We’ve all had the dream where we walk into an important presentation naked. While it may sound scary, exposing yourself as a company isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your customers are already talking about you on review sites, so it’s important to accept exposure and turn it into a competitive advantage. In her Advocamp 2016 AMP Talk, Adrienne Weissman, Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer at G2 Crowd, explains why it’s vital to develop a review strategy and empower your customers to talk about you rather than resisting them.

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Who doesn’t love to talk about being naked? In my household of three young children, when we talk about being naked, there’s a lot of laughing and giggling and it’s uncomfortable. My 10 year old daughter has asked me, “Mom, what do you talk about when you go to work?”

I say, “I talk about being naked,” and they say, “It’s super weird that you talk about it at work.” I said, “I do, but when we talk about it at work, it’s not about being literally naked. It’s about being transparent.”

When thinking about what we do at G2 Crowd, some of the conversations we’ve had are thinking about being naked. We’ve all had that dream where you’re going to work or into a presentation. You’re totally prepared, and then you walk on stage and you’re naked or in your underwear.

What happens is that your subconscious is telling you that you’re feeling vulnerable and that you’re not as prepared as you thought. For today’s conversation, I want to talk more about being vulnerable, being comfortable with being exposed, and allowing your customers to talk about you.

Thoughts on being naked

I did not have that dream last night, thankfully, but think about that in context. Any public speaking course is about being naked and thinking about your audience naked. When people are looking for software solutions to solve a problem for them, they’re feeling vulnerable. They don’t know and they need more information. They’re looking to peers and to their network to provide more information to them.

Innovation has allowed people to find other people like them really easily, so it’s no longer about your neighbors or your friends. A lot of times, I think my friends outside of work do totally different things than I do and have done in the past. They think I’m crazy for getting excited about the B2B space. Most of the time, people think it’s boring.

I think it’s actually more challenging and a lot more interesting. You’re talking about things that are not normally super exciting to talk about, but when you really understand what people are trying to do and what they’re trying to solve for, I liken it to the same challenges that my friends are doing in the B2C world. They’re trying to solve problems or provide a solution or a product that is relevant to their needs.

Today’s digital age has done a nice job of allowing me to find people who are most like me, who run businesses similar to the ones I run and have some of the same challenges. I think LinkedIn is a perfect example of that. I no longer have to tap into my peer network who may not have exactly the same challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis. Instead, I can reach out to other people like me and ask them what they’re using and what they’re doing to find the next and best way to solve problems.

I think what we’re finding is that customers are in control, and I think most of us understand that. On G2 Crowd, we were at 62,000 reviews at the end of last week. We are already up to 63,100 reviews as of this morning. I think that’s fantastic news. At the end of January, we were at 600,000 unique visitors per month coming to the site, which means B2B professionals are coming to our site to find out the most relevant product for them.

We’re growing at an extremely rapid pace. People are finding our information and the reviews that we are collecting and sharing very relevant. We have over 100,000 LinkedIn verified users, which means the audience coming to our site and writing reviews and signing up are professionals. They’re all authenticating through their LinkedIn identity, so when they write reviews, we know who they are. We know who they work for. They can’t write a review about their product or a competitor’s, so it’s an honest review.

Make buying easier for your prospects

Buyers are smart. They’re doing a lot of their own homework before they even talk to you or are engaged in your nurture funnel or your marketing programs. They are out there searching daily. When you type in X product plus reviews or a category of products plus reviews, you tend to find that G2 Crowd is number one or two in most cases in organic search results. We trade spots with Glassdoor often on that ranking.

What we know is that people, if they’re looking to go work for a company, are reading about product reviews to understand what kind of company they’re going to go work for, how they treat their customers, and whether their product is good.

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Alternatively, when they’re looking at products to buy, they end up going to Glassdoor to better understand what employees are saying about the companies that they’ve been working for. I’m not surprised that we flip spots with Glassdoor, but I think it’s quite interesting when you start to look at where people are going and where they’re finding information. A lot of the work that we’ve done with our SEO has proven itself to be really relevant.

We’re not always number one or two. There are other review sites in the space and I think what’s most important for today’s conversation is to really think about having an overall review strategy. It’s not one place that is my source of all information. I want to get really good, interesting perspectives from lots of different places, whether it’s my peers from LinkedIn, my friends, or review sites that have relevant information.

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We could talk about all of these great stats. I think a lot of these stats are awesome to have right now because we’ve all known, as marketers and sellers of products, that word of mouth is huge. It’s been really difficult for us to define exactly what the percentages are of people who are influencing purchases along the way. Now, we have that. We have it more specifically for B2B. It’s been really easy to do for B2C, but now we see it for B2B.

At the end of the day, I think our world is changing dramatically in that professionals are consumers. A lot of the work I did at LinkedIn was talking about the “prosumer” and that applies very much here today. People want to be treated as people. They want to be heard. If they have an issue, they want to know that you are going to be listening to them and trying to help solve their problems.

What’s most important here is to have a review strategy. It’s already happening, whether you like it or not. People are out there engaging with review sites. They’re inputting information. They want to share what  they know. It’s a nice way to continue to build their identity as a professional and build credibility about what they’re working on and the success they’ve seen with their career.

Much like I get a personal recommendation from people that I worked for to put on my LinkedIn profile, G2 Crowd has become the destination of people who are writing reviews to say, “This product made me exponentially more successful and productive. I implemented it at a low cost and I saved my company X amount of dollars.”

It’s a really nice way for your customers to put themselves out there as professionals, and also a way for them to showcase how they’ve used your product and why it’s been successful for them.

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What’s also important to remember is not everybody is going to be happy. I know that’s a lot easier said than done. It really plays into that idea of being naked and exposed.

The reality is, when I look at review sites and I’m trying to figure out whether to take my three kids on a vacation, I really need to know what the best place to stay with kids 10 and under. I find really interesting reviews. Some are really positive and some are really negative. When I look at some of the negatives, I find that they don’t apply to me. They may not have liked that there was not the appropriate selection of Dino Bite chicken nuggets, and I don’t really care about that.

At the end of the day, you have to trust that prospects are smart. They’re going to read through the reviews. You’re asking them to make a very large software purchase. By letting them see what issues have been noted or what other people have faced, they may automatically negate it. That review may not apply to them because it may not apply to their job search or what they’re trying to solve for. Don’t be afraid of the negative review.

The other part of a negative review that’s really important to think about is that it’s a nice way to showcase how you as a brand can engage with those customers who are not happy. It’s a nice way for you to respond to them when they may not feel like they’re being heard.

Whenever I see a negative review, or a review that’s changed because of an engagement with a customer success team, I notice that people will be very critical when they think somebody’s not listening to them, but they will also be very willing to praise when somebody has tried to help them solve their problem.

You may not be able to solve their problem—and there are some people who are never going to be happy—but the reality is, you’re trying. You’re treating them with respect and you’re engaging and you’re listening.

I think most smart professionals know that not everybody is going to be happy. Give them the opportunity to decide for themselves what a negative review means to them. They can discount it or add it into the question set of how they’re going to engage with you.

Three reasons to expose yourself

Like I said before, future customers will find you. They’re finding you already. This is now a time where brands that are new and emerging and really evolving are able to compete on an even playing field with brands that have hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in a marketplace and really get their message out there.

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Now is the time where we are empowering smaller brands that are emerging into the marketplace to actually have a voice on par with some of these brands that have naturally been the leaders in the marketplace.

A lot of times those leaders in the marketplace are paying to have that leader position. In this environment, it is your customers embracing the ability to write what they know. It’s also your ability to  showcase it in a meaningful way. Whether it’s a good review or a bad review, it’s true, and so it is not going to influence how you are rated or ranked on G2 Crowd. It is all determined on market size, the number of reviews you have, and ultimately what people are saying about your product.

You should develop a review strategy. Like I said, we are not the only one out there. I personally think we are doing a really great job. There are lots of other brands doing a nice job, but given the volume that we’re seeing and what is happening in the marketplace, G2 Crowd is leading.

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You should have a review strategy. I go to other review sites all the time and I want to understand what they’re doing well, what we can improve on, and what people are finding interesting about the information that they’re finding. Whether it’s a small business, medium, or enterprise, we have all of them. We have customers that are 10,000 plus employees down to small businesses. I think what’s important is to have the range and be able to pick and choose what kind of information your prospects are able to find.

A lot of us are here today to implement advocacy programs. Implement them. It will do wonders for your job and the company. Build trust with prospects with user reviews. Let customers speak on your behalf. Don’t be afraid of it. They’re doing it already, and it’s outside of what your branding standards are saying. It’s outside of what exactly marketing wants to be said, but at least it’s real and it’s honest. Try to embrace it and add it into the flow of the conversation that you’re having from your overall marketing strategy.

It creates opportunities for involvement, both from customers who are really happy to those who are less happy or neutral. When we go to user conferences, there are customers who are crazy fans of that product. They’ve done a lot of good for that company. You also have people who are considering buying that product, so you’ve got your prospects. You also have those that are not so happy.

When you have those who are neutral, it’s important that you include them in the fun and you include them in the “Hey, you might not naturally be my best customer.” By allowing them to be a good voice and a voice that is counter to the others, it gives them an opportunity to be involved and an opportunity to change the opinion of the company and give feedback back to the product team. Again, I can’t encourage it enough: don’t be afraid of the negative review.

Another couple of things are social sharing and the opportunities for involvement there. Digital karma is alive and well. I think millennials are doing an excellent job of giving back. What they put out there, they want back. I think that a lot of us who have been in the workforce much longer than a lot of the millennials are thinking about this the same way. At least I do. I like to give back. I like to share what I know. Hopefully, because I share what I know, others are willing to share back with me and I become a much smarter, more evolved, and wiser seller and marketer as a result.

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It’s a launchpad for up and coming influencers. People like to showcase the work they’re doing. We now are able to showcase it in a very meaningful way via LinkedIn, G2 Crowd, Quora, et cetera.

Lastly, it’s a nice place to share product updates and NPS scores—real time feedback with what’s happening with the product. You may have released a new feature that’s not going so well. It’s a great way to aggregate a lot of information and share it with your product team to make adjustments and changes quickly.

Adrienne’s key review strategy takeaways

  1. Expose your brand. Take the naked pledge. Get naked with us. It is fun. It is silly. People will laugh, but really, it is a very serious topic. I think it’s important to know people are doing it. Go ahead and get on the bandwagon. Those who have embraced it are seeing great success and would be willing to share what success they’re seeing from these kinds of programs. It’s a great way to create demand.
  1. People are searching, and they’re finding. They’re engaging with the information. They’re also raising hands because they’re either at the beginning stages of their funnel or mid-funnel, and they’re at a place where they’re getting ready to make a decision.
  1. It’s a really nice way to engage with customers. When they are on G2 Crowd, they can raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’d like to hear more information about this product.” It is a real-time lead that goes to you. Your team can start nurturing them through the funnel.
  1. Last, but not least, think about maintaining your customer loyalty. It’s not just your best customers that you need to take care of and that you can have as loyal customers. Those customers who you have been listening to and trying to help are also very loyal. They are equally as important to you, in that they can share with others how they have been treated when things were not going that great for them.

That’s it. Please take the naked pledge!

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