CTM Blog

Smart Route Podcast

The Value of Third Party Reviews with G2’s Mike Buscemi

by Barb Cronin

High performing organizations know they need to listen to their customers in order to grow and improve. One incredible source of customer feedback are self-generated company reviews. Across Google, software aggregators like G2, or Facebook, reviews provide companies a window into their customers’ experiences. Reviews can provide intelligence for your own company. Negative reviews fuel change and positive reviews can fuel leverage to generate additional business and revenue.

Because reviews can have such a huge impact on businesses large and small, we asked Mike Buscemi, a leader of relationship management at G2, to join us for this month’s Smart Route episode to share the value of third party reviews and best practices for businesses looking for reputation management solutions. We cover trending topics like managing negative customer reviews, getting started with review management at your organization, knowing when to ask customers to submit a review, and more! 

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Episode Transcript:

Courtney Tyson (00:19):
Hello, and welcome to episode seven of Smart Route. I’m your host Courtney Tyson. During this episode, we’re going to learn more about the value of third party reviews and here to share his expertise with us is Mike Buscemi of G2. Thanks for being here, Mike.

Mike Buscemi (00:35):
Yeah, thanks for having me excited to chat with you, Courtney, and talk a little bit more about G2 and reviews overall in the industry. Awesome.

Courtney Tyson (00:44):
Well welcome. So just to share a little bit for our listeners about, about you, we’ve actually invited Mike to be our guest today because he’s a, he’s a true subject matter expert on today’s topic. He currently leads the SMB segment at G2 helping companies to elevate their brand and drive demand. So with that, Mike, tell us a little bit about you and how your path has led you to your current role at G2.

Mike Buscemi (01:09):
Yeah, absolutely. I think I have a little bit of a different path than probably most. I started out actually interning at the Cubs and then I worked in food service for for a hot second made my way into the startup world with Groupon for a little bit as a stint in B2B marketing and then switched over to an organization called Terryberry that was in the HR realm and what we did, there was a little bit of a software as service play. So I had a lot of experience with the full sales cycle hunting, closing, and also retaining business and was one of the group that really pioneered our first real SaaS product into the marketplace to compete with some of the other giants there. And from there I was selling to SMB all the way up to enterprise made a jump to an organization named ITA group, where we were working on not only SaaS products for employee recognition, but also driving behavioral change and, and sales and marketing outcomes through incentive programs for Fortune 500 companies.

Mike Buscemi (02:22):
So was there for a bit, but was really intrigued by what G2 was doing overall in the market. Had a couple of friends that were working at G2 at the time when I was taking a look around at different places to work. I think what really drew me into G2 was a number of things. First heard good things from my friends that were working there. Certainly number one, number two, as I was doing my due diligence on the, on the company know that they were founded by a really smart group who had founded two previous organizations led by go-to table and had sold those to Oracle and Salesforce. So knew this organization was in really good hands. So made the jump, made the leap to be a relationship manager. Honestly didn’t feel like cold calling anymore. So that’s why I moved into the relationship more account management piece, where I can really build those relationships with customers and more understand problems and, and help them.

Mike Buscemi (03:26):
That’s kinda what I liked from my past roles. So it was a great experience there and being at G2 coming up on my three-year anniversary here, I’ve probably held five different roles within sales from SMB to mid-market to, to general business then to being a team lead and leading a team of two mid-market CSMs, three RMs and now was promoted to lead the the SMB segment. So working on growing that segment out and really helping my team succeed as well as helping our customers see value in G2.

Courtney Tyson (04:08):
It’s interesting. It sounds like you kind of worked a little bit in, in the, the employee kind of recognition space where I’m sure, you know, obviously reviews are a big thing, employee reviews moving into, you know, or more of a B2B business type type review role. So it’s interesting throughout your career. There’s always kind of been that trend. What’s interesting for me is I actually had my first experience on the other side of the fence this year and that, you know, I’ve always been in a customer facing role and relationship management role. And in my new role, I was actually tasked with researching and recommending a software that could help us to manage our new partner program. And G2 was a big part of that, that process. And that’s how, you know, me personally, as someone who was looking to purchase a new software, you know, service that’s how I found the value in G2, but, you know, tell us a bit more about, you know, why does the market find value in a review site? Like G2, why to, you know, businesses come to you and work with you?

Mike Buscemi (05:09):
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting that, I mean, basically the dichotomy of how B2B buyers has really shifted over the last. I mean, you could even go back maybe even a decade, right? If you just think theoretically how we as consumers purchase products, it’s by word of mouth and reviews. And that’s been that way since really the advent of almost Amazon. You don’t go on Amazon and buy something without reading reviews. That’s just table stakes these days. And if you look at the proliferation of reviews across industries overall, I mean, you, you went from, you know, reading a food industry guide about, you know, Italy to going on TripAdvisor, you went from reading about, you know, a restaurant or getting a word of mouth from a restaurant to reading Yelp reviews. You went from trying to talk to your friends about what a company is like to reading Glassdoor reviews.

Mike Buscemi (06:10):
So what we’ve seen really is that there’s just been that fundamental shift in buyer behavior and B2B buyers are acting more like consumers act from nine to five when typically you’d be doing that thing from nine from five to nine. So the biggest thing in the industry was that peer reviews didn’t really exist from a business standpoint and our founders as they were going through trying to find funding and for their companies in previous past lives and trying to get validation because they were smaller businesses working with the gardeners and the foresters of the world, you know, was, was difficult. It’s also a little bit of a pay to play model and, you know, they weren’t able to get into the quadrant at that time. Cause I don’t know that a category was created for them. So they decided to host actually their own party and have customers come in.

Mike Buscemi (07:03):
And that was really the beginning of how they thought about G2. So then they founded G2 in a basement about seven years ago. And it’s grown from, you know, those five founders to an organization that’s roughly 300 employees and growing. But it’s really because reviews have just become table stakes for how organizations and buyers of all types, whether you’re B2B or B2C really interact today. And we know from a number of studies, like 80% of buyers read reviews online before they make a purchase, that’s from demand gen, they read at least 10 reviews before they even make a purchasing decision and the internet, you know, just the ability and freedom of information really helped lead that charge. Of course. And I can do my research online before even reaching out to the sales rep. We know that they’re 60% down the path before they ever reach out to us. So why not give them what they’re looking for and allow them to read reviews from, from your customers? Because they’re going to ask you for references anyways.

Courtney Tyson (08:12):
Sure. Yeah, for me personally, a G2 was such a big part of my process in terms of like the education of the landscape of the type of tool that I was looking into. Right. There’s obviously so many tools out there that can do many of the same things. And G2 kind of helped me to figure out, you know, which ones, which of those tools are the right ones for me to look at and ultimately which one was the right one for, for us. So, so, so with that, obviously, you know, all businesses, you know, should find value in a review site like G2, you know, let’s talk about like the size of, of companies that would benefit from investing in, in review management. Like, is there a certain type or size of company that that would benefit from investing in review management management? Is there right size or type of business that should be working with G2 or they’re a like software author.

Mike Buscemi (09:02):
Yeah, no, that, that, it’s an interesting question. Cause if you look at G twos, taxonomy, and, and the customers that leverage G2, I mean, you get everyone from a call tracking metrics or, you know, a insure sign that was bought by Formstack, but they were 10 employees, right. All the way up to your IBM’s, your sales lofts, your outreaches, your MailChimps, your active campaigns, even into the middle, right? Some of your logic dates. So there’s a whole host of organizations that can benefit from reviews. I think the first thing that someone needs to do is ask themselves what are they trying to accomplish with reviews? Because there are a multitude of things you can do. And I think if you’re thinking about diving into the review ecosystem, one, you need to make sure that you have customers to ask, of course you cannot be in stealth mode, right?

Mike Buscemi (09:55):
That’s that’s not necessarily possible here, but make sure you have enough customers to generate reviews. You’re going to want to consider how you’re going to get those reviews. You’re also going to want to consider how you’re going to leverage those reviews. And do you have someone available to manage a platform? And then the fundamental question you’re asking yourself, as you know, what am I trying to get out of this relationship with any review provider? Is it brand awareness? Are you looking to expand your digital footprint? Are you looking to just own your messaging across the web? You know, you can get it anywhere you want to Glassdoor, LinkedIn G2 Capterra TrustRadius, just go on Google. You you’ll probably see reviews for your business. And then, you know, how are you going to, to measure that? And what are you looking to accomplish as is two teams?

Mike Buscemi (10:51):
Cause there’s a lot of different ways to measure the success of a review site, whether that’s simply gathering reviews, that’s maintaining your brand or driving additional awareness around your product. If you look at the segments of organizations, I would argue, SMBs are probably in the realm of trying to get themselves known against maybe a bigger competitor break into a space, maybe create a whole new category. I mean, think of drift years ago, right? They created the conversational marketing category and they became number one there. And then if you’re a mid-market organization, you might be looking to generate demand and maintain your brand. As you continue to scale, especially if you’re trying to move up market, right. That’s a perfect place where you can capture that voice of an enterprise customer and have your potential customers that are going to come to a review site and read.

Mike Buscemi (11:46):
And then from an enterprise perspective, it’s becoming more and more table stakes because enterprise has always worked with analysts. And I think one of the things that analysts don’t provide, they’re starting to provide it more and more and more just because review sites become so popular. But is that voice of the customer? So typically we pay for an engagement. We would talk about the product to be really detailed analysis of, you know, say a Salesforce for example, but you’re also want to know what the customer is saying. And so they are actively using those reviews to sell and sales cycles, maybe deflect reference calls but also, you know, continue to build up their brand sales loft has done a really good example of leveraging G2 everywhere in their brand and everywhere they are, right. It is part of their messaging. It is built into their messaging. And I know CTM does a great job of that as well and messages, you know, how well liked they are by customers everywhere. So it provides you that, that validation to the market that you might not be able to get elsewhere, especially if you’re a smaller organization.

Courtney Tyson (12:58):
I love the structure that you’ve had around that answer. I think it’s really going to help our listeners to kind of better understand how they need to or how they can, how they can kind of attack a risk man or review management strategy and how it can kind of, they can know when it’s right for them to really, really dive into this. Right. So you said you need to make sure they have customers to ask think about how are they going to get those reviews. How are you going to leverage those reviews? Make sure you have a strategy in place. You talked about, I think to, you know, measuring those reviews. So, you know, I think those are all really great tips for our listeners to kind of identify when they’re ready to dive into this. So yeah.

Mike Buscemi (13:39):
Yeah. One other thing I would add that I, that I neglected to add there was review generation is, and should be an always on strategy. We might cover this later, but as you continue to develop your product, develop your roadmap, get additional customers, right? The pace of change in technology is so quick that what, what you do today could be fundamentally different than what you do in a quarter. So always continuing to have the customer voice speak to the progress you’ve made as an organization is going to be critically important, right. We always come out with new app new features, right? So if we have a new product and we sell it and we want feedback on the market, we should leverage reviews to get true, authentic feedback rather than asking our, you know, five happiest customers.

Courtney Tyson (14:31):
Great. Yeah, I agree. I think, and I know that that that’s the approach that we take in internally or at CTM and, and using G2 and asking for reviews, it’s constantly, you know, making sure that we’re touching all the different types of users that work with us, that we’re getting a really good depiction of how well we’re doing and maybe how well we’re not in some areas. So it really kind of helps losses to see the full picture. For sure. So that’s, that’s wonderful advice. You, you talked about, you know, some of the other, you know, similar, I guess, review, review management platforms out there, let’s talk about kind of like the approaches or an models that are out there for review management. Like what are those different approaches? What are those different models and what do you recommend for folks who are just looking to get started?

Mike Buscemi (15:17):
Yeah. A lot of different strategies, a lot of strategies. It really depends on, and this is kind of where I get excited about the relationship management role in general is the ability to really diagnose, Hey, you’re, you’re going this direction. Hey, here’s where we can consult and help you within that direction, generate those reviews. So it’s usually a multi-pronged approach. Most review sites will support you in executing your review, ask for you. So for example, like us at G2 you provide us a list of customers and we’ll execute a three campaign send over a 10 day period. Usually those reviews are incentivized with a gift card or they could be a charity donation if you so choose, you can also choose to not incentivize the reviews as well. That depends on industry and customer type. Then, you know, those can be run as often as you’d like, ideally I’d say at a minimum on a quarterly basis.

Mike Buscemi (16:22):
Just echoing back my comment of pace of change of technology and making sure you’re keeping reviews fresh because ideally your organization is signing new customers every quarter. So we have a fresh batch of folks to reach out to some additional ways to do that are to look at, you know, your promoters and detractors. So if you have an NPS system or some type of internal tracking system, that is a perfect way to identify, you know, potential people to ask for reviews from. And it’s a great way to know who to ask reviews from on a continual basis. It’s my assumption is most NPS systems will run quarterly by yearly. So allowing fresh reviews to happen. If those two things aren’t of appeal to the customer, we’ll, we’ll certainly ask about what their customer success strategy looks like what their renewal strategy looks like, and what I’ve found very successful is a personalized touch from the CS or the account manager to the account.

Mike Buscemi (17:27):
I’ve had a couple of customers forkites would be a great example of one of them that ran internal competitions, where the CSMs were tasked with asking the reviews prize was given and had a lot of success doing that and, and really driving their, their brand awareness and the reviews that perspective that way, which is a really solid opportunity. And if you can continue that as an always on process, some progressive organizations will go and take the step to actually make that a KPI for the team. That’s on them to make that call, but always an opportunity. And then some of the new ways that we’ve been doing that as G2 has just launched a couple review levers integrations with a Medallia and a crop and crop Qualtrax. And some in-app asks, which make the review process relatively seamless.

Mike Buscemi (18:26):
So if you’re in the app, you know, the app you log in or you log out, you’re prompted with the opportunity to leave a review, which reduces friction content like by a hundred percent, because you no longer have to get an email, click it in to that site, leave that review, right? It’s everything is done immediately for you through that, in-app pass. So continuing to do that and then there are some products and platforms that offer continual integrations with an NPS system, and that will execute your review campaigns on a continual basis. So as soon as you get an NPS score in triggers, set emails sent, you can do that with HubSpot. You can do that with a specific tool. So there are a multitude of ways to, to leverage that.

Courtney Tyson (19:18):
So it could be something as easy as just identifying segments and targeting in that way to something complex, as something as complex as integrating with your NPS system and, and kind of facilitating the, the asks for the reviews that way.

Mike Buscemi (19:32):
Yep. I think if you’re first starting and you’re you’re just kind of dipping your toe into the review management idea. The first thing I’d probably recommend is, is more personalized outreach to a customer, just so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to spam them with something. And then you actually have the opportunity to identify who you’re looking to ask. And if it’s your, you know, one of your customers with a really great relationship, ideally that’s an easy ask for, for you from the organization. Sure.

Courtney Tyson (20:06):
So you did talk a little bit about, you know, making sure that you’re, you’re asking for those reviews from your clients who have been with you for a really long time, but also making sure that you’re, you’re asking for reviews from those that are brand new to utilizing, you know, your, your tool. Is there a, you know, an ideal point in that customer journey in which you should be asking refer reviews or is it kind of like at every level most?

Mike Buscemi (20:33):
Yeah. I think you need to consider a couple of things, right? Like the number one thing you should think about is when does a customer have enough experience with your product to ask for reviews? Because if you’ve got a implementation of six months, if you ask a review when they first signed the contract, sure. They’ll be happy cause they just bought the product, but they probably have no idea about the nuances of actually using the product. That would be the one fundamental thing to think about is when is it user experienced enough within my platform to make an ask then some additional good times to make asks are, you know, upon renewal, usually that customer will be happy, will like your product. That’s so that’s a really good time as well. And then after you just launch a product I’ve had a customer do this, they launched a product. And then about three months after the product launch, they wanted feedback. So rather than going individually to, you know, their customer success managers and going in that direction, we did a review campaign instead centered around that product feature. And we’re able to generate really valuable feedback, whether it was positive or negative and help them on the roadmap.

Courtney Tyson (21:51):
And so speaking of negative feedback, yeah. What advice would you give to businesses that are concerned about opening themselves up to negative reviews? I think for me thinking about this off the bat would be okay, just don’t take it personally. Right. But what would you say?

Mike Buscemi (22:09):
Yeah, I it’s, it’s a funny question. Cause we get it all the time. I mean most businesses do whatever they can to avoid negative reviews. And it makes a lot of sense. I mean, you don’t want any negative reviews online, right. About your product. But you have to come at it from the consumer side. If you’ve got all fives, I might think it’s fishy to begin with. Like how can a a hundred people give you all five stars? That seems just a little fishy. So, and I actually think the most read review is a four-star review and that’s across all sites, whether you’re B2C or B2B. And I think a three stars right there too. Cause I usually have the meat of the review and it’s got the bad and the good right. But not all bad reviews and not all negative reviews are bad.

Mike Buscemi (22:59):
That can actually be helpful in a number of ways. So first off before, right. I said, they can help you build trust because if you have a bunch of fives, that’s going to be crazy to see. They also create kind of like a healthy balance and build that trust. And then the bigger thing I think that most people don’t consider is really important to a business. It can help you identify areas of improvement. So if you’re reading a bad review, yes, you might take it a little bit personally at first, but try to understand the actual context of the review. Is it your customer services or your product? Is it your UX, is your UI, is it any other, you know, aspect of, of your product and how can you take that feedback and give that to product marketing or engineering and say, Hey, like on the roadmap, we need to update our user experience and acts. We’re seeing a lot of negative reviews there and you can actually position yourself really well by getting negative feedback and help your product move forward. And then subsequently as you do that, make your customers happier. You can turn those negative reviews into positive reviews.

Courtney Tyson (24:18):
Yeah. The way I think about it is ultimately a customer could really enjoy your product and your brand and have something next, still have something negative to say about it, but it too could mean that they just believe that you could be that much better. Right. And you know, they, they, they understand that they value your feedback. And so you’re going to take it and, you know, make your product better. We went through quite a few questions already, but you know, are there any other frequently asked questions that you receive a lot that you’d want to address?

Mike Buscemi (24:50):
Yeah, this is a good one. I’ve covered most of the questions that people ask on a daily basis you know, just interacting with customers and, and our reps and what they get asked. I think a lot of people are confused on how to measure review sites successfully. We all do something a little bit differently. And we all fit a different part in the market. And I think when you look at how to measure review, Jen, I think it’s misconstrued every once in a while. And I’ll, I’ll go with the Dave Gerhardt here cause I follow him pretty religiously on, on on LinkedIn and Twitter. You need to also consider reviews as brand marketing. And I know brand marketing doesn’t show a lot of dollars to the CFO. However, if you don’t have a brand, you’re not going to generate demand. If nobody knows about your business and you don’t have a name in a marketplace, how do you develop the customer base?

Mike Buscemi (25:55):
Salesforce, you know, made a brand, right? They also broke into a market and did something totally crazy. Salesloft made a brand outreach, made a brand. You know, these companies that are being very successful, make a brand, there are 37,000 software companies in the SMB space. The ones that are able to succeed really well are the ones that can establish themselves as a brand or a disruptor. So I think there is a lot of value and a lot of misconception around the value of brand and what reviews can do for you and that aspect. So that, that’s probably what I think is maybe misconstrued or misunderstood with reviews sites in general is there is a huge branding play aspect to this and making sure that you are the next brand or you are maintaining the brand. Okay.

Courtney Tyson (26:56):
It’s interesting. The next question I was going to ask was around, you know, what other benefits are there for, for businesses to invest in a review management platform besides the lead gen and reputation management. But I think you kind of hit the nail on the head there with the really establishing that brand. Making sure that, you know, you’re, you’re driving that brand awareness in a way that you maybe typically wouldn’t. And I know for me personally, it was like you said to understanding the marketplace and the landscape of you know, maybe a certain type of tool that, that you’re looking to purchase or looking for reviews on, or even a brand that you’re looking for reviews on. So outside of that, you know, any other benefits that you’d like to kind of throw out there?

Mike Buscemi (27:37):
Yeah. I think a lot of people leverage review sites and think just marketing ons. I think it should be sales and marketing owned and success owned the most successful people have 3, 3, 3 parts of their company involved in marketing sales and success, right. Success to drive reviews, to make sure they’re delaying the customer’s marketing to leverage those reviews and content. We, you know, we have an intent product. Other people do as well, leveraging the intent to understand who’s in market, who’s buying. So those are a couple pieces there and then sales can play an actual fundamental role in this because sales should be able to able and should leverage your reviews to close new business back when we started, right, when we started this conversation, right? You ask why do reviews matter today? And I was explaining that, you know, 80% of B2B buyers are reading reviews, so they’re gonna do it whether or not the sales person likes it.

Mike Buscemi (28:42):
And they don’t want to probably talk to us when we want to talk to them. Right. It’s on their timeline. So we need to give the buyers what they’re interested in. And if you just do a simple Google search on, you know, best CRM software, for example, G2 ranks, number one. So we’re going to get the traffic of your potential buyer. So you need to lean in and leverage your customer voice more. We’ve all been asked for references. Why not provide them upfront versus like waiting and then saying, Hey, three, same customers that like me, that I use for every reference call, give that at the end of the sales cycle when you can build trust up from

Courtney Tyson (29:27):
Sure. So you you’ve shared with us a lot about all of the different, I guess, features and functionalities that really bring value to G2 and you know, how businesses can be leveraging G2 in a multitude of ways than just requesting reviews and kind of managing those reviews. We know. So, so what does the future look like for G2? Can you share anything with us about, you know, what the future holds for G2, any new things you guys are working on?

Mike Buscemi (29:55):
Yeah, yeah. We so might’ve seen the news, we got a series D which we’re super excited about. We’re investing heavily in the product for our customers to realize more benefits of G2 we’re investing in our SEO so we can generate more traffic and more buyers and more eyes. We’re looking at a couple of new products. There’s a few in beta that I won’t necessarily publicize yet. We’ve got a new product called G2 deals out. I’m leading with one of our co-founders it’s where we can actually facilitate purchasing right from G2 pretty neat concept. Then we’re, we’ve also got G2 insights, which we’re revamping. So if you think of traditional analysts reports of X company versus Y company, those are based on the analysts. Well, we do something very similar, but base it on your customer, reviews your momentum in the market, your pricing, how people, why people are swapping from one product to the next how do you benchmark against those? Can you leverage this from product roadmapping? So that’s a really exciting product that just keeps getting better as we generate more and more reviews. And I think that the most exciting thing is we’re also investing in people and talent and we’re hiring aggressively across all of G2, whether it’s marketing, product engineering, research RMS AEs in fact, I’m hiring. So I have three open roles. Our mid-market RMS are hiring. Our enterprise team is hiring, so we’re, we’re scaling quickly and we’re excited about the future.

Courtney Tyson (31:36):
It sounds like it’s a very exciting time to be a part of G2 and just congrats on your success personally and congrats on G2 success as well. That’s great. Yeah. Thank you all good stuff. Is there anything else you’d like to plug

Mike Buscemi (31:50):
I’ll plug the fact that I’m hiring again

Courtney Tyson (31:55):
And you do that right.

Mike Buscemi (31:57):
That’s right. Talents, number one. I think we’ve got an awesome team and awesome culture and also an opportunity to grow as, as G2 continues to grow. And we’re looking for the top talent. So if you’re listening to this podcast and are interested in joining G2 feel free to either shoot me a LinkedIn message or apply online.

Courtney Tyson (32:19):
That’s great. Thanks Mike. There’s one last thing that I wanted to say too, is I, you know, just to kind of a quick note for our listeners and myself as well, I think it’s always great to remember to kind of pay it, pay it forward, right. There’s real value for, for us as customers to fill out reviews for companies and brands that we like, you know, it’s our feedback that’s helping and brands to be better and really understand what their customers desire and expect. So, you know, definitely something to think about. Yes, please. Well, Mike, it’s been a pleasure. So thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be our guests. We very much appreciate it.

Mike Buscemi (33:02):
Yeah, absolutely. It was a, it was a pleasure and a blast. Thanks Gordon.

Courtney Tyson (33:05):
Absolutely. And, you know, thanks to G2 for helping us to leverage our our review management strategy. So you guys have been a great partner to us. So thanks for that. And another thank you to our listeners as well. We hope that you learned some new things today. I know, I sure did. And as always continue to, to connect with us and follow us on Twitter at smart rod pod, talk to you soon. Thanks.