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Episode #180: How to Get More Value from B2B Review Sites, with Yoli Chisholm

Grad Conn

February 23, 202223 min read

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Review sites are probably among the first places your prospects go when researching your product or service, and yet these sites are typically an afterthought in most marketing plans. It doesn’t need to be that way. In today’s episode, Yoli Chisholm joins me to discuss tips and tricks for getting the most value out of B2B and B2C review sites.

Yoli Chisholm is CMO at Venn. You can follow her on LinkedIn

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Hey, welcome to the Unified CXM Experience. And I am your host, Grad Conn, CXO, Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr, and today I have a very special guest, Yoli Chisholm, she’s the CMO at Ven, which is a New York City based software company. And what they do is they secure SaaS apps and data for remote workers. So it’s unfortunate, Yoli, that there aren’t that many SaaS applications out there. And there aren’t that many remote workers.

Yoli
Yeah, everybody’s in the office. So tough, tough marketing for me.

Grad
Oh, man. So welcome to the show. And so I actually wouldn’t mind hearing a little bit about Ven. So let’s take a couple minutes to do that. And I’ll frame up the show. So we’ll do that. And then what we want to do is, this is part of our series on how to write a marketing plan. And so we’ve been talking about the zero moment of truth, first moment of truth and second moment of truth. And just as a quick reminder to people who may or may not have heard all those episodes, the zero moment of truth is when you research a product online, the first moment of truth is when you make that decision to buy in the aisle of the store, obviously, in many cases, not in an actual store, but you’re making that buying decision. And then the second moment of truth is when you use the product and have an impression of what the product does. And in particular how that product performs versus what other people said about it, and what the product said about itself. So there needs to be a lack of hypocrisy through that line. So we’re going to talk about today is Yoli and I are going to talk about the review sites that are particularly important in B2B software. But obviously, review sites are a really big deal in B2C as well. So we’ll talk about review sites, and how they apply to the zero moment of truth in that journey. But anyway, so that’s kind of where we’re going. But first tell me about Ven and I know you’ve been keeping me up to date, but I feel like we haven’t talked about it in a few months. So how’s it going? And what’s going on? And you know, what’s the scoop on Ven these days?

Yoli 
Sure. So Ven is really trying to support organizations in this huge moment of truth that they’ve had most recently accelerating digitization of the digital transformation in the workplace and people working remotely and organizations having to think about how they secure their data, and access to SaaS apps as employees work from home. And so that’s what Ven does, is, we’ve invented some technology called Local zone that creates a secure perimeter around work apps and work activity, regardless of what device an organization has enabled for their employees. So whether it’s a managed device, or whether it’s a BYOD device, and regardless of wherever they’re working from, and we are an alternative to VDI. In that respect, we enable the employee to work with their apps locally, the way the apps are sort of natively, you know, that’s the way they’re used to working as opposed to having to drive employees to the cloud creating a really sort of less-than-optimal work experience.

Grad 
So in contrast to Citrix where the entire desktop is virtual; could be a real lag when you click and sometimes it doesn’t happen right away, because it’s back and forth. What you’re saying is that you’ve got the performance of a locally installed application, security of everything secured in the cloud.

Yoli 
Absolutely. As secure as Citrix.

Grad 
It sounds awesome. Well, congratulations. You had a big launch back in the fall, I think, right?

Yoli 
Well, we’re still in private Beta. But, you know, we did rebrand and launched under Ven, we believe in the intersection of work and life. And as we’re seeing a lot of employees, the Venn diagram really brings that to life, as most people are using one device, and there’s a lot of personal activity that’s happening on that same device as well as work device. And so we just enable people to secure that work side of the business without sort of infringing on the privacy of the employee on their private activities.

Grad 
Yeah, cool. I didn’t know that was an origin of the name, but it’s brilliant. Love that. Okay. All right. So let’s go to marketing plans. Oh, you and I have written a lot of marketing plans. You know, how long have we known each other – since 2004 maybe?

Yoli 
Yeah. Going on 12, 13, 14 years

Grad 
More than 14 years,

Yoli 
Really? You know, now I’ve lost count.

Grad 
Well, 22 minus four would be 18 on my calendar.

Yoli 
Wow. Grad, now you’re totally aging us both.

Grad 
We’ve almost worked together for a generation. Yeah. Well, we were like only 15 at the time.

Yoli
Two countries.

Grad
Yeah. Two countries. Yeah. Two companies. four divisions. Yeah. So …

Yoli 
Three companies.

Grad
Three companies? Oh, yeah. Three companies. Yeah. Points, Microsoft and Sprinklr.

Grad 
Yeah, the two companies at Microsoft – two totally different experiences there. Yeah, it’s been amazing. So one thing that you educated me on, and it’s been highly transformative for me as a marketer is you really kind of opened my eyes to how much of the journey starts with review sites, and you’ve been on the Bazaarvoice and review site bandwagon for a long, long, long time. And so we’re talking in B2B about G2 Crowd, Trust Radius, Capterra, P&G, Gartner peer insights, and there’s a bunch of others, and they all tend to model their business on being amazing in SEO. So they always show up first in results. Yeah, and then kind of convert from there. And then on review sites, you just imagine Walmart and Amazon, and all the different review sites that are out there, and Yelp and all that kind of stuff. And so you did, I think part of my blind spot on this was so many years at Microsoft, we didn’t need to care. I’m not saying this is the right approach but there were so many levers to pull that that was not one I was thinking about, or even maybe thought that I had any control over, that might have been part of it, too.

Grad 
And I remember you did a video for me where you were showing what the journey was like for someone who’s doing the research on a product category, and where they’re landing and where they’re looking and what they’re reading. And we have a tendency to always imagine that people are, you know, going to our website, and reading our website and then buying the product, because our website is so amazing. Yeah, in fact, the website really has almost got nothing to do with it. So tell me a little bit about, I’d like to hear your sort of overall philosophy on this. And then let’s just kind of dig in a little bit. And I think what I’d like to do is at the end of this sort of next 15 minutes or so, I’d like marketers who are listening in to sort of think, “Hey, this is how I’m going to change the way I’m approaching review sites”, because I would say most people are deeply under invested on this motion, and don’t take it very seriously. So we’re here to change some minds and get people get more excited about getting involved in this part of the buyer’s journey.

Yoli 
Yeah, I think the thing that the zero moment of truth sort of opened my eyes to was this notion that at the very highest level, the way buyers behave on the consumer side. You know, as B2B marketers, we, for some reason, we assumed that their buying behavior completely changes because they’re buying business software, you wouldn’t buy a camera, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant, you wouldn’t, you know, maybe even go to a movie without reading the reviews, you wouldn’t hire a plumber without reading the reviews, that same person that’s been tasked with finding a VDI solution or social media management solution, that’s the same person that has the same behavior. And at the same time, what was happening was what the zero moment of truth pointed out was that buying behavior was changing because of the internet, mobile technology, etc., social media, etc. and how that impacted the B2B side of things was the same way. But what was also happening was we were transitioning to the cloud – subscription services, and software that’s become so much easier to buy. And there’s this whole umbrella of the consumerization of B2B software.

Grad
I love the way you’re putting that. That’s great.

Yoli 
Yeah, I mean, people expect more and more to be able to buy software with the same ease as they do stuff on the consumer side. And so they’re so much more informed. You know, HubSpot did a survey that showed that 77% of B2B purchasers do their own research before engaging salespeople. So even before they come to your website that you’ve been thinking is like number one, you know, is their first stop, in fact, it is not. So when I come to an organization, I always put myself in the mind of that person that’s been tasked, you know, my CMO came to me and said, “Hey, we need to implement X”. Okay, well, what is the first thing I’m going to do? Typically, the CMO doesn’t say, or, you know, whoever it is, doesn’t say, I want you to implement this brand. It’s usually a category. You know, it’s usually ‘we need to do social media management’, or ‘we need to virtualize our desktop’. Okay. So typically, you’re going to start with Search, because you’re going to want to build that shortlist of vendors. And what we were finding was the review sites were getting so good at SEO as you mentioned earlier, that when you do those category searches, they’re surfacing all the vendors that you are competing against. And so in that buyer’s journey, a) you need to be showing up in Search, and then b) you need to be showing up on those review sites because as buyers search for that category, your shortlist of competitors is showing up. And so that was one of the first sort of Ahas is like, “Okay, as I think about the buyer’s journey, it definitely does not start with my website, my website is part of the journey, but it’s actually the least trusted source”.

Grad 
Right, right. As it should be. Very biased. Who wrote it?

Yoli 
Absolutely. And I like to think about the review sites as sort of the digitization of word of mouth. Since time immemorial word of mouth is still the number one best marketing channel. And so if reviews sites are the digitization of word of mouth, then you absolutely need to have a review site strategy, because on these sites, this is where your existing customers have reviewed and put a testimonial on your site. The other factor that’s impacting the importance, I believe, of review sites is that the buying cycle is actually shrinking. Because of this consumerization, you know, I come from enterprise software. And we’ve always talked about how long the buyer cycle is, but what’s happening is, G2 actually just did a survey that showed that 50% of software buyers are purchasing using credit cards.

Grad 
Wow! Like 50% for enterprise?! Wow.

Yoli 
Like this is for technology, $20,000 or more. I was like, “Whoa, that’s a big …” So that says to me that the buying cycle is going to be faster. And because of the way the SaaS companies, you think about folks like Slack, like Stripe, like HubSpot, you can buy that technology with a credit card, you can test it really fast. And if you don’t like what you’re seeing, you can swap it out really fast. That means that this behavior is impacting every aspect. But the reason why I bring it up as it relates to review sites is because the buying committee is expanding. There’re more and more people who kind of have a say into how you buy this technology. The review sites do a great job more and more of filtering the different factors that say, you know, if you’re a CMO and you’re on the buying committee, and you also have the CIO or the CTO, the factors they’re looking for are very different. The CMO is looking for “is it going to solve my problem, time to value” etc. The CTO is probably going to be thinking about security, does it integrate, is it compatible with. The review sites do a great job, sometimes better than we do as the brand, of surfacing the factors because they’ve asked your existing customers, they’ve asked buyers in that category space. So that was a mouthful there but there’s a few factors, I think, that are impacting the importance of review sites.

Grad 
That’s awesome. That’s a graduate level overview there. That was fantastic. So can I ask a couple of specific questions? I would say I’m constantly surprised at how quickly marketers ignore these channels. So I want to dig into that for a second. So I think maybe a common objection or maybe a common mindset would be, “Well, I don’t really control this, nothing can do about it. So they’re going to do what they’re going to do. And I hope it works out okay. But you know, not much I can help”. So that’s a little bit of the, it’s like, “Yeah, I get that that’s all going on. But I can control the ad I write, or I can control the search engine marketing that I’m doing, I can control SEO on my website, I’m going to spend my time on that and that thing over there, that review site thing, I’m just going to let that engine run on its own. And ideally, if I’ve got a good product, which I know, I’m a marketer, I don’t make the product. But if I’ve got a good product, that’ll be okay. And if I don’t have a good product, then not much I can do about it”. So talk a little bit to that sort of, maybe, mindset of helplessness around review sites, and then talk a little bit about why you would actually be spending money with G2 Crowd or Trust Radius, for example, and how you’d spend that money. Like, people were shocked at the size of my line item based on your recommendation when we started at Sprinklr, and how much money we put into those. So talk a little bit about that, and just get people thinking maybe a bit differently. Don’t think of these as free.

Yoli 
Yeah, I mean, if you think about Search as the first stop, and increasingly Search and YouTube, as the top search engines in the world, and then you think of review sites as the second stop, because they’ve become so good at being the number one link as a search result. It behooves you to kind of figure out, “Okay, what’s the full breadth of offerings that these review sites can bring?” Base minimum, just making sure your profile is completed, and in terms of how you message and position against your competitors, because regardless of whether you choose to claim your profile to use the sort of old school term, remember the directories. Regardless, people will be doing reviews. And so you can decide to just let it languish there. Or you can kind of actively manage your profile.

Grad 
Remember the profile we inherited when we started at Sprinklr?

Yoli 
It was scary.

Grad
I’m not sure what it was describing

Yoli
Yeah, you want to control the narrative, right.

Grad 
You can control your profile.

Yoli 
You can control your profile. And they support all kinds of formats, you can have your white paper, my papers up there, you can have your product, your data sheets, your full bomb can be up there, you can have videos integrated. Now, that’s sort of like baseline. The other things that they do really well is they can have a lead form there so you can actually do Lead Gen from your profile page. What I think is interesting is some of them have become more sophisticated about surfacing buyer intents data and integrating that data into your CRM. So you can do a G2 and Salesforce integration, where you’re actually surfacing to the sales org. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be tagged as a sort of a marketing qualified lead, but it’s certainly just lead data like bi and it’s certainly more qualified than your random Dun and Bradstreet list. This is saying people who are currently in the market for your category and are comparing you or have at least looked at your profile, that’s a data point, I think, that is worthy of surfacing at least to your BDR organization. Because what likely happens is as you build your Omni channel strategy, you’ll notice that when you go to market with your advertising and other activities, your review site traffic also goes up. So it can also be a measure of how you’re doing with your driving brand awareness, etc. But yeah, I think increasingly, these sites, if you are a sophisticated organization that knows what to do with buyer intent data, that’s one of those sources that you want to include in your arsenal.

Grad 
What else can you do with them? Um, what else? Yeah, I mean, there’s a little bit of an art around getting reviews, right?

Yoli 
100%. So …

Grad 
I got a cautionary tale there. So names the names of the people that protect the innocent, but let’s go into this one a little. Yeah, this is something people don’t understand it all.

Yoli 
The review sites themselves, do enable you to maybe basically do campaigns to your existing customer base, and automate that whole process to actually acquire reviews. So …

Grad 
Choose the customer. So you make sure happy customers are getting requests.

Yoli 
Yeah, you don’t want to just do your entire database, you want to work with your customer success team, surface your happy customers.

Grad 
Now, at Sprinklr all of our customers are happy. So we don’t have that problem, but I could imagine there might be a company out there that might have some unhappy customers.

Yoli 
Maybe you want to start with customers that just renewed, that’s a great segment, customers that just became customers, they’ve just gone through a whole process of shortlisting you, demoing, piloting, and finally making your decision and these platforms, the review sites actually enable you to customize the survey. And so they can also be a great data source. I’m trying to remember the piece of data that we got from one of them that was super sweet. It was around you can ask them what technology were they previously using?

Grad 
Oh, wow, we can get a lot through that. I remember that review.

Yoli 
Exactly. Yeah, I remember we started to see a pattern of who we were getting customers from. They can help you acquire reviews from existing customers, your favorite, your best customers, and they can also help you sort of do a mini survey, as you’re asking them to review on certain data points.

Grad 
There can be some pitfalls with this approach. So do you want me to start? You can add in. Okay, so I’d say that there’s one pitfall, which is that one of the ways that they encourage survey responses because they do want rich, detailed survey is they’ll offer, say, a $20 gift card or something like that. And in a number of large organizations out there, employees are not allowed to take money for doing reviews. And so when these emails come flying in from whatever, one of these review sites, offering employees a bunch of money to do reviews about a specific product, because it’s not just, “Go and do a review” on anything, it’s like, hey, we’ll use Sprinklr’s example, “Sprinklr would like you to do a review and we’ll give you a $20 Starbucks gift card to do a review on this site”. That gets escalated really quickly to Compliance, and Legal and a bunch of other teams. And that gets us escalated really quickly to the AE on the account and, you know, at the best of times, AEs, on any enterprise account at any company in the world, this has nothing to do with where we’ve worked, like we’ve worked at Microsoft, we’ve worked at Sprinklr, we’ve worked at other places as well, it doesn’t matter. It could be any company in the world. The last thing an AE wants to hear is the customer being unhappy with something that Marketing is doing. It’s just got me. I have to say it.  It sounds obvious, and then of course, the AE will then escalate that to their …, you know, and then next thing you know, your CRO is screaming …

Yoli 
Yes. Yes.

Grad 
… What the hell are you doing? So I would say one sort of key learning is, when you do do these campaigns, you do need to be thoughtful about maybe which companies should be completely excluded or not get the offer. And you need to cooperate and engage with your sellers in advance so they know that it’s coming, and they can kind of prep the ground. For example, seller could say, “Hey, I’m so proud of the renewal, as you know, we’ve got hundreds, I guess, in the case of Sprinklr thousands of fantastic reviews on TrustRadius and G2 Crowd, and we know you actually use those to make some of your decisions. So that’s awesome. Would you mind doing that?” “Yeah, no problem” and say, “Okay, you’ll probably get an email from TrustRadius in the next few days, love if you could fill it out”. That is a much better way of doing it versus marketing kind of like automagically on its own doing these things and salespeople being surprised by it, that was a big learning that I may have had. And so the other thing, I think, is this whole thing about paying people and Legal gets super salty about that, right?

Yoli 
I’m not a huge fan of them. Using the Amazon gift card or whatever, it’s kind of like a lazy marketer’s tactic, myself included, because it’s so easy to sort of execute. But I think about incentives, what has worked well, if you think about the folks like Dropbox, when you think about referral marketing and getting testimonials, asking a customer to do anything. Usually, if the incentive is something to do with the product, you know, or like, maybe it’s, you’ll get …

Grad 
More of the … or early access …

Yoli 
Yeah, right. Super hard to execute. But yeah, but it’s much better, it’s much better.

Grad
That’s a great comment.

Yoli 
Yeah, and failing that, it’s then you know, working with customer success does segment the database and look for folks that just renewed or just purchased or super happy, you know, folks that we would put on a panel or, you know, invite to our events to speak, like, we know who the happy customers are.

Grad 
So what else can you do with these types of sites?

Yoli 
Well, I think really, you know, it does improve your SEO ranking, the more thoughtful you are about your profile on these sites, and what content you have on these sites. I think you’ve just got to figure out which ones you want to kind of do a deep, deep dive with, because it’s quite a crowded space. You know, so there’s the Capterras, TrustRadius, Trustpilot, G2, Alternative2. Like, there’s a lot of them, and so I would prioritize, you know, one or two, and kind of go deep with them.

Grad 
The other thing I noticed early on; it was that they didn’t necessarily have us in all the correct categories. We were sometimes not in a category we belonged in. Sometimes we’d be in categories that we shouldn’t be in because we were never going to win there. So get out of there because that’s … So you can actually choose which categories you’re being placed into and then you’ll be able to manage your reputation more overtly that way.

Yoli 
And maybe even, you know, maybe you have a product that you’re trying to drive more of, like, I think, if I recall correctly, in the case of Sprinklr, you were trying to drive more care, you know, versus what you traditionally had gotten to market with, and so you can sort of emphasize that category and focus on that category. They also surface data by segments, SMB, you know, small, medium, or enterprise, and you can figure out which segment you want to focus on.

Grad 
Oh, smart, I like that. Yeah, cool. Well, Yoli, this has been awesome. I know you got a hard stop, so I want to make sure that we make that happen. But this has been great. Yeah, hopefully, people listening in will be like, “Boy, I’m really not thinking about this enough” and will sort of dig into it. And, you know, I would start personally with G2. That’s kind of a good place to start the sort of the giant in the space, and I’d sort of fully explore your G2 opportunities and then move on probably to TrustRadius or Pure Insights and then go from there. Okay, so anything else you want to add before we wrap this?

Yoli 
No, I think just remember that a B2B buyer is a consumer. And so …

Grad 
That’s great. The consumerization of B2B. Yeah, that’s a great phrase. I love it. Well, Yoli, thank you.

Yoli 
Thanks for having me.

Grad
Always, so much. For the unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and we’ll see you … next time.

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