Media outlets are typically the first place tech companies go to when they want their products reviewed. The process is tried and true. A vendor ships a product to an experienced reviewer, the reviewer spends an afternoon or longer checking it out and a story is posted sometime afterwards. However, a new breed of reviews is gaining momentum by putting the customer in the driver’s seat. I recently caught up with IT Central Station co-founder Russell Rothstein to find out what he thinks vendors should know about using his peer-review site. Here’s what he had to say:

What vendors should participate in IT Central Station? What does it cost?

Russell: Any vendor of enterprise software, hardware or services with enterprise customers should participate in IT Central Station. We are the only review site focused 100 percent on the enterprise market. There are a number of review sites out there, so choose wisely. IT Central Station has always been focused on high quality content, with the largest audience of enterprise tech buyers. Enterprise buyers are looking for in-depth reviews with real substance, not short, 2-sentence Yelp-like reviews. The average length of an IT Central Station review is nearly 400 words, which is the kind of deep, rich content that enterprise buyers are seeking.

There is no cost to be listed, as we don’t have a “pay to play” model. For those vendors that want to take fullest advantage of IT Central Station and reach our community of serious tech buyers, we offer paid programs for awareness, lead generation, content marketing, and more.

What should they do when they get there? 

Russell: It depends on what their strategic marketing and sales goals are – bring in leads, improve awareness, generate high quality content, etc. Our team can share tips and best practices for how to maximize the value from participating in the IT Central Station platform.

How many hours a week or month might that take?

Russell: The good news is that we do all of the heavy lifting. Tech marketers are busy people and don’t need another project to manage. We provide a turnkey offering and do all of the work necessary, delivering results with full visibility and reporting.

Can readers ask questions of reviewers and vendors?

Russell: Absolutely. Although we find that tech buyers who visit IT Central Station are more interested in asking questions from their peers. The strength of our community and our high quality peer content is what sets IT Central Station apart from other sites. Having said that, we do enable vendors to participate in the discussions and we believe they have an important role to play in staying active in the community. What’s key is that IT Central Station clearly indicates who’s a vendor, consultant, reseller, end user, etc. so that you can see what their role is in the buying process.

Do you know of any vendors that encourage customers to contribute reviews to IT Central Station? How do they do that?

Russell: There are plenty of vendors that are encouraging their customers to contribute reviews to IT Central Station. They recognize that their customers are their #1 best selling tool. We provide them with email templates, phone scripts and other materials in our kit to help vendors encourage customers to provide reviews.

What value does crowd-sourced reviews bring that a media outlet (eWeek, ZDNet) review doesn’t? Or what does it do better?

Russell: There has been a huge shift in the market over the past five years. Whereas in the past, people used to rely on trade mags, product review labs, and other editorial content, today peer content is the #1 most sought-after content by tech buyers. In a recent research report by IDG Enterprise peer content and reviews came out at the top of the list of important content during the buying process. A survey by Gartner of tech executives found that recommendations from peers are more important than recommendations from analysts.

Crowd-sourced reviews provide a variety of voices – no two organizations have the same experience with a tech solution. As long as the reviews have been validated (which we do for every single review with our triple validation process), then crowd-sourced reviews are seen as more trustworthy than media outlet reviews. Transparency is key here and we pride ourselves on our transparency in the process.

A big thanks to Russell for sharing his thoughts with us. Peer reviews sites are an exciting addition to the media reviews we recommend for so many of our clients. We love that they give vendors a chance to listen in and learn about how customers are using their products or why they prefer the competition. It’s this kind of intelligence that can be used to make a sale, strike on a competitor’s weakness, stay ahead of customer needs and much more.

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