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Negative Reviews Positively Impact Your Brand’s Perception, Product, and G2 Profile

June 9, 2020

negative reviews one star

Let’s face it, whether it’s a movie you liked, a project you worked on, or even something you cooked – no one likes to get negative reviews.

We’re only human, and when we invest passion and effort into the things we do, it’s natural to want them to be positively received by others.

It’s no different in B2B technology, where oftentimes, the stakes can certainly feel (and be) higher when negative user reviews come through on the products and experiences we offer. Some estimates say it could take up to 40 positive reviews to undo the damage of just one negative review. Yikes.

But as a marketing leader having spent several years in both the B2C and B2B reviews spaces, what if I told you that negative reviews are actually one of the most important (and positive) drivers of a 1️⃣ healthy brand perception, 2️⃣ great products, and 3️⃣ high-performing G2 profile?

The data on negative reviews

Don’t believe me? Well it turns out that buyers don’t believe perfect ratings and reviews, either. A study by Northwestern and PowerReviews confirmed that negative reviews, in fact, build trust, which is why eight in 10 consumers purposefully seek out negative reviews. And the closer you get to a perfect five-star rating, the further you get from buyers ultimately buying from you. Keep in mind that 95% of buyers suspect censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see any negative reviews on a product.

Why? Because the higher the rating, the less believable the reviews turn out to be. Perfect reviews often come across as “too good to be true,” and that same study uncovered that an average rating of 4.2 to 4.5 is more effective, realistic, and likely to result in purchase.

The power of negative reviews

Does this mean you should aim to collect tons of bad reviews? Of course not! And just by building great products that solve real-world problems for your buyers, you’ll collect more than enough positive reviews from the users who love you.

But a few bad reviews are certainly not the end of the world. They are often one of the most popular parts of a site, sought out two times more than positive reviews – and will help future buyers believe your good reviews. That’s the power of transparently collecting and displaying negative reviews on your products.

Put your negative reviews to work for you

As it turns out, negative reviews don’t only help marketers with brand perception and trustworthiness; they bring much more value to the table. When utilized correctly, negative reviews can help improve virtually every facet of your product and customer experience. Let’s talk about how savvy businesses turn their negative reviews into positive outcomes.

1. Respond to negative reviews to engage current users, and win future buyers

This is one of the quickest (and most important) wins for sellers regarding negative reviews. And while you might think that it’s an obvious one – consider that 87% of sellers don’t respond to their negative reviews, not even on their most popular products sold.

This can greatly impact the trustworthiness of your product (and brand), and become a blocker for future buyers who are considering you. Remember, the vast majority of users specifically seek out negative reviews. And as mentioned above, those reviews are twice as likely to be read (and reread) than your positive reviews. Unacknowledged negative reviews won’t make them go away. And by not responding to them, you risk making them more impactful on future buyers.

The good news is, buyers want to hear from you! More than that, they want to see that you engage with people just like them. That’s why 37% positively factor in responses to negative reviews into both their evaluation of the negative review, along with their overall evaluation of the product itself. And the even better news? G2’s here to help advise you on replying to your reviews. Connect with your G2 rep for best practices.

2. Share negative reviews with product, engineering, and support teams

Like all things in life, product management is iterative. And as you get more comfortable with displaying and responding to negative reviews to build trust (and an ideal 4.2-4.5 aggregate star rating), get into the habit of actioning your insights by passing those negative reviews over to your product and support teams.

This ‘feedback hack’ is something I practiced myself as a G2 customer at PowerReviews. There’s no better way to get ahead of bugs, fixes, and even gaps in your product or customer experiences than through your G2 reviews.

You’ll find that some issues are quick wins and can be fixed in a matter of days that you hadn’t found before (and that other users hadn’t found yet). Other points of feedback in negative reviews will highlight larger product/feature gaps and even call out foundational issues in your implementation, support, or customer experiences that must be addressed cross-functionally.

3. Acknowledge negative reviews to demonstrate that you’re not perfect at everything

Demonstrating a level of transparency in your sales and marketing practices will help you win buyers, not lose them. I was fortunate to work with sales-exec-turned-author Todd Caponi, who felt so strongly about transparent selling practices, he wrote the book on it.

The book went on to win: 

  • 2019’s Best Sales Book at the American Book Awards 🏅
  • 2020’s Best Sales and Marketing Book by the Independent Press Awards 🏅

The book explores the new B2B buying and selling world that’s totally dependent on reviews and feedback – a world where companies can no longer hide their flaws because of the inherent honesty in reviews. There’s no way around negative reviews, but it also creates an opportunity for us as sellers and marketers to lead with them. It turns out that selling this way not only feels right to us as human beings, but it also demonstrably maximizes sales performance.

So instead of hiding your product’s flaws behind fancy marketing and misleading sales messaging, use those flaws to your advantage. Bake transparency into your marketing content. Train your sales teams on it. Build it into scripts, messaging, and resources. In a world where trust and transparency are at an all-time low, and only 8% of B2B buyers trust the sales rep they’re working with at this very moment – be the exception.

Turn those negatives into positives

While getting negative reviews on your product is never fun, the data, perspective, and feedback (pun intended) from both buyers and sellers is clear: they’re necessary. And when leveraged correctly, they can be a real competitive advantage for your brand, your product, and G2 profile.

Remember that:

  • The closer to a perfect five-star rating you are, the less trustworthy you look.
  • Negative reviews are twice as likely to be read than positive reviews.
  • Responding to negative reviews positively affects the evaluation of that review and your product, but a majority of sellers fail to do so.
  • Insights gleaned from negative reviews are a surefire way to improve products and services.
  • Transparent selling by acknowledging flaws and negative reviews can help win you deals as the more trustworthy solution.

Kristin Smaby, author of Being Human is Good Business, who has spent her career building customer-centric practices and philosophies, said it best: “When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better.”

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