PartnerUp #123: TrustRadius CEO’s Shocking Take on “4.7 Star Syndrome” & Building Trust

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TrustRadius CEO, Vinay Bhagat, joins the show to share his insights on what buyers actually care about when it comes to ratings and reviews. He emphasizes how much buyers care about reviews from people with similar use cases. He gives tips for how companies can better leverage reviews and he emphasizes the importance of a “radius of trust.”

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  • How to stand out from the crowd. 2:32
  • Show products, not paper credentials. 5:13
  • What tech buyers care about. 11:42
  • The value of integrations. 16:25
  • Integration with Marketo. 18:34
  • The value of using agencies and integrators for reviews. 23:40
  • The most important evaluation factors on review sites. 25:33
  • Quality vs. representation. 31:34
  • The importance of asking the right questions. 35:23
  • The power of partnerships and integration. 36:57
  • Pricing pages that have relevant contextual social proof. 39:10
  • Tapping into the trust of buyers. 44:03
  • Social proof is your net worth. 45:30


Jared Fuller 0:05
Hooray was up, partner up, we're back and I'm excited. I was shooting Isaac, DMS and emails and slacks this morning being like, I have been looking forward to this podcast for a long time. Isaac, what's up my man?

Isaac Morehouse 0:17
Hey, good to be here. Yeah, I'm super excited to this is gonna be a killer discussion. Before we get into it, couple of quick things for those listening out there trying to think when this will go like yeah, this will be before catalyst. So we will be at catalyst in Denver. And we will have a live podcast booth there. So we'll be doing some interviews live, some that we have pre scheduled. And I'm also doing some impromptu stuff pulling some people in. You'll see will and Adam from the partner hacker team they're capturing some video reveals going to have a booth there. Jared is doing a session on near bound. We got all kinds of stuff going on. So if you're at catalysts, definitely look out for us there,

Jared Fuller 0:55
perfunctory plugs, we don't do too many plugs out here. So we'll see you all at the partnership leaders event catalyst for those of you that are going, I have a session there about near bound that I'm really excited about. So we will see you there.

Isaac Morehouse 1:08
Well, I'm session jarred because I just saw you put on my calendar for like tomorrow, brainstorm my near balance session. So that could mean you don't know, you have no idea yet we're gonna talk about or it could mean you have an idea. And you're giving me a chance to modify it because it might be too crazy.

Jared Fuller 1:27
I think option C none of the above. I think the team put that on the calendar as a forcing function for both of us is where that came from actually. Well, we're gonna definitely probably get some fodder for that presentation from this conversation today. We've been we've just had been on fire with guests. You had Chris Lockett, last week with category design play bigger, phenomenal episode. And today we're bringing in another, let's say heavy hitter in the category kind of play right now, from an interesting one. So I'm here today I'm going to set this one up on how we even got here because I just loved it. It was so organic and natural is, folks, if you've been listening to the podcast, you've heard me go on a rant about what 4.7 stars syndrome, right? It's like every review site, I'm seeing some trends, where it's like, you know, games can get gamed, and I posted some comments. And then I believe a mutual friend of ours, posted and commented, you know, on a post where I was talking about 4.7 Star syndrome today. So Vinay, welcome to partner up. He's the CEO of trust radius. And thank you so much for coming in and entertaining. This, you know, is 4.7 stars into real and having the conversation with us today.

Vinay Bhagat 2:32
It was actually my partner Marian blander, I think, Mary. That's right. Yeah, it's hacked us. Yeah, she's my biggest supporter and fan. Biggest brand advocates. So she was the one who tagged me and got us connected.

Jared Fuller 2:45
Yeah, shout out to Marian. She's been a force of nature. And she's popped up multiple times in my partnerships, career. And she anytime she touches anything, she's a total force of nature. So shout out to Marian, for making the connection. We had a phenomenal first, you know, kind of chat of the day where you, you brought a really healthy point of view to this topic of like, reviews, the current state of the union. And what I've, you know, let's say flippantly referred to jokingly, as you know, 4.7 Star syndrome, I think you brought a perspective to this on like, wait a second, there's something really interesting happening now that this channel is maturing, right, you should have reviews, but it's more mature. Everyone that you compete with has reviews. So how do you stand out? Maybe sharing from your perspective is 4.7 Star syndrome real?

Vinay Bhagat 3:30
Absolutely. On sites outside address radius. The challenge is that reviews have become really influential and biased decisions, right? Collectively, the review space commands the attention of millions of tech buyers each month outside alone, 1.5 million. And with that degree of influence, the stakes are high for any tech company. And the pressure is on for many of them in their minds to rack up a really high score. A lot of the algorithms, the two by twos, the awards programs are really focused on scores. And, you know, therefore, vendors feel a lot of pressure to achieve a high score. And they do that by cherry picking by solely asking five star reviews to go online and write a review for them. I won't name them but I heard recently a company that was paying their customer success managers hundreds of dollars to go drive slowly fivestar. I've heard of this several times now. So there's a lot of manipulation out there. And what ends up happening is all the scores start to cluster in the same zone. They all get inflated and it becomes meaningless. And there's sort of a pursuit of again placement in a two by two or play or winning a badge. And when everyone has the same badges or everyone has a proliferation of badges, they become meaningless as well.

Jared Fuller 4:57
Leader you don't like little badges the DoDI be the leader like, aren't you, you're you're a leader, but you're not the leader. And there's six other leaders. So

Vinay Bhagat 5:06
it's kinda like the trophies they give out in children's soccer, right? Everyone gets one.

Isaac Morehouse 5:13
It's funny, you know, I spent a lot of years like a decade in the kind of early career space, and I have tons of content, books, podcasts, whatever, on this topic of like the credential economy, and sort of like, I would call it like, you know, the paper, the paper credentials. versus, you know, and I always tell people, like, show products, not paper, because what happens is this exact same thing, you know, you're going on the job, hunt, whatever. And it's like, degrees GPAs, you know, your resume with your basic bullets. What's happened is, it's like this arms race, and everyone is just going and getting these things. So there's this like inflation happening where you need like, something better, something better. And it becomes it's not useless. It's used to eliminate like the bottom 50% 30%. So it's like, Okay, I'm gonna go look at this thing. I'm interested already a little bit, let me go see what the score is, right? Same with job candidates, can I eliminate the the ones that I know are likely to be really weak, they've got a two star review, I'm just gonna go ahead and eliminate it, chances are that that's not very good. But if they have a four and a half, or 4.7, star review, I can't distinguish those from all the other ones, that anywhere between four and five, they're all basically the same, I have to use some other metric. And that's where we talk about this shift from the house economy to the economy, where the how economies like, how do I solve this? What's the best tool? Let me go look at Google. Let me go look at ratings. And I want to kind of trust this like crowdsourcing thing. The information age has gotten more sophisticated. We don't trust the crowdsourcing thing anymore. Because we know it can get game, we trust it to a point to get us like a smaller field of options. But then we're asking who, okay, now, who do I go to? I've got three of them. And they all have, it's just like this on Amazon, I got three options. And they're all like four to five stars, they're probably roughly the same review wise, but I gotta make the decision based on something else based on trust. And your I love your name, trust radius. So I'm curious, how do you kind of like, like, you take that good component like, let's, let's eliminate the bottom X percent from from the pool. And that's a big helpful step. I don't want to underplay that. But then when it comes to making that final decision, how do you go from like an aggregate score that can be gamed to like, tying it to something that maybe has more influence? It's weighted more by like, who is giving the review? And what's the process?

Vinay Bhagat 7:29
Exactly? Well, let me let me tell you a story as to why I started my company in the first place, because it kind of drives the philosophy of, of everything we've done in terms of model design. So back in 2012, I was selling my first company. But we were also we we'd kind of got to the stage about 450 people where we were buying a lot of enterprise software to run our business, my HR team went out and bought an expensive piece of HR software signed a $200,000 contract. And they consulted the Gartner MQ, they spoke to the salesperson who made certain promises to them. And they spoke to vendor supplied references. We made a mistake, we bought a product that didn't fit our needs. It was good products. You know, highly rated it was a leader in the MQ, but just not right for us. And so that's the fundamental issue with just relying on an aggregate score products in the era of SAS, there are very few crappy products, right? Because, you know, with with with the need to drive retention, you're not going to survive if you've got a terrible product. But a product may be good for someone else, but bad for you, because you have a different use case. And so the fundamental driver in everything I've done in my company is help people pattern match to the right product for them. You know, so aggregate scores, even if they won gained, and not necessarily predictive of a product being right for you. Take a software category like integration software, a product like Dell Boomi, or Bernie is or independent now, scores lower than a Zapier. Zapier is an inexpensive, simple product. booni is a complex and expensive product. If you're a complex enterprise boom is the better solution for you. It doesn't mean so you can't just literally interpret a score and say it's better. It's all about finding the right solution for you. Now, let's talk about gaming for a second. Like again in the consumer space. For things like restaurants, you really do have statistical significance where it's harder to gain. We know a lot of people have skepticism around how Yelp operates. And therefore Pete some people trust Google more. But oftentimes as consumers, we're going to go reference multiple sites, Google Yelp, maybe look at symbol expert reviews as well and put a picture together in the b2b tech space people can do Is it multiple sites as well, but the struggle is because most tech companies have a finite number of customers, not 10s of 1000s and hundreds of 1000s, but maybe 1000. When you gain the system, you know, the scores get corrupted on the site. And so what we set about to do was to a try and mitigate that bias. So we have an algorithm, that if we independently sorcerer review or rating, we score that 100 times higher in our algorithm, than if a vendor drives a review. As we know, that is inherently statistical bias and what vendors do. And then the second thing we do as a company, is try and motivate vendors to be good actors. So we actually created an incentive program where vendors could apply to get certified, that if they could demonstrate to us that they were sourcing reviews from all customers without bias, we would then treat the reviews that they sourced as being as if we had independently sourced them. So we call that sort of the, the true certification. And I'm thankful now that there are a bunch of companies like brands like Cisco, that are openly sourcing reviews from all customers. And that's when everyone wins, right? Because the consumer gets accurate information they can trust. But the vendor also creates trust for their buyers, ultimately. And also, the reviews actually become useful to actually build better products. Because if all you're doing is listening to your happiest customers, you're not getting true representative market feedback. So the best companies actually review view reviews as a feedback mechanism as a way to learn and build better products.

Isaac Morehouse 11:41
You know, it's interesting, there's something kind of like infantilizing about the gaming process, too, it kind of treats your prospective buyer as not capable of handling the truth. And I get the impulse because you're like, I don't want him to see the one crazy person. And there are crazy customers out there who irrational really hates us at a level that's so extreme. So like, I want to kind of hide that. But what's crazy, I know when I'm looking at stuff, especially if it's anything that's like, trying to do something common new kind of different. I always want to see like, okay, the aggregate score is like within the range of acceptability three to five, whatever. And there's a decent number of reviews, I want to look at that, like how many reviews that's gonna tell me how much to actually wait that, but I like seeing some really good reviews. But I like seeing a couple of like, pissed off reviews too. Because that signals to me, you're actually out there in a real market. That's big enough, you're you've actually sold to people that are not a good fit for your product. You've actually like, that's, that's real. That's reality. And sometimes seeing those is actually helpful for me, like I know, people use this. And did they respond? Yeah, like, I mean, I know if I'm looking at a book, for example. And I know this is not a perfect an analog to a software tool. But if a book has an interesting point of view, it better have some one star reviews, some people that are like this is absolute bullshit. I disagree with it for the following reasons, right? If everybody just praises it, it's some slop that somebody wrote and got all their buddies to go like, and nobody else cares, right? Like it's got to, it's got to cause something, you know what I mean? Well,

Vinay Bhagat 13:14
the other thing in this in this equation here is what the buyers really care about. I mean, what you're intuitively saying is, you don't trust things that look just too good. And you want a bit of texture and nuance. Otherwise, it doesn't feel real. We've been doing us a bias bias study for the last seven years now. We've been surveying 2000 buyers a year for the last seven years. And the latest survey, we just published his quote, the b2b disconnect. By far, the number one thing that buyers value and reviews is how relatable this viewer is that someone like me who has the same use case, again, back to my circumstance, when we bought the wrong HR product 12 years ago, we didn't speak to people at same use case. And that was our fundamental mistake. And so what tech buyers are looking for is does that person face the same context as me? Do they have the same business problems? Maybe the same? Stack? The same? Are they in the same industry? relatability matters a great deal. So it isn't just about the masses, I want to I want to see the opinions from people like me. The second thing they care about is content. And what they're saying that when they talk about content is they want to understand nuance. So one of the things that we do is that we ask people a series of leading questions, what is your use case? What are the pros and cons? What alternatives Did you consider? What array Have you experienced? And then if we partner with a brand, we try and help them enumerate that differentiation by asking questions that speak to things they do really well. So if they've got really good mobile support, we'll ask about mobile support, etc. But what buyers really want to do is again hear from people like then, and then go beneath the vanilla score at the high level and unpack the details, right? They want to know, again how well a product is going to work for a specific use case, they want to go in eyes wide open about the cons, the cons of super important. They don't expect a product to be perfect. No piece of enterprise software is perfect. But they do expect to have transparency around, you know, what, what, what is the nature of what they're going into just like, have you when you're hiring someone, if all the references are just glowing, and don't give any areas for improvement, I know the references don't feel very genuine. I want to understand the whole truth about someone when I hire them, or a piece of software when I buy it. And so the content matches a great deal. Way down the list is the score. It's interesting though people do care about what we call faceted scores. attributes like how good is customer support? Or how well do certain features perform? There are nuanced things that people care about the specific tools. But the aggregate score is there against your point I seek it helps you eliminate or maybe shortlist. But it isn't, it isn't a smart way to make your product selection. Again, it's I found out as my team found out 12 years ago, it's a dumb way because you know, in product has been inherently good, but bad for you. Yeah, I've

Isaac Morehouse 16:24
seen different studies. I can't remember now off the top of my head. But I'm on integrations, like the amount that people value. So like if a product has tons of phenomenal integrations, but it's like mediocre and every other way. Most people will choose that over a product that stellar but it's pretty light on integrations, right because of the complexity of our stack. And so just getting more granular, like what is an aggregate score going to tell you about that, I don't care about that, I need to know the thing that matters the most to me. So digging, digging down into there, I just I love what you're doing. I just love this bridging. You know, it's like the marriage of the benefits of the digital world where we have scale. And we have marketplaces, and we have crowdsourcing and all these sorts of concepts with the trust of kind of the pre digital world where it's like, I need to know someone that has reliably, you know, proven to me, they've been where I want to go, trying to marry those things. So we get the benefits of both the scale and the reach and everything of the digital, but then the higher depth of trust have sort of the you know, the old world, if you will?

Vinay Bhagat 17:28
Well, I mean, the name of the company trust radius was was actually with that in mind. So the theory was, every one of us has a few people that we trust for different things, I have photographer friend who if I was going to buy a camera, I'd go talk to him, I've got a Scottish brand and find buying a single malt, I want to try something new, I'll go to hand. But the idea in the tech world is that oftentimes we don't know enough people in our personal networks that can always give us sage advice. That may be maybe you know, they have a trade or the products that are out there. Or maybe they don't have to use same use cases me so how do we help people confidently extend their radius of people they can trust. And so that's the whole idea here, it isn't about the masses, it's about the quality, the quality intersections with people who relate to you. And I think, you know, we're headed sort of in this direction, it isn't just about reviews, it's actually about brokering conversations between people. Because I think, you know, a lot of the times the most savvy researchers will actually have conversations, they aren't just going to trust what they read online, they want to actually dig a bit deeper.

Jared Fuller 18:34
Right? And that that almost prompts a an idea for me, like, where these things started, because we geeked out on some opportunities where, for example, you know, knowing a little bit more about that account that's visiting your website, for instance, you might want to prioritize reviews that let's say mentioned integration, right? So like you have this really powerful integration with Marketo, like I did with drift, I absolutely would want to surface that if that's the channel or the intent, or the primary partner that would be assisting on that deal. Like, that makes sense to drive reviews and to surface that because the context of that person, you know, hey, I'm trying to drive conversational ABM. And, you know, connect my marketing automation on my email to my chat, I want to deliver the same experience. So someone who's done the thing that I'm trying to do, I can trust that person. Right, a lot more. I mean, I love that it's in your brand. And, you know, Isaac kind of said is I believe that we only trust people right now who have been to the places we want to go, right? That's pretty much it. The idea that you could even have on top of that is like, imagine if you were more fully integrating what this all means for your partner program and for your marketing. You could have partners that are not just aligned to let's say, publishing a review like that. But then let's say soliciting, hey, let me know if you need me help. Or if you have questions almost eliciting a conversation to be like, Hey, I am someone that will also vouch like I'll raise my hand to cosign that this is a good one. or just for you or not. And then being party to the conversation. Oftentimes we're doing that through email intros, but like, I could imagine how that type of, you know, review with someone saying like, Hey, here's my review. And yes, you can contact me. Or like, I actually kind of want to have a world where that exists. Are you seeing any data that kind of backs, like people wanting those types of kind of interactions, etc?

Vinay Bhagat 20:25
Oh, yeah, I mean, it I mean, this is from years ago, I had a person at Cisco, who wrote a review, sprinkler, the social media tool, and without any kind of orchestration on our site. I heard from her that multiple people, or other large companies had been contacting her on LinkedIn, because they found her review outfall and authoritative and balanced. And so they wanted to have a private conversation with her. So I've heard lots of ad hoc stories like that. So one of the things we're working on right now is a deeper partnership with LinkedIn, to actually facilitate those conversations in a more dynamic fashion. Because I think there is a real thirst and need for that to go beneath the surface. But the other thing you kind of, you know, I think pointed to here was when when, as a vendor, you change your mindset from this hamster wheel approach of just trying to drive out five star reviews at volume to play the algorithm game to get on a two by two is winning Award, which frankly, buyers ultimately don't really care about that much. And you focus on an actually telling good stories, having representative reviews from all of your customers, there are so many benefits that can ensue. One is you're getting great market feedback, right? honest feedback from your customers. Again, the texture of the cons can be immensely helpful to product management. But also, you're developing content that can become a weapon and go to market. So the best brands take the content from their reviews, they cut it up into sound bites, like here's how we support this use case. Here's why someone picked us up a competitor a here's why we excel at this differentiating feature. And then they actually put it to work. They bring it into their website. And they found we found that you know, contextual social proof on landing pages improves conversion. They bring it into core information pages on their site, and that content gets crawled by Google and helps with SEO. And then they enable us sales teams to use outstrips is one of our customers and they've enabled 400 STRS. To use quotes from their reviews to do use case based price prospecting. So if through discovery, they find out that someone probably has a certain use case, instead of sending them a generic SDR message, they send a very focused quote from a customer who's relatable to their prospects who has the same pain point that they've solved. Think about it, that's 100 times more powerful than something generic. And so we're finding that when you change your ethos from a maniacal focus on gaining scores and driving volume to actually saying, reviews should be a strategy to have our customers tell our unique story. And that content should become an assets that we want to repurpose, and reuse. And you focus on quality over quantity and quality of it just scores. All these benefits ensue, that can help you drive a much more efficient, go to market and help you bias.

Isaac Morehouse 23:40
Vinay as your target. I had this thought about, you know, when you want to go ask people who have been where you want to go? If not just customers like asking similar businesses, Hey, have you use this tool? What's the benefit? I have found that I often go to agencies, because I love so if I've been in the market for various marketing tools before martech stuff, and I'll go to friends who run agencies or people that I've agencies I've worked with before. And what I love is if they have the ability to say, look, I work with 1020 100 clients a year, and I'm willing to implement whatever software makes the most sense. Yeah, maybe I have a really good relationship with this one, or I prefer this one. But they have this ability to give you this sort of objective like, hey, for clients that look like this, I use this tool for this reason, for clients that look like this, I use this tool for this reason. And it's not like, this one's better. This one's worse. It's more like, here's what I've implemented for these clients, and here's why it's worked. So I love that kind of agency perspective. Is that something that? I don't know is that anything that's like a part of the reviews, is there like a different category for like, people who are doing implementations or you know, service agencies versus customers. It's a really great

Vinay Bhagat 24:51
idea to kind of maybe pass it out. We we collect reviews from agencies and integrators and if they have a commercial relationship tip with the vendor will collect those reviews but will suppress them from feeding the algorithm. Because inherently, they're always going to be very positive if they have a commercial interest. But you're right, those people have, oftentimes the mavens, they have had the most to say, right. And especially those who have used multiple tools have incredibly interesting insights. We don't today, pass them out in any specific way. And you can filter by industry, but we don't kind of put them in a different category to see these expert reviews per se. But that's a super interesting idea. I wanted to

Jared Fuller 25:33
comment on one thing, I'm looking at some notes from our last conversation, by the way that I just love the use of the word neighbors that I was just DMing. Isaac, I was like neighbors, I want to use that with more of our nearby and marketing because it's it. I just hadn't heard someone use that word in that context for a while. But it makes so much sense, right? What I wanted to talk about was, you kind of opened with this, but you shared some data with me beforehand, I was looking back through some of my notes. And you showed me a slide. There's I don't know, if you have anything like that with you today, feel free to use it if you want to. But the most important evaluation factors on review sites for buyers. I was shocked by the results that you shared with me. I was like, wait. So like I'm here. I'm out here in the market, you know, railing against 4.7 Star syndrome. And you're like, but I'm like, intuitively, I still use review sites. I just didn't know how I was using them. And you showed me this data. And I was like, That's exactly how I use review sites. I am still using them. And I'm using them differently. And the data suggests that that's what's actually happening in the market as well.

Vinay Bhagat 26:34
Yeah, let me go ahead and share the screen. Are you seeing it right now?

Jared Fuller 26:38
Yes, it is populating real quick. So shout out to the YouTube audience. This is one of those times where I'll hop over to the YouTube and we'll give you some additional value.

Vinay Bhagat 26:49
So again, the number one factor is is the person relatable to me. Second is the content, the substance of what they have to say. The third is how a product rates on specific dimensions like features or attributes like customer support. Interestingly, sales service information is really important to people, the score is 10%. Right? So it's way down the list. Number of reviews, only meaningful to get to critical mass. But beyond that there's diminishing returns again, there are 1000 reviews, you know, a product like zoom on some site says, you know, 30,000 reviews, no one's gonna read 30,000 reviews, they won't read more than six to eight. But what they care about is, again, what is the substance? And is it someone relatable to me, and then look at the bottom one awards and accolades. We give out awards because of endless love. And we know it's a good marketing tactic. But, you know, buyers don't seem to at least they don't voice that they care about them. Again, I think there's a lot of cynicism about awards when they given out too freely. But yeah, absolutely. This I think this data tells a very compelling picture.

Isaac Morehouse 28:07
That's just amazing. Looking at that. That's the one I think the Jared shared with me where I was like, That's it man. That's the WHO economy. That's what we've been talking about. Number one thing on there reviewers relatable to me, like who who is recommending this product, who is talking about it, I just think that's really cool to see those sequence numbers.

Jared Fuller 28:26
It's many favorite phrases piercingly clear like, that demonstrates as much as anything, that instead of talking about something opposite of each other, you know, let's say, the CEO of trust radius, right, Vinay, thank you so much for spending the time and helping unpack that we're actually talking about the same thing. We're observing a market phenomenon. And maybe the lesson that I would tie back off here for the listeners, and why I'm always so obsessive over the phrase of like living in market is that these are phenomena that we recognize, and then all of a sudden, we go back in our b2b walls in the planning meetings and the ops meetings, and how are we going to do XY and Z? And we somehow, like remove the fact that like, No, this is how we all operate now. And this is how we use review sites. And then we'll go to we'll go do it wrong. Right. So there's this disconnect here between like, you know, the world at large, if you actually zoom out and see the market and what's happening, you know, a partnerships podcast talking about this challenge, and why it's changing how partnership behaviors, you know, how buying behaviors changing, is saying the same thing, as, you know, trust radius, which is probably the most trustworthy review site online. I think it's remarkable that we're coming at it from such opposite perspectives and arriving at the same conclusions. And that's what buyers are saying, right?

Isaac Morehouse 29:38
Looking at that data. I'm like, oh, man, it's like, where are you putting your energy and resources? So if if 1% of the things buyers care about and reviews is awards, how many marketing teams my own included Hey, guys, it's award season. So let's go try to get some of those little badges we can share. Wente 3%. So that's 23 key times more important 23%, right, say, Who is giving the review. So if I said to you, you can do one activity that's gonna take you however many hours to try to go and like, get your little award for review season. Or you can do an activity that is 23 times more important to your buyer, which is, let's go find one or two people who are really the kind of people our buyers want to hear from, and see if we can get them to give us a review without trying to do a bunch of scammy stuff to incentivize them just asking them, like, compare those the ROI. But you know, everybody wants the badges, right? Like, that's, that's just a really good smack in the face. It

Jared Fuller 30:37
you know, here's a question Vinay that, let's assume that we, this episode resonated with some people, and they go, you know, what the relevancy of people like me is now a staple in like my marketing, right? Like, we need to market with people who are like our customers that have relationships that are started getting bought in on nearby town. And then we come to the same conclusion on this, let's say the reviews, you know, kind of component. When starting that off, and going, Hey, and we're gonna commit to, you know, making reviews most relevant to the buyers, what are some of the things you're seeing people do that is, let's say, bringing a partner in, you know, like my idea on like, you know, an integration, like we identify, they use this technology, and it's important, so they go to the pricing page, and there's a review from, you know, like, a customer like that, what are some of the interesting things people are doing to address that? That's the number one thing they want reviews of people most relatable to me?

Vinay Bhagat 31:34
Well, I think rather than just shooting for raw numbers, like I need 100, reviews, 200 reviews, or again, obsessing about a score, the ethos changes, again, to quality and representation. So what I encourage people to do is almost build a, a map to say, here are the verticals that we seek to serve, maybe the geos. And here are the use cases. And we want to get at least one customer story review from each of those quadrants, right. And it could be one dimension, it could be two dimensions, it could be more. And so that's one thing. So instead of just being again, focused on a meaningless total number, like a count of reviews, or again, being obsessed about the score, it's how many quality stories do we have to have to share? And do they reflect if we've got five use cases? Do they reflect all five of those use cases, if we serve five industries? Do we have, you know, a mapping of those use cases to those industries. And then ideally, we want to have, we want a few, right, not just one in each cell, but a couple. So that's 111 approach is taking a more strategic approach if you serve different personas. So we work with a company called Aptio, who has increasingly found that the CFO is important persona for them, then you want representation from those different personas, because in the buying cycle, the buying the buying personas want to hear from people in the same role. They don't want to hear from from a CFO, I want to hear from a CFO and not a CIO, et cetera. So that's that's how to think about to be more deterministic about who you're getting the reviews from. The second is, what is the story? Again, when you change your mindset from an obsession on count and score, to making sure that the content is relatable from the right people. The second issue is, what are they saying, right? Human beings, most human beings are not naturally gifted writers. And we found that you have to prompt them. And you have to lead the witness as it were. And so instead of just saying, what he liked, what he disliked and expecting someone to write, you know, a phenomenal exposition, you got to actually lead them through a series of prompted questions. The analogy I use is if you're hiring a market research firm to go talk to your customers in person, would you send them out on trained? Or would you actually guide them about? We believe that differentiation is A, B, and C, please probe on the following dimensions, or we believe our buyers have questions on the following topics and we face friction in our sales cycle around, you know, certain topics, we really need content that speaks to those objections, or we really need content that speaks to our competitive differentiation. And so if you don't ask a customer to spend their precious time to engage, you want the content to actually be useful, useful to the buyer, and useful to you to remove friction and go to market. And so those are the two things that people really doing being more thoughtful about who they go ask for reviews, versus just you know, focusing on the count, you know, 30 high quality reviews is more useful than 300 Nonsense, shallow reviews, and then really being focused on what's the story. And once they have that story, the reviews shouldn't just live on the review site. They should be cut up into sound by some repurposed again, that example I showed of Alteryx, this phenomenal power, because if buyers are looking and craving this type of relatable content, why don't you spoon feed it to them, instead of letting them you know have to do that research, the more you can spoon feed it to them on a landing page in an SDR message and a sales presentation, you're giving them what they want, apparently,

Isaac Morehouse 35:23
you know, this is sort of a bit of a side thing, but I can't help but always connecting these insights in the b2b market with things in my life outside of that, and as Jared knows, listeners know, I moved down to Florida recently. And in the process, you know, when you're looking for a house, you have a lot of similar a lot of overlap with like, when you're looking for a big piece of software. And it's like the who you're asking, and what you ask them is so important. So we had this realtor who was working with us down here, and we were, you know, in Tennessee, so we weren't down here all the time. And she's given us her take on different neighborhoods, and she's like, Oh, no, you don't want that neighborhood. And I didn't know her all that well. But I'm like, I don't know if she accurately represents me. And so I'm like, Well, why why not? Give me some examples? And she's like, Oh, well, I just, I knew somebody that live there. And, you know, they said that, like, people would leave their garage door open all the time, even though the HOA says you're not supposed to and they wouldn't enforce it. And I immediately am like, that's the neighborhood I want. Because I have four kids, they're gonna leave likes in the law, and they're gonna I don't want some neighborhood where the HOA is like, Why do you have a basketball in your driveway, you know, close the garage door. But she thought the opposite. She was trying to help us trying to be helpful, but didn't realize we have a different lifestyle, different place in life than she is. So like, without asking those specific questions like, Okay, tell me more. What about it is bad? What about it is good? That sounds so simple. But it was like I had this epiphany. And now my wife and I knew how to deal with the information she gave us about neighborhoods and houses.

Jared Fuller 36:57
I think that's a great insight. A great insight. I'm curious if you're where you were taking me in that conversation today was like me thinking about these different touch points in the customer journey. These you know, snippets, if you will, it seems to me like you know, part of the narrative and things, things that people and listeners have been latching on to is that. I've said phrases like partnerships should not be a department but a strategy for every department. It seems to me that like let's say for example, reviews, and intertwining that with partners gives you multiple points of leverage, like, I've always found that the best business initiatives are things that stack value on top of existing value. So for example, a review. Okay, cool, neat. Okay, a well crafted review the calls out, let's say, you know, an integration partner that, you know, powers 40% of your install base. Okay, that's probably more relevant, because for 40% of our ICP, that can become more relevant. And then let's say, you know, calling that out, and then having that touch anywhere that splits in Integration page, right, like, so where's the best place to serve that to that person and actually bring together things like partnerships, social proof, right, which is kind of like this whole Bannister of trust. It's kind of interesting. These are really timeless principles. This is child dini. 101. Right? Social proof. Right, like go break down the Amazon shopping page. It's just a lesson in Cialdini, right? You know, so like, social proof, they have to be like you the definition of social proof for people like me, but we've gotten away from that. And we're like, the review that social proof? Well, no, there's varying degrees, like a review from someone's better than nothing. But a review from someone that has context that you've identified about me already. And then we can share. So I imagine there could be some exercises where you kind of break down these inflection points in the customer journey. And then like key things about them. So let's say integration partners could be one, right? So shared customer bases and joint value propositions, you know, pricing or value conversations, for example, talking about the value of the product on a pricing page versus, you know, a painter to solved, right? Like, there are these things that you can do just much more intelligently, to make that social proof more influential. At the end of the day, right?

Vinay Bhagat 39:10
Yeah. And, and just in your last example of pricing, we've seen brands like go to and HootSuite See, like a 20% lift in engagement and conversion on pricing pages that have that relevant, contextual, social proof. And again, isn't just generic social proof, you know, my products, great, but it's speaking to the theme of the page, if it's a pricing page value for money, you know, if it's if it's a good P page, brands, like rubric, for example, have created compete pages for their major competitors like theme, and the quotes are on specifically around why somebody picks rubric over V. If it's solving a specific use case, rubric, tackles ransomware recover rate, the quotes on the page are how people are using rubric to solve a ransomware. Problem. And so that relevant contextual social proof is super important. Again, who is it from? And what are they saying? Is it relevant to the buyer at that point of conversion?

Jared Fuller 40:17
In those conversations to I think, is part of what what my, my current near bound clarion call is, is that partners, customers, influencers, advisors, board members, anyone with a relationship, that where they've gone through the thing that you solve, and that you can leverage more of that, like, I've even been telling sellers lately. This is something that Scott lease has echoed, is, whenever you're, let's say you're soliciting people that you've sold, and then let's say you've helped make it a make it a goal as a seller to truly help you know, one of those customers go through that 90 Day onboarding period. Why? Well, because you know, that's hard. It's hard to really understand and know your customer, show me, you know, me as Sam McKenna and Joe rally would say, but what is so incredible about this social proof is that at the end of the day, someone's selling the solution and b2b sales. And imagine if they have a handful of reviews, right? At a handful of case studies where the rep is mentioned, right, they're like, hey, you know, and working with such and such was a pleasure, he really helped pull together a, b and c, right? That, that speaks volumes to you as a seller that like, Oh, you're someone that I can also trust you are right, software is like, we target accounts, but we sell the people, right, you know, like we buy from companies, but we buy as individuals too. And I think there's a big lesson there that like this is we're playing in the same sandbox of trust and influence. And your as a seller, as a partner person, as a marketer, whoever it is, making the people look good, who are putting that in front of their customers is a smart thing to do.

Vinay Bhagat 41:56
You know, one of the things we drink our own champagne either on dog food, whatever analogy you want to you want to make. And we collect reviews from both buyers, but also vendors who work with us. And what we found in our vendor reviews is that our CSM team are often cited by name. And, you know, to your point, it humanizes the review, right, it is just about features, you know, things like that, it's about the team that you work with. And let's face it, in many software applications, the people behind the software is an intrinsic part of the value proposition. But also, you know, as a leader, it's my favorite thing to share. You know, we're before the wind. And but I want to call out my team. And it makes us people feel really good, you know about being called out as well. And so you're right, the human side is human side, the people behind the software, the partners, or the people, the CSMs is hugely important. One of the other things, you know, since you guys are in the partnership business, is we work with some companies who, you know, who deploy and sell through channels. And one of the things that they'll do is ask a question of the end customer about the partner experience. And they'll get a kind of content block about the partner. And that serves multiple purposes, as a feedback mechanism to say, who's doing well and getting good feedback, be it helps the end customer who's going to ultimately need to pick upon a for implementation, pick the right partner will feel confident about the delivery as well as the software products. And it also becomes a marketing asset for the partner where they can now take those sound bites about them and use them in their channels as well. So I think there's when you again, when you open your mind up to the full potential here and you think of it as a content strategy and a trust building strategy, as opposed to just this maniacal treadmill focus on scores, how many reviews do I have? I think the limits of what's possible here are really in the the range of possibilities is really interesting.

Isaac Morehouse 44:03
I love in a you know, we talk a lot about near bound being essentially tapping into those that buyers trust know, across the buying cycle for Intel intros and influence. And there's something that you mentioned here, that's kind of a it's almost like a little bit of an expansion on that in a way because you said because because that almost assumes the way that I frame that almost the students that buyers have this network of people that they trust, and they kind of they have these, you know, sort of nodes of trust in their network, and they're gonna go to them when they need to answer questions about how to do things. But when you said, buyers often don't have someone they can trust on some of these specific things. Maybe no one in network has been in this position before. And that component of helping them discover people that they will trust but they haven't met them yet. And that and that being a self serve thing is so important. Because if I'm the company and I'm like, oh, there's no one you trust about this solution. You can trust me. I want to sell it to you. They're gonna be but then being able to say, let me go see and coming to trust radius and saying, Okay, who is there out there that I might be able to trust on this, and going to, you know, kind of like, fine and expand their sort of network of trusted nodes. I think that's just a really important part that like, most people actually don't have someone to trust on a lot of these things. And they've got they need some help finding that, that who to even ask,

Vinay Bhagat 45:24
yeah, we need to help them expand their radius of trust. Yeah,

Isaac Morehouse 45:28
really, really,

Jared Fuller 45:30
what a beautiful way to put a point in that. Today, I feel like we could go on and on about this, because at the end of the day, we're talking about something so foundational, and so fundamental, that can apply to really top of funnel, bottom of funnel customers, like social proof is, you know, your network is your net worth, like, these are the these are the awards that you should be displaying, right? He's your customer is saying the most relevant things about you not to every customer, but people like them. And I think that's kind of the goal of where website personalization was supposed to go. Right. We lost a lot of our way there with like, trying to turn it into too much of a science without the social proof. So like, Thank you for the masterclass have a lesson on the the social science and art of social proof. That's a heck of a topic. And we'd love to have you at the new round summit as well than a on this topic as well, because I think I think you could get a lot out of social proof. I mean, that was a drift. Isaac, that was the playbook, you know?

Isaac Morehouse 46:30
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I'd love to, I'd love to see you dive in into some of the data, some of these slides and things. That'd be awesome. The new bounce summit, I got to say, for those of you who are watching on video, this is a great, I just thought it this is a great object lesson what we're talking about. Don't always trust the sort of, you know, forward facing metrics, the badges and the visible things. I am wearing a shirt that's Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Empire. So you would you might think you could trust that you should ask me if that's a good book. I've actually never read the book. Jared have read the book. And they don't have the t shirt. So don't trust the badges and the aggregate scores, you got to ask the people who've actually been there.

Jared Fuller 47:10
100% 100% What a fitting tie in and then Isaac near Brown Summit. Is live nearby. Pre reg.

Isaac Morehouse 47:21
Yeah, absolutely. Nirvan Go check it out, get registered early. Because the first I can't remember how many it is Jared. But the early registrants, you will get all four actually file all five of the physical workbooks that go along with each day of the event shipped to you for free. And then after that, they're going to be just at cost on Amazon. But we're going to do them for free for the early registrants. So get on that. We've also got some other goodies and some fun things in there some limited edition T shirts if you refer some friends and get them to register early. So we've already got several 100 registrants coming in. We had 5000 last year and we want to break that this year. So it's gonna be an incredible four day event. We've condensed it to four days focused on what does it mean to have a near bound company near bound marketing, you're bound sales, you're bound success and you're bound product. And hopefully we'll get Vinay in there to talk about the nexus of trust and product reviews because I think it's right in the wheelhouse.

Jared Fuller 48:20
Absolutely, absolutely. The Nate, thank you so much. Partner up, peace out. We will see you all next time.

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