The following is a guest post by Brooklin Nash. Brooklin writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.
Consumers today quite literally have the world as their stage. This can either be a blessing or a curse for businesses – let’s work through how you can use your customer’s voice for the good of your company!
“It’s one thing for us to serve up a reference or a case study, but buyers intuitively know that those are all coming from specific satisfied customers, versus the wisdom of their collective peers.”
~ Julie Perin, Senior Director of Customer Marketing at Marketo
You are in the right place if either one of these statements is true:
- You’re wondering why authentic reviews are important.
- You already know they are important and want to get started encouraging them in your marketing strategy.
Here I’ll walk you through exactly how reviews play a role in the selection process and how you can use this data to make a more personalized, effective marketing strategy.
The Data Speaks: Customer Reviews Are a Crucial Part of Selection
The long and short of it is that customer reviews are more than a good idea: they are an integral part of the sales funnel. A poll of nearly 700 TrustRadius users revealed exactly why you should encourage customer reviews, no matter what kind of business you are:
Almost 8 out of 10 customers used reviews to discover new companies, 7 out of 10 used them to evaluate a company or product, and just under half used authentic customer reviews to actually make their decision to purchase.
Reviews bring something to the marketing strategy that almost no other kind of content can: authenticity.
- They build your credibility.
- They give you a pool of authentic content.
- They help boost your SEO.
To get an even better picture of just how important customer reviews are, take a look at these results:
Many companies focus their marketing efforts on their landing pages – in reality, that falls last on the list of information sources. In contrast, user reviews are near the top, and almost on par with a personal referral.
The Customers Speak: How Potential Customers Use Reviews in Their Decision to Purchase
The data from above makes it clear that customer reviews play an important role in how and why potential customers become current customers. But what about the personal side of the review process? What is it about authentic reviews that help customers make their decision?
Beyond simply building credibility, authentic online reviews are a quick and easy way for buyers to assess a company, and even to compare it to others. To give you a bit more insight, several buyers reveal how they use reviews on their journey to purchase:
“I consult reviews in search of specific product information that is not always revealed by the product’s providers.”
“Is this the only mechanism I use to evaluate a provider? No. But it helps narrow down the list since there are usually so many vendors that do the same thing…”
“I didn’t have time to demo the products of all the vendors I was considering. [Reviews] helped me to create a short list.”
“Reviews helped determine who to send RFP to.”
And then, on the flip side, vendors have also spoken to the importance of customer reviews in keeping up with their own marketing strategy. Sherry Arnold, Customer Advocacy manager at Workfront, had this to say:
“In order for us to keep up with our rising demands for references, quotes, feedback, etc, and also be respectful of our customers’ time and ability to participate in advocacy activities, we need to keep growing our base of advocates. Having a steady stream of reviews coming in has really helped with that.”
In other words, customer reviews are helpful for consumers in making their decision to purchase and they are helpful to vendors in connecting with consumers on a more authentic level.
How to Get Started Using Customer Reviews in Your Marketing Strategy
Now the next question comes: what is the best way to jump in with both feet, making customer reviews in your marketing strategy as effective as possible? This may not be an exhaustive guide, but consider these tips as your starting point.
Tip #1: Focus Your Time & Energy on Authentic Reviews
There’s no point in wasting your time on paid reviews or incentivizing positive reviews. Take a look at this graphic:
The top three review factors to buyers make it clear that dishonest reviews have no place in marketing strategy or sales. Buyers are looking for authenticated, in-depth and representative reviews. With that in mind, you should start this process expecting quite a bit of work up front. Building an authentic customer voice into your marketing language will take time, but will pay off.
Tip #2: Start Featuring Reviews on Sales Pages
Review listings can act as a kind of marketing themselves, but you don’t have to stop short there. Truly incorporating user reviews into your marketing strategy means looking for ways to use your customer’s voice within your other content. This means social media posts, newsletters, landing pages and more. As we saw with the graphic above, a vendor website falls at the bottom of the list when it comes to the helpfulness of information sources. You can start to mitigate that by featuring less of your words and more of your customers’.
Tip #3: Treat Customer Reviews as a Chance to Integrate User Experience & Sales
Customer satisfaction is a big part of successful sales and marketing techniques – and a big part of company success overall. Today we have the tools available to engage in social listening – seeking out what your customers have to say about your business. After hearing your customer’s voice, you can start to use it – not only for marketing content but also for improving your business, product or service. Happier customers are more likely to become advocates – it’s as simple as that.
Tip #4: Make it Easy on Both Ends
Notwithstanding how great your service is, a customer’s time is limited. This goes for both current customers and leads. In the interest of keeping the review process simple, make your initial outreach to customers clear cut with specific instructions. Avoid platforms that require a lengthy review process. Similarly, you should make it as easy as possible for visitors to find authentic reviews. Avoid burying reviews deep on your website. Try out listings that allow visitors to compare reviews and products. You want leads to hearing from your customers just as easily as they hear from your sales rep.
Speaking of customer reviews, they can be a great way for you to compare some of the necessary tools for incorporating your customer’s voice into your marketing language. Social media tools, CRM tools, and even collaboration tools can all be extremely helpful as you take your first few steps toward encouraging customer reviews in your marketing strategy. Take some time to compare for yourself!