If you want to increase sales you need to gather and display something I’m calling “Peer Proof” in all of your communications to your prospective buyers. Doing so will mean you can finally compete effectively against all of the companies in your industry that have already figured this out. In other words, if you aren’t doing it already, you are far, far behind.
I interview customers for my clients on an ongoing basis, and have for years. I can thus tell you, with absolute certainty, that all buyers—but especially those buying a business-to-business high-scrutiny product or service—seek first the advice of their working peers.
They reach out to or dive into the opinions of people they know. They also seek out the opinions of “people like me”—whom they have never met—who share their desires, concerns, and questions (which is something I call the customer’s Mindset when they set out to buy). They trust these people, because they have no vested interest in the purchase, they have bought and worked with those products and solutions, and are willing to share their personal experience.
I always like to take what I’ve learned from customers and clients, and turn it into practical, usable advice. So here goes.
Here is what you need to do, to provide the “Peer Proof” that your customers are looking for. Without it, all of your marketing will be uninspiring and easy to ignore; just more marketing blah-blah, the same old promises that dozens of your competitors are making.
How to use reviews to increase your sales
We are all familiar with the reviews in various e-commerce sites, and use them to make our buying decisions. I’ve had a number of people tell me they won’t even consider buying a product that doesn’t have any reviews.
And they don’t mind if there are a few negative reviews; they know that bad stuff can happen and some part of their brain says, “That won’t happen to me.” So a small percentage of negative reviews don’t put off potential buyers.
- Make sure you always respond to negative reviews as soon as they appear. Offer to help resolve the problem and be courteous in your reply. How you reply will factor heavily into the buying decision of anyone seeing the review and your response.
- Keep an eye on your reviews. If there are more negative than positive reviews, you have a serious problem that you need to address. That problem is a roadblock to your sales. “Find It, Face It, Fix It,” as we always say.
- Be aggressive about getting reviews. The “knowledge panel” for your company, which appears to the right of search engine results when someone types in your company name, should have at least five reviews. Here’s how to build up your very valuable collection:
- You want your customers to be able to conveniently leave you a review in that Google knowledge panel. Go to your Google My Business account, and look for a section called “Get more reviews,” and a “Share review form” button, shown below. Click it, and you should get a link like this one: https://g.page/ZhivagoPartners/review?gm. As you will see, it will link you to the review form that your customers can use to fill in. Very convenient.
- Add that review form link to your email signature and the footer of your website.
- Send an email to all of your customers with the link, and invite them to give you a review.
- Send the same email to all of your business partners and invite them to talk about how great it is to work with you.
- Post that link in your social channels monthly, nicely asking people to leave a review.
- Give your customer service people the link so they can ask the customer, at the end of a positive conversation, if the customer wouldn’t mind leaving a review. Then the support person can either email or text the link to the person.
- If your product or service is reviewed on other sites, keep tabs on them. Assign someone to check them on a regular basis, and to type your company name and the word “reviews” after it into Google on a weekly basis. Popular review sites include Amazon, Angi (formerly Angie’s List), Trustpilot, Quara, Capterra, G2, GetApp, and FinancesOnline. For a list of the top sites, see this article and this article.
- Make sure you also check the reviews people leave about your company on sites such as Payscale and GlassDoor. B2B buyers, especially when buying a high-ticket item, want to know what kind of company you are and how you treat employees. And, of course, any candidate thinking of working for your company will also check these resources.
- If you have a brick-and-mortar store, place a little placard with a QR code next to the cash register, which leads them to the Google Reviews link.
- If you have an e-commerce company, offer them the opportunity to leave a review as they check out and/or along with the order confirmation email. Also enclose a small card or flyer in the package you mail them, with a QR code or an easy-to-type URL they can use to leave you a review.
By the way, do not offer an incentive to anyone for leaving a review. If they like you, they will be happy to help you.
Keep up the requests. People pay very little attention to older reviews.
How to incorporate Peer Proof into your site
We often hear from B2B service clients that “it’s impossible to get an attributed review.” Not true, but it’s important to understand why, and how to get around it if you are faced with the same issue.
Inside larger corporations, the biggest motivator (or de-motivator) regarding buying decisions involves the absolute obsession with avoiding embarrassment.
When you first join a larger company, you get your own small and personal white board, which, although it is invisible, hangs in front of your chest. As you make mistakes, you get a little black mark on your white board. Make too many mistakes (they can’t be erased), and after a while no one will pay any attention to a single thing you say. You become irrelevant, which is terrible, as you know you will be fired as soon as they can figure out how to do it.
So buyers are very reluctant to pin their reputation onto any single solution.
There are several ways to deal with this.
- Ask anyway. Add a clause to your contract saying something like “after 3 months of positive service, we will ask for a review, which we may use in our marketing materials.” Your lawyer will help you draw something up. And, of course, after something wonderful happens in the course of you providing products or services, ask for a testimonial that you can put on your site or permission to feature them in a case study or success story.
- Hire someone to interview customers, then pull quotes from the transcriptions, and post them anonymously, citing “independent customer survey, [date]” as the source. Scatter these quotes throughout your site and other promotional vehicles.
When you post their comments or write success stories about them, without naming them, be very careful not to identify them in any possible way. It’s fine to say, “VP of Operations, Research Company”—which could be hundreds of companies, and protects the person involved.
If you do mention them, of course you must obtain permission ahead of time, preferably via email or another “in writing, digitally” method. And, give them the right to edit and approve whatever you have written.
Peer Proof has become one of the “absolutes” in your marketing mix. If you don’t have it, you will be constantly losing sales to your competitors who do have it. Set up a system, and go for it.