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How to Get B2B Customers to Post Honest Reviews

By Annie ZelmApr 29, 2014
b2b-online-reviews

Does the thought of fishing for compliments make you squirm? If there’s one place you can’t afford to be shy, it’s your business.

There are so many companies competing for attention with all kinds of tactics. The old approach of putting your website out there and waiting to see who bites just isn’t effective anymore.

Sometimes customers have to be baited a little.

Reviews often come naturally for business like restaurants—sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon make it easy for diners to sound off—but you may have to dig a little deeper to get an honest opinion from the busy professionals who use your product or service in the B2B sector.
Today, purchasing from a B2B company looks a lot more like purchasing from any other company. In fact, a 2012 study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found those buyers completed almost 60 percent of the typical purchasing process—researching, ranking options, benchmarking pricing—before they ever contacted a supplier.

Reviews play a big role in that purchasing process. A Forrester Research report found 70 percent of customers trust recommendations from their friends and family, and 55 percent look to professionally-written online reviews.

So, where are your customers looking?

Google+

Google is still the first place most people turn when they start their search, whether they’re looking for a great place to spend a Friday night or purchasing a new software system to make their business more efficient. If your company doesn’t have a presence on Google+ yet, it’s time to get started. It may have gotten off to a slower start than other social networking sites, but membership is now more than 300 million strong.

Having reviews on Google+ means seeing stars in the search for your company’s name. You could have 10 well-written testimonials on your website, but your customers will never get there if your competitors look like they’re shining above you in a search.

The B2B realm may not be there yet, but you can find plenty of examples of this in other areas. A quick search for “hair salons in Cleveland” yields 225,000 results, and there’s no way I’m going to look past even the first 20 of them.

Hair salons

My eye is immediately drawn to The Studio Salon by Paul Mitchell, which has the best review rating. (Whether I can afford the salon's services might be another question, but I’m at least going to check out the website.)

Setting up a Google + account will also give your business another place to share insights with other professionals in the industry, who can then find you in various “circles.” It doesn’t take much time, and it will give you a lot of extra visibility. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out the Google + Business pages.

LinkedIn

Like Google +, LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to join the dialogue in your industry, and a well-established profile can really make you stand out from others. Nearly 300 million users are now participating in the professional networking community.

Once you’ve set up a page for your company, invite customers to post recommendations. Tell them how much you appreciate their honest feedback, and be sure to thank them when they offer it.

If you haven’t created a page yet or haven’t updated yours in a while, the site’s business profile section will give you some practical guides and share best practices.

Trustradius

With about 75,000 users so far, this emerging website wants to become the Yelp of business software. Trustradius gives professionals an easy way to share their thoughts on what programs work best for them and enables them to search for the tools others recommend.
Posts include the most recent, most positive and most negative so you can get a good idea at a glance.

Consider recent reviews for Eloqua, a marketing automation platform. There are more than 50 reviews here, but this site breaks them down exactly the way I’d want to see them: Give me the good, the bad and the most recent.

Most recent:
Marketing Automation worked on me.
“The transition to Oracle Support has been a bit rough. It's not quite as easy as it used to be when Eloqua was running the show. If it doesn't get any more difficult and the quality of support is maintained, there will be no issue. But if support quality is degraded over throughout the rest of our term, that will be a major consideration when it comes time to renew.” 

Most positive:
Powerful "Must Have" in a Modern Marketer's Technology Stack + Topliners Community is Unmatched!
"I absolutely recommend Eloqua! (That being said - as with any new technology purchase - I also recommend following due diligence best practices starting with a thorough requirements review.)"

Most negative:
Covers the basics, but usability and reporting poor
"Reporting was a mess and investment of time in things like Campaign Manager were nothing more than a slick marketing term for setting up your data sync – there was no value from an ROI perspective. Also, the engineers who wrote the reports for email opens/clicks, etc… used a slightly different formula than the ones who worked on the email dashboard reports within the individual emails. Marketers want (and need) to prove their value – numbers not matching is never a good thing."

When it comes to review sites, there are so many options these days that you’ll only dilute your efforts by trying to gain traction on all of them. Focus on the two or three that matter most to your company. If you’re not sure, start by doing some research into how your customers found you and where they looked for references.

So you’ve identified where you want to see reviews. Now what?

Just ask.

The best time to ask for reviews is usually right after delivering your product or service. That goes without saying if you’re a restaurant or a hair salon, but it might be a little different if you’ve just sold a new software system. Your email validation service isn’t going to give them the same instant gratification they felt the last time they went home with a really great haircut. But when they send out that first customer email a few weeks later and notice a 20 percent increase in open rates, you can bet they’ll be excited. Think about when your customers are most likely to see results, and time your request accordingly.

Timing your request well also allows you to clear up any confusion your customers may have in the meantime.

Make sure they’ve had plenty of time to become familiar with your product or service, contact you with questions and train their staff before you ask them for feedback.

Make it easy.

Besides having a fantastic, user-friendly product your customers can’t help but rave about, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to give their opinion. Send an email a few weeks after the transaction to ask for a review. Use a landing page that links them to your listing on the review sites you care about most. Most people have so many accounts and passwords already that asking them to create one more will turn them away, so offer them a way to log in with Facebook or Gmail. Give specific instructions, but keep them short and sweet.

Don’t forget to give your customers a way to privately share their concerns, too, whether it’s through an email address or a phone number where they can have a conversation offline. 

Let them know what’s in it for them.

I’ll be honest: I’m a sucker for free stuff. Each time a cashier hands me a receipt with a customer survey attached, my eyes light up at the promise of a free cup of coffee or the chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree. I always tell myself I’m going to fill it out later, but somehow I never get around to actually doing it, even with a reward at stake.

I think it’s because most of the time, the experience I had was OK but ordinary. I was just grocery shopping. I didn’t have someone go above and beyond to be helpful or friendly, but nothing bothered me enough to point it out on paper.

That said, when it really counts, I’ll make my voice heard. Last weekend, I made the trip back home to Cincinnati to visit my family. I made reservations for 12 at Morelein Lager House, a riverfront brewery with German immigrant roots that go back to the 1850s.

It’s rare that everyone in my extended family is back home and available all at the same time—usually we come and go in shifts at my grandparents’ house—but we were all overdue for a big celebration. Between my sisters, in-laws and cousins, we ended up with a grand total of 18 people. The staff there went out of their way to create an extra-long table and make sure they took care of everyone. I ordered the most tender and flavorful pork belly I’ve ever tasted, and you can bet I wrote a review about it.

Although the restaurant didn’t offer me any incentive to post a review or even suggest it, there was definitely something in it for me: The desire to make the place a family tradition. I wanted to encourage the staff to keep up the good work so the place will still be thriving for years to come.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with offering discounts or incentives for customers who write reviews, but it can be a tricky tactic. There’s always the possibility they’ll be less than honest or post them for the wrong reasons.

Instead, look for other ways to let your customers know what’s in it for them. Tell them you want to improve your product and develop new modules to better serve them. Their feedback isn’t just for you. Ultimately, it will help you determine how to make their jobs easier

Respond.

Not all your reviews will be glowing, and that’s OK. To a potential customer, a range of honest opinions looks more credible than a bunch of rave reviews that sound solicited. Some can be harmful, though, especially if a customer rants about a particularly bad experience or posts misinformation about your product.

When that happens, don’t get mad: respond.

If a customer has had a particularly bad experience, engage him or her offline and offer to repair the relationship if you can. If he or she leaves out important facts or appears to have a misunderstanding, post a detailed explanation that addresses it without sounding defensive. Ask a colleague or someone outside your company to read your response before you post it.

If the customer is just being difficult by harping on some minor annoyance, resist the urge to respond and move on.

How do you encourage your customers to post reviews? How well does it work? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Creating Content for Marketing Automation
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The Author

Annie Zelm

As the content manager, Annie manages a team of brand journalists and is the driving force behind the content strategy for companies in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, technology and professional services. Relying on interviewing skills she developed in her seven years as a journalist, she uncovers insights about what motivates buyers in these industries and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars.
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