How to Tell if You’re Losing the Race for Better Reviews (and What to Do About It)

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Reviews are incredibly valuable. You need more, you need better, and you need them now.

a man running after conversation speech bubbles representing customer reviews

It’s Friday night. You’ve worked hard. You’ve earned the right to order takeout.

But where to go? Your search for a sandwich shop shows three results:

a graph showing three sandwich shops How reviews can look to your customers

Sub Par is rated higher than Punini and Club Sammich, but the latter has eight times as many reviews as Punini and 400 times as many as Sub Par. Which do you pick?

This is the kind of thing your leads consider when they look at reviews of your product. They’re sizing you up against your competitors, and you’ve got to figure out how to make yourself stand out with your own reviews.

Not overly concerned about standing out? You might reconsider when you learn that 44% of businesses disqualify vendors from consideration based on the presence of negative reviews during the selection stage (read more about our Top Technology Trends for SMBs survey here).

You need to figure out how your reviews stack up by benchmarking them against your competition. And if you find they don’t hold up, you’ll need a plan to fix that.

Let’s start by learning how exactly to go about benchmarking.

3 questions you must ask to benchmark your reviews

Let’s look at three questions to ask when benchmarking your reviews that will cover the breadth and depth of your reviews, and provide strong context for how you’re doing in terms of public perception.

For each question, I’ll give you three different levels of benchmarking that you can rely on depending on your experience and available resources.

If you’re new to the world of reviews comparison, stick with Level One, but if you’re a seasoned pro with time and money to spare, go for Level Three. If you’re somewhere in the middle, Level Two is the one for you.

1. How do your ratings compare ?

This is your starting point, and the first question you need to ask. Beyond just looking at overall ratings wherever your online reviews live, you should look at more specific ratings as much as possible (e.g., ease of use, functionality, etc.).

Here’s how to compare your ratings against your competitors’ at each level:

  • Level 1: Make a note of where your business falls on the ratings list and which companies are rated higher than you.
  • Level 2: Rather than look at all companies, focus on your direct competitors and where they rank compared to your business (i.e., if you’re a small CRM business, a major brand isn’t your direct competitor, but rather another small CRM business).
  • Level 3: Look at the people leaving the ratings. Who is rating you highly compared to who’s rating your competitors highly? Are you targeting the same demographics as your direct competitors? Are those demographics rating you similarly?

With enough digging, you should be able to find enough data to lay a strong framework for benchmarking your reviews.

2. How many reviews do you have compared to your competitors?

If 100 people tell you something, you’re more likely to believe them than if one person tells you something.

The more voices in unison, the louder and more trustworthy they are. That’s why the number of reviews you have matters. After all, you’d trust Club Sammich’s ratings more than Sub Par’s, since Sub Par’s could just be outliers.

It’s important to determine how many reviews you have compared to your competitors, and—beyond that—why. Here’s how to do it:

  • Level 1: Look at the number of reviews you have and compare them to your most direct competitors. Simple and effective.
  • Level 2: Compare the number of reviews you have from specific customer types. Are the majority of your reviews from enterprise clients? Are they from construction businesses or in the healthcare field? Are they from people using your product as a sales tool or for CRM? All are crucial questions to gain a better sense of where your most engaged clients are.
  • Level 3: Break down the number of reviews your competitors have from specific personas that you’re targeting. Are they receiving more than you? Compare that with their reported sales figures, and try to determine the reasons behind any difference that has you lagging behind.

Trustworthiness is a key deciding factor for your leads (in fact, 70% say it can cut a vendor from contention), and the more references you have in the form of reviews, the more trustworthy you appear.

3. How does the actual quality of your reviews compare?

This is where things get tricky.

A review of review quality requires an analysis of two things: the actual content of the review and the sentiment behind it. For example, Punini’s review snippet references burnt toast and a preference for crispy bread. The content is factual and the sentiment positive.

It can be hard to pick apart which is which in reviews. Here’s how to do it at each level:

  • Level 1: Go through and get a broad understanding of which facets of your product are specifically referenced in reviews. Determine how passionate (either favorably or unfavorably) those reviews are, compared to your competitors’.
  • Level 2: Dump all of your reviews—and all of your competitors’—into a document. Count how many times certain facets are referenced specifically, and by whom.
  • Level 3: Study the way your company asks for reviews and compare it to your competitors’ methods. Is there a form to fill out or specific questions? Do you ask for examples and keep the conversation going in your call to action, or is that more along the lines of the other guy’s practices?

For now, take stock of where your most evocative reviews are coming from. How did you recruit their feedback, and who are they (daily users vs. monthly, IT professionals vs. CMOs, healtcare industry or education)?

These could all be determining factors in terms of review quality. Use that information to determine where you go from here in your quest for the most specific, and most emotionally compelling reviews possible.

Useful tips for moving forward with your benchmarking

If the more advanced practices above feel like impossible asks, there are a few ways to make them more manageable:

  • Hire an external consultant. They’ll be able to guide you through not only the big ask of benchmarking your reviews, but also identify pain points, obstacles, and means of overcoming them as you move forward.
  • Invest in a tool that can help you understand your reviews. Gartner offers its own version of reviews insights that does the majority of the work for you, allowing you to compare your own reviews and user sentiments to specific competitors or the field as a whole. It can save you time and money, and give you space to figure out what’s next.

Whichever tool you use, have a clear plan for what you want to do with the information it generates. This will help guide a lot of your research.

Not sure how to make that plan? Read these articles to get started:


Information on Capterra’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs survey

Capterra conducted this survey in June and July 2018 among 715 U.S.-based SMBs with more than one employee and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

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About the Author

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Adam Rosenthal

Adam Rosenthal is a Senior Specialist Analyst covering Vendor Marketing. He received his Masters from the University of Chicago and worked on several TV shows you might have heard of.

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