B2B review sites have spent a whole lot of time creating crowdsourced customer peer reviews. They created platforms to accomplish this across any number of business categories, software solutions, and services. These sites have created enormous opportunities in the B2B market. As such, savvy digital marketers are riding the momentum created by the “Yelp” effect that originated in the B2C space. This blog will cover why B2B review sites are significant to both buyers and marketers. It will also illustrate some best practices around how marketers can use them as a part of their overall digital marketing mix.
How Business-to-Business Review Sites Work
Let us start with why this traditional B2C tactic entered the B2B world. If you think about it, buyers are people, not accounts. The same logic that drives us to look at reviews on Yelp, when trying to find a new restaurant, applies to the B2B world. People want these little hints to tell us what is right or to help validate our choices. Of course, eating at a new restaurant and purchasing a million-dollar B2B solution is not exactly the same. While reviews for a consumer product may play a more significant part in a consumer purchase, it’s just one part of a complex buyer’s journey in the B2B world. That said, having good peer reviews is an essential part of both the B2B and B2C buyer’s journey.
One could make the case that B2B review sites are mostly for more transactional solutions, mimicking the B2B equivalent of a consumer purchase. For example, you’ll quickly find that marketers for B2B software companies who play in the SaaS world have put an enormous amount of effort into building up their social review profiles. This is because smaller SaaS applications often have a low barrier to entry, which includes short sales cycles, less complexity, and small reoccurring costs.
However, a buyer will search for reviews when purchasing any solution – small or big. That’s just how we’re all wired these days. In more complex sales cycles, having reviews are incredibly important. They just aren’t the only incredibly important thing that buyers are using as part of their criteria. In fact, according to a survey run by Hubspot, 33% of their B2B respondents across all B2B marketers said that review sites played an important role in their purchasing decision-making process.
Building Trust Along the Buyer’s Journey
Marketers have been embracing B2B review sites as a part of their overall portfolio for years. When done correctly, review sites are used as a valuable, trust-building tool that’s leveraged along the buyer’s journey. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 38% of respondents to their Brand and Communications Benchmark Survey have a paid branded presence on one or more review sites. Paid branding packages typically allow marketers to add customized branding elements and gain premium exposure on these review sites. Plus, beyond gaining exposure, a significant benefit is reputation management. You control your brands’ positioning, and how your company appears online across all channels.
A few of the most popular review sites used in the B2B world include G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, Capterra, IT Central Station, and TrustPilot. In some cases, the websites are dedicated to B2B, and in others, they started as B2C and moved into B2B reviews. Then there are niche sites that focus on particular audiences. AgencyLoft (the site you’re on right now) is an excellent example of a niche peer review site. One reason visitors come to AgencyLoft is to find peer reviews for the marketing agencies that we’ve #LoftCertified. In this example, AgencyLoft is a B2B review site for various marketing and advertising agencies.
Quick Pro Tip – Don’t Confuse Review Sites With Old-School Directories
This evolution of the B2B social review site is not like the directory websites you’d find in the earlier days of the internet. In the old days, a directory would be a giant list of website links that pointed back to various businesses. These old-school directory sites were devoid of any detail and could hurt your SEO efforts – so you want to avoid them. What you are looking for is really more of a B2B research portal. These portals allow you to add information to a listing page; kind of like a mini-microsite page for your company. They also allow the ability to add reviews to your business listing page, which is the whole key to this article.
As a Marketer, How do I Get Started with B2B Review Sites?
- Identify the sites that apply to your business: Many good B2B review sites are listed above. These can be used as a starting point. Again, there are many niche sites out there that may cater to your type of B2B solutions. So be sure to do some homework. This stage should include speaking to customers to see which sites they frequent. You’ll also want to identify potential sites by performing a Google search for your keywords. The goal is to find out which sites show up on the first page of results. They will be good targets to explore.
- Check to see if your business is already listed on these B2B review sites: Often, review sites will already have your company included on their site. Many of them attempt to profile every company they can find for the category. However, they don’t always get all the publicly available information correct. If your business is there, you will almost always find a “claim your listing” option. Doing this should give you admin rights to the page. This way you can fix it up. If you find a review site that you should be on but are not yet part of, do a quick search on the site to find out how to submit your business.
- Take control of your profile: It may take a little time and effort, but sign up for every relevant site. Ultimately, you don’t want to let someone else educate the market on what you do. For most of the sites, you’ll probably stay at whatever their no-cost level is, which means you can make sure your necessary information like contact info, website, company description, etc. is accurate.
How to Get Reviews from Your Customers and Biggest Advocates
- Focus your efforts: You can make sure your profile is up to date where it matters. But you really can’t scale your customer reviews across every site on the internet if they are not already organically happening. You’ll burn out your customers with requests to help, and your reviews will be spread too thin. Instead, figure out which one or two sites are the best for your business. Try to find out what their traffic is like for your category. Also, do a quick search to see if the site shows up under keywords your prospects would use in a Google search.
- Encourage loyal customers to submit reviews: This also requires an effort, but pays off in spades. You’ll have to get started with a handful of client reviews on the most important sites. Invite customers to submit a testimonial using your relationship. Sometimes this will mean going through your sales and services teams. If you don’t have the type of business where a relationship is an essential aspect of your services, you can send emails to clients you know are happy. Pro-Tip: Some companies use incentive programs to help get this started. An incentive program might look something like an offer to give a customer a ten dollar Starbucks card for a review. One could argue whether this is ethical or not, so use your best judgment given your specific relationship and specific business type.
How to Use B2B Reviews
- Take advantage of the hard work: Great. Now you’ve got reviews that are perceived as third party peer reviews (because they are). Now it’s time to share them with prospects, or at least make it so that prospects can find those reviews easily. You can do this by adding pull quotes, or entire reviews, onto your corporate site with links back to the review site. I’ve seen some companies add these reviews/testimonials on the case study sections of their website. Sometimes they intermingle reviews with case studies they’ve created professionally. These reviews also make great social media posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Net – don’t let these valuable peer reviews sit there. Amplify them across your paid, earned, and owned digital landscape.
- Keep them fresh: As a consumer, have you ever looked up a product and seen that the last review was multiple years old? It makes you wonder why nothing has been shared recently. Unfortunately, an older review is not super valuable. Like food, reviews have an expiration date. Try to keep new reviews coming in annually. At the very least, you want them to be from the current year. Pro-Tip: A good way to scale the capture of more recent reviews is to add a regular process. The goal is to request a review shortly after a new customer has started your service. After all, this is the honeymoon period, assuming everything went well. Take advantage of the goodwill around the shiny new thing you’ve sold them.
Let’s face it; savvy B2B buyers simply don’t believe everything that a B2B vendor is telling them. There is a clear trust issue, as there should be in any new partnership. B2B buyers don’t like talking to salespeople until they have to. More and more vendors are shortlisted based on what the buyers find on the internet before they ever have a real person-to-person conversation with the company. Also, buyers have always turned to peers for advice. The emergence of the B2B social review site is simply an extension of this best practice. For all these reasons and more, it is clear that both buyers and sellers heavily leverage B2B social review sites. So take advantage of it!