The first step in getting a product or service reviewed is to realise that people don’t actually want to review it.

Instead you need to give them a reason to write about you. Once you look at reviews in this way it’ll become easier to identify opportunities.

This post highlights how to do this with customers.

Customers tend to fall into two camps:

  • Those who don’t want to review your product or hate it.
  • Those who can’t review it or don’t know how.

Unless you’re already a well established brand with a must have item, the vast majority of people won’t jump at your feet or seek you out to test your latest wares. Likewise if you are a service based industry, you’ll find most people will only write about you when they have something bad to say.

None of this is good, especially if you want those who are searching for your product online to see a mixture of good reviews. Having no reviews at all will spark suspicion and negative reviews turn customers away.

However, the first step in getting a product or service reviewed is to realise that people don’t actually want to review it. Instead you need to give them a reason to write about you.

Once you look at reviews in this way it’ll become easier to identify opportunities.

How to get customer reviews

1. Just ask me 

When you eat at a restaurant, the waiter will ask you whether you like the food. It’s accepted as common practice, but how many times do brands ask us what we think of their products?

It’s the same principle, so if I’m using your product, at anytime and anywhere, just ask me what I think.

2. Email follow-ups 

Get customer email addresses at the point of purchase, even if you sell stock offline. Hotel Chocolat give away a small bar of chocolate if you give them your email address in store.

Likewise Amazon email me every time I buy something to ask if I would like to leave feedback.

3 . Make reviews count 

Another thing Amazon does well is to use my reviews to recommend other products that I may like in the future. So by reviewing products, I am helping myself to discover other products that I’d like to buy.

Although I’m helping Amazon sell me more stuff by doing so, I still do it! It’s a win-win for Amazon, and useful for me as a customer.

4. Focus groups 

Before going to market with a product, bringing together a focus group is an essential step for gathering feedback. Once you’ve got that data then publish it, write a blog post about it and share your findings.

5. Create a ‘reviewographic’

Collect data from customers and turn it into graphs and data sets to show on an Infographic. It’s ideal for presenting lots of good customer data in one go.

Here’s an example of all the aggregated reviews on Yelp that you could do on a smaller scale:

6. Create comparison charts 

Run a poll across your site to get customer feedback and then add this data into a comparison so people can see how you stack up against competitors. A good example is: Anti-Spyware Reviews

7. Add reviews to your website

 An obvious step, but one that is missed a lot. Let people write reviews directly onto your website (it works for any product, not just for e-commerce stores). You’ll also find your product pages rank higher by having more unique content.

8. Link to external reviews from your website

 I’ve written reviews before simply because I wanted to get either a tweet or a link from a major company to my own blog and I’m sure I can’t be the first person to do this.

If you take the best reviews you can find and link to them, it makes customers feel great and other people may then write about you in order to get similar coverage.

9. Incentivise me

 In other words, give me your product for free so I can write about it. Alternatively for customers who write a review, you could give them money-off future purchases.

This turns sour (and dishonest / immoral / libellous etc) if you start paying people in return for good reviews only. This is a bad tactic that can only backfire in the long run.

10. Don’t Bribe Me! 

I want to feel motivated to write about you, not like I’m being paid off. There are sites where you can pay people for reviews (see below) but please don’t ask for only good reviews unless you want to get stung like Belkin.

11. Free samples  

I could talk forever about the benefits of free stuff (and usually do). In short, having free samples to give away increases the number of voices talking about your product.

The more people trying and testing your product the more chance you’ll have of reviews.

Head and Shoulders now lets anyone request a free sample.

12. Offer trial versions 

Likewise if you allow people to test your service for a short amount of time, or let them try a simpler version of your product at a cheaper or freemium price, it gets more people discussing your product.

13. Contact details 

For offline products, that can’t reach their customers after a sale has been made, make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch with you.

Customer service numbers, address details and email addresses on the back of a product help make this easy.

Log everything and if a customer says anything positive ask for permission to replicate it on your website.

14. Referral offers 

Having people review your product earns you a silver medal, but having people bring you extra sales is the only way to get gold.

If past customers bring you sales through reviews, create offers to give them either money or other bonuses.

This way you’ll get sales through word of mouth and extra customers. Avon has structured an entire business model around referral sales.

15. Get profiles 

Consider the places your customers would go online to write reviews (or cheat and search for where your competitors have them) and make sure you have a profile on that site.

Otherwise potential reviewers have to go and make one for you or may not be able to leave feedback at all.

16. Snag local profiles 

Get local listings on Yelp, Qype, Brownbook and more.

17. Stickers 

Qype, Ciao and other review websites have stickers that brands can display in their store, and badges they can use on websites that ask people to review the product.

Add these where possible, and include them on leaflets and email drops as further review sources.

18. Give me something new

Any product without a great USP doesn’t really deserve to be talked about. Ensure your product has a new feature and push that with your marketing.

If you create something interesting it naturally encourages debate and reviews.

19. Give me what I want

If people ask your company to make changes to a product or service then compile the results and add the most requested features. This isn’t just true for the tech industry either, just look at product re-launches like Fanta Zero, which was in response to bad reviews of Diet Fanta.

If customers feel their input has been acknowledged they are more likely to tell others.

And my favourite:

20. ‘Borrow’ reviewers 

Amazon, rather handily, lists their top reviewers and many of them have listed their email addresses here. You can browse this list, find relevant reviewers and ask them to cover your product.

Alternatively, find a competitor’s product, look at the reviewers, and approach them to review your product. This works for lots of other e-commerce sites too.

That’s a wrap for now. In future posts I’ll cover how to get reviews from the media and bloggers, how to use the power of your brand, and how social media can be used to get reviews.