A marketing team brainstorming how to respond to an online review given by an unhappy customer
PHOTO: You X Ventures/Unsplash

Social proof is vital for driving sales in highly competitive B2B industries, 92.4% of B2B buyers in a recent survey stated they're more likely to purchase a product after reading a trusted review, but only one in five companies are actively using reviews to build social proof. Vendors in the software space are generally aware of the power of customer and partner reviews. Is it sufficient to have a few reviews and case studies on the vendor's website, or do software vendors need to be more proactive when it comes to gathering and showing off social proof?

Marketing experts discuss why social proof matters for B2B brands and recommend how to get more trusted reviews from their existing customers.

Why Social Proof Matters for B2B Brands

"Much of the buying process is complete before a vendor is even aware of it," stated Kate Adams, senior director of demand generation at Drift. That's because most people research solutions to problems on their own before contacting specific software vendors. Buyers inevitably find actual users and their real testimonials to be more trustworthy sources of information than sales teams at software vendors. 

For B2B software vendors, most social proof will be in the form of customer reviews on websites like G2 Crowd or Capterra. "[Reviews] offer an easily accessible, unbiased look into what working with a particular solution will be like," said Salvador Lopez, marketing manager at Magnolia International. It's a way for potential customers to cut through the clutter, and get an idea of how actual users feel about the product. Using trusted reviews, Lopez added, "the buyer can feel better about which promises a vendor can actually deliver on before going deeper into the vendor selection process."

Not only do reviews let prospects "get a sense of your product without having to engage with sales before they're ready," explained Alexandra Barcelona, director of marketing at dotCMS, but reviews also give "a sense of what it's like working with a brand since they can easily see how a company responds (or doesn't respond) to negative reviews. Brands with sleek websites and strong marketing material could easily lose sales from poorly responded to criticism on review websites. 

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Earning Social Proof

"Social proof has to be earned," said Lopez. Vendors can start by having a great product and providing quality customer service. Beyond that, here are some additional tips for getting trusted reviews and building social proof.

1. Keep Customers Happy

"In order to get more reviews, vendors first need to recognize that sales and marketing doesn't stop at purchase," said Adams. You need to make sure you have happy customers by focusing on customer support and responding to customer complaints promptly. For most B2B software vendors, the business relationship will continue into the future as long as the software is still being used by the customer. And the last thing you want is for unhappy customers to leave a poor review because you haven't offered a quality after-sales experience.

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2. Ask Satisfied Customers

Lopez believes you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your existing customers. Your client success team has "the deepest relationships and know who is most engaged and satisfied with your product," explained Lopez. Involving this team, therefore, is crucial when you're going to ask for reviews. "Just be sure to make the process of leaving a review as easy as possible," added Lopez. If it's not straightforward for customers to review your product, they're much less likely to help you out.

Adams agreed, "The majority of customers are not going to go to G2 Crowd or Capterra on their own to write a review, so you need to ask." She suggests you reach out to any satisfied customers you hear about individually, and see if they're willing to share their success story. Proactively engaging with customers is the best way to garner more reviews, but it also has the added benefit of improving customer satisfaction.

3. Plan Review Campaigns

Social proof comes down to getting trusted reviews from existing customers during interactions. "Collecting reviews can easily be done by running campaigns a couple of times a year that offer a little something in return (i.e. a gift card)," said Barcelona, "or organically asking for customers to review your product after a major milestone." These milestones could be anything from signing a contract renewal to closing a support ticket.

Finally, Barcelona concluded, "Social proof is vital to today's B2B buyers as it gives them another arrow in their quiver when it comes to making an informed purchasing decision." In today's marketplace, software vendors need to take social proof more seriously if they want to stay ahead of the competition.