Challenge: Companies promote their products and services via direct marketing, advertising, events and more – but still can’t achieve the impact they need. How about a 10x boost?
We are all bombarded with messages every day – online, offline and even when we are on the sidelines. Therefore buyers have been desensitized to vendors claims – faster, better, cheaper and will even make you more attractive! First off – we make every attempt to ignore ads thrust at us: we skip ads with our DVR, we try to ignore banner ads on websites and we page quickly past print ads. When we want ‘real’ or ‘untainted’ advice, we look for online reviews by other users. Amazon’s use of product reviews has completely transformed the buying process. We reach out to our social networks to find feedback from customers just like us. What is the value of a positive review? Huge. Just check out all the controversy about Yelp recommendations – because the reviews matter.
Depending on the study, analysts report that 70% or more of the purchase process is made before the buyer visits the vendor’s website. The dramatic rise of social media use by companies further explains this trend as they try to reach up further into the buying cycle. There are an increasing number of social groups for B2B as well. Certainly LinkedIn has many groups targeted at various professions. PracticeFusion and Spiceworks are focused social communities serving medical IT professionals. These are communities where professionals can get answers to their questions and read reviews of products.
In the end, any vendor claim is just that – a claim. However a claim made by an actual user is trusted and valued. Hence, in my math, vendor claims are worth one point and user claims are worth ten points. While not scientific, I think we would all agree that real user feedback is the real deal. So how do you facilitate and support these reviews, comments and posts? You need customer advocates – customers who love your company and product so much that they are willing to spend time telling others. The experience of using your product must be so compelling that they want to raise their own reputation by talking about it. The customer service and other support you provide around your product must surprise and exceed your customer expectations. Your customers need to think – ‘Wow, that was great!’
So how do you give your customers this goose-bump moment? You need to open your company and your product up to your buyers by doing some or any of the following:
- Give them free product or other recognition in return for product feedback
- Be honest and humble when they give you candid feedback
- Listen and respond to their input; more importantly update your product with their feedback
- Show them you care – by giving them first access to your next product
- When you stumble, acknowledge it and correct it
- Make your product dramatically better than anything they have seen before
In sum, give them reasons to be so excited about your product or company that they want to share their experience. Help them reinforce their status as mavens in the community by giving them something new to share with the community. Show your lead customers the respect they deserve.
Lesson: You post about your product – 1 point. Your customer posts about your product – 10 points. Find ways to create groups of advocates who will support and amplify your efforts.