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Nowadays, we tend to look for and read reviews about almost anything, from restaurants to clothes to books. We''ve all used reviews to inform our buying decisions in some way.

Software buyers are no different. In fact, the stakes are much higher if a software purchase decision is wrong.

Loss in employee productivity, failure to meet business objectives, stakeholder dissatisfaction, unplanned implementation costs, and high switching costs are just some of the potential negative impacts stemming from a poor software purchase decision.

The range of business processes that can benefit from software as a service (SaaS) is immense, and it grows larger every day. Today''s technology companies have, on average, more than 150 software applications, according to the Business at Work report from identity and access management company Okta.

The report adds that many industries, among them retail, professional services, insurance, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and government, have made dramatic increases in software use. Companies of all sizes are using software to digitally transform their business and sell more of their products.

So many apps to manage and integrate means that selecting and purchasing software is perhaps the most important decision a company can make. Its impact on the business can be significant—positive or negative. That''s why it should come as no surprise that today''s software buyers want to be as informed as possible, and they often consult customer reviews when they are evaluating and selecting a new software partner.

Software provider marketers need to adapt their marketing methods to the new way of buying—which includes buyer reviews—to understand how to best reach more customers and ultimately sell more product.

So why and how should software providers use reviews in their marketing plan?

Understanding buyer reviews gives marketers a personalized account of the delights and challenges facing buyers as they navigate the complex considerations of their software purchase. Reviews also show marketers how a target audience evaluates software providers and how customers describe their experience with their provider of choice.

Marketers should not overlook the opportunities that customer reviews provide. Customers' valuable feedback can and should be integrated into the following five tactics.

1. Improving Market Position and Messaging

Marketers can learn first-hand which capabilities resonate the most with customers and which are their must-haves. They can also understand how competitors are perceived by real end-users and discover their unique differentiators.

Such customer and competitive insights can transform market positioning from subjective superlatives to words that create a feeling associated only with your brand and product.

2. Understanding the Mind of the Buyer

Buyers have a lot on their mind when making a purchase decision—things such as features, capabilities, cost, value, and software provider relationship. By gathering and analyzing reviews, marketers can evaluate the various dimensions of the buyer experience and uncover hard-to-find information about what might make customers not renew their software purchase.

Taking the time to understand the mind of the buyer shines a light on the relative importance and influence of various factors in the buyer''s purchase decision.

3. Discovering Opportunities to Improve Your Product

By discovering what buyers think about the quality, breadth, and importance of features from competing software providers, marketers and product managers can make better decisions about where to invest in product development.

Using that information, marketers can learn what buyers think of the product strategies of providers, and how buyers perceive the rate of improvement and innovation from competing providers. They can find out whether customers feel supported by software providers in reaching their goals across integration, usability, implementation, customization, and training phases.

Such insight helps marketers and product owners make critical enhancements to their products and service experience.

4. Ensuring All Unique Differentiations of the Product and Provider Stand Out

Reviews allow marketers to understand which value-drivers rate the highest among buyers and customers.

Examples of measurements that providers can evaluate in aggregate and use in marketing to stand out from competitors are likeliness to recommend, satisfaction that cost is fair relative to value, and whether customers plan to renew. Those emotional measurements are a critical piece in determining how marketers can make their product and service stand out.

Marketers can also capture the emotional attention of buyers by promoting the top customer sentiment measures that correlate with high satisfaction with a provider. Those could include emotional measures related to product impact, customer relationships, conflict resolution, negotiation and contract experience, and service experience.

5. Building Trust and Credibility With Customers and Prospects

An important part of a marketer''s job today is to build trust and loyalty so prospects and customers become inspired advocates for the product and brand. To be effective, providers must demonstrate they want to hear what their prospects and customers think of their products and their role as a provider. Marketers must give customers opportunities to have a voice and share their feedback.

Reviews are an effective marketing method for not only collecting individual feedback but also understanding and promoting what your buyers and customers think in aggregate. Few things are more powerful than the exact words of the buyer describing their experience.

The opportunities provided by reviews can give marketers an effective way to build credibility and advocacy with prospects and customers.

* * *

'However, not all buyer reviews'' data methodologies are alike. Using more than one review platform to gather reviews is important because the questions asked of buyers and the required level of detail vary significantly. Marketers will want to understand not only what features are most important to buyers but what their customers and potential buyers feel and think about their company.

For example, what was it like to work with a certain software provider throughout the evaluation, negotiation and contracting, and service experience? How do buyers feel about the provider''s ability to help them grow and innovate? How do competing providers compare across those emotional dimensions of the buyer experience?

Sometimes it's easier for marketers to think they already know what their customers like or dislike about their product. Then they can get on to writing that marketing copy, shipping the next release, and generating more leads.

But gathering feedback through reviews is important customer-first work that pays dividends many times over. Showing up for customers means listening to and acting on the positive and negative experiences they have with products and their providers.

Buyer reviews are a direct and effective method for marketers to gather useful feedback. Moreover, incorporating reviews into their marketing plan will lead to a deeper connection with and understanding of customers, which enables marketers to improve customer experience and sell more products.

More Resources on B2B Buyer Reviews

Five Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Online Reviews

Customer Reviews as Marketing Channel: How to Create a ''Review Funnel''

How Reviews and Recommendations Affect the Path to Purchase [Infographic]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Christina Kearney

Christina Kearney is the CMO at SoftwareReviews, Info-Tech Research Group''s division dedicated to helping SaaS marketers become the best leaders for their organizations and customers. Christina has 25 years of go-to-market leadership experience.

LinkedIn: Christina Kearney