The Rise of the Review Economy — and How B2B Marketers Ignore Its Power at Their Peril

November 6, 2017

Review Economy

Editor's Note: This post is the first in our series "Rise of the Review Economy." This series examines the increasing impact of customer reviews in B2B marketing and is produced in conjunction with G2 Crowd.  

News Flash! The B2B buying process has changed— and it’s time for brands, products and services to adapt, quickly.   

With the rise of internet juggernauts like Amazon, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, consumers today expect honest, exhaustive transparency into all products and services— from groceries and home appliances to restaurants and other services. When was the last time you booked a hotel or ordered an item online without having prior, informed knowledge of the product? Exactly.

The evolution of the buying process has embraced the transparency provided by real user reviews. Recent research from Northwestern University shows that 95 percent of shoppers use online reviews before making a purchase.  And a product with five reviews has a 270 percent higher purchase likelihood than a product with zero reviews.

Today, the modern buying experience transcends beyond digital, physical, and interpersonal experiences because, ultimately, we want to make better economical decisions. We want to have more insight into the value, function, and reliability of products — information that we rely on peers for most often, and is often devoid of traditional advertising and brand messaging.

This is even more relevant for businesses and professionals. In fact, peer-to-peer, influencer, practitioner, colleague, and authenticated and verified user-reviews are today’s primary sources for pre-purchase B2B guidance, education, and research. We see this first hand, as 250,000+ LinkedIn authenticated and human verified user-reviews inform purchasing decisions for nearly one million monthly unique visitors on G2 Crowd.

For marketers to effectively leverage and tap into the power of B2B reviews, there are a few key trends and best practices to take note and advantage of.

Marketers Cannot Live By Branded Content Alone

First, accept that brand marketing and vendor-supplied content cannot drive new business exclusively. With approximately two-thirds of customers steering clear of branded content altogether, we must rethink how our brands build trust and condition consumers and professionals to champion our products and services. Stress test this against your own buying behaviors, both personal and professionals. We’ve all learned to make better, more informed purchases — priming ourselves to relentlessly seek the truth.

Market Your Products and Services to Solve Problems

Second, B2B buyers seek realistic expectations of products that will come close to meeting their needs — and brand affinity will not likely place vendors on the short list. Spend time evaluating how your products or solutions are marketed to solve business problems, and why (or why not) they complement or fit new and existing technology ecosystems.

The reality is that buyers are not looking for the perfect product, they are looking for the product that best fits their needs. A small business does not want to purchase a product designed for enterprise customers.  And if usability is their primary concern, then they are not searching for the product with the fastest implementation process. When you tell your product-story, provide an honest look at your strengths and help prospects find the best fit. In turn, they are more likely to become loyal customers.

In Reviews, Authenticity Wins

Third, if there are too many good reviews, buyers won’t believe it. Research from Northwestern University shows that products with an average star rating in the 4.2-4.7 range are MORE likely to be purchased than those with near-perfect ratings. This tells us that buyers are keen for honest, real opinions. In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint one single product or service that has only happy customers. Embrace the good and the bad about your offerings — and use this as a discussion point to qualify the investment and how it can address your customer’s business needs. In fact, critical reviews are an opportunity for vendors to publicly engage with dissatisfied customers and exhibit their customer service, which is central to any business relationship. These reviews can also reveal true product fit use cases, as well as insights into the strength and weakness of both you and your competitor’s product(s) and features.   

Leverage Unbiased Reviews

Last, vendors are quickly embracing the huge potential and benefits of reviews. Buyers want unbiased information to help find their optimal solution. Brands that are ahead of the curve leverage B2B reviews to sell to customers who are educated and ready to buy. As the 2018 goal and budgeting season is upon us, I highly recommend prioritizing and implementing a review strategy. Your competitors certainly are.  

Which leads us to this: Marketers, I challenge you to quickly search “(insert your product name) + reviews.” What did you find? I bet you’ll see customer reviews outranking your own SEO. That should be proof enough.

For more insights on how to leverage the power of customer reviews in B2B, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.