The purpose of marketing is to create fans of your brand. In order to accomplish this, you have to capitalize on real, tangible and non-incentivized customer reviews.
Historically, the retail and hospitality industries have relied heavily on user reviews, with apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor and many others helping huge brands capitalize on untapped revenue and prevent customer churn.
The tech industry is quickly adopting to its own phase of review marketplaces, such as G2 Crowd, Capterra and Trustpilot. All are aimed at making sure that the users of these products and software have a voice. Consumers buying a piece of software have to understand what value it has for them, what value it has for others, and how it compares to other software products.
More and more, the idea that every company must become a tech company is ringing true. And if this is true, then every company must become a service company as well. As the head of global marketing for a software company, I see the need for software users to talk about what they love and hate about a product. Based on my experience, here are six strategies most businesses can use to boost their marketing efforts with customer reviews.
1. Collect as many (useful) reviews as possible.
The more reviews your business accumulates, the better – even if some of those reviews are negative. Many popular review algorithms rank products and services by sheer volume. Therefore, a product with a thousand lukewarm reviews will almost always be ranked above a product with 10 enthusiastic reviews.
While it’s important to amass a lot of reviews, it’s also important to solicit as many quality reviews as possible. It can often be difficult for customers to write a review of their own experience that is valuable to a broad spectrum of other potential customers. By educating customers and even providing a rubric of the kind of information that will be most valuable to others, brands can reduce the volume of useless reviews they and their customers have to sift through.
It’s also important for companies to seek reviews from those who actually use their product and not just those who buy it. For example, a company that sells software to another company might only receive a review from the point of contact who purchased the software and not the employees who use that software every day, and therefore have the most firsthand insight to offer.
2. Use reviews to improve customer success.
Businesses can often kill two birds with one stone by using reviews to tackle customer success with their products. Negative reviews, especially, are an opportunity not only to improve product design and development, but to discover gaps in consumer education that can negatively impact experience. By carefully considering an individual customer’s negative experience, you might be able to offer education or training that can be used to improve that customer’s experience in the moment, as well as troubleshoot the issue for countless future customers.
3. Publicly respond to reviews (especially the negative ones).
Your company’s support team should make sure that negative reviews are addressed in a public fashion, whether that’s responding to customers on social media or on a review site. A lot of companies get in the habit of directing negative reviews to private messages with a company point of contact. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, especially if it expedites solutions.
But if your customers can’t see any public responses to negative reviews, it may seem like you’re hiding something. And that has a huge psychological impact on whether or not someone chooses to do business with your brand. At the very least, it’s important to publicly acknowledge a reviewer and apologize for any mistakes you may have made before offering to fix the solution through direct messaging.
4. Eliminate fake reviews (even the positive ones).
Most review sites take fraudulent reviews seriously and have measures in place to detect and remove them quickly and efficiently, but it’s also up to companies to flag reviews they think might be fraudulent for review sites to investigate. There are even instances when companies receive fake positive reviews, and it’s just as important to take down fake positive reviews as it is to take down fake negative reviews. Flagging and removing fraudulent positive reviews preserves your brand’s reputation as being ethical and transparent, and this can have a huge ripple effect on the rapport you build with your customers.
5. Establish customer experience touchpoints.
A huge part of successfully utilizing reviews is having a technology or team of people in place that can analyze the data you’re collecting. However, if you’re attracting a high volume of reviews (and that is the ultimate goal), you’ll have to automate analytics.
A lot of companies make the mistake of focusing on an overall customer experience (CX) metric without establishing and diving deeply enough into specific touchpoints. These touchpoints really matter, because they isolate completely different issues from each other. For instance, if a reviewer mentions a bad experience with shipping but a great experience with customer support, you’ll be able to quickly identify and fix your company’s weakest link.
6. Embrace the new word-of-mouth marketing.
Word-of-mouth marketing is definitely not dead. As a matter of fact, it’s making a big comeback in the form of social media influencers. Any time a brand engages an influencer to share an honest review of a product or service with their followers, that’s word-of-mouth marketing.
Whereas once people would solicit word-of-mouth advice exclusively from family and friends, they’re now depending more on popular social media influencers who establish clout with their followers by sharing personal tidbits about their lifestyles and the products and services they enjoy.
Soliciting honest reviews from influencers is an opportunity for brands to grow much bigger than they ever might organically. When choosing to collaborate with an influencer, it’s important to be realistic about where your brand stands and align yourself with an influencer who is on a similar trajectory. This promotes mutually beneficial growth and the opportunity to build relationships that can transform an influencer into a spokesperson.