Digital marketing is the new modus operandi for businesses of all shapes and sizes. More and more, personalization and CRO are introducing a challenge to online brands. Customers want to engage with companies, not simply be sold a product. Customers are having to shift their focus toward a digital version of the marketing tactic that has continued to work for hundreds of years: word of mouth.
“Don’t sweat the technical stuff. Think of conversion optimization as the process of making a new friend at a bar. Or, if you don’t like bars, think about the Girl Scouts who sell cookies at your local grocery store every February. Their key selling point? Those kids know how to convince their target customers to buy.”
~ Neil Patel
Just like people don’t buy Girl Scout cookies because of the colorful packaging, people don’t want fancy sales language when they begin a conversation with your business. They want real interactions and genuine insight into how your service or product will suit them. This is where your customer’s voice comes in.
Why Your Customer’s Voice is Important For Your Brand
The very first question anyone should be asking is: why should I care? What does my customer’s voice bring to my content and my brand that other digital marketing efforts don’t? The answer is: quite a bit.
Did you know that online business reviews are trusted by consumers as much as personal recommendations?
Most of your potential customers are using customer reviews at some point along their buyer’s journey. According to a recent poll, three-quarters of online buyers used reviews to discover new brands or products. Even more strikingly, nearly 7 out of 10 users reported that they use online reviews to evaluate a brand or product. Finally, 43% said they would use reviews in selecting a tech vendor.
Does your marketing strategy match these statistics? If they don’t, you are in danger of falling into the B2B disconnect – focusing your efforts on resources that your target audience isn’t even looking for. In reality, buyers use a diverse set of resources to make their purchase decision – and branded content is seldom at the top of that list.
According to the B2B disconnect report, user reviews come in second as the most common information sources used by buyers, bested only by product demos. Clearly, your target audience is looking for an authenticity not offered in vendor blogs or sales rep emails.
In the same poll highlighted above, one Customer Advocacy Manager highlights just how useful customer reviews are to marketing strategy.
“In order for us to keep up with our rising demands for references, quotes, feedback, etc, and also be respectful of our customers’ time and ability to participate in advocacy activities, we need to keep growing our base of advocates. Having a steady stream of reviews coming in has really helped with that.”
In other words, prioritizing your customer’s voice through reviews can easily translate into better management of the content you need for a truly compelling conversation with your target audience.
Beginning: How to Get Your First Customer Reviews
Since this post is about how to use your customer’s voice for content, the very first step is to hear from your customers in the form of reviews and feedback. How do you go about getting your first 5, 10 or 20 customer reviews?
Your first goal should be to make it as easy as possible for customers to leave you a business review. In developing your strategy, make sure your priority is to simplify the process for your dedicated customers. The result will be more feedback, more in-depth reviews and more diversity in reviews. If you’re just getting started, consider the following steps:
- Decide on a dedicated review platform.
There are a host of review platforms available to both B2B and B2C companies. Do your research and find a platform that will serve your purposes. You’ll want accessibility on both ends – a platform that is easy to use for the sake of your customers and easy to search for the sake of your target audience. Having just one prefered review platform will simplify things for everyone.
- Build a diverse list of customers.
When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to zero in on customers you already know and are well connected with. While there is certainly something to be said for the personal touch, you want to make sure your reviews aren’t completely homogeneous. Buyers are looking for reviews that are in roles similar to their own, so you should be reaching out to everyone from IT leads to CEOs. Beginning with a segmented list will help you get an organized start.
- Write personalized emails.
Nothing will get you reviews quite like a direct email. If your list is short enough, try to include some information about your relationship. If you have too many to reach out to, make sure to include their name at the very least. You can even incentivize reviews for customers – a $5 Amazon gift card is sure to do wonders. Just be sure you aren’t incentivizing positive reviews in an effort to sway feedback. For the email, take a 3 stage approach: introduce the review platform, offer an incentive, and thank them for their time and effort.
- Send reminders and stay engaged.
This doesn’t have to be a one and done type of deal. Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email after a week or two for those who haven’t written a review. At the same time, make sure to send a thank you (and follow up on your incentive!) to those who have.
Understanding The Strength of Positive & Negative Reviews
It’s important to remember that your goal here is not all 5-star reviews all the time. The goal is to build an authentic brand. As customer reviews roll in, you are sure to receive some negative feedback. But don’t be discouraged!
Just as positive reviews can inform what to focus on in your content strategy, negative reviews can inform what you need to change to improve your business. At the same time, customers are actually looking for negative (or at least balanced) reviews. Buyers get suspicious of brands that have no negative reviews at all. They are looking for in-depth and balanced reviews about experiences from a range of customers.
5 Ways to Use Your Customer’s Voice for Powerful Content
Using customer reviews in your content strategy is not an exact science. There are dozens of ways you can incorporate your customer’s voice into your existing marketing campaign, all depending on your target audience, time and budget. That said, here are a few best practices to get you started.
#1: Feature customer reviews on landing pages, drip campaigns and social media. This can be the heart of using your customer’s voice, and the sky’s the limit here. Change up landing page copy with direct quotes from users, highlight one or two reviews in a drip campaign, or create compelling graphics with a personal touch on your social media accounts. Let your customers share the stage. However, keep in mind that using review content and direct quotes in your marketing collateral will likely require permission from the review site.
#2: Engage with reviews. While standalone reviews can be beneficial to your brand, they aren’t quite as powerful as clear evidence of an engaged presence. Part of your strategy should be to respond to each and every review – thank users for positive reviews and address concerns in negative ones. This is for the benefit of customers and target audience.
#3: Use reviews to hone your content strategy. Using your customer’s voice goes beyond the frontend. Authentic feedback can help you focus on what’s important. If reviews are highlighting your prices, make that a selling point on your landing pages. If they focus on customer service, double down on those efforts.
#4: Personalize review content as much as possible. Since users tend to trust customer reviews as much as a personal recommendation, make every effort to make it feel like a personal recommendation. With your customers’ permission, you can feature their photo, name and company role when including their review on your site or marketing content.
#5: Expand positive reviews into case studies or brand ambassadors. You don’t have to stop the ball rolling with reviews. Look for particularly glowing and in-depth reviews from dedicated customers; these are candidates you can reach out to about becoming an unofficial brand ambassador or diving deeper in a case study. It doesn’t have to be many, but a few will add a new level of authenticity for your audience.
The Bottom Line: Understanding and Using Your Customer’s Voice for Conversion
It’s clear that customer reviews can help build your brand, and this guide gave you a few ideas to get the ball rolling. Since we live the age of TL;DR, here’s a summary of this brief guide in three steps:
- Make the review process as simple as possible to encourage your customers to leave feedback. Start the process by asking your customers directly to leave a review.
- Utilizing your customer’s voice in your content strategy is a process, not a one-time event. Set time aside to engage with reviews as they role in and reconsider how you feature these reviews.
- Conversion is about conversation. You can use both negative and positive reviews to give your target audience an in-depth, personalized picture of how your product or service will work for them.
If you have ideas or questions about how to use your customer’s voice for powerful content, leave a comment below!
Brooklin Nash writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.