How do you make the right choice when buying content marketing technology? You can start the review process with G2 Crowd, which offers crowd-sourced enterprise software reviews. But unlike some review platforms under fire for spam, G2 authenticates each review by connecting members to their LinkedIn profiles.
G2 disrupts a market dominated by big market research firms like Gartner and Forrester because it covers smaller tech startups and highly specialized verticals – something the big research firms can’t duplicate cost effectively. And the results of G2’s lengthy surveys (as many as 60 questions) offer extremely thorough, robust information about individual products, as well as aggregated information about how users are deploying and optimizing software.
Perhaps most surprising is that you’re not required to be a member to view the majority of information on the G2 site, and more than 130,000 visitors use the site each month to read reviews and compare software products. G2 has more than 18,000 reviews of more than 4,000 products. It raised $2.3 million in first-round outside financing earlier this year.
We spoke to Tim Handorf, co-founder of G2 Crowd, about the platform as well as trends he sees based on the data it aggregates.
What problem are you trying to solve at G2 Crowd?
Two years ago, my co-founder and I worked at BigMachines (acquired by Oracle in 2013). In our roles, we interacted a lot with analysts; we noticed they would write an opinion about a vendor based on our briefing and input from a few customers. It dawned on us that our user base knew a lot more about the software than the analysts did.
We were also watching the growth of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. We thought: You can get a lot more information about a $100 hotel room than a $100,000 software product. We knew we could offer a better service to buyers by allowing them a direct connection to users. And so G2 Crowd was born.
Besides reviews, how else can users get value from G2?
Once we reach a critical mass of reviews in a category, we write a report and publish a grid on that category … a two-axis grid that graphs customer satisfaction and market presence. The customer satisfaction rating is based solely on feedback from customer reviews. Market presence is based on publicly available social signals (e.g., size of company, presence in social channels). Many buyers of software use the grid to establish a short list of vendors to speak with. We have also heard that some companies are using the grid and the user reviews during their due-diligence process prior to making a final selection.
You’re sitting on a big pile of data. Are you noticing anything interesting about how marketers use and review marketing software?
We often find that newer companies are more likely to attract customer reviews. Those companies are always looking for feedback, plus they tend to have customer advocates who are passionate about the product. Some of the older, more traditional companies’ customers just won’t take the time. They are not passionate enough. It’s an interesting phenomenon. (And as a result, we go out and solicit reviews for those vendors.)
We’ve also noted that the marketing automation software category has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings relative to other software categories. Also, all sizes of companies are taking advantage of marketing automation software, from startups to large enterprises. Products are not a one size fits all, but there is a solution for everyone in the market.
We hear frustration from customers about product demos. What are your thoughts on demos?
Buyers want more of a self-service model. In fact, the most popular way for buyers to interact with vendors on our site is to request access to video demos. They don’t necessarily want to go to a vendor to get demos anymore; they want to make their own decisions and drive the process themselves.
What information are buyers lacking when making a purchase decision?
Historically, buying decisions relied on analyst reports and demos. There weren’t a lot of reference calls made and buyers didn’t see how the product was being used out in the world.
That’s the core offering of G2 Crowd: Buyers can find out if others have been successful with a product and how they’ve used it. They may find customers are enamored with a certain feature – a feature the buyer isn’t familiar with or considering. And buyers can also see where others are disappointed or haven’t seen a return on investment.
How to get the most
Here are some tips on how to get the most from the G2 Crowd experience:
Create a short list
Scan the vendors within a single category and review each product’s set of features to develop a short list of vendors to study more in depth.
Establish a requirements list
You may have certain requirements in mind, but in fact products in that category may offer much more. Users scan G2 Crowd to develop a list of requirements, and see how others are using products within a category.
Maybe you’ve already developed a short list and spoken to vendors, but want to be sure what you’re hearing is accurate. It’s much better to read blind references from a third party than rely on a curated list of customers from a vendor.
Cover image by Joe Kalinowski