A positive review of your software in a major publication or on a website can be an invaluable marketing tool. Instant recognition and endorsement from a trusted source are just two of the immediate benefits. If the review is good enough to bring in new users, it can become a self-sustaining vehicle for growth, as the new users can help increase word-of-mouth branding and create a channel for your customers to become your cheerleaders.
Unfortunately, this is an area where many startups fail to make the grade. This may be because of two issues: not knowing where to have their software reviewed, or attempting to do so prematurely.
Let’s look at these issues one at a time.
Places to Have Your Software Reviewed
There are a myriad of websites that specialize in software reviews and have the user-base to make an appreciable impact on your sales and marketing. Still other sites, although not necessarily software review sites, nonetheless have the influence and readership to be of benefit.
A software review site, G2 Crowd  specializes in business software. Since the launch of its beta in February 2013, the website has “collected nearly 25,000 reviews of more than 5,000 products across several hundred categories, and more than 650,000 answers to the questions software buyers care about most, making G2 Crowd the clear leader in the space.”
PCMag  is another well-known publication and website that has been a trusted source for software reviews for decades.
PCWorld , similar to PCMag, is an established publication with a section dedicated to business software.
While not a software review site, Google+ can be a valuable resource. It’s a well-known fact  that Google+ posts can help improve your company’s rank in search engines. If an organization or individual reviews your software via Google+, that review may rank better in Google search results than a review on a dedicated review website. Add in the value of the individuals and companies in that user’s circles and Google+ becomes an increasingly valuable asset to your “discoverability”.
How to Prepare
Just as a glowing review can send sales skyrocketing, a negative review can have the exact opposite effect. Too many startups make the mistake of pursuing a review of their software before it’s ready. The result is often a review that may take years to recover from. So how can you avoid that?
First and foremost, don’t rush a good thing. As a general rule, you should never have a major publication review your software at version 1.0. Give it time and several rounds of updates for bugs to be discovered and addressed.
Second, enlist the help of some of your existing customers and create a small, trustworthy sample user base. In any group of customers, there are usually a few that represent edge-case use, or at the very least would be considered power users, and can provide valuable feedback on your application. Reach out to them, ask their input and take note of what they like and dislike about your application. Don’t be afraid to offer incentives for them to give you the valuable feedback you seek. Whatever incentives you give away will be repaid many times over if that feedback helps garner a positive review.
Third, look at your software from the vantage point of someone who is unfamiliar with your particular industry. While it is true that you are likely targeting individuals and companies that are familiar, the average software reviewer may not possess that level of expertise. Their knowledge may be more generalized, yet it is their recommendation, or lack thereof, that can make or break the review. Even if your software has a necessary level of complexity, or an unavoidable learning curve, never underestimate the value of good documentation and the length to which it can go toward helping even the moderately-knowledgeable suddenly become completely acclimated and well-versed in the software.
Without a doubt, receiving a positive review can be a significant boon to your marketing efforts. With careful planning, patience and a little work, you can position your company to reap the rewards for years to come.
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