Ever wondered what people say about you behind your back? If it’s your business they’re talking about, this isn’t mere paranoia – your survival is at stake. Online reviews are read by anywhere from 67-97% of consumers, depending on which study you cite.
There is less data available about how B2B companies are affected by online reviews than there is for B2C companies. But I don’t think that gets B2Bers off the hook. We are people, after all, whether we’re in B2B or B2C. And while buying decisions in B2B are often more complex, it’s still people making those decisions – and those people are swayed by online reviews.
There are also plenty of circumstances when it’s obvious that even pure B2B businesses are affected by online reviews.
- Employee review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.
- If you’re a SAAS biz, on sites like GetApp.com and Product Hunt. Or Spiceworks and G2.
- Industry-wide research reports or surveys of what people think of different B2B services.
So while we don’t talk as much about online reviews for B2B companies, it’s not like B2Bers are in a review-free environment. Reviews also carry more weight when you put them in context.
Well, online reviews are basically just digitized word of mouth marketing. And if you add in businesses’ responsibility to respond to how they are reviewed, we tip into the territory of customer service.
It doesn’t end there. Expand your focus just a bit and you might think of customer reviews as a way for customers to tell their stories. Really positive customer stories, of course, are sometimes known as case studies. And they do pretty well in terms of results, too.
One last point about why online reviews matter just as much for B2B marketers as for their B2C friends. Remember the Corporate Executive Board survey that found B2B buyers complete 60 percent of the purchase process before they ever directly engage with a vendor? Some of that “pre-purchase research” will be reading online reviews.
Of course, if you’re a local business, you’ll already be fully aware of how important online reviews are. You’ve run into the influence of Yelp and Google Local already.
I hope that makes it clear how critical online reviews are to B2B companies. And so now that I’ve got your attention, here’s what you need to know – and what you need to do – about your own company’s online reviews.
1. A one-star increase in your rating score can increase revenue 5-9%.
That’s according to a Harvard Business School study by Michael Luca. Luca studied the effects of Yelp ratings for independent restaurants, cross-checking them with data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. His conclusion was that every star boosts revenue by 5-9%.
Of course, that’s not a B2B study (though some restaurants definitely benefit from their business clientele) and it’s only for one segment of an industry. But it does give us a clue about how valuable positive reviews can be.
By the way … that’s a great measurement to help you decide if launching a review program – aka an “advocacy marketing program” – is worthwhile. How much is 5 to 9% of your company’s revenue worth? What would it cost to create enough of a program to increase your rating by one star?
2. Each negative review costs the average business about 30 customers/clients.
That’s according to a 2009 Convergys Corporation study, and I can’t imagine that the effect isn’t still with us. You can calculate how much just one bad review might cost you with this free calculator.
3. More reviews are better, but even a few can help a lot.
This is a chart based on B2C company data, but I find it so compelling I’m including it anyway. Some marketers might think that having no online reviews is somewhat good news – nobody’s complaining, right? But you stand to actually increase sales by getting more reviews.
So ask yourself: Given the data shown in this chart, how much would it be worth to you to get a 30% lift in orders? Then figure out if you can set up an advocacy marketing program for less than that.
As you can see, they’re definitely not a top-tier ranking signal. But they help! Both for reviews on Google Local and for third-party sites.
How many reviews do you need to see a difference? BazaarVoice says the magic number is eight or more.
And how much more traffic can you expect? According to BazaarVoice, 15-25%.
5. Your Google reviews will show up in the search listings.
Ratings can effect how many click-throughs your pages get in the search results, too. If you’ve got reviews for your Google local account, they’ll appear as part of your search listing, as stars. When your searcher clicks the stars, the reviews open up.
That could positively – or negatively – affect how many clicks your search engine listings get. Google estimates that just having the star reviews next to your listing increases click-through rates by 17%. And that click-through rate, in turn, could move your listings closer to the top in the results.
There’s more: Google Local reviews also show up on Google Maps.
6. Negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise.
They sure won’t look like (or feel like it) it up front, but two or one-star reviews can help you. How? Three ways.
- A few bad reviews sprinkled in lend an air of legitimacy to your other reviews. Online users are savvy and skeptical – they know reviews get manipulated sometimes. Seeing a negative or tepid review verifies we’re not looking at paid or fabricated reviews. And that’s not just my opinion: According to Econsultancy, “68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores.”
- Less-than-glowing feedback might reveal a business issue you weren’t aware of before. It may be legitimate feedback about your business that you need to fix.
According to Trackur, 96% of unhappy customers will never complain to the company they’re peeved with. But they will mention their complaint to fifteen friends.
Other research (albeit a bit old) from Covergys confirms that most customers won’t complain… they’ll just leave.
- If you reply to the negative review intelligently, you could change the perception the reviewer has of your company. Even if you can’t woo them, everyone who reads your response will hear your side of the story. They’ll see you care about your customers’/clients’ experiences. That builds trust.
Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local stressed and restressed how important it is to always reply to a negative comment in a webinar he did, “5 Hacks to Turn Negativity Online Into Rave Reviews” earlier this year. His most pointed? Never delete or ignore bad reviews. You’ll only make matters worse.
Case in point: The musician Dave Carroll, whose guitar was broken on a United Airlines flight. Dave complained on social media to the airline, but they deleted his complaint. So he took it to YouTube. His song, “United Breaks Guitars,” has been seen by over 15 million people. It made a $180 million dollar dent in United’s stock value.
7. Don’t forget the Better Business Bureau – and all the other lesser known B2B review sites.
Don’t limit yourself to just Google Local and Yelp. The granddaddy of online review sites – the Better Business Bureau – is still alive and kicking, thank you very much. If you haven’t checked your company’s listing recently, you’d do well to go do that now.
Also check these popular B2B review sites:
- Angie’s List
It is acceptable to ask your customers to review you on all these sites – except for Yelp. They have an unusual but very strict policy about that. Also, reviews may note that the reviewer was solicited.
Just one last tip: Don’t wait to ask people to write you a review. The longer it’s been since their happy experience, the less likely they are to write a review. Or to remember exactly why they were so delighted. So ask early: No more than a week after the transaction or a customer service exchange.
B2B marketers need to be thinking about their online reviews just as much as B2C marketers do. That may mean actively getting more reviews, but it definitely means monitoring the places where people are likely to review your company. It also means having a policy in place for what you’re going to say when someone does leave you a negative review. It’s not okay to just ignore it. And it’s not okay to let a lot of time go by.
What do you think?
Are you monitoring or responding to the online reviews your company gets? What’s your policy for negative reviews? Please tell us how it’s going, even if your company policy right now is just to pretend online reviews don’t exist.
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