I just bought a new (to me) book called Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. My purchase decision was based on its reviews. Specifically the quantity. My irrational (yet predictable) conclusion to buy the book was based on its seemingly endless number of Amazon reviews. The irony.
I bought Ariely’s book because Frank, the producer for my business makeover segments on MSNBC’s Your Business, suggested it while we were chomping down some sushi. I think he mentioned the title once while he reached for a piece of toro. We didn’t discuss it further, but it was just enough of a trigger that the next time I was on Amazon I looked up the title. That’s when the 463 reviews convinced me to buy it, over all the alternatives.
Take notice. I bought it over all the alternatives, including the option of not buying anything at all. A lot of Amazon reviews makes buyers and even non-buyers, buy.
Have you ever gone to a play and gave a standing ovation at the end? You have, right? And chances are you didn’t start the standing O. It's unlikely you were even the third or fourth to stand. Chances are you stood up and clapped like a seal only when it was clear that an ovation trend had started. This is the power of social proof.
Social proof is a hardwired, “herd mentality” setting in our human makeup. When others do something, we automatically and subconsciously determine that it is safe and even in our best interest to do the same.
The book and product reviews on Amazon work the same way. The more reviews that people see for your product, the more likely they are to buy it. It triggers the social proof shortcut for your consumers. “Obviously, many others are buying it, so I will buy it.” Even if it sucks.
And here is the crazy part: Predictably Irrational had four out of five stars. For Amazon, that is a lower grade than most books. Most books get four and a half stars. However, as social proof will have it, a four-star book with 463 reviews will persuade more people to buy it than a four and half star book with only 14 reviews. Quantity matters.
How to Get Legitimate Reviews
Let me start by saying this: There are some authors (and product manufacturers) who post reviews of their own products. In other words, the reviews are fakes. Frauds. Phonies. A recent case with author RJ Ellory, caught him red-handed
writing fake reviews under pseudonyms about his own books, and if that was not enough, he wrote disparaging reviews about his competitors (under pseudonyms, too).
To protect consumers, Amazon is actively improving the platform to thwart review fraud.
The good news is you can get tons of reviews on Amazon for your book or product in a legitimate and honest way. The key is to proactively seek out reviewers. There are a number of people on Amazon who have bought and reviewed products or books that compete with yours. If you simply identify who these people are, and then offer to send them your product for an honest review, they are likely to do it. And since they already reviewed a competing product to yours, their review is highly credible.
It is a simple process that works, and here is an overview of the steps you need to take. If you want the exact details (including e-mails to copy and paste) you can read my Unlimited Amazon Reviews article that I posted to my own site.
1. Create a tracking system. You will need to identify and track to whom you are going to send your book or product. Not everyone that you contact will respond (I found about 50 percent of the people do), and of the people who respond about 50 percent of them will ultimately do a review. That means about one out of four people you identify will post a review (based on my experience), which is not too shabby. To track everyone, I use a simple Google Spreadsheet.
2. Find potential reviewers. This is way easier than you may think. Simply go to your existing product page for your own product on Amazon. Then scroll to the section that says “Customer Also Bought Items By” and the section “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed.” These sections lists the competing products that customers view and buy when they consider your product. This is a goldmine. You are only one step away from targeting the best reviewers you could ever have–the people reviewing your competitor's offering.
3. The pot of gold. Visit the Amazon page for the first competitor that you identified in Step 2. Now, near the top left of the page, click on the link to the customer reviews. This will list every review the competing product has received. To make this process easy to track, click on the option that lets you sort the reviews by “Newest First.” Now you will see the list of sorted reviews with the Amazon name or “Real Name” of each reviewer. Welcome to the pot of gold.
4. How to get a review. Click on each reviewer to get details on the person. Note that this step may require some sleuthing skills. In some cases the reviewer will share their contact information, in other cases they will share their name and business, and in some cases they reveal squat. I have found about 50 percent of the time I can find a way to contact the person in under a minute—often via e-mail, other times via a Facebook page or Twitter.
5. Make contact. Once you identify potential reviewers, reach out to them explaining that you discovered their review on Amazon. Explain that you have a book or product that you think may be of interest to them, and would like to send it to them. Further explain that you are seeking an honest review of the item you send, but that they don’t have an obligation (this process is about inviting reviews, not forcing reviews). About 50 percent of the people who get my book, will post an honest review. And yes, there have been occasions where someone I identified in this method destroyed my book in their review, but that is the nature of a good review process.
6. Repeat forever. This process takes two elements that scares many people away: time and money. You need to make an effort (time) and you need to send a product to a reviewer (money). Ironically, this is your biggest advantage, since your competitor is unlikely to do this, even though it’s as easy as pie! They will stay stuck with their 14 reviews, while you pile up 463 and more. If you stick with this, you will win!
Reviews are game changers for every business in every industry. Now that you know the method, make the game changer work for you.
Mike Michalowicz is the CEO of Provendus Group, a business growth consulting agency that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics. His popular small business blog shares strategies and techniques for entrepreneurs.
Photo credit: Andrew Harre / Bloomberg via Getty Images