On the second day of Advocamp 2017, three TrustRadius customers joined our CEO Vinay Bhagat on the main stage to discuss reviews in advocacy. Davin Wilfrid from QuickBase, Julie Perino from Marketo and Michael Beahm from Blackbaud shared how reviews have been key to getting their customers on the record authentically and at scale. They also touched on how reviews have made an impact beyond marketing, which was a major theme of the conference.
Here are some of the most impactful quotes from our panelists, as well as the full video of our session.
Building Better Advocacy
Reviews have helped all three brands overcome some of the most common advocate marketing challenges. For the Marketo team, they especially value the unique level of authenticity they get from customer-generated content.
“We have just this wealth of passionate customers out there, and Marketo markets to marketers, right? Marketers in particular will see through less-than-authentic advocacy,” said Perino. “For us, it’s about bringing those passionate customer voices to life in an authentic way that really goes beyond the basic blocking and tackling we do in customer marketing. We can certainly bring to life incredible customer stories, but it has a completely different level of impact when we can bring that authentic customer voice forward.”
At QuickBase, reviews have been crucial to achieving scale and keeping up with the demand for a broad range of advocacy content.
“Being able to dive deeper into our customer base and generate more referenceable content, more referenceable customers and more engagement across the board was a huge priority for us,” said Wilfrid. “And there’s only so much you can do with a traditional program. We really saw reviews as a way of generating that level of scale so that I could offset some of the demand that was coming in, and also to drive more strategic customer-focused content marketing.”
Putting Reviews to Work
All of the panelists have worked with TrustRadius to take reviews beyond a CPL play to a strategic initiative for their brand.
“It’s not just about lead generation — that focus has shifted for us and it’s really become more of a content engine,” said Beahm. “A really good review that’s lengthy and detailed is almost a story in and of itself. It is like a Swiss army knife that transcends departments.”
In addition to incorporating reviews into sales and customer success, Beahm explained he has demonstrated ROI by working with the demand generation team in more original and impactful ways.
“We try to map a lot of our customer advocacy activities to the funnel. When we’ve added voice of the customer onto something as simple as a webinar landing page, we’ve actually seen double the conversion rate on that page, just by having that peer review content there as validation. We do a syndication through TrustRadius that automates it and takes the manual process out of it. Now we want to put it in more places so that when people are signing up for demand gen activities, they see that validation.”
Perino then discussed how reviews are helping Marketo shift to a more balanced mix in sales and marketing. “Marketo grew up with a very strong inbound marketing engine, based on our history and what we do as a company. Now we’re working to balance that out and putting a lot more energy around outbounding. So that is certainly a change for us, and obviously requires changing strategy and tactics as far as what the AEs and SDRs need to do each and every day. Over the last couple of months we’ve activated TrustQuotes, which is an element of the TrustRadius solution that sits right inside Salesforce and serves that voice of the customer content to the SDRs, AEs and our CSMs as well.”
Perino also noted that reviews are a valuable source of product feedback. On that front, they are helping with a new customer marketing initiative.
“We definitely want and need that voice of the customer, that outside-in perspective, to get better at what we do every day,” she said. “We get a lot of feedback through our review channel around product. My team, going into 2018, is expanding our charter outside of advocacy to driving more customer adoption of our product. We’re thrilled about having an impact on what I would consider that strong on-ramp to advocacy, which is adoption.”
Quality Content Matters
“Something that was very important to me when I started TrustRadius was quality,” said Bhagat “I felt that you couldn’t apply a Yelp-like consumer model to B2B — that a star rating and a few lines of text was not going to be sufficient to help someone make a considered business purchase. Moreover, in a world where products often use the same messaging, helping a company tell its unique narrative by guiding the reviewer through customer questions was also critically important.”
Beahm agreed that quality content has been crucial to the success of his program. “When you start out, you’re usually very focused on quantity. My mindset has shifted quite a bit over the last few years to focus more on quality. Again, the idea of less of a transaction, more of a relationship, and that one really strong robust review can do so much. You can peel back all the different parts of it and use it in so many different ways.”
Quality has also been important at QuickBase, where Wilfrid uses custom questions to ensure they get the right content. “We’re a weird product in a weird category, and so we’re trying to explain who we are through our customers. Being able to ask them the right questions in that review is really important, because we knew how they would answer those questions — we knew how their answers could help us with our positioning in the market and against our competitors.”
The Benefits of Negative Feedback
Traditionally, advocacy programs have focused on cultivating and promoting only the happiest customers. But as buyers put more stock in authentic feedback, having a balanced body of public reviews is beneficial for vendors. As Bhagat put it, “We’re increasingly living in a world where people want to cut through marketing and hear the unvarnished truth. If everything is just too polished and too good they’re not going to trust it.”
For that reason, Wilfrid said QuickBase intentionally cast a broad net when they launched their Review Management Program with TrustRadius. But even though he was aiming for balanced content, he distinctly remembers getting the first truly negative review.
“It was a little bit of putting on a face, but I did the acting exercise and said, ‘Great! This is great,’” he recalled. “Because it is great to have a negative review — we now have 250 reviews, and it proves that when you look at this overall mix of reviews, they are actually meaningful.”
Beahm actually prefers negative reviews to ones that give Blackbaud an average score. “You can really learn something from a negative review, but that middle area is really tough. And I actually loved seeing our product marketing team respond to those negative reviews publicly… Responding publicly really takes all of the oomph out of that negative review. Buyers see this company cares about their customers.”
Final Piece of Advice
To conclude the session, Bhagat asked each panelist to share one key insight from their experience building and scaling a successful review program.
For Beahm, it was that you need to just jump in and get started with review, even if you are unsure about what your customers will say. “The worst thing that can happen is people go looking for information about your product or your business and find nothing. Whether you get reviews that are negative, in the middle or positive, you can respond to it. But the worst thing is to do nothing, because that means people find nothing.”
“It’s about what levers can you pull and what’s gonna drive the most impact the fastest,” said Perino. For her team, authentic customer voice has been one of those key levers, and they are doubling down on reviews to optimize that program. “Find new and different ways to leverage that content and put it to work throughout your organization.”
“The end goal of your review strategy is not to get reviews,” concluded Wilfrid. “I like to think of reviews as stem cells. They can be converted into all sorts of different things, and they can plug in all across your entire customer journey, even beyond the sale into advocacy. If you have that mindset going into it, you’re more likely to be successful.”
Want to learn how reviews can supercharge your advocacy programs? Let’s talk.