The buying process has changed. People expect to have access to real customer reviews as part of their research and decision-making process. Modern marketing teams must understand how to engage with customers, secure real reviews and treat them as opportunities to tell their story.
The 21st century buying process is driven by third-party testimonials. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, the media, family, friends, professional contacts and G2 Crowd are just a few of the growing list of review sources in our modern purchasing process. Think about it: When was the last time you purchased something on Amazon without reading the reviews or sourcing a personal product recommendation?
The power of the verified-user review, or third-party customer testimonial, is phenomenal and is influencing every marketplace.
Marketers are constantly creating or finding pieces of content that validates their company's perspective. They are tasked with securing third-party validation in the public eye. The marketing professional cannot overlook the opportunities provided by reviews.
Independent review sites have become powerful resources for the world. These third-party testimonial sites gain influence daily. Demand Gen Report's "2016 B2B Buyers Survey" found that 90 percent of business buyers do not engage with a salesperson until their buying decision has been made. We need to understand that buyers are finding the information they need from other sources. The business world needs to accept the fact that prospects are reading customer reviews – lots of them!
These review sites, and the content on them, offer new and exciting opportunities to tell a story. Every month thousands of reviewers are sharing their opinions on the products and services they use, providing fresh content to the world. How do you, the marketing professional, engage with these resources?
The simple answer is that every company should have a review strategy. Let's take a look at the opportunities created by reviews.
1. Quotable customers
"Smith and Company have been the answer to all of our problems. We could not be happier with their work!" – VP of Marketing, Acme Production
No surprise here, people don't trust a customer quote provided by a company. We live in a cynical world and these quotes are viewed as fiction, but a customer review on a third-party review site is deemed a trusted testimonial.
You need to share this information. Reporters are already using these customer quotes in editorial content; you can only benefit by pointing people in the right direction. Influencers will not only read the reviews, but they'll often share the best information. Let your happy customers write the glowing quotes – you just need to use them.
2. Define your company
"Not only do we have an amazing media team, but we can also ramp up your social media presence to new heights!" – VP of Business Development, Acme Communications
Defining what your company does and does well is often challenging. One extreme example, agencies around the globe claim to do a lot more than they have accomplished and buyers know it. If you want to prove that your company can crush a prospect's special initiative, show it with a happy customer review.
3. Company transparency
"At Acme Industries, we pride ourselves on being completely transparent with our customers and the world." – Spokesman, Acme Industries
Let's be honest, most companies claim to be transparent – until you ask them the wrong question. That leaves the marketer with the challenge of claiming transparency, with limited ability to actually show transparency.
However, when a company has an open review strategy with a third-party site, things suddenly change. Now the company is asking customers to help them create transparency. When a company empowers customers to tell their story, the filters are off and transparency is obvious. Now you're demonstrating transparency as part of your culture.
4. Commitment to customers
"Nothing is more important to us than our relationship with our customers." – Salesperson, Acme Fabricators
Everyone has heard a statement like this from a salesperson. No one believes it. But what if you could prove it?
One of the greatest fears companies have when embracing a review campaign is negative reviews. However, it's time to flip your thinking. Negative reviews are an opportunity to show your commitment to your customers. When that negative review is up, the committed company engages that customer, identifies the problem and works with the customer to find an answer. And when a reader sees this interaction, and the customer updates their review, you have publicly proven your company values regarding customers.
5. Data defines your strengths
"We have the best product on the market and will help you close more deals than our competitors." – VP of Marketing, Acme Soothsayers
Really? How are you possibly going to prove this?
Review sites are constantly compiling the data and information provided by reviewers. Researchers are producing reports that identify important data, like satisfaction, market presence, usability, implementation and results. Now you have actual, third-party data based on actual customer reviews to back up your claims.
Customer reviews offer enormous opportunity for your company. If you have not yet initiated a review strategy, it is time. And when those reviews start to roll in, recognize them for the opportunity and value they are providing to your company. When you embrace the modern marketplace, your company will reap the benefits.