A perfect product is unlikely.
Getting Focused with Online Reviews
When people think of online reviews, they tend to think of Yelp, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, or other consumer and/or locally focused review sites. But for B2B products and services that are nationally or internationally focused, what options are there and where do we focus?
Fortunately, there are numerous options for B2B product reviews. For a given product offering, we prefer to focus on sites specifically related to the product or service. For example, a SaaS software product would be a good candidate for reviews on a variety of online sites. Here are some examples.
- Sites specific to the buyer’s profession or expertise
- Industry specific sites
- Online software directories
- Online paid directories, offering Pay-per-Click (PPC) or Pay-per-Lead (PPL) traffic
- Software review sites
- Search engine reviews, such as Google Reviews
With a few minutes of searching, one will likely find numerous candidates. In fact, we recently looked at potential review sites for a client’s SaaS product and found over 15 sites that would potentially be good locations for customers to review the product. So the bigger question is often how to best focus our efforts with a just few sites that we think will have the greatest impact.
- What paid listing services are used and which drive the best leads?
- Which unpaid listing services are currently driving the best leads, or have the potential to drive the best leads?
- Where do our customers go to keep up with the latest information on their profession or industry?
- When we perform online searches with terms that best fit our product, which sites come up first?
The answers to these questions help prioritize which sites make the most sense for your product in targeting reviews. Then focus your efforts on those few top websites that will have the most impact on sales, perhaps adding additional sites over time.
Getting Great Customer Reviews
So how does one get good online reviews from numerous customers? The key is to identify and ask satisfied clients for a product review. Make it part of your internal processes and procedures to request and follow up on the review. Make it extremely easy for your best customers to submit a review. And thank them for their efforts.
Here are five ways to identify and ask satisfied customers for a product review.
- Customer Support – At the conclusion of a customer support engagement, ask a satisfied customer for a review. This can be at the end of call/chat session or via a “thank you” email following the call. Provide them the direct link via follow-up email. Work with the customer support team to build a repeatable process for requesting this feedback.
- Emails to Existing Customers – Add a review request at the bottom of email marketing messages. Customers could either directly fill out an online review (preferred) or contact someone at your company for further information.
- Survey Existing Customers – Send out a satisfaction survey to existing customers. Follow up with a special note to those that provided positive remarks, asking them to either participate in a case study or fill out an online review as appropriate. For those with concerns or issues, it might also be good for customer support to follow up with them.
- Follow up with New Customers – When a new customer signs up for service, follow up within 10 days with a customer satisfaction survey. It can even be the sales rep performing the survey. For those that are highly satisfied with your product, ask if they would provide a review and email a review link.
- Educate Existing Customers – Provide a webinar for existing customers on how to get the most out of your product. At the end of the event, ask participants to provide an online review. This is also a good way to get customer feedback about the product.
Building a base of strong customer reviews is a B2B marketing and sales investment that pays off in better lead flow and better conversion metrics at lower cost. Both tire kickers and prospects alike use online customer feedback in making the decision to move to the next step, whether that step is signing up for a free trial or for your product/service.