We’re living through an age defined by trust—and its troubling absence.
Declining public trust in politicians, big institutions, the media, and even other citizens has made our politics increasingly charged and confrontational. But as you might expect, problems of trust aren’t confined to the ballot box. They also affect how we navigate the marketplace as buyers and vendors.
On the buyer side, social media platforms have become search engines of choice for growing numbers of folks who prefer to do their own research, which includes listening to what other end-users have to say. Studies actually show that buyers trust other buyers more than companies to provide reliable information about what’s being sold. This gives companies a road map for earning buyer trust. The key move is to get help from customers themselves. Read on for more about exactly why and how.
Customers Trust Customers
The disconnect between customers and buyers, especially in the B2B arena, is well-documented. Vendors strongly influence fewer than 1 in 4 buyers’ purchasing decisions. But the vendors who do have a big impact are twice as likely to use candid user reviews about their products. A 2017 B2B buyers survey, the 7th annual such study by Demand Gen Report, found that nearly 9 in 10 B2B buyers want access to peer and user reviews. Nearly 7 in 10 said that such reviews play a big role in their purchasing process. Peer reviews help provide social proof of value that modern audiences find lacking in traditional advertising content. They’re a key asset for companies that want to earn buyer trust. So much for the “why.” But what about the “how?”
The Road Map
We’ve seen why the current crisis of confidence between buyers and sellers is far from hopeless. There’s a way forward that involves listening to and partnering with customers. But success requires following some important steps.
Set Benchmarks and Expectations
The best first step in running an effective review program is to define what you’ll count as success. Possible options include quantity of reviews, quantity of leads generated by reviews, a customer loyalty metric like Net Promotor Score, and others. Narrowing this down helps you fine-tune your program and establish benchmarks to measure progress towards whatever goals you set.
Don’t forget to calibrate and organize your efforts internally, too. Brainstorm around what and how many resources your company can realistically dedicate to the review program. Who among your staff can and should work on the program? Who’s going to take responsibility for its success? Do an honest assessment and adjust your benchmarks and expectations accordingly.
Know Your Audience
Getting clear on who your audience is and what they are like is another key tool for tailoring your program to capture results of value to your customers (and therefore to you). It will help you know which customers to
Research shows that customers investigating a product would rather hear about it from folks like them than from sales reps, executives, or marketing teams. Specifically, because multiple perspectives from different roles tend to offer a more complete overall view of things, customers understandably want to hear from a wide variety of other end-users.
Reach Your Audience
Reviewer diversity therefore adds strength to your review program. Seek it by casting a wide net. One way to source broad participation is to configure your user onboarding process to dispatch an email with a prompt for a short (2-4 sentence) review after a designated period of time (say, a few weeks) or after they perform a designated number of actions in the system.
Following up with users who connect to your brand via email or social channels is another good way to source diverse viewpoints. Cultivate these connections by inviting user feedback in email newsletters and other branded outreach. Don’t forget that here, as virtually everywhere, people respond to incentives that sweeten the deal. In exchange for candid reviews, offer coupons, discounts, merchandise, and whatever other enticements make sense in context.
Candor is more important than you might think given our troubling “post-truth” moment. For one thing, there's good evidence that you’ll earn more buyer trust with a negative review than with no review at all. Here again, buyer wariness of bias is understandable, so you want to give your audience a believably nuanced and well-rounded view of your brand, not an unbelievably rosy one.
For all these reasons, when you ask your audience for reviews, it pays to tell them outright that what you especially want is uncensored feedback. They’ll be more likely to give you the sort of information that you know potential customers want, and the gesture itself may help build credibility and trust.
Credibility is in crisis, and social proof is a big part of the remedy. End-users are your most valuable source for the unfiltered feedback about your brand that it needs to succeed in a time when buyer confident, trust, and credibility can no longer be taken for granted, but must be earned.
Adam A. Glenn writes about tips and trends in digital marketing and social media for TrustRadius.
He is an avid reader whose extracurricular interests include hiking, vintage pop culture, and messing around with music.