This is a guest post by Levi Olmstead, Community Manager for G2 Crowd.
B2B transactions are complex, expensive, and require long-term investments. Buyers need plenty of reassurance that you’ve helped others in the past before deciding to do business with you. Online reviews are one of the most powerful tools in your toolbox to convince them. They can be more challenging to get than reviews of products or services designed for consumer use, but with the right strategies, you can get all the reviews you need to make an unforgettable impression.
Let’s talk about how!
Why Every B2B Brand Needs Online Reviews
Before B2B buyers invest in your products or services, they need to know that you’re someone to trust. No matter how slick your marketing copy, B2B buyers know it’s just that: language written with an interest to motivate them to act. They want to hear words from disinterested parties before making their decisions.
Also, 94 percent of all B2B buyers are doing their own research online at some point in the buying process, and much of this research occurs before they contact sales reps. The internet has empowered buyers to gather the information they need and evaluate their options on their own time frame.
Once they’ve narrowed down their options, a key part of the process becomes reading reviews from former customers. 85 percent of buyers report reading up to 10 reviews before feeling like they can trust a business.
Generating B2B Reviews: Unique Challenges
Online reviews are essential in both B2B and B2C contexts. However, the nature of B2B sales creates certain challenges that companies don’t have to worry about with B2C.
B2B buyers are typically sophisticated professionals whose objective is to make the best business investment possible. Where it might be enough for a B2C company selling t-shirts to have reviews about products arriving on time and fitting well, B2B buyers have higher expectations. They’re looking for specific evidence of how your product/service helps businesses.
We also have to consider that B2B transactions are done by committee. Language that appeals to an IT expert won’t necessarily appeal to someone on the HR team or a busy executive. Each buyer persona should be accounted for.
Then there’s the difference between B2B and B2C products themselves. B2B products tend to be expensive and complicated. Their sales cycles take months or even years, where a B2C customer might decide to buy in a day. This makes it easier for them to rack up reviews quickly.
So, because you’re dealing with fewer transactions and longer sales cycles, it’s crucial to try to get great reviews from every happy customer you can.
Which brings us to the next section…
3 Ways B2B Brands Can Get Great Online Reviews
B2B brands face plenty of challenges to get reviews, but it’s never been more important to overcome them. Discerning buyers expect nothing less.
Here are a few ways B2B brands are driving great reviews:
1. CRM Software and Customer Surveys
Many B2B customers would be happy to review your product or service—if they were only ever asked!
It’s amazing how many B2B brands overlook this simple step. They get so focused on customer support and maintaining the relationship that they forget to ask for feedback along the way.
The good news: it only takes a few tweaks to incorporate this into your process. One of the easiest ways is to use CRM software platforms to automate your review requests for certain time intervals. This might be after they’ve been a customer for a specific time—or at regular intervals (annually, quarterly, etc.). If you send periodic customer surveys, you can build review asks into your program—just use survey logic to automatically direct happy customers to review sites or reach out to respondents after they submit feedback.
If a customer doesn’t follow through the first time, you’ll probably have additional opportunities to ask because most B2B relationships are long-term.
2. Email Campaigns
Customer nurturing is a great start, but incorporating email campaigns will really help you drive reviews at scale.
You have only so much time and resources, most of which you’ll devote to serving customers and finding new ones.
For the customers who are already happily doing business with you, take advantage of email marketing software and automate the process. These programs let you set up review-generation campaigns once, then send them automatically. You could have certain events—like a customer’s relationship reaching six months—trigger the campaigns. Here are a few ways you could do it.
In the campaigns, you can encourage customers to leave reviews on specific review sites you’d like to target. Focus on the top review sites for your industry.
Some customers will do this simply because they like doing business with you and are satisfied with their experience. For everyone else, you can sweeten the deal by offering a reward for those who leave a review.
This reward is only limited by your imagination. Popular options include gift cards, discounts, cash, or entry into a sweepstakes to a win a free trip.
3. Individual Outreach from Account Managers
Customer surveys and emails are great, but some of the most useful B2B reviews are generated through individual interaction with your sales team.
A personal touch goes a long way. You could have your sales team solicit reviews as a crucial part of the customer follow-up and relationship management process.
Most B2B brands will have a regular follow-up process, whether it’s their sales teams or specifically designated account managers.
During these follow-ups, where you’ll make sure customers are still happy, check in with how the product or service is working, and provide any support needed; it only takes a few extra minutes to ask for feedback.
With a tiny bit more effort, you can generate some great reviews. All you have to do is ask. If you get an enthusiastic response, ask for permission to feature their quote on your website and in various marketing materials.
Don’t be afraid of putting people out. Most customers will love feeling like their feedback is valued. They’ll appreciate you thinking of them and can be a powerful customer testimonial marketing weapon.
Proving That Your B2B Brand Is One to Trust
Customer reviews are absolutely vital for any thriving B2B company. The nature of the transactions makes them uniquely challenging compared to product or services designed for consumers.
That said, plenty of B2B brands are overcoming these challenges with massive success. A combination of automated tools and a personal touch will help you get the feedback you need.
You’ve worked tirelessly to satisfy your customers. Now it’s time for their words to work tirelessly for you. They’re some of the most valuable assets you have when finding new customers.
About the Author
Levi Olmstead is the community manager at G2 Crowd, the leading B2B software and services review platform with over 385,000 verified, real-user reviews. Learn more about G2 Crowd and follow Levi on Twitter at @levi_olmstead.