Transparency Series: You’re Already Naked… Embrace It

Tim Handorf
Tim Handorf  |  June 17, 2015
Your current, past and potential customers are talking about you. It’s time to join the conversation.

There was a point in time when a prospect’s knowledge of a product extended only as far as the vendor allowed. This exclusive relationship between buyer and seller allowed vendors to be selective with the information they provided to their prospects, leaving buyers in the dark. Vendors were in control of the conversation—that is, until buyers opened the conversation up to their personal networks.

Potential buyers found that the people in their personal networks could provide a more transparent view of what to expect of a given product, post-purchase. They discovered that peer insight was more trustworthy than a vendor’s sales pitch. Word-of-mouth insight became an integral part of the sales process, providing potential buyers with more information than ever before.

Today, word-of-mouth insight is no longer limited to personal networks, but extends across existing and emerging online platforms. Past and current customers are able to share their experiences—and prospects are more than willing to listen. In fact, buyers will often wait to make contact with a vendor until they have adequate information on the product. Peer insight proves to be a primary driver of lead generation and deal closure for the B2B tech space—buyers are in control.

Now that peer insight plays an integral role in purchase decisions, it matters less how vendors talk about their product(s) and more about what their customers have to say. Vendors, their products, and their reputations are completely exposed.

This transparency, while a great thing for buyers, can create challenges within professional organizations. Sales teams are caught off guard by the extent of a prospect’s knowledge; marketers work tirelessly to boost their company’s reputation and brand, but their efforts still don’t have as great of an impact as one real customer experience.

Brandwatch is a social media monitoring software company that has embraced the transparency that G2 Crowd brings to the buying processes.  We asked them how they believe the “social era” has impacted the software buying and selling in process.  They stated:

"Peer-to-peer recommendations have blown away the smoke and shattered the mirrors. Marketing hype and advertising spin doesn’t cut it any more. Review sites, wikis, forums, Twitter; if your product or service isn’t up to scratch, consumers will not sit on their hands. There’s always a keyboard to hand, and potentially millions of readers to absorb their views."

They believe old marketing techniques are not as effective as they once were by saying:

“those who shout loudest can’t win any longer. Celebrity endorsements and multi-million dollar advertising spends only go so far, and cannot paper over the cracks of a sub-par product.”

When asked how companies should react to these changes, they believe that it starts with transparency, stating:

“Cultivating trust, aiming to garner as much loyalty as possible from consumers and always offering up a true, honest picture of your organization is more important now than it’s ever been.”

In addition, they believe being transparent about expectations is important.

"Overpromising and under-delivering can be the slow death of a company, with consumers failing to make those peer-to-peer recommendations that are so very crucial, and taking their business elsewhere. It’s important to not just believe this philosophy, but to breathe it too. Even in Brandwatch’s own offering there is a strong desire to hugely over-deliver on often very modest promises, and a willingness to confess to shortcomings in certain areas before any contracts are signed.”

Software Providers: you cannot keep your customers from talking. But you CAN join the conversation.

Embrace word-of-mouth insight. The same transparency that prospects have into your product, YOU will now have into their opinions and conversations. Transparency can be a two-way street.

By utilizing candid customer feedback, you can identify blind spots and work to overcome them. If you listen to and engage with your customers, not only will you establish better communication with your customers, but you will also build better products that customers will want to use. (And they’ll want to be advocates for you, too!)

It’s time to embrace your nakedness and join the conversation.

Tim Handorf
Author

Tim Handorf

Tim Handorf is president of G2 Crowd.