Getting customers to provide references is one of the holy grails for any B2B IT brand.

But whether you’re in PR, AR, marketing or sales, we all know how difficult this is.

Still, we persevere because customers have more credibility with the buyer than any other group, including media and analysts.

In the past couple of years, a new phenomenon has sprung up: B2B IT peer review sites. These include Capterra, TrustRadius. Software Advice, IT Central Station, AppSelekt, alternativeTo, crozdesk, GetApp, SoftwareSuggest to name but a few.

If you’re struggling to get your head around this, think about a TripAdvisor or Yelp style of website. In short: crowd-sourcing of personal opinions and recommendations.

Arguably the best known are G2 Crowd and Gartner Peer Insights (although Gartner also owns three sites aimed at the digital markets – Capterra, Software Advice and GetApp – it’s Peer Insights that has captured most attention).

The launch of the smaller players and then Gartner Peer Insights arriving on the scene did not prompt huge amounts of discussion or debate among the vendor community at the time.

That changed in recent months when Gartner announced data from its Peer Insights site would start to be used by analysts in reports including the Magic Quadrant. You could hear the shrieks of outrage, dismay and panic from AR professionals around the world.

With peer review sites – notably Gartner Peer Insights – now firmly on the radar, many vendors have assumed their AR teams should take responsibility for them. The rationale for this simply seems to be that “it’s Gartner; it’s something for the AR team”.

I disagree. I think the companies that will achieve most success from the peer review sites will be those that build and implement a multi-disciplinary approach.

It will look something like this:

Customer reference teams own the process of identifying prospective tier one customers to submit a review.

Either this team or the sales team own the process of approaching these customer and securing their participation.

Marketing and PR teams own the content, channels and tactics used to promote general requests asking customers to submit a review, e.g. on the company website, via social media, through direct marketing or the use of incentives.

And finally, the AR team gets involved with the Gartner sites, owning the process of assessing the reviews that are published; determining how these will be perceived by the analysts; identifying whether the balance of products being reviewed is appropriate for the analysts’ research needs (and requesting appropriate action by the customer reference or sales teams if not); checking whether additional information is needed to counter any negative comments made.

I’ll be clear. This is about professionally and systematically taking steps to take advantage of a new channel of influence. It is not about gaming the system or asking customers to lie.

In the long-term, no-one knows whether peer review sites for B2B IT decisions have a future and if they do, how important a role they’ll play in the decision-making process. There are actually plenty of real and potential flaws in the model.

In the meantime, these sites exist, big players are putting money and resource into them, and they are influencing buying decision.

You should be taking advantage of them because if you’re not, I’ll bet some of your rivals already are and the rest will be very soon.

If you’re interested in finding out more about peer review sites in the B2B IT market and how we can help you take advantage of their influence, please do get in touch.

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