Is there a harder part of B2B Marketing today than performance measurement?
Measuring the ROI of reviews can be challenging because reviews offer vendors value in many ways. While there’s no perfect way to measure it, there are several ways to make it work.
If you’re working on reviews for your business, there are four main steps for you to take:
Deciding which customer review sites you’ll get reviews on
How to ask and get reviews
How to leverage reviews, such as customer testimonials to generate more leads
Measure the impact of reviews on your business growth
It can be tough to get reviews, but it’s even tougher to measure their impact.
The challenge is that reviews don’t impact just one part of the business. TrustRadius found that the average tech vendor uses B2B review sites for 7 different use cases. From the point of view of a vendor, reviews provide value across functions, from Demand Gen to Customer Marketing to Product Marketing to Sales through Customer Success.
Yeesh, that’s a lot to measure. If you’d like to tackle everything, check out TrustRadius’s Proving Value: ROI of Reviews Framework.
In this post, rather than try to measure every use case, let’s save our collective sanity by focusing. I suspect most businesses want to know how many buyers will visit these review sites when making a purchase decision.
Answering this question alone can be a challenge.
Let’s enlist the support of two legendary TV personalities – Tim Gunn and Leslie Knope – to help us answer it:
I’d venture to guess there isn’t a consistent view in your organization of the value that reviews provide your business.
If you’re reading this, I presume you’re involved in review generation for your company. Now imagine if your boss tells you that you need to find a way to measure the impact of the reviews you’ve been generating for your business.
It’s only natural to be a little nervous, especially given that when you tell most bosses that measuring it will be challenging, they’ll probably add something like this:
Excellent. Thanks for the encouragement and direction, boss.
As I’ve written on B2B SaaS Reviews, there are a few ways to measure the impact of reviews on demand generation. None of them are perfect, but you can make it work.
Here’s a summary of how to measure the impact of reviews.
Why reviews help businesses grow faster
Before analyzing your data, set the scene by showing third-party findings of how reviews impact growth.
Bazaarvoice found that more reviews lead to more sales.
The chart tells the story: more reviews lead to more purchases. Even if you’re not in eCommerce, it’s safe to assume a similar impact given that most of today’s buyers now rely on reviews.
The chart also shows the law of diminishing returns applies to reviews. Your first ten reviews may provide a 10% lift, but adding ten more when you already have 100 reviews may only add a one percent lift.
In B2B, Gartner Digital Markets has shared similar findings on the significant lift from your first reviews. They found products with 10 or more reviews get 3x the traffic (to their profile page) compared to products with zero reviews. G2 has found that a product needs 50 reviews to “see exceptional growth in traffic to your page and leads (and our data shows another large jump at 100 reviews).”
After hitting these early review quantity milestones, many turn to improve their rank in their software category(ies) to become a leader.
Once you show your boss how reviews generally lead to more sales, be prepared to be asked if and how you would be able to do it for your company.
How reviews help lead generation
Measuring how many leads you get from review sites is arguably the easiest to measure and understand.
You’ll be well understood if you say, “We got 100 leads from (insert your review site of choice) that led to 10 new customers.”
The problem with this approach is it sells reviews short. Why?
Because buyers don’t all take the same direct path to buy. Few click on the “Contact vendor” button on a review site. Many read reviews on review sites and then veer off the path, contacting vendors at some point directly, through search, or some other avenue. They probably delay contacting the vendor until they do more research.
Forrester found that the average B2B buyer has 27 interactions throughout a buying journey, many of which are not directly with the vendor, like asking their peer connections for recommendations.
At this point, your boss might be thinking:
When you tell your boss how many direct leads you got from review sites, the response will probably be something like:
Still, you ought to know how to measure direct leads from review sites to know how it fits into the broader picture.
From here, you ought to go beyond direct lead responses. Next comes letting your buyers tell you whether reviews helped them find you.
How to measure the impact of reviews: get buyers to self-attribute
The way we attribute today doesn’t capture all of the moments that matter in today’s buying journey (see Forrester, Rand Fishkin, and Refine Labs).
That means your tech – CRM, Marketing Automation, Google Analytics etc. – is no longer reliable to capture all the data needed to answer the question about how reviews – or many other things – are helping grow your business.
The solution: simply add a question on your demo form, “how did you hear about us?*” Make it a free text field to allow your buyer to say how they came to you.
This approach’s potential challenge or limitation is that your buyers might not paint a clear picture for you depending on your audience. They might just draw a line on the page, so to speak, to be done with it.
We ran a test at PartnerStack and found that we had buyers who said they heard about us “online” and then when we dug in for more detail found that it was through a review site.
So while the self-attribution method is worth a shot, the results might look only so-so for reviews unless you couple it with another method.
Now your boss is thinking:
How to use buyer intent data to measure review impact
Leveraging the third-party data of review sites can shed a lot of light on how they impacted your business.
Many leads will come in marked as “organic” or “direct” that, in reality, were review site sourced, but the lead didn’t click through on the CTA.
There’s also all the influence that reviews play in helping close more opportunities.
Given how important it is to review sites that vendors can answer this question of impact, you may think, aren’t there ROI tools built into review sites’ buyer intent solutions? And when you find out that a review site built said ROI tool only to pull it and replace it with a list of 18 metrics you can measure “with the help of your RevOps team”, you might be feeling like this:
But fear not, there are a few ways to measure review impact based on review site buyer intent data. It’s not as easy as it should be, but you can make it work.
Review Impact Method #1: The Salesforce Report
The Salesforce report method is probably the most efficient way to measure the impact of reviews.
For example, G2 has an out-of-the-box Salesforce report called “G2 – Accounts with Opportunities: Opportunities Influenced by Stage”.
The report is set up to count the number of opportunities at accounts with buyer intent, the opportunity values, and the opportunity stages in your pipeline. This setup provides a handy snapshot of how buyer intent impacts your current open pipeline.
Ensure that the report uses the cross filter, “Accounts with G2 Visiting Organizations”. If your eyes crossed at the mention of a cross-filter, consider turning to a Salesforce wiz, or your report might be a jumbled mess that leaves your boss bewildered.
Review Impact Method #2: The Manual Tabulation
Warning: this method will test your patience. It will also provide reliable data on whether your buyers were influenced by review sites.
The gist of the manual tabulation approach is it’s an opportunity-by-opportunity tabulation of how many of your buyers are or are not using review sites in their buying process.
The 5 easy-but-time-consuming steps are:
Get a list of your new customer accounts (i.e. recently closed-won opportunities)
Set up a spreadsheet to tabulate the buyer intent data of these buyer accounts
Look up if the buyer (account) appears in your buyer intent data
Note if there was buyer intent or not
Note when there was buyer intent: pre-opp, early-stage opp, and/or late-stage opportunity
The net result is something like this:
After analyzing 50 of the most recent new customers of PartnerStack, I found:
58% of Mid-Market buyers had G2 buyer intent activity
28% of all buyers had G2 buyer intent activity
20% of all buyers had G2 buyer intent activity pre-opportunity creation
12% of all buyers had G2 buyer intent activity early-stage opportunity
12% of all buyers had G2 buyer intent activity late-stage opportunity
6% of all buyers were marked as sourced by G2, i.e. our first attributed touchpoint with the contact who bought from us was referred to our site by G2
If this doesn’t sound like crazy talk to you, here’s how to manually tabulate the impact of review sites on your revenue.
Review Impact Method #3: The Attribution Tool
The third method uses attribution software tools, such as Bizible.
I haven’t tried this method, but James Gilbert, former Head of Global Marketing at CloudCherry, shared how he used it to measure review site (G2) performance in an ROI Masterclass.
If you have the tooling or would be willing and able to get it, this approach looks like it can provide you with a best practice method for measurement.
This approach is more advanced because it moves beyond a first-touch or last-touch attribution model to a multi-touch attribution model. Every touchpoint is attributed (with a % and $ value). In one example, 22-minutes into the webinar, a buyer (account) had events as their first and last touchpoints but lots of G2 activity in between. By attributing touchpoints throughout the buyer’s journey, they could measure the true value of a review site like G2.
Unfortunately, many of us have neither the budget for buyer intent subscriptions, attribution software, nor the ability to pull it together in an ROI masterclass. But if you do, it’s probably the most complete solution.
Know thyself and pick the method(s) that seem the best fit for you and your business.
You’ll be able to show your boss the impact of the reviews you’ve been generating for your business.
With any luck, your boss may say:
And you can do a happy dance knowing that you’ll continue to have support to get more reviews to grow your business.
About the Author
Joe Kevens is the Founder of B2B SaaS Reviews and the Director of Demand Generation at PartnerStack, the #1 platform purpose-built for partner management and affiliate marketing in B2B SaaS. Before PartnerStack, he worked for other go-to-market B2B SaaS companies, such as Influitive (Advocate Marketing), LevelJump (Sales Enablement) (acquired by Salesforce) and Eloqua (Marketing Automation) (acquired by Oracle). You can learn more about reviews in B2B SaaS on his blog, b2bsaasreviews.com. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.