Reviews are nothing new. People care deeply about getting high-quality services and want to be certain that they are investing their hard-earned money well. Before everyone could access a computer or smartphone to rate services in quantities like stars, people relied on word of mouth, which consisted of people either giving an oral or written review of something.
Of course, thanks to the internet, reviews are easier than ever to give and receive. They are also more than an opportunity for customers to vent their frustrations or praise a service they really love; reviews also help consumers make more informed decisions.
When most people think of reviews, they often think of tangible things: that sleek new gadget, a convenient kitchen appliance. Nonetheless, reviews matter just as much to B2B companies––if not more so, since B2B offers services in which businesses invest significant sums of money in hope of seeing tremendous growth and progress. For example, many B2B companies provide services that are necessary for other businesses to grow such as financial services or consultations. Reviews are just as necessary for B2B interactions, and more than 50% use reviews before using a vendor.
However, there may be more to the story of online reviews than just finding the best service.
Most business owners understand the importance of SEO, how it determines how high you rank in search engine results and that a higher ranking usually equals more visibility for your brand. Research has shown that search engine optimization is twenty times more effective at increasing website traffic than a paid advertisement. This means that as a business it is much more worthwhile to focus your efforts on SEO and zeroing in on the right keywords.
That said, you can also boost SEO with help of your loyal customers, in the form of Google reviews. Not only do such reviews boost your authority and show potential clients that you have a solid reputation. For many B2B review sites, the company with the most positive reviews appears first on the search list. In fact, Google cites reviews as making up 10% of the criteria that determine search results.
Reviews with visually appealing elements such as stars also help to increase search engine optimization. Google estimates that having a star rating in your reviews helps to increase your click-through rate by 17% thus moving your listing closer to the top of the results. Again, stars do so much more than quantify to prospective clients that people trust you and your services. They signal to search engines like Google that you qualify to rank toward the top.
While we sometimes like to deny it, humans have an innate desire to be accepted by the group. While we may have evolved past the need to be in a group in order to survive attacks from prehistoric animals, it is still hardwired in our brains that we need to be accepted by the group.
This behavior reflects how prospective clients view your services. They want to be certain that they are enlisting reputable services that will not reflect poorly on them. That is where social proof comes into play.
Social proof by definition states that people will conform in order to be liked by, similar to, or accepted by others. The “others” can be anyone from clients (current or prospective) to fellow clients. This is why testimonials can be such an effective tool. Subconsciously, when we hear people’s testimonials about a service or product through a review, we tend to believe them, or at least want to believe them lest our experience and views stray too far from the norm.
A study by the Wall Street Journal captured the phenomenon of social proof perfectly. The study focused on trying to persuade consumers to decrease their energy usage by running a fan instead of an air conditioner. The participants were told that they would save $54 a month, that it would prevent the release of 262 pounds of greenhouse gases monthly, and that 77% of their neighbors had already made the switch to using fans. The majority of people who agreed to switch to using fans admitted to doing so because their neighbors had.
Because of social proof, the more people believe that others are doing something that they are not doing (such as using a good/service), the more that they want to change what they are doing in order to fit in.
This means that let the reviews roll in, and you’ll see your business grow for it.
The more reviews there are, the more customers believe in the legitimacy of a company. As we have already established above, reviews are often the first place many people will turn to learn more about a service, its quality, and the customer service offered. As many as 72% of all consumers do not even consider enlisting a service until they have looked at several reviews. Needless to say, you want your clients to vouch for you.
All that said, try not to get too discouraged by a less-than-stellar review every once in a while. In fact, all glowing reviews can make potential clients skeptical of your business, as they may see all the glowing praise as “too good to be true.” People understand too well that just about anyone can write a review, which may lead them to believe that some of those positive reviews are fake.
According to one survey, 68% of consumers trust online reviews more when they see both negative and positive reviews. Thirty percent of consumers believe that there is censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see a negative review.
So, don’t let a negative review ruin your day. It might be the key to increasing your company’s reputation.
Brand trust is that the quality of the goods or services that a company promises matches the consumer’s expectations for that product or service. Brand trust is especially important in B2B dealings because of the length of time that the businesses work together and the amount of people.
How can businesses build brand trust solely through reviews?
One way is through the amount of reviews. In one study, 85% of buyers felt like they didn’t start to trust a company until they had read at least ten reviews.
Another way to build brand trust is through influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that uses trusted leaders to bring your message to the market. While it is more of an advertisement than a traditional unpaid online review, it does help build brand trust.
Influencer marketing doesn’t even have to involve a celebrity or social media influencer. A great example of this are toothpaste commercials. Almost every toothpaste brand seems to come out with a commercial that says something along the lines of nine out of ten dentists recommend our toothpaste. We never actually see these dentists in the commercials, but because dentists are trusted members of society, we believe their opinion on the toothpaste.
While the example is a business to consumer transaction, the same is true for business to business dealings. In one study, the respondents expressed that advertising was equally important as customer testimonials to build brand trust.
Brand trust is built not only through the amount of quality reviews, but also through the credibility of the person giving the review. It is very important for a company to have unbiased reviews, but it doesn’t hurt to have the stamp of approval from someone trusted as well.
B2B vs B2C
No matter if you are a business selling to another business or a consumer, we are all human and therefore follow our hardwired instincts from social proof to confirmation bias.
However, there is a key difference when it comes to B2B and B2C: Risk.
In a B2C interaction, the consumer is often buying a product like a cell phone or a service like a haircut. While there is monetary risk while buying these goods/services, the risk is largely individual and doesn’t affect others.
A B2B deal is very different. Usually, the business is looking to work with the other business for an extended period of time. The decision to work with another business affects the collective of the company and more money is involved.
Reviews for B2B require more in depth testimonials that explain not only what it is like to work with a company but also return on investment and implementation time.
This is why reviews for B2B are so important. The company needs to know what they are getting themselves into before they sign the contract.
The Danger of Third-Party Sites
One of the best places to get reviews are third-party sites such as Yelp―there is no denying that. But there is often a Catch-22.
As established earlier, a negative review or two is not necessarily a cause for concern. In fact, the presence of such reviews may signal to prospective clients that you are genuine. When there are no negative reviews, people are often suspicious that there are deleted or fake reviews.
What is not mentioned when listing your business on a third-party review site is that once there is a negative review, all of the positive reviews are removed from the website. In order to regain the positive reviews, the third-party site wants your business to pay a marketing fee.
Not every third-party site is made equal, so you should research each one thoroughly. Make a list of trustworthy sites that you want to list your company on and research their credibility before you trust the reviews on them.
Tips for Reviews
- Since third-party review websites can often be untrustworthy or delete your positive reviews, it is a good idea to add a review section to your company’s website.
- Encourage your customers to write a review as soon as possible after working together to ensure that the review is as accurate as possible, and that they write one in a timely manner.
- Respond to customer reviews, especially negative ones to show that your company cares about the quality of service.
- Don’t stress over one bad review. If it becomes a trend, re-evaluate, but a negative review can build credibility!
- If your company has the money, look into an influencer to review your product or service. A credible person giving a review subconsciously builds trust in the customer.
Online reviews are necessary not only for businesses who sell to consumers, but they are also necessary for businesses who work with another business.
Reviews improve a company’s search engine optimization by increasing their ranking in search results. It is also human nature for a customer to trust a business with more reviews because of the phenomenon of social proof. People instinctively like to fit in with the rest of the group which means that after hearing enough testimonials from others, they are more likely to follow suit and buy from your company.
However, people lose trust if they only see positive reviews, so it is within a business’ best interest to have a few negative reviews in order to build credibility. The credibility of a company is also built through brand trust. This can be gained through the amount of reviews, but also from the use of influencer marketing. While influencer marketing may be a paid review, a recommendation from a trusted person helps build trust in the customer whether they realize it or not.
The way people give reviews may have changed from the tradition of word by mouth that has existed from the dawn of humankind to the written online reviews of the digital age. However, one truth has always remained: humans rely on each other’s experiences. Without hearing each other’s reviews whether it is over a financial advisor or which streams have the cleanest drinking water, humans wouldn’t have survived as long as we have.
So, no matter if you are B2C or B2B, encourage customer reviews. Your business and customers will do nothing but thank you for it.