According to a 2015 Capterra survey, software companies with online reviews get 22% more traffic to their website and 79% more leads compared with vendors without reviews.

Not only that, but 88% of people trust these reviews as much as they trust the opinions of their own family and friends.

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These are two of many reasons why B2B brands should actively (not passively) drive their customers to write more reviews.

However, many companies don’t do this because they don’t realize they have the power to mobilize their customers on their behalf.

Ray Lau, Customer Advocacy Marketing Manager at PowerDMS, is one of the rare few who has who has fully realized this power.

How does he do it?

Ray consistently asks his customers for feedback during the product development process.

Not only does this give him valuable insights to bring back to his product team, but it also makes it easier to ask for reviews after, since customers feel more invested in products and connected to the PowerDMS brand.

Ray recently gave away his trade secrets about how PowerDMS uses an advocate marketing platform to enhance their products, marketing, and online reviews in an Influitive webinar.

Watch the full video below or read on for the key takeaways from the discussion:

Building relationships through customer feedback

Asking customers for feedback during the product development process helps forge strong relationships that will make it easier to ask them for reviews later.

Here are a few ways Ray gets his advocates involved in PowerDMS’s product development process:

1. Design feedback

Your biggest customer advocates actually want to help your team, so why not open up the floor to their input while developing new features?

They’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that their opinions will help shape your product development. Plus, they’ll feel like insiders when they get to see prototypes before anyone else—all while helping you source critical feedback from the very users you are ultimately releasing to.

“Feedback can span the entire life cycle from beginning of the product idea to it actually being in the customer’s hands,” says Ray.

When Ray’s team was stuck discussing the pros and cons between several design options for a new icon, he realized the best solution was to go directly to their customers through their advocacy program and ask.

The result? A quick and easy decision based on feedback, that made their advocates feel powerful and heard.

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2. Roadmap suggestions

Wondering what direction to move in when building new features for your product? Ask your advocates.

Reach out to your customers for feedback about their pain points and what they would like to see next—then thank them for their input through your advocate marketing program with some kind words and some points.

But you’ll often find that the real reward for advocates is the feeling of accomplishment they get from knowing your team seriously values and considers their opinions.

Ray received over 3,000 pieces of feedback since introducing his advocacy program, providing his product team with crucial insights into what to prioritize and develop.

3. Beta testers

Selecting customers for beta testing is a great way to test drive your new features in the real world, while also making those advocates feel special. Pick customers who will benefit most from the new functionality, and who have the time to provide detailed feedback.

If your advocacy program and feedback requests are done through marketing, make sure marketing and product teams are aligned. At PowerDMS, Ray ensures that there are bridges between departments, and that the feedback collected is passed off to the appropriate teams. Ray also has quarterly meetings with the VP of Product to discuss exclusive sneak peeks at product releases for his team’s webinars.

Leveraging customer advocates for reviews

Once Ray had engaged his advocates in the product feedback process, it was easy to ask these happy customers for online reviews since they had become so invested in the product direction. Ray also kept nurturing his advocates with a mix of fun and educational challenges to balance his team’s “asks” with his advocates’ own learning.

According to a G2 Crowd study on the impact of advocate marketing on product reviews, companies with advocate marketing programs receive an average of 17.5x more reviews than companies without.

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Here’s how Ray leveraged his program (run on Influitive’s AdvocateHub) to generate 230 online reviews on third party websites:

1. Gamify the experience

Advocate marketing programs that utilize gamification make it fun and rewarding for customers to complete acts of advocacy, like leaving reviews. Ray likes using AdvocateHub because “it gamifies the entire advocate experience by tying points to actions like giving a product review, which will bring you closer to a reward in our catalogue.”

The rewards Ray provides at PowerDMS include items like Apple Watches, training courses, and “rockstar tours” where the company flies down advocates to their headquarters. “These things catch your eye, makes it fun for the advocate, and easy for them to feel like they’re obtaining something.”

powerdms advocatehub screenshot

                                    A look inside PowerDMS’s AdvocateHub

Ray drove advocates to leave reviews on top review sites like G2Crowd, TrustRadius, and Capterra (where many prospects go to look for solutions like PowerDMS’s).

He also uses other review channels like Google Play for their mobile applications. Ray says that one of the most successful outcomes of their advocate program is driving reviews to these different channels.

“Whenever someone is searching for policy management software on Capterra, they’ll say to themselves ‘Wow, PowerDMS has a hundred more reviews than anybody else on this listing.’ It really helps us to stand out from the crowd,” says Ray.

2. Leverage negative sentiment

By opening yourself up to genuine reviews, it’s inevitable that you will encounter negative sentiment. This isn’t the end of the world, however. In fact, negative reviews make your online reviews seem more legit—no one trusts a product with only 5 star reviews. Plus in many cases, negative reviews present a great opportunity to take legitimate criticism to improve your product or service.

They also give you the opportunity to see which customers may need more training or help to succeed—thereby reducing churn.

“Hug your haters,” Ray says, alluding to Jay Baer’s popular book by the same name, which encourages customer experience professionals to give extra kindness and attention to their harsh critics. “This is a really good opportunity to do that.”

You can respond to these negative reviews head-on to acknowledge customers and reassure them that you value their feedback—good or bad. Be sure to thank them for taking the time to write a review, and let them know of any new releases or products that may address their pain points in the near future.

You can also route a negative review to the best person in your company to respond. For instance, a product-related issue might be better addressed by a member of the product team, rather than marketing.

One clever way to respond to negative reviews with your AdvocateHub is to create a Challenge asking your advocates to respond to the review by adding some additional feedback or context to get a conversation started.

You don’t need to ask them to refute the criticism outright, you can just ask them to add their own insights. Perhaps they have an alternate perspective, or a workaround they can contribute to the discussion.

3. Measure impact

With certain review sites like Capterra, Ray is able to see if there was a request for more information from the review. He also makes sure to align with lead qualification specialists in asking prospects how they heard about PowerDMS, and captures this in their CRM. That way, if a lead is sourced through the review site, they can attribute it accordingly.

By making a strict effort to understand where leads are coming from, Ray has been able to attribute much of their growth to the reviews provided by their advocates.

Advocates are thrilled to be a part of your product development and more than happy to leave reviews for you, as you engage and thank them along the way.

“It’s just a great way for our advocates to feel like they’re connected to shaping our product,” says Ray.

Curious to hear more of Ray’s insights? Watch full Advochat session recording here.

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