In This Episode…
This is the second episode of the Visibility Agency Business and Marketing Podcast.
In this episode, we speak with Kieran Ball, UK Partnerships Manager of Reviews.io and he discusses his career and how he got to where he is today as well as how a SaaS company really operates.
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In today’s episode, I speak to Kieran Ball, Partnerships Manager at Reviews.io, a truly global software company that was founded in Leicester and has recently been acquired by a US tech giant. We talk about his career journey so far and how he got into the exciting world of technology. We also discuss how the SaaS industry really operates and how he’s been able to build partnerships with companies throughout the world. In our conversation, he’ll lift the lid on how a third party review collection service like Reviews to I.O. works in reality and how technology and consumer behavior is evolving and changing. All of that coming up.
Welcome to the Visibility Agency
Business and Marketing Podcast. I’m joined here today with a very special guest, Kieran. Kieran, please introduce yourself.
I work for reviews.io as a partner manager based out of the UK. So, yeah, nice to see you again. Yeah, you too.
So, just at the top of the show, just to let our guests know, we did use to work together, and that’s how I know Kieran. Kieran, thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate you joining us. So, let’s talk a little bit about what you do day to day in your role now at Reviews.io and a little bit about what you do outside of work and what you enjoy as well.
Yeah, no worries. Day to day, so I’m a partner manager, which basically means I look after agencies much like yourselves and work with you and your clients to kind of sell in Reviews.io as a solution. So we’re a third party review collection service and UGC platform. And the idea is that I’ll support you, work with you day to day, and I try and make it so that my clients or my agency at least feel like I work for them without them having to pay me, essentially. So I’ll do demos for their clients. I’ll go and visit them. We’ll put strategies together so that we know our platform better than anybody else is going to know our platform. So the way to do that best for us in our eyes is just make sure we’re giving good feedback to the agencies that you can install on, as well as being there to support your clients and kind of go above and beyond where we can.
Okay, and exactly a little bit about like reviews.io in terms of like who you help and specifically what it is, would you be able to give us a little summary of that as well?
Yeah, so we’re a third-party review collection platform. So we integrate into many different stores, so Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, all of those major platforms. We’re platform agnostic as a brand. And then we try and connect those together through email marketing, so Clavios or MailChimp, dot digital, those sort of things. We bring them all into one and then try and make sure that the reviews kind of can filter through and enhance it. So that could be anything from, I leave a review on an e-com store, so that could be, for example, one of my customers, I leave a review on their platform because I bought the product. We verify that and send it to Google, which can help with ad costs and PPC and bring those down. We can give you stars on your shopping ads and rich snippets, those sorts of things. And then on the flip side of that is how do we then integrate our solution into the others? So if you take the collection side of it, you might want to run that through your email marketing. So if you already use something like Klaviyo or.digital, you’re able to collect reviews from within there and it comes like wire system. It could be something as simple as having a customer support platform, for example, for Gorgias, for example, who we integrate with. And the idea is if you’ve got, say, three sign below reviews, they get pushed automatically into that platform. So your service agents are instantly looking at that review and trying to resolve the issue straight away. So it’s the collection side of things mixed in with let’s make it work together.
Nice. Okay. That sounds like a lot of things that you can help with agencies, can help agencies specifically then. It seems like it covers a lot of places. Okay, so we’ll come back a little bit to Reviews.io later. So in terms of yourself personally, outside of your role, what do you kind of do? What do you like to do?
I mean, it varies, I suppose. I’m still a gigantic nerd at heart. I still play Pokemon for hours and hours at a time. And then outside of that, you know, hanging out with my friends and going to explore places, just where we can is really, really valuable to me. I think it’s good to have the kind of personal downtime from that. And cooking as well is a massive passion of mine now. I’ve really, really got into cooking over the last year and a half or so. And yeah, they’re probably the main three things that I love to do more than anything else.
And you’re based in Leicester, is that right?
Yeah, so the company itself was founded within Leicester. I also live in Leicester in the city centre at the minute. And for anybody that doesn’t know Leicester, if you know where Marsh is, then we’re next door.
Awesome. Awesome. Nice. Okay. So in terms of, well, we kind of covered a little bit about reviews to I.O. Was there anything else you wanted to add in terms of how you help people or your ideal customers, things like that.
Yeah, I think from like an agency point of view,
the way that we help you guys, obviously I said, like I say,
we feed through the strategy around the reviews platform. Because we’re developer led, we add features all the time and it’s almost a full-time job just keeping up with the features that we do put out, so you’re never gonna be able to, so keeping up with that. We also do a referrer scheme, so in terms of as an agency yourselves, if you refer one of your clients to us, we will then pay you our lifetime revenue share that they’re with us as a business. From the Ecom brand side of things, it’s all about getting that feedback, collecting data around third-party attributes, around products, things like that, giving you feedback that you can work on. But also, as I say, get those stars on your ads, get you higher up the page and build that trust with prospective clients more through having that third party collection.
Sure, yeah so to touch on that a little bit because that piques my interest because being an SEO kind of person, we manage SEO campaigns for our clients. Those stars in the search results are really, really important so maybe just touch on that a little bit how marketing managers listening to this podcast, how reviews.io can support with that and how it can help search engines and click-through rates and like you mentioned earlier about PPC as well and how paid campaigns on things like Google and Bing, how those things can help.
So I suppose if you go back to the start of the business when Callum founded it from his kitchen table, as he liked to say. He was one of the first in the UK or globally, I think it was, to essentially get a Google license you can’t get hold of anymore. And that just means that we can feed any reviews through to Google Merchant Center. They acknowledge those. And essentially, the idea is from there, that can give you seller ratings. So that enables things like rich snippets and sales on your ads at a certain point within Google’s online of those reviews. And that will help in terms of we provide the code for giving you rich snippets from your products, those sorts of things, which can make it much easier to look from a search engine point of view to say, right, there’s styles on this, and it can be something like an image around the product or the actual reviews themselves. When it comes to being able to have them on your actual shopping ads, they can get them higher up the page because they’re much more trusted. And that’s how you bring your ad cost down. People that look at that, the idea is they trust the ones with stars underneath. They don’t necessarily trust the ones with no stars on them. So it’s all about engagement and getting people to click on your ads and improve it that way. And we try and provide all of the code and everything from there. It’s very much a low touch solution in terms of how the setup goes. It can be set up within a few hours and you’re kind of good to go. And then it’s just getting those reviews rolling and how we support you.
Because one of the problems that some e-commerce websites have is that they don’t have verified reviews, right? So maybe just touch a little bit more on that point because, yeah.
Yeah, I think the way that I explain it to people that I speak to from an e-commerce perspective is everybody’s seen the sort of five-star wish ads that pop up on Facebook where it’s like, we’ve got 5,000 reviews, look at this, it’s great. And so everybody’s passed the point now, they’re wise enough on the internet to say, that’s not real, let’s be honest, that’s, you know, it’s not a legitimate source. Whereas with Verified, they can come and check it against our website. If you do Google’s based around reviews.io, one of the first one that comes up is, is reviews that are trusted and it explains how we’re trusted and why we’re trusted. And I think it’s important for people to kind of understand from a review point of view that, look, if you’re going to put yourself out there, people will actually respect that and understand it. And you can’t please everybody. And I always say this, people, you’re never going to please absolutely everybody in the world and you might get some bad reviews. And I know that stats and figures why one star reviews are five times more likely to be viewed, which is a huge thing, but it’s how you respond and deal with that. And we’re giving you the platform to make sure you put your best foot forward. I think most people in the world now look at reviews and they don’t look at five star, they’ll automatically go to three and below and see where the problems are, whether it’s delivery or something else. And as a business, it’s how you respond to that. And that can have a real impact on whether somebody buys from you.
Okay. So what you’re saying there is that if you have a full deck of fantastic reviews that could potentially go against you slightly as well then, and actually some of those bad reviews, if they’re genuine and you can see that you’ve responded then that could actually improve the reputation?
Yeah, to some degree. I like to look at it as a way of, I think we always aim for 4.8, 4.9, even our own reviews. If you look at the reviews of reviews, which is a weird sentence you’ve got, you know, we aim for 4.8, 4.9 stars consistently because we try and put out the best service and we respond to people that, you know, we can’t please everybody, not every platform is for every business and you just have to accept that. And sometimes things go wrong and they’re out of your control. And again, people understand that, but I think people are more wary around spending their money in the right way and making sure that they’re not either getting scammed or that the product is what it says it is. I think that’s a really key thing. And having the ability to reply to those reviews and to kind of look over what people are saying, it can enhance it in so many different ways. You can have it as a trust builder from a consumer point of view. You can have it as a feedback tool for you as a business and a brand to say, actually, people don’t like this part of the product. We adapt it, we do this, and that’s huge. And then it’s also collecting the data around it. And from a review standpoint, you get quite a lot of data out of people in terms of who they are, and you can ask for attributes around how tall they are, how the product fits within that, those sorts of questions, and then you
can mark it again. So it’s all about supporting it even further. Okay, okay. Yeah, that’s absolutely a great idea in terms of feedback and then your internal teams can take that feedback and really make changes. So yeah, that’s a really good point. Earlier on, quite earlier on, quite a way back, you mentioned about email automation and connected to tools. So maybe talk a little bit about that. I’ve got a hint of what it might be about, but for our listeners who aren’t necessarily in digital marketing, maybe tell us a little bit about how you can connect reviews and people purchasing and how that links to email marketing.
Yeah, definitely. I think from our platform specifically, there’s two or three ways that we do this really well. So we integrate into different platforms and that integration can be anything from, hey, let’s segment people down because in most email marketing platforms, you can create segments based around somebody’s actions or a certain set of people. We give you more information that you can then segment further down, which means that you’re sending out those emails to the right people with the right information even further. So that can be anything from, have these people left us a review? Yes, they have. Let’s segment that down and send them a code for 10% off to say It could be, you can push in those reviews into your emails as well, which is a new feature for us. But having the idea of reviews on IO, we’ve got five stars here for company reviews, and we can add that sort of data and emails in there for you. And then on top of that, I think it’s also just being able to click via one sort of tech stack. So we tend to, with email marketing platforms, give you a link that you can hide behind a call to action button that’s still within that platform and fits within your current flow.
So that’s a way to try to encourage more reviews, is it? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I really like those ideas in terms of, you know, when a product has received a good review, that you can link that in and let other customers know that people are leaving a lot of reviews on this particular product. So that could certainly drive sales. So those automation things sound really useful. Okay, so that was reviews.io.
We’ve covered quite a lot about that.
I think let’s come back to you then. Tell us a little bit about the industry as a whole that you’re currently working in and what makes it kind of like interesting and unique for you being in this industry?
Yeah, I think for me personally, the thing that I kind of, I’ll be honest, I fell into the industry, it wasn’t something that I was even for a large period I didn’t know existed in terms of the depth that it goes to. I think what makes it unique is, there’s twofold, I love speaking to different brands and I love seeing the brands that I wouldn’t necessarily be introduced to outside of my job. A classic example is Mayving, they’re an electric motorbike company and I went to see them and met the team and everything else. Really nice people, but I’d never come across that as a brand and that’s so cool to me. Mixed with the idea and it does kind of ruin it. I have to be honest, it does kind of ruin shopping online now because I know the tips and tricks that people use and I think that’s so weird because you kind of look at it and you go, I found that he but when you used to get those emails before, you know, of like, his 10% off, you’d be like, I’m so special. It’s great. Those are now I actually know how to hack the system because I know they’re using this and I’ll go, I’ll just do this and I’ll wait a little bit. So it’s, it has that for you. The other thing around the industry is just how fighting everybody is in terms of agencies and tech partners as well. I think there’s not much in the way of sort of bad blood or anything like that. I think that’s really unique as an industry. There’s no, there’s competition obviously, but it’s friendly competition. And I think that’s a really nice thing, especially from like a partner manager point of view, I get to speak to a lot of the other tech partner managers. Some of those can work for competitors and we still talk and we still get on and we’ll still share ideas and those sorts of things. And I think that’s really invaluable to build that community. There’s definitely more of a community sense here than probably in any other industry that I’ve worked in.
Sure, yeah, I totally agree in terms of that. I think one reason is probably we all need each other because it’s growing, the industry is growing at such a pace and we’re all trying to keep up. So yeah, I vouch for that. And in terms of you mentioned about different techniques and almost exposing, like revealing what really goes on with e-commerce, yeah, I think and I would agree with you on that. It’s when you’ve worked in this area, you see straight away, you see through reviews which are not verified, for example, or you see how e-commerce websites are built and yeah, knowing what to trust and what not to trust and what is a real metric, a real trust signal, you’re able to identify that more. So that’s, yeah, totally agree with you on that one. Okay, so in terms of like your career then, in terms of the biggest challenge that you’ve faced to date, what would you say that is? I think the biggest challenge of the industry in general. Yeah I think for me the biggest
challenge of the industry is probably sort of the people within it in terms of client side of things and being able to speak to the right people at the right times, I suppose. And not everybody can understand the value of the platform from our side of things. And that’s OK. And obviously, that’s part of my job. But it’s trying to manage up and down on those expectations and what people are going to see out of it. I try and make sure that whoever I speak to, they understand if you’re going to set up the reviews platform, great. Come on board, and we will help you. But it doesn’t mean that every person in the world that you send a review request to is going to leave you a review. And the number of business owners as well that I speak to where they start the conversation with me and they go, I don’t ever leave a review myself. And it’s like, that’s a challenge because it’s like, you can kind of sit there and I’ve had those conversations. And actually, by the end of it, I flipped it around and he said, oh yeah, I do leave reviews actually. And I’m like, well, you could have just started
But only bad ones.
Yeah. Oh, that’s the thing. I think that’s the thing with reviews, right, is if you’ve got somebody that’s angry, it’s so much easier for them. They will go to the ends of the earth to leave a bad review for you. If you’ve got somebody that’s happy, not always are they going to say, oh, yeah, I’ll leave you a nice review.
So part of that is part of clients, I think having support like content is going to help you to really showcase what the tools can do. So maybe that’s something that reviews.io does and works with because it’s the same with digital marketing, it’s the education part and getting people to see the value. So I’m with you on that. Okay, in terms of the best part of your career or job so far, like, how do you see that? What’s the thing that you like doing the most? Obviously, speaking on podcasts like this, surely.
Yeah, definitely. I think it is my current role. My current role has kind of pushed me way further out of my comfort zone than ever before, and I think that’s really, like, it’s a nice challenge to have. And it also, you know, not to show off, it comes with some really nice perks. I get to go to events and, you know, it was only two weeks ago we did the Crystal Maze as part of like a tech partner event. And, you know, that’s part of my job at this point. That’s really fun. So I think where I’m at currently is probably the best part just because, and it does sound cheesy, I know everybody’s going to say, oh, it’s, you know, it’s where you are now, that’s fine. But it is the case. It’s just we have a lot of fun and it’s so varied as well and I think that’s really cool. It’s that ability to just be, you know, in the office one day working on some strategy stuff to being out and about and going to meet people to go into events and showcases and doing, you know, podcasts and things like that. It’s something that I’d love to do more of, sort of, as the next year kind of progresses. So, yeah, I think current role is definitely the best part where I am right now.
Awesome. Awesome. And you briefly touched on earlier about, you know, meeting different types of businesses and seeing how they operate. That’s one part of why I love my job as well. And you mentioned that as well, didn’t you, earlier?
Yeah. Yeah, it definitely is. I think you just meet some really interesting people. I didn’t know this until after the fact that I was on a call not too long ago with a company and the one of the guys that was on the call was actually the voice of the Daleks for Doctor Who and nobody told me until after the call. I was like, could you, can we go back on a call? It’s like, you’d never, how am I ever going to run into that person in my life? And it’s like, it just happens through work.
That’s cool. That’s cool. Okay. So in terms of like your message to like younger people, if they want to get into the tech industry, they want to work for a company like the one you work for, let’s say that they’re finishing college, they’re finishing school, they’re finishing university, but they might not have the skills necessarily to walk straight into a role like most young people. They need to try to improve their skills and really provide value for these types of businesses. What would be your message to those young people of what they should do if they wanted to get into the tech industry?
Yeah, definitely. I think it varies depending on where you want to go. For me, I personally started in a support role a long, long time ago at this point, and I worked my way through that. And like I said, I accidentally fell into this and fell in love with it. But what I do know now is that there’s so much free resource out there that you can utilize in terms of go and get, you know, if you want to do email marketing, for example, you’ve got, maybe I’ll have a full academy that will teach you different parts of their system, go do that. And then, you know, there’s agencies out there that’s singularly specialized in that. If you want to do reviews, for example, I think from our side, we’re quite inclusive and quite open to people. We want people that are, I think the flip side is if you’re not, I don’t know how to put it, but for me, as long as you’re enthusiastic about what you do, I’m quite happy to train you. And a lot of companies are very similar. You just have to show some enthusiasm. And some of that can come through going and doing courses. Some of that can be just you trying to learn different things. But as long as you show that you’re willing and enthusiastic, especially if you’re straight out of college or university. I think it really stands you in good stead because you’ve got the skills, you’ve gone through uni and you’ve gone through college. It’s not something that I personally did and I still got here. So it’s definitely possible, but go and use the free resources that are out there. Go look at academies of all of them. Shopify have an entire course based around setting up their platform and being a product specialist for them. And it will just build your way up from there, do bit by bit, but it’s not going to cost you anything, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a go. And most of them, from what I remember at least, they’re no more than a day’s worth of work for a lot of them. Some of the bigger Shopify ones are definitely, but it’s out there, go and have a look for it. Also make network connections. That’s the other thing is there’s a lot of industry events. So if you look IRX in Birmingham or EECOM CoLab Club that happens in London that’s run by one of our agencies, Blend, a side business called Flame. You’ve got a bunch of people from the industry that are there. Nobody’s like a horrible person. Everybody’s there to kind of help each other and try and elevate each other’s careers. If you don’t go along to those, they’re all free, but you can meet some people. You might not get a job out of it, but you can make some interesting connections that really help you further your career. And most people, like I say, as long as you’re asking some questions, they’re more than happy to give you the answers and try and help you. Or the other thing is they’ll know somebody within certain businesses and agencies that they can introduce you to, and maybe you’ll get something that way.
Hey, awesome. Great advice, absolutely. The idea that there’s so many free resources out there is a super one and you touched on basically aptitude and willingness to learn and I would totally agree that those are really important things so yeah absolutely great advice there. Is there anything that you would have done differently or done something where you would have got to the position you are quicker as you have known what you know now, being so old and knowledgeable.
I think it varies. I think things I’d have done differently, I’d have jumped at some more of the opportunities that came my way. I didn’t, I kind of scared myself out of them. And that might not have led me here, but it would have led me down different paths that could have also been fun. So for me, it’s always, if anybody asked me for advice, it’s just go and go try whatever’s out there and try different things. Don’t get hung up on what role is or those sorts of things or what the tide for is. Go and jump in and try it and see. To kind of get to where I am now, I think, I don’t think I’ve done it any other way. I think I’ve got some great experiences out of my career that probably lead me in good stead for where I am now. I don’t think I’d change those looking back at it. But I think that is the one thing is just go and try different things. It might not work out for you, and you can go back, but it might turn out better than you ever expected, kind of like this role. And you’ll sat there going, great, this was the best move I’ve ever made. It doesn’t have to be a permanent stick. Somebody said that to me a long, long time ago, that you can switch and jot and change. It won’t harm anything. It’s just there for you to go try things and see what works best.
Okay, thanks for sharing that. In terms of like a few kind of people that you follow maybe online or that you know about, that you take inspiration from, maybe you’ve read some good work, been to an event, something that they did. Who would you choose and why? Maybe give a shout out to a couple of people, individuals and their work.
Yeah, obviously I’m going to have to shout out my boss, Owen O’Callum, not just because he’s my boss, he is actually a nice guy. He’s an inspiration in a different way. We’ll find out when it comes out. He does some great work for the community. I think he is the CEO, he loves Leicester, he is Mr. Leicester, you go places in Leicester and they go, oh you work for Callum, how does everybody know? I’ve been to events where they go, oh yeah, it’s Callum, how does everybody know this man? But he does a lot of great work outside of the review side of things, like he’s doing a Christmas Grotto for a charity for the inclusive Grotto, and that’s based around looking after disabled kids and making a unique experience. And he does that every year, off his own back, off his own money for charity. And I think this year they’ve done like 1300 kids or something, and it’s just like, that’s really cool. So I think I have to shout him out, obviously, he’s built a business from Bootstrap, which is massive to where it got to just before we were acquired. Somebody else I’d say probably Jason West who works for a different agency but he’s up north and I always show the north some love. But unfortunately he’s 29 and he’s only just turned 29 and he makes me feel like I’m inadequate sometimes because he’s got multiple businesses. He’s a super nice guy and he’s really well connected. He’s always been there to help me since I met him randomly on LinkedIn probably a year ago. So yeah, he’s definitely up there for me. And what’s Jason’s business call? J M W Digital is the agency side of things, but he also runs Lusso Footwear, which is a footwear reseller and a few others, but he still won’t give me the title. Nice. I think you’ll be in
trouble if you didn’t mention the brands, that’s why I asked. But it’s nice that you shouted those both out. Okay, so if our audience watching and listening to the podcast would like to get in touch with you, Kieran, where can they do that?
Yeah, my LinkedIn, Kieran Ball, I’m sure George will throw it in the comments, and if anybody wants to reach out on email, then my email is kieran at reviewstock.io.
Awesome. Awesome. So I think that’s all for today. Thank you very much for taking the time, Kieran. It’s much appreciated. Hopefully our listeners and watchers, our audience, found that interesting. I certainly did. Thank you so much, and have a nice rest of the day.
Cheers, George. Cheers, George.