Guest blog by Levi Olmstead of G2 Crowd
Content marketing, which relies on attracting customers by providing useful and relevant information, is a great way to build an audience and help move prospects through the sales cycle as they turn into customers.
Unfortunately, some content creators are limiting themselves to content they’ve created themselves. There’s another source of excellent content hiding right under their noses: user-generated content. In particular, online reviews are a powerful way to enhance your business’s reputation and gain credibility and loyalty.
When used strategically, reviews can be just as compelling as any content you create. Let’s look at why you should use them — and exactly how to do it.
Why online reviews are an essential part of your marketing strategy
Content marketing is effective because it empowers people to do their own research and make the best decisions possible. But with so many competing businesses publishing equally great content, audiences must sift through heaps of material to figure out whom to trust.
How do audiences make that determination?
One of the easiest ways: Search for information from people with no vested interest in selling them something. This explains why 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
Online reviews don’t have to just come from someone in their immediate social circle. A staggering 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Because reviews are written by former customers, it’s easier for your audience to relate with the stories within. They’re facing similar challenges, and can imagine overcoming them just like your happy customers did. Reviews are also written in your audience’s natural language. They press emotional hot buttons without all the marketing hype.
Relying on user-generated content isn’t just an effective way to connect with your audience. It also helps ease the burden to constantly churn out fresh content all on your own.
How to use online customer reviews
Now that you understand just how important customer reviews are, here are a few practical ways you can use customer testimonials in your content marketing:
You’ll probably pick up reviews on various popular third-party sites. But it’s a good idea to make them readily available on your own website as well.
You can create a specific dedicated review page for your company. Focus on the best reviews you’ve gotten thus far, and update it consistently. General reviews like “it was a pleasure working with you” are good, but reviews that discuss specific benefits (and how you helped them overcome problems) are even better.
Take a look how 99designs does this on its customer stories page. Notice how each reviewer includes a specific quote about their experience, along with a star rating. Visitors can also sort reviews by category and/or industry.
Another option is to separate your reviews based on the specific product or service you’re promoting. This creates a relevant experience for prospective customers visiting those web pages.
For both general review pages and specific product review pages, power lies in numbers. Seeing many positive reviews triggers social proof, the psychological phenomenon where we assume that when many people behave in a certain way, it’s most likely the right behavior for us.
Including reviews in emails will build credibility, give you the opportunity to tell compelling stories, and nurture leads to become customers.
Email reviews work even better for someone far enough along in the buyers’ journey to be: 1) aware of a problem, and 2) looking for a potential solution. By framing your emails from the happy customer’s perspective, you give email subscribers someone to relate to. Check out the third email in this excellent email campaign from Close.io for some inspiration.
Email reviews also will work well during special sales or promotions. Instead of just making your pitch, you can support it with reviews of the relevant product. If the recipients of the email are already in your database and are familiar with your company, reading about other customers’ experiences will stand out from the rest of your marketing messages and prove that other people also love your brand.
Social media platforms
The sheer number of social media platforms — and their rapid flood of information — creates huge demands on businesses looking to create engaging content on those channels. You might find yourself running out of ideas for fresh content. Or completely overwhelmed trying to keep up.
Customer reviews offer a source of content you don’t have to come up with on your own. Most importantly, you get to brag about yourself without doing it in an overly self-promotional way. Because the words come from happy customers, you get more leeway. Best yet, using that content is as easy as hitting the “re-tweet” or “share” button.
Case studies offer a more in-depth look at a specific customer’s challenges and how you helped overcome them. They’re often packed with statistics and other measurable results, which are important, but you can make them more engaging by weaving in reviews from customers themselves.
Balance out the quantitative data with the customer’s own impressions of the experience. This taps into both a rational and an emotional appeal, driving the narrative forward without getting readers bogged down.
Be sure to to research examples of other successful campaigns before creating a case study for your business.
Because landing pages focus on a single conversion goal (getting someone to join an email list, download an eBook, start a trial version of a software product, etc.), they are well-suited for customer reviews related to those goals. This could be the last bit of reassurance someone needs before finally taking the step you want them to take.
The main criteria: Make sure the reviews support the specific conversion goal. If it’s not specifically related to the action you’re trying to have people take, it might be more distracting than beneficial.
Marketing automation software company Marketo does this well in its “Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing” landing page. Notice the review from someone who downloaded the guide, which details specific results achieved by applying the strategies.
There are many landing page builders that can help marketers hit their goals and drive performance, so be sure to properly research the right tools for unique use cases.
Third-party review sites
Consider what will show up when your target customer types the name of your business into a search engine. If they’re looking for reviews, chances are good that prominent third-party platforms like G2 Crowd, Yelp, Amazon and Google My Business will rank highly in the results.
Ideally, you’ll want to maintain an active presence on those platforms. Resolve situations there whenever you can. Respond quickly to complaints.
Also, keep an eye on these platforms because some of your best reviews will come from there. If you’re watching them regularly, you’ll have new material you can integrate into the other strategies above.
The most persuasive marketing messages
Online reviews are invaluable. Practically everyone is looking for them before deciding to do business with you. Putting reviews on your website and letting them accumulate on third-party review sites (like Yelp) is a great start, but to truly get the most from them, it’s time to get proactive about integrating them into your content marketing strategy.
Happy customers are more persuasive than even the savviest of marketers. Why not take advantage? Applying the tips above will help you get started.
About the author: Levi Olmstead is the community manager at G2 Crowd, the leading B2B software and services review platform with over 385,000 verified, real-user reviews. Learn more about G2 Crowd and follow Levi on Twitter at @levi_olmstead.