Much has been written about the consumerization of the B2B buyer’s journey – which is just a fancy way of saying that our personal experience of buying products online has impacted our expectations and behavior when influencing and making business purchases.
- Forrester Research reports that 74% of B2B buyers do at least half their research online before making an offline purchase.
- According to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to sales.
This self-directed online activity represents a huge shift from the face-to-face sales process. And it’s why marketers are hyper-focused on attracting and engaging prospects on their websites.
In the “owned/earned/paid” framework of channels to reach prospects, B2B marketers tend to think of owning their website and social channels. We naturally focus a lot of energy on those to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions. But review sites actually cross all three of those channels of owned, earned, and paid. We own how we present ourselves on each site; we earn the reviews our clients contribute; and we pay for the opportunity to get better placement and leads — depending on each review site’s protocols.
And in many of today’s B2B buyers’ journeys, use of review sites plays an important role. So, if they aren’t part of your marketing plan now, they should be.
The "Surround Sound" Strategy
HubSpot coined the term “Surround Sound” to describe the strategy: the intentional use of not just your own website, but others that your prospects might visit during the research and consideration phases of the buyer's journey. The theory is, the more frequently someone hears about your products and services from multiple sources, the more likely they are to buy them.
- Gartner reported that companies using 4+ channels to reach their prospects saw a 300% greater performance than companies using just 1 or 2.
This is not a new concept. In advertising, media buyers have long based their strategies on reach (the audience you’re targeting) and frequency (how often that audience is exposed to your message). It works — more people and more messaging leads to higher levels of awareness and purchasing intent.
Research also says that consumers visit on average three websites before purchasing. The surround sound strategy takes advantage of that behavior. You want to be included in as many influential websites as possible so prospects see you in their search engine results. Review sites are a key opportunity for you to get in, get found, and get more business.
Pick Your Placement Carefully
Do your research. Some sites are pretty much no-brainers for their industries; others may look good but have little domain authority or buyer credibility. Some require little effort and/or cost, while others are a straight lead gen play that may or may not bring in your ideal prospects.
Managing review sites require constant oversight, and if you are working with a relatively small client base, you want to think carefully about where your clients’ reviews can be most impactful. Search the web for options, look for comments and reviews of the sites themselves, and keep your eyes out for new sites that are beginning to dominate search results for your targeted keywords.
For example, Marsden Marketing recently was named among the top Atlanta digital marketing agencies by DesignRush. Why did we choose to participate?
- While a relatively new review site (started in 2017), DesignRush has a solid format with more than 9,000 agencies listed and a good search function that prospects can use to research types and locations of agencies.
- The site has a good domain rating making it a good backlink for us.
- Being named among the top 30 Atlanta digital marketing agencies gives us added visibility in our home market.
- The first year’s listing is free (with the requirement to provide a backlink, as we did in this article).
Include Review Sites in Your Ad Budget/Plan
Many review sites offer a combination of “free” and “paid” options to participate. Paid opportunities can range from less than $100 per month to several hundred or even thousands of dollars for sites that charge by the click-through to your website. Pricing often is available in tiers, with enhanced profiles and a greater number of click-throughs or leads depending on how much you pay.
Consider these opportunities as you would any other paid marketing tactic and build the cost into your overall budget. As long as you do your research and are convinced that certain review sites are influential in your market, budget for them accordingly.
Ask Clients to Participate
If you’re doing great work, many of your clients will be happy to write a review. But all too often, they’re busy, get distracted, or simply forget. You need to make it a priority and make it as simple as possible.
For us, as a Platinum HubSpot Partner, our listing in the HubSpot Solutions Partner Directory is an increasingly important source of leads. We recently added this metric to our Client Managers’ ongoing objectives to ensure that we keep the focus on reviews. Consider adding review postings to your account managers’ responsibilities — with spiffs or bonuses tied to success. (Be aware that requesting reviews violates some review site policies; check the site for guidance.)
In addition, develop a process to track reviews to make sure you know which client participated where. Your tracking mechanism can be something as simple as a Google doc or shared Excel spreadsheet.
Update Your Review Site Content and Strategy
You can’t just set and forget your reviews. You need to keep your profile information up to date. If you add new services or vertical markets, be sure to get them featured. Once you start getting reviews posted, make it part of your content plan to update them regularly. Just as importantly, keep your eyes open for new review sites as they gain relevance in search and for key opportunities in vertical markets you focus on.
Review sites can serve multiple roles in your marketing plan — from creating additional channels for visibility and credibility to building to being a steady source of leads (both paid and earned). If you choose the right ones, they can increase interest in your organization, drive more traffic to your website, and ultimately contribute to your sales funnel.
Need additional help coming up with an actionable strategy?
Our team of demand gen specialists can set you up for success.