Reviews don’t seem relevant to startup founders, particularly at the early stage.
Over the past month (Dec 2023) I spoke to several friends and former colleagues who are founders, independent software developers (indie devs), and startup employees about my startup RateHighly.
The common theme was that they didn’t consider third-party reviews. Who cares if someone reviews my software on G2, Capterra, or ProductHunt? I can just ask my customers for feedback directly and use that to improve my product.
Yes, talking directly to users is extremely important. But remember, reviews are public and so are seen by people who aren’t yet your users.
Reviews have tremendous, underappreciated value, and I think they’re particularly important for startups, and especially in 2024 (in a year of sluggish growth for many SaaS businesses).
Reviews can make the difference - bad reviews doubly so
About 7-8 years ago when I was working at another startup we got a bad review - which was insane! - we only had good reviews for years to that point, and so didn’t keep an eye on third-party reviews. I hadn’t even heard of sites like Capterra or GetApp at the time.
The review was from a user who had a bad experience with our support team (which is typically absolutely rock solid - in the top 0.001% of customer success in SaaS). If I recall correctly they were frustrated because the service wasn’t a fit for their use case, and we had explained over support that sadly we couldn’t help them. They were angry and left a bad review. We had no idea. I didn’t even know we had a profile on G2.
Bad reviews - even if unjustified, unfair, or even malicious/spam - can seriously impact the perception of your product. Review sites like Capterra are phenomenal resources for people choosing between software and researching alternatives. G2, TrustPilot, and Capterra state that between 70-90% of buyers are checking review sites before making a purchasing decision. If you put a third-party review on your site, the conversion rate usually increases significantly (of course, you need a decent rating).
So you should definitely be an admin of your review pages on these sites - at minimum. You also want to be aware of spammers - I know of cases personally where competitors have paid spam farms to leave bad reviews on competitors’ profiles. It’s a real thing that is still happening in 2024, and it’s being done by reputable, VC-funded companies. If you’re the admin of the profile on G2 you can at least respond to the review and see full details without being rate limited etc. You can also report the review to G2, show them that the reviewer hadn’t even signed up to your product, and they will investigate and remove it if it’s spam.
If you get a genuinely negative review, hey it might just be accurate. In those cases just fix whatever issue there was, make the customer whole if necessary, and write a comment apologising and explaining what you’ve done to fix the issue. Treat it as an opportunity to show that you care about your customers and that you’re responsive to feedback. It’s not as good as no negative reviews, but it’s the best way to handle it.
Reviews can definitely make the difference - content on the Internet is there forever, so it’s crucial to respond to negative reviews in a positive way.
Why are good reviews important
As I wrote above, review sites like G2, Capterra, and GetApp are super high traffic sites. People frequently check them to double check if a product is legit and that it’ll actually meet their needs.
If you have no reviews (good or bad), G2 defaults to just showing your competitors products with the note: “Not enough reviews of X product yet, check out these alternatives”. I bet companies are losing prospects just through this tiny feature alone, since the social proof from reviews is so important.
Once you get some good reviews, you’ll see an increase in traffic to your site, usually qualified prospects with a relatively low bounce rate. This is because people who come from G2 and Capterra have already done their research and are just checking out your site to see if it’s a fit for them.
People frequently search “Y alternative” or “X reviews” on Google, and if you have a good review on G2, Capterra, or GetApp, you’ll rank highly for that search term.
So negative/no reviews can impede lead generation, and good reviews can help lead generation, what do you do with this information? Sign up to RateHighly and get some good reviews!
What is RateHighly?
RateHighly is a free service that I built to help startups and indie devs (SaaS in particular) get more good reviews on major review sites like G2, Capterra, GetApp and ProductHunt. RateHighly has a neat machine learning feature (no LLMs here, just good old fashioned ML) to understand your user sentiment, which we use to determine which users are most engaged with a product and can leave a genuine/informed review - ideally a positive one!
RateHighly is free to use (forever) and out of beta. If you’re interested in getting more good reviews for your product, please sign up at ratehighly.com and get set up.
What’s next for RateHighly?
Since our launch on ProductHunt in January 2024 we got a ton of signups and feedback. There are a few features I hadn’t thought of which I’m adding - and polishing the core experience for reviewers and users so the service is faster and better at the core goal: turning active users into advocates, to get you good reviews on sites like G2, Capterra, and ProductHunt.
Let me know if you have any feedback about RateHighly, I’m just getting started!