Two of G2’s main values are Authenticity and Kindness.
Not only do these values inform how we interact with our clients, vendors, and one another, but they are the lens through which we experience the world. It was important to the founders of G2 that their company remembered the community around them. Through this, G2 Gives was born, which eventually revolutionized our entire review booth strategy.
Note: Clara Flaherty co-wrote this article with Kevin Benson, Senior Events Specialist at G2, and Laura Smith, Events Specialist at G2.
How G2 Gives began
In its first iteration, G2 Gives was a difficult-to-find button on our site that offered free reports to registered non-profits. The G2 Gives we know today began with one unsettling question: “How much did we spend on gift cards this year?”
For a long time, we’d been asking people to write reviews about the software they used in exchange for a gift card. Marty Duffy saw the number detailing how much we had invested in Amazon, Starbucks, and Visa gift cards for thousands of people. It was colossal. What else could we do with that amount of money? What if instead of giving a $10 gift card for every review, we started making a $10 donation for a review?
Once the connection was made between reviews and donations, it took a couple of attempts to get going. The first try was an email asking our user community to write a review in exchange for a $5 donation to an organization fighting cancer. The plan was to use hashtags to get the word out and join the social push surrounding World Cancer Day 2017. However, no money was raised.
On February 23, 2017, a Gives “hackathon” was kicked off, led by Marty Duffy and Mike Dorrance, an engineer for G2 at the time. The small but mighty team they led had been given the gift of time by G2. They had five full workdays with nothing on their plate besides this vague concept of Gives and a goal to raise money with reviews.
The World Water Day Campaign
The first page created was for an organization called Charity Water, in anticipation of World Water Day 2017. On March 6, 2017, G2 received the first review for charity. By the end of the World Water Day Campaign, we raised $245. This was, admittedly, below our goal. Marty said to the group, “We made $245 for clean water through the campaign...I know this can sound like a small amount, but at the end of the day, know that it is 245 days of clean water for one person.”
G2 Gives continues to grow
Sprout Social saw what we were doing and asked to participate. A team of nine then created a new unique page for a vendor to drive donations through reviews. One week later, four more vendors had raised their hands wanting to get involved. BuiltinChicago did a write-up of the work we’d done and the word spread. The group looked at what was accomplished in one week of hard work and late nights and thought, “let’s do more.”
The next step was unplanned and set in motion by an unlikely culprit: hurricane season. Similar to how Gives was spurred by an unsettling question, so was this part. Michael Fauscette, our Chief Research Officer, asked, “We have the platform to raise money with Gives, why aren’t we doing anything?” More of the G2 team came together to create a campaign for hurricane relief. Our user base answered the call and wrote enough reviews to raise over $12,000. This is when we started to grasp just how impactful this program could be.
G2 Gives goes to Dreamforce
Shortly after the hurricane relief push, it was time for Dreamforce, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world, and we were sponsors. At our booth, we put out 15 computers on every empty surface with a landing page asking for a review in exchange for a donation to an organization close to our founder’s hearts, New Story. Attendees saw what we were doing, and through positive word-of-mouth, more people came to our booth wanting to write their review for a donation. By the end of three days, another $21,000 was raised. We still weren’t done.
G2 Gives gets even more attention
More vendors got on board, more charities were represented, more events were attended, and the impact grew exponentially. From conception to the end of 2017, we had raised over $38,000 for five different organizations with missions from eradicating homelessness, to getting more girls in tech. This was a far cry from the original number of $245.
Finding our perfect match
Eventually, the impact wasn’t something a group of volunteers could keep up with. It wasn’t enough for Gives to be a side project, we wanted it to be ingrained in the DNA of what G2 stands for. We put a call out for someone to help us grow and mold Gives into something greater. After interviewing many wonderful contenders, we found the perfect match in Ellen McElligott.
She came into her interview with ideas and a passion for Gives already brewing. When we asked why she wanted to work for G2, she spoke to our values of compassion and authenticity. She spoke to the excitement of wanting to build a strategy that we could point to and work through for many years to come. Since her hiring, Ellen has formed partnerships between G2 and three major non-profit organizations that speak to our team on a global level (American Cancer Society, New Story, and Girls Who Code).
To partner with American Cancer Society is especially fitting for G2 Gives, seeing as World Cancer Day was our first attempt at raising money for charity back in 2017. Plus, each of these pillar partners also has a connection to STEM, which forms an even deeper bond between our teams.
Ellen has also set up a company matching program for employees to support the charities that mean the most to them. She has implemented a system where each employee gets 20 hours a year dedicated to volunteer time and has planned monthly volunteer events for all of our offices. She has rallied the team and implemented a new strategy we can all get behind. In short, she has revolutionized the program, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Review booth initiative
After the success of G2 Gives, Kevin Benson, Senior Events Specialist at G2, saw an opportunity to expand the initiative to our review booth program, which helps G2 customers gather reviews on-site at different events throughout the year.
How review booths started
The first review booth was just a tiny kiosk that happened at a Dreamforce event in 2012. Back then, it was just our founders (Matt Gorniak, Godard Abel, Tim Handorf, and Mark Myers) who were beginning to get people to write a review at our booths that were stocked with just one computer.
The review booth program didn’t become fully built out until January 2016. One of the first vendors that we tested our new strategies and ideas with was for Qualtrics, who we run review campaigns for regularly.
How the strategy evolved
Once we started offering vendors the opportunity to exchange a booth for reviews, we ran into our biggest challenge yet: staffing.
At first, we were using internal resources from our research and marketing teams, but it wasn’t sustainable for the long-term. To solve this we turned to a staffing agency in January 2017 called Torchlight and conveyed that we needed to hire qualified marketers to run our booths. We specified these individuals would be working with professionals across various industries and speaking to a variety of clients, and we needed them to be qualified to do so.
After we had the right people on our staff, we had to tackle our next pain point, which was optimizing a landing page we could use for the number of reviews we had coming in from these events and booths. This evolved to the charity landing pages that are now through G2 Gives.
After doing nearly 200 review booths, it was a lot of trial-and-error. It’s one thing to be on a call with a customer, but it’s another to have face-to-face interactions to create the sort of reviews that we at G2 strive for.
Did you know: Roughly 25,000 of the 1 million reviews on G2 have come from review booths.
We have learned many lessons along the way. For starters, booths often don’t perform when there is no buy-in from the vendor. We need vendors to be involved and excited that we’re there, as well as to get their customers to come to us in a location with high foot traffic.
As an example, our best review booth ever got about 3,500 reviews. This was due in part to that we had buy-in from their team, it was scheduled out months in advance, and we had various locations that we could schedule on-site reviews.
We also learned that having a strong team that works together is an absolute must. We spend a lot of long hours together, we travel for multiple days, and are usually with each other for multiple days. We all need to be able to get along and communicate with each other.
Another major lesson was that people don’t like writing reviews on an iPad -- it simply isn’t effective. Once we switched to using mini chrome books that had a physical keyboard, it was much easier for customers of our clients to leave throughout and cohesive reviews.
Current review booth strategy
On-site review generation is a great opportunity to connect with our customers and help them kick off their review strategy after they’ve signed on with G2. The events team, including Events Specialist Laura Smith, is responsible for attending different events and helping G2 customers gather reviews for their products or services on our platform. The events range anywhere from large-scale trade shows, such as Dreamforce, to small, intimate user conferences.
While we’re on-site at an event, we do our best to make the review gathering experience as seamless and easy for the vendor and their customers. The G2 staff handles everything from setting up the booth to engaging with customers and walking them through the review form.
As we’ve ramped up G2 Gives, we have noticed that more and more people gravitate toward the charitable aspect of writing a review. It makes people feel good knowing they’ve helped a cause. At the same time, the vendors we work with get excited when they see all the reviews rolling in from their happy customers, and how much money we’ve helped them raise for charity through review generation.
Through our efforts, the review booth program is responsible for 8,521 reviews out of the total number of reviews we’ve gathered this year.
Looking toward the future
Right now, the most challenging aspect is juggling all the moving parts that make a review booth a successful experience. There are times where our team has to manage and execute 20 events in less than three weeks, and there’s a lot of communication required to make sure everything goes according to plan.
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Although we’re very proud of how far we’ve come, there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us when it comes to improving the review booth program, both internally and for our customers.
And when it comes to G2 Gives, we are humbled by how far we’ve come from the impossible-to-find button on our site. It’s a part of our culture. There have been some ups and downs, but in just three years, we have donated over $300,000 to more than 40 different organizations around the world.
It’s a work in progress, but we are loving the journey! Here’s to one million more!
Clara is the Community Manager at G2. Originally from an island outside Seattle, Clara has been in Chicago for eight years and with G2 for nearly three. In her free time, Clara loves performing, reading, and beating people at games. (she/her/hers)