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How to increase customer retention by adapting to the modern buyer’s journey

Vinay Bhagat | Founder of TrustRadius

  • | Acquisition | Customer Success | Engagement | Growth | Onboarding | Retention | Sales
  • September 2019
  • EP25

It's time to adapt

Improve your retention by understanding the modern buyer's journey

Today on Churn.fm we have Vinay Bhagat, Founder and CEO of TrustRadius, and ex-founder and CEO of Convio.

In this episode, we talk briefly about Vinay’s unique educational background, the biggest takeaway he got from being a student at three of the most prestigious universities in the world, and the moment he realized he was destined to become an entrepreneur. 

Vinay also shared how he prevents churn when a champion leaves his customer’s company, how he maintains retention by continuously educating customers, and how companies can adapt to the modern buying process.

We also discussed how to apply the “voice of customer” into your marketing and product development cycles, why transparency is the inevitable future of the buyer’s journey, and how you can drive more reviews from your customers.

As usual, I’m excited to hear what you think of this episode and if you have any feedback I would love to hear from you. You can email me directly on Andrew@churn.fm. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter

Mentioned Resources

Highlights

Time
The lightbulb moment when Vinay realized he wanted to be an entrepreneur. 00:06:17
Why Vinay started Convio. 00:09:07
How companies ended up creating a new internal position just to operate Convio. 00:12:55
Things that Vinay did at Convio and TrustRadius to prevent churn when a champion is leaving. 00:15:32
What should be conveyed to customers in a quarterly review when they’re not that familiar with tech. 00:20:29
How Vinay’s customers implement their voice of customers into their marketing and product development cycle. 00:25:23
Why transparency is the inevitable future of the modern buyer’s journey.  00:29:32
How TrustRadius helps customers score leads along the buyer’s journey. 00:37:29
Advice for companies that want to drive more reviews. 00:41:19
What Vinay would do to help a company turn its churn situation around. 00:43:41

 

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Vinay Bhagat

Founder of TrustRadius

Vinay’s recommended resources on churn
What Vinay is reading right now

About the podcast

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In the real world tackling churn and increasing retention is one of the hardest problems a subscription business faces.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.

Transcription

Andrew Michael
Hi, Vinay. Welcome to the show.

Vinay Bhagat
Thank you, Andrew. Delighted to be here.

Andrew Michael
It’s great to have you. We first connected on LinkedIn actually, very recently, I was really surprised that we’ve managed to connect and obviously wants to jump on the opportunity to have you on the show. To top it, I think today’s episode is going to be really interesting. We’ll touch on a little bit but for the listeners, just to give you a little bit of a background. Vinay is the CEO and co founder of TrustRadius, a customer review platform for business technology. And prior to TrustRadius in 1999, Vinay founded Convio, the leading SaaS platform for nonprofits, and 11 years later in April 2010 Convio became a public company and was acquired in May 2012, for 325 million. Prior to Convio, a was a director at Trilogy Software and a consultant in Bain & Company in London, Hong Kong and Kiev. And he also holds degrees from Harvard, Stanford, and Cambridge. And that’s actually where I want to start the show today, because it’s obviously a very impressive CV and career that you’ve had to date. I think as well like the the degrees that you hold from three of the most prestigious universities in the world is definitely interesting topic. And my first question for you Vinay is, what is like you’d say the biggest takeaway that you learned in those three degrees from those three different universities? What do you say is the single biggest learning that you had in your time?

Vinay Bhagat
Great question. I think I just had a curiosity to learn. The British education system at Cambridge was very focused. I was an electrical engineer. And I think I was pushed my intellectual limits in terms of the rigor of the coursework that I had there, and the competitiveness of the environment. And I just learned, frankly, how to compete and how to survive and how to thrive in a hyper competitive environment. Going to Stanford, it’s a very different style of learning in America, where you have, frankly, a lot more choice over over your curriculum, and, frankly, founded a lot less intense than the British environment. But it opened my mind up in terms of exploration and discovery. And going on more of a personal journey off kind of learning, learning some very, very different things. I studied Japanese for a year, I did a bunch of other things I wouldn’t have otherwise done in the more narrow environment. And I then went out to work at Bain for a few years and returned to go to business school. And for me, Business School was just defining moment in my life where I was actually extremely happy as a consultant and doing well. But one of my leaders at Bain encouraged me to go to business school thinking it’d be an eye opening experience for me, and one of the things I loved about the environment at Harvard was the caliber of speakers who came into to talk to us like Warren Buffett, you know, the CEO of Ford, Motor Company, etc, we’re exposed to leaders from all walks of life and business. And through that journey of discovery over those two years, I realized what I what I ultimately wanted to do, which was to be an entrepreneur, maybe took me longer than than other people to kind of really figure that out and have confidence. And and be, I think the way that you’re sort of measured and and scored at Harvard, for an MBA is is based upon your class participation, being 50% of your grade. So made me a force me, I’m a natural introvert. And it forced me out of my shell to feel more confident speaking up, and more succinct and measured with how I delivered my message.

Andrew Michael
That’s very interesting. I love how you sort of learned the different lessons along the way and how you see sort of those cultural differences between the UK education system in the US, it feels like, the US is a little bit more driven for this entrepreneurial mindset, and really encouraging you to sort of take that route. Is that correct? or?

Vinay Bhagat
Yeah, I would say so. Again, the intensity and the rigor of this of the British system was, frankly, much higher. But the American system was more about Ukraine, your own destiny, you create your own pathway through learning and discovery. And sometimes choice is difficult and paralyzing. But for me, it was actually refreshing to have a panoply of options that I’d never been presented with before.

Andrew Michael
Nice. And what would you say your turning point was then? So you said you were going down the route as a consultant, you’re very happy. Was this sort of like a lightbulb moment? When you said, Okay, yes, definitely, this is my future, this is where I need to be going down, I want to become an entrepreneur. Now,

Vinay Bhagat
the light bulb moment for me was actually, during an internship at Harvard, I went to Wall Street and spent half my summer in, in working in m&a, and the other half of the summer working in private equity, at a bank actually doing investments in companies. And it was, it was the private equity side of things was fun. But when I met the entrepreneurs, and and saw they were working on, I was more interested in being on the other side of the table, rather than just being, you know, hands, hands of financial investor. And I think, you know, there are some people who are wired a certain way to be either an operator or an investor, and there were people who can do both. But I think in the heart of hearts, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to be on the other side of the table. You know, as a child, I had, you know, demonstrated kind of a passion and interest in entrepreneurship. My father actually had a business on the side, he was a Ford Motor Company, but he had a sideline business that he was very passionate about. And I helped him with, I, myself at age 11, used to go buy records from, from record stores that were highly discounted, but I knew my friends would pay higher, higher, higher prices for and mock them up and sell them. So as 11 year old, I was a little micro entrepreneur, I just think I got caught up in, in maybe being risk of us being cautious and kind of going down the establishment path of being educated correctly and working at the right institutions. Before I felt in a really strongly that I was ready to kind of take that risk. And honestly, when I came to Austin, to join trilogy software, I joined them because it felt like it was going to be a very entrepreneurial environment. Turns out that I wasn’t a great culture fit for the company, or it wasn’t a great culture fit for me. And the catalyst for me to actually become an entrepreneur was actually getting fired from trilogy software where I had sort of a different point of view to the CEO. And that was what led to me being fired. But it led to me actually having the courage to finally go do my own thing and start my first company. I think it was a colonel that was inside me always. But you know, I think like a lot of people are needed push, you know, like a bird being pushed out of the nest almost to actually fly and do it.

Andrew Michael
Very nice. I love this is already had led to you being fired before you actually finally took the leap. So maybe tell us a little bit about then conveyor like, what did you do? Like, what was the motivation to start the company? Like, what was the business built around?

Vinay Bhagat
Yeah, so you know, when I, when I kind of first assess what I was going to do, I actually approached it very scientifically, I had a whole bunch of different ideas I was trying to assess in terms of different criteria. And so some market opportunity, pain, point validation, etc, I narrowed down to three ideas. And eventually I picked the idea for can be based upon two things. One is I saw a large market opportunity. But I saw it also an opportunity to do good. And it’s rare to find businesses where you can really feel good about what you’re doing as well as feel like you can be a commercial success. So I seized upon that the light bulb moment was actually when I had volunteered at a at a fundraising pledge drive at a public broadcasting station. So in America, there are this, this this notion of public TV, that is not for profit that raises money from its from its viewing audience. And my wife was involved in that industry and encouraged me to go on for a pledge drive. And literally when when I started to kind of be a participant in the pledge drive, asking people for their information, writing onto a piece of card handing it to the guy who ran fundraising. You know, as a technologist, or someone working in the tech industry, at least I just knew there was a better way to solve this problem and thought it was ludicrous and sort of problem. And I think that’s that that moment was because I was open to looking at things around me seeing problems, I think part of the entrepreneurial journey is starting to have, you know, the perception of pain points around you. And the cognizance of here are things that you can go solve. And there are things that you observe, I think when you are more open minded and attuned to the world entrepreneurial II. But of course, you know, just knowing that one organization had pain was not enough to build a real business. So I had to go and do research to validate that the idea was real. So I ended up literally cold calling hundreds of nonprofit professionals, having meetings, spending about six months just talking to people to validate that the idea was real, that I could build a real business that it wasn’t going to be just a tiny lifestyle business. And that I had I developed a concrete view in terms of the products that I wanted to build, then I went ahead and raise venture capital today. You know, I think businesses have to get further along than just a idea before they raise raise raise capital, at least, you know, a full series say, but I was able to raise back in 99, a full series A predicated on a concept and a design. And I guess, you know, enough credibility.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, I think it’s also really interesting time as well, did you started saying like, 1999, I think is all Salesforce. Similarly, if my second similar time frame, they were founded as well. And really, I think this was probably sort of the birth Arab sauce in its in its infancy, and definitely one of the early days and to build a SAS platform for nonprofits to be able to manage and promote their, their campaigns and the fundraising, like, what are some of the things like the struggles that you found in the early day when it came to churn and retention, specifically, obviously, like this was all new territory and trying to figure things out along the way, like, what are some of the interesting things that you came across?

Vinay Bhagat
Well, I think whenever you are bringing a new concept to market, so just to give a quick view of what can be avoided, we are an online fundraising platform. We also help with communications, marketing, and public advocacy. But we were driving a paradigm shift from traditional direct mail fundraising and traditional event fundraising to using the internet. And whenever you’re driving a new category, there’s a lot of market education that’s required to both acquire clients, but also to keep them and to get them to stick. And whenever you face a change in the economic owner at an organization, if there’s turnover, you’ve got to kind of resell a new person on the concept. And so in our case, both actually with can BO and also my current company trust radius, because we’re bringing a new idea to market, we find that you have to be cognizant of the fact that you are driving change, the organism stations may not have a fixed line item budget for what you do that you’re just grabbing from that you have to justify yourself each year in terms of spend. And secondly, you have to really be acutely focused on helping the organization be successful. In the case of can be a, we actually ended up creating a new position and most of the organizations that we work with. So by the end, by the time a company was acquired, we’d probably created about 3000, sort of unique jobs in the US nonprofit sector of people who now basically can be administrators who are doing online fundraising. And driving that change in an industry is non trivial, right? When when you’re selling you a function where there’s a defined budget, where there’s a, an existing job, and they’re just looking for a better mousetrap a better tool to do what they do, that’s a wholly different proposition from an acquisition, and retention perspective, from when you’re building a new category, you’re justifying to a company, not just that they need to spend on you, but they need to spend on the human resources that go alongside it, they need to recruit those people, they need to enable them make them successful. So if you just look at, you know, any company that’s a category builder, whether it’s us or a business, like gain site, building out, you know, you know, the customer success space, there’s a different set of requirements that, frankly, are high bar that one has to drive to be successful in building that category driving acquisition and driving retention.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, definitely. And like you said, said sort of the uncharted territories, really, not only fighting an uphill battle, trying to convince people about your product, but I can imagine sort of like expanding teams or the need for additional resources to actually use this software in general, the topic is all that’s come up quite a bit now. So you touched on is the like really having that champion in mind, and when they leave, then you sort of having to resell back into the organization again, and it’s almost like from scratch, you’re getting started with an ad campaign? What was some of the things that you realized that that you did to sort of curb this at Columbia?

Vinay Bhagat
Well, I think, you know, I’m not sure we did a world class job of it at can do. But one of the things that we did do was, we had pretty good customer marketing, where we’re communicating to our customers on a frequent basis, we were doing sort of Halo brand marketing around things that would be personal with executives, we were doing sort of premier research on topics that affected them, like what was happening with respect to first like major gifting markets and the movement around the internet. I also think we invested heavily in field based marketing, which grew its current clients and content with prospective clients and myself both to engender tighter relationships with current clients, as well as use them as advocates to acquire new clients as well. So some of those was some of the things that I think we did with we did well. Now with my new company trust radius, one of the things I’m acutely focused on is driving regular business reviews. Because again, when you’re trying to champion a new agenda, a new a new a new industry, you know, you need to keep educating and keep keep keep proselytizing, the change. because change is difficult in some companies, and it requires adaptation, it requires new people getting involved. And so you can’t just view it as a one and done in terms of the education process, you have to be regularly helping people understand the journey that they’re on and helping them down that pathway, viewing it as a continuous, a, you know, a continuum of both just getting more skilled at using a product, but also more skilled at being strategically successful with the products and the strategy shift that you’re driving as well. You know, in our case, we’re trying to drive a movement away from, you know, traditional forms of marketing, where brands put out just their own, you know, messaging, sales, people show up, etc, and make their own claims. But what we’ve learned definitively is that buyers put a lot more stock in what their peers have to say, and that they also want transparency, they want to know the whole truth, before they enter into a relationship, they want to know the cons as well as the pros, they want to know, the use cases where products excels. And the use cases where a product falls down, they want to know whether it integrates with the rest of their stack, etc. And today, you know, brands have not always been highly forthcoming, about about their pros and their limitations. You know, often the conversation is purely about where they think they excel. And that may or may not be drive exactly with what the customer finds valuable. So the change that we’re trying to drive in our industry is helping technology brands adapt to the fact that buyers are looking for this kind of information, are empowered to find this kind of information now themselves. And they if they do not find the information that gives them confidence, they don’t buy, or they buy someone else who does give them confidence based upon the evidence that they share with them. And so in our particular case, helping technology brands adapt to the new buyer, and to the new modes of engaging with them. It’s not just something we do in a sales cycle, where we sell them on the concepts, the education and the communication about how to be successful is an enduring process where my CSM is will work with their points of contact on a weekly basis to help drive the tactics that we need to do to be successful. But we will come back to a customer on a quarterly basis to an executive and give them not just a frame of how they’re doing. But what they need to be doing to be successful. We bring ideas to the table, we bring benchmarks to the table to say, this is what best practice looks like. And I think that mode of engagement is essential when you’re trying to drive again, a new category A new change in an industry where, you know, the status quo is not good enough.

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. We actually touched on this with John Gleeson from KeepTruckin where they similarly are trying to establish sort of a new space focused on like a new industry that wasn’t typically used to software. And one of the big strategies was around these business reviews. They’re called executive business reviews, and trying to touch them on a quarterly basis at least. So these reviews themselves like when you go into them, what sort of information do you come into, as you mentioned, like looking to give their best tactics and advice? What are some of the things that go into review, when speaking to customers?

Vinay Bhagat
Well, I think the first thing is understanding what’s important to the customer. So we have, you know, technology brands who engage with us for a variety of reasons, some are just focused on their online reputation, they know that buyers are doing diligence on them before they buy. And they want to make sure that they have an accurate representation on TrustRadius, that they have an at scale representation on TrustRadius, because they you know, rightly believe that people want to see a critical, viable, massive reviews to have confidence in the data. And they want to make sure that the reviews tell that unique competitive narrative offensively. And so oftentimes, the first thing that we’re trying to do with a company is is help them build their online reputation. But the opportunity beyond that speaks to how they can be using voice of customer in their own internal company, and in their own go to market channels to drive improvement and gains, that could be enabling their sales team to use quotes and customer stories from reviews. In order to open doors and remove friction and compete more effectively. It could be using content from a review on the landing page dynamically to improve conversion, it could be using data from our site to improve things like targeting to be able to target, you know, high intent bias, or it could be using feedback from reviews to actually improve your product, or make sure your positioning aligns to how the market really, really values you. And so, you know, when you think about all of those things, it’s a broad set of potential sources of value. And you can’t possibly cover all of those a single e BR and a single review. So what we seek to do is to try and understand in the relationship with the client where they are in their maturity curve. And what’s most important to them at this point in time, for one company, it might be prioritizing sales enablement for another company, they may still be in the kind of like content building phase, and online reputation phase, another company may be focused, hyper focused on how do they use data to do more effective targeted marketing. So my point number one is it’s contextual, you have to understand the customer, where they’re at their properties and where they are in their journey. And then be, what I like to do is to kind of bring my team to bring insights to the table to say, you know, here, here are pages on your website that look right for social proof, that if you included social proof on this page, you’d likely see a conversion left, and then bring examples from other clients who are doing things well that you know, that particular client from look and learn from. So that’s really kind of the off of an APR. The other thing that I found clients really leaning in on is data. Where because we sit on an enormous amount of data about products where we can tell a company, you know, here’s your share of audience in your category, here’s how you stack rank against your competitors. Here’s a new competitive that’s rising up in your market that you may not have heard about, is who you’re being compared to. And here are the types of brands that are researching you. There’s a lot of value in distilling that data for them beyond what they can get an app products and having a conversation around the so what’s you know, for example, if a company thinks it’s competing about, you know, with brands, x y&z and in reality, they have different competitors who are, you know, occupying time, it might change their strategy around content, they built their sales team. And oftentimes I find that brands are not fully aware of who that buys are comparing them to or have a maybe a different view than the reality that we see on our side.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, I mean, that’s very interesting. Like, you’ve touched on quite a lot of things in the last couple of minutes. One a voice of customer, which I want to touch on a brief second. But I think the interesting thing as well is like what Tricia speaks to is this sort of shift in the buyers trust when it comes to actually purchasing software, I think things have become a lot easier to develop software. So now anybody with basic knowledge, can get something up and running in no time. And there’s just a sheer amount. If you see like the mark tech landscape as an example of how much has grown in the last seven years like trust and like user reviews is really becoming the go to place for people to make these decisions and deciding what’s good out in the market. Bearing this in mind, you mentioned you help companies with voice of customer and I think this is often like some of the the gaps we’ve talked about previously, as well. There’s that typically startups as well, they tend to have you get a little bit too technical in their copy, or they get a little bit too salesy. And there’s often this gap between what the product actually does and what their marketing promises. Yeah. How have you seen customers use the voice of customer effectively, not only from like a product development standpoint, but actually when it comes to their marketing and their material?

Vinay Bhagat
Yeah, I’m a really good example as the IT company solo ins, we we run a very comprehensive review program for them across, you know, their entire product line. And they collecting kind of thousands and thousands of data points over the use a really robust averaging four to 600 words, there’s just a lot of feedback and insight in that content. And so one of the big epiphany they had was that some of the product marketing messages that they were using at a product line level, to talk about what was most important about their products, well, often not the same points that their customers hit on as being most valuable. So they were able to glean from that feedback, how to re emphasize the sequence, you know, what was most important to their buyers, to their customers, with a viewpoint that if it’s important to that customer, it’s probably important to their prospective customer as well, they’re able to fine tune what they chose to communicate about. Another example, more from a driving kind of product strategy perspective, we work with a, let’s say, a top, I can’t name them. But a top 10 global technology company has a mixture of hardware and software products. And they do a lot of customer insight gathering through client advisory boards, NPS surveys, etc. But one of the challenges with those methods is that you get sample bias. Often the people on a cab, maybe your North American clients, your largest customers, etc, that have or the the loudest voices, the last person to you touch is the sample bias. And this is last, last last communication bias as well. And what what they’ve shared with me is that because TrustRadius drives really in depth feedback. And because we’re doing it at scale, across customer segments and geographies, they feel that they get a more statistically valid, quantitative view about what their customers are saying about them. And you know, they’re going well beyond how they’re being scored, they’re actually looking at the text of what people are saying and kind of mining that text. We’ve even had some customers who’ve sort of taken the text from there with us and done sort of offline analytical processing of sentiments based upon what people are saying as well.

Andrew Michael
Very interesting. And then from that as well, like from a product development standpoint, they would then take those insights back into product into the development cycle.

Vinay Bhagat
Yes, and you know, when we think about whole products being not just the features, but you know, usability support, etc. Often, you’ll see very, very clear feedback about training deficiencies or support issues as well. And so many of the companies we work with, actually have clarity now objective third party vetted clarity on how they’re actually performing from a training and support perspective. And we’ll use that to drive improvement in those operations as well. And you know, the the interesting thing here, it takes a little bit of courage to sort of embrace this because, you know, sometimes customers aren’t going to be completely blowing in that feedback. But this is the reality of the world we live in today. It’s really, really hard to hide from the truth, people are going to find it out. If they don’t find it out, pre purchase, they’ll find it out post purchase, and they’ll be an unhappy customer, and they won’t renew and they won’t advocate for you. So I’ve always been a big believer, that sort of transparency is ultimately inevitable. And in a world where like, you know, that’s driven by SAS, where the switching costs between products is coming down every day, you have to win based upon building the very best products and delivering the best service. So being cutely focused on listening to your customers is critical. Being acutely focused on acting in the insights that actually drive product improvement. You know, whole product improvement around support, usability, etc, is absolutely critical. And also realizing that the mutton Baya no longer is going to compliment trust, what you say as a brand, or what your sales people say that becoming increasingly skeptical, and you are better served to put the whole truth out there because the buyer is going to feel confident that entering into a relationship, knowing what they’re getting. And that just speeds things up at it actually creates brand preference.

Andrew Michael
And having that trust of the customer is probably the number one thing that you can earn. And you can have as well. Yes, very, very interesting. Vinay, I think like one of the things I wanted to touch on and ask you about was in the context of lead scoring. Now, you mentioned sort of this trust aspect being really critical, and people needing to have these references and resources and really putting it out there as a company like being open and transparent. But have you done any work with companies to understand the quality of leads when they’re coming from sites like yours? TrustRadius? sec, is there anything that you’ve done there to understand? If somebody is reviewing aside the likelihood to buy or then on the inverse? Like, how likely are they to retain after they’ve come through a channel? Like Trust Radius?

Vinay Bhagat
Yeah, I’m glad you asked that. So there are a lot of sites out there whose focus is driving leads, that the whole site is really optimized around driving a form fill on external click. That’s not how I designed TrustRadius, my vision in designing TrustRadiuswas to be a site and a content base that is used across the buyers journey. People certainly use us in this discovery phase, when they have a high level need, they think they need a certain class of power, they’ll come to our site, they’ll compare products, they’ll look at our market visual. So we called trust maps, they’ll look it up lists of available products, and they will narrow down that choice, they will come to us when they’re comparing two products side by side, and want to pick one. And we they’ll also come to us when they’re in deep evaluation with one product to make sure they know what questions to ask the salesperson to validate whether the sales persons claims are correct. And even to build a business case with their with their boss as to why they should purchase a product. So when you think about that buyers journey, and that buyers journey is happening on our site, and on the brand’s site and channels as well. My viewpoint is that the value metric is really influenced not a lead, someone may already know about hot jar, and they’re coming to my site to research it. But they may not result in quote unquote, being a net net new lead. And so just narrowly looking at the world from from the numbers of hand races is not the right way to kind of understand the impact that reviews are having either on a third party site, or potentially in your own channels. So you know, when I look at the value framework, we look at it in a few a few kind of basic ways, certainly will drive some some level of hand raises from outside. But again, the site isn’t optimized for that the site is optimized for being a true research venue. But we can statistically share with someone, here are the numbers of sort of the size of audience that you are influencing on your on our site, here are the actual brands that you’re influencing. And here’s how you stack rank in your category in terms of audience share, how your position, etc. And so helping them understand the value of influence is really, really important. From a hard demand generation perspective, we can also do things like help them remarket to their the entire category to drive leads through their own channels. So we’ll give them the ability to do things like put a tracking pixel on our side, and understand who are the people in market who are researching analytics tools in general, and give them the ability to kind of re markets that audience and drive hand in hand races leads in their own channels. We can also provide an intent data stream that if you’re doing account based marketing can help you coin your reps or your marketing programs that the buyers who are not just attractive, but have purchasing attempt as well. Because the voice of customer is so important, and is ultimately what the buyer wants to wants to wants to hear. A large part of our strategy is actually helping brands take voice of customer from TrustRadius and use it in their own channels. So for example, train Chi in the PR space, uses syndicated content feeds from TrustRadius to create different landing pages against different competitors. Other companies do it based upon different industries and different personas. And what we typically find is that the presence of that third party social proof increases conversion in an AP test. And so if you’re spending money on PPC and you know, advertising to drive people to a page, if you can get 15 20% will yield on every visit you have that’s really valuable. For organic traffic, it may be a 30 to 50% Lyft. If you use content in nurture, and that content compels people to take action, that’s that’s part of the value equation as well. If you arm your sales people to be more effective at using customer proof to validate themselves, they improve that win rate, or they shorten the cycle time for for a deal for an enterprise sales cycle. That’s part of the value equation. So while my industry started as really being kind of a lead arbitrage business, and many of my competitors still operate that way today. That is not my worldview, my worldview is that we’re going through a fundamental shift in terms of how buyers buy and how sellers need to sell. And it’s more about how to use voice of customer to influence people. And how do you use it to improve conversion at every stage of the buyers journey?

Andrew Michael
Yeah, I love that. So at the surface, that really, the focus is all around getting that trust. And building up is a review site that people come to for, like just getting reviews, etc. And then on the back of that you have the services that you focus to your customers, but one of them is not driving leads. The next thing I mentioned, as you mentioned is all sort of like that value matrix, and they’re going along measuring value at different stages of the buyers journey. And I definitely see all of those, like one of the questions that I was wondering and asked is, when it comes to church and retention. Are there any customers that you’ve seen when it comes to the sort of social proof and customer reviews that have been exposed to TrustRadius? Have? Have they seen any increases when it comes to channel retention, because we touched from the beginning. Like if people aren’t truthful up front, and they don’t know like, they sign up for a month, and they’re going to turn later. But really, if you have a really good standing, when it comes to customer reviews, you’ve got trust, and you built it up from people visiting a site like yours? Have you worked with any customers to understand what that impact is? And if like the different audiences like generic somebody coming from a Facebook or Google versus somebody who’s been exposed to a review on your sites that do they see a an increase in long term retention with these audiences?

Vinay Bhagat
That’s a really interesting question in terms of how someone sets whether they will actually be a long term better customer. My hypothesis would be yes, but it’s not something I don’t believe anyone has quantified. where we were, we do have some Indian system, anecdotes of boosting retention is really in a couple of areas. So, you know, we work with one large company in the HR space, who found in their views, that they were being dinged on support. That became, you know, an unequivocal clear case, they didn’t have to dispute that. And so the company, they had clear data that said, something needed to change. So they fixed their support function as a result of that feedback, I’m sure that improve attention. What we were able to do with them was then go back to those customers who who did them on support and ask them to, to state how they felt about support today. And they saw a material improvement in their rating on support as a result, which both gave them the validation that they had indeed fix the problem, but also gave them an accurate new representation in the marketplace, whereas they may have been hurt with a bad support reputation in previously. Another example is where we can tell companies if some of their customers are actively comparing and shopping for a new solution. So one company in the finance in the FinTech space, was able to see from the intent data that we provide to them that accounts that they suspected but might be at risk, but weren’t sure were indeed shopping actively. And that gave them the ability to approach those accounts, and really kind of triage them more effectively. Help them point that customer success efforts to the customers who needed the most solely in order to drive a renewal. And then the third example is where, you know, you find through a review, that there’s a customer that does need intervention, some kind, maybe they have a configuration issue, maybe they have a misperception around a training etc. And so, you know, frankly, just commenting on a review and sending sending someone to the right resource, or, or us that review to then drive an interaction from an SC or a technical person who can help them with their configuration helps get ahead of the problem. All too often customers will suffer in pain and suffering silence not knowing that they’ve, if they actually just talked to the vendor, they could actually find a better solution, the resolution.

Andrew Michael
Definitely. And I think as well, like, that’s an interesting concept in the tone is that the feedback or the customer reviews that you’re getting on sites like yourself, it’s like it’s directed, unbiased. So typically, like when, as customers, when you’re trying to collect customer feedback from your users, you tend to get some sort of bias in it. But it can like go back to that sort of honesty, transparency. And I think maybe the directional feedback that you’re getting on those reviews is going to be a lot clearer and a lot more honest, from users. Right. So the last thing I think we want to touch on today, there’s two questions I for you first is like, what are some of the tips that you would give to companies who want to sort of increase their customer reviews and get people to start, like speaking about them, and dropping comments?

Vinay Bhagat
What are the tips and tricks for driving reviews? I think, you know, just make it part of the fabric of your customer engagement. So, you know, think about the the journey points when a customer you know, first goes live is an ideal point to make the ask when a customer news, etc. You know, just just just make it part of the journey, if you have customer events, etc, that’s an ideal time to source reviews as well. Clearly, what we have found in our industry is that incentives do matter. People rarely kind of wake up and decide they want to review a piece of business software, they have to be asked, and they often have to be incentive, because you’re asking for 20 years at that time to write something. So we found incentives to be a necessary part of what we do with our clients to help drive reviews. And the other thing I would say is that if you’re going to make the effort to actually drive reviews, make sure that they tell your narrative, now you have one shot at getting a customer to kind of get that feedback, you want to make sure that feedback is maximally useful. And so I’m a big believer in actually making sure that the the reviews are kind of optimized to kind of help express the narrative of the product and the differentiation,

Andrew Michael
that I think that going forward as well, it’s going to become more and more of an important channel. So being able to understand how to drive that throughout the process. And making it like an embedded parts of the company is going to be a critical component in winning in the future as well in this new market and the way customers I’m moving in really lacking trust in traditional marketing methods. So last question I got for you Vinay interested to hear your thoughts on this and 23 into a hypothetical scenario. Let’s say like one day, you know, you start a new job, a new role that a company you come in, and churn and retention is really not created all at this company. And you’ve been tasked to try and turn things around now. With your experience, like the CEO and the two previous company in the previous company and now TrustRadius, what would be some of the first things that you would look to do in the first two to three months?

Vinay Bhagat
Map the current customer lifecycle, speak to the people on the front lines of the team to understand why they believe, you know, are the root causes of retention, speak to customers directly. And then, you know, layer on a more systematic way to kind of get customer feedback on a repeat, you know, statistically relevant basis. But dig, dig in, kind of get my hands around the problem, join onboarding calls, join, you know, client success, engagement calls, just understand how we’re engaging today. If the company I mean, it obviously depends on the ACP of the products and the type of customer that you sell to, but as long as it’s a mid market, enterprise product, Institute and the BR process, because I think that is a strategy that I’ve seen work really well. And, and just drives a lot of learnings as well as a lot of value for the client. And I’ve seen it kind of move the needle on retention and net retention as well.

Andrew Michael
Very nice, like having a really systematic approach from beginning to end. Well, Vinay, thanks very much for joining today. It’s been a really a pleasure listening to your story background, how you got to a or today, the learnings you’ve had so far and like how companies now can use customer reviews to further help drive growth and lack sustainable growth. It’s ensuring that companies that do sign up for the product are going to stick around with their product. Thanks for joining in.

Vinay Bhagat
Thank you for having me. Thank you, Andrew.