We’re working on a review project right now for a client. We’re tracking down fans, approaching influencers and top reviewers, arranging to have samples sent, following up to make sure the reviews get posted, and tracking the effectiveness of the project. This kind of effort — activation of brand influencers, to use the jargon — can pay off over the long term and is worth doing.
But there are steps you can take to encourage product reviews apart from this kind of active campaign.
I was reminded of that by the label on the package of an item I was recently sent as part of the Amazon Vine program. Amazon Vine allows manufacturers and publishers to send their new products to top reviewers for honest reviews. As far as I know, we Vine Voices were chosen on the basis of the number of shoppers who judged our reviews as helpful. We’re sent all sorts of interesting products and our job is to give honest, helpful reviews. The program is invitation-only, and we have no contact from the brands themselves.
So I was surprised to see this message on the box of a product:
Click to see it larger if you need to. Basically, it asks people who buy the product to leave them a review. It informs users that anything other than a 4 or 5 star review is negative, and asks them to contact the company before leaving a negative review.
Once I got over my surprise, I was impressed. Assuming they didn’t create a special box just for Vine Voices, this company does something simple and practical to gain reviews.
- Use packaging to ask for reviews. A small proportion of customers leaves reviews at review sites like Amazon, and often the motivation is anger. This means that negative reviews can actually be more common than positive ones. People are more likely to do things when asked, however, especially when they’re feeling positive. Take advantage of that — and give them an alternative outlet for their dissatisfaction — by adding a review request to your packaging.
- Ask for reviews in newsletters. It’s most effective to ask individuals directly, but if you have a nice big mailing list, you don’t need a large proportion of responses. Fill in that extra corner of your print or email newsletter with a review request. Include links to review sites to make it easy, and be sure you don’t try to sweeten the deal by offering any kind of reward. It seems like an obvious good move to offer consumers who leave a review a coupon or something, but it is absolutely against the rules. Many companies have experienced negative consequences as a result of this kind of innocent action.
- Use social listening tools. Whether you go with automatic alerts when your brand or product is mentioned or schedule regular time to deep-dive into social media, watch for your fans. You could approach people who are touting the products of your competitors, but the true gold will be the person who happily and spontaneously tweets how much they love your stuff without any external motivation.
- Make a special mailing list. While identifying influencers and tracking down their contact information can be a time-consuming process, adding people to the list as they present themselves is just a good habit. When you get a fan letter, notice a positive blog post in your Google alerts, or notice someone active in your social media stream, get their name and email into your special mailing list. Then, when you have something to offer, be it extra information, an insider event, or a sample of a new product, get the word out with your influencers list. Bloggers and social media mavens love to have inside info to share with their followers, and your small effort to provide them with that scoop can lead to highly effective natural links and positive reviews.
- Be alert at trade shows. Trade shows, conferences, and other events can be a great place to find influencers, to give out samples, and to ask people directly to share their opinions in the form of a review. “Let us know what you think!” can be a powerful invitation. The problem here is that such a small proportion of people actually take the trouble to write reviews that you can expect to hand out a lot of samples in exchange for very few reviews. That’s why we’re not saying, ‘Hand out samples at trade shows” but instead are saying, “Be alert.” Hand out the samples for other reasons, and watch for opportunities to connect with people who might actually write reviews.
More on customer reviews: