How We Got Here: A Look Back at the Experience That Sparked G2 Crowd

Tim Handorf
Tim Handorf  |  June 13, 2017

G2 Crowd has a lot to celebrate these days. This June not only marks our fifth year in business - it also feels like the start of an exciting new chapter.

Between our recent, wildly successful Series B funding round and the launch of our many new initiatives, my mind rushes to imagine where we'll go next, and what G2 Crowd can do to make good on our original promise: to bring transparency to B2B buying.

To chart a path forward, it also helps to stop and reflect on how we became the company we are today.

Let me set the stage.

A (Not So) Long Time Ago, In a Suburb (Not That) Far Away

Before co-founding G2 Crowd, I was VP of product management at BigMachines, a configure, price, quote software company later acquired by Oracle.

Being on the product-side, I was all too familiar with the struggle to get on traditional analyst firms’ radars. Back then, a mention in a Gartner Magic Quadrant was considered the pinnacle of credibility for software vendors – easier said than done. We quickly came to realize a few glaring issues with traditional analyst reports:

  • Analysts wouldn’t give you the time of day until your company was a certain size. As you might imagine, this is little help to new vendors trying to drum up brand awareness in order to grow.
  • The analysts had never actually used the software. The majority of the analyst’s experience with the software was from analysts briefings and consulting engagements (which often the vendor had to pay for). The analysts had little context on how the software was being used in the field and could provide answers to detailed questions buyers often needed to make a decision.
  • Once analyst reports were published, information about your business or products might already be outdated. A year before leaving BigMachines, my team had a number of conversations with a major analyst firm. The associated report wasn’t released until 2012, which was a year and a half after the initial conversations and the BigMachines’ acquisition by Oracle.

It seemed like there must be a better way – for both vendors and buyers.

A New Adventure Begins

As I spent time with the analysts, I kept thinking I’d rather be spending the time with our customers. The customers could offer the kind of feedback we’d never get from analysts and they were best suited to provide the details our prospects desired when making a buying decision. In fact, at BigMachines, we found that prospects desired peer advice so much they would hunt down current customers via LinkedIn to learn more about their experiences with our product. At first we feared this transparency we couldn’t control, but soon realized that if we embraced it, it built trust with our prospects. When prospects trusted us, they would buy from us.

Our annual BigMachines users conference was a terrific example. For many years it was only open to customers and provided a forum to provide feedback to us. At the conference we were transparent with our customers and they with us. We feared that if we invited prospects they wouldn’t buy because they would see that we were not perfect.

One year we chose to invite a handful of prospects to the conference. We learned that exposing our clients to the good and the bad actually increased the probability they would buy.

When we asked our new customers how this influenced their purchase, their answer was simple: ‘We know that every software product has good and bad points, we just want to understand them before we buy and believe we will be taken care of if we have difficulties. Your transparency enabled us to trust you and reassure us that this is the type of company we want to do business with’.

There wasn’t a solution available that enabled customers of B2B products to share their experience and created digestible insights for buyers from their experiences. We set out to change this.

Our Promise to Always Put Buyers First

For five years, G2 Crowd has offered an alternative to the traditional analyst relations route by tapping into the power of customer experiences, told by customers themselves.

Our platform is three-fold:

  1. Help B2B buyers find the right products and services for their businesses. Rather than offer gated resources, most of our data, research and tools are free, so all buyers can make informed decisions about what to invest in.
  2. Give end users and customers a community to share their experiences and advice based on the products they use every day.
  3. Create an objective platform where all vendors can showcase their successes, respond to customer issues and get feedback faster – no fee or subscription necessary.

I couldn’t be prouder of everything we’ve accomplished in such a short window of time, or more eager to see what tomorrow holds. Happy birthday, G2 Crowd!

Tim Handorf
Author

Tim Handorf

Tim Handorf is president of G2 Crowd.