If you’re selling products or services online, you know how incredibly important reviews are to getting new business. Your potential customers can’t pick up your product and look it over before they decide to buy, but they can get opinions from others who already bought your product through online reviews. Good legit reviews make a world of difference in making sales.
Fig 1. The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur has 561 reviews as of December 9, 2014. During my prior post on September 6, 2012 the book had 400 reviews. This new Amazon Verified Reviews strategy is a long term, persistent method... providing you with a continual stream of reviews, even for a 'product' that is from 2008 (in my case).
Getting reviews is so important that a few years ago I shared my ‘secret” method of how I generated a lot of legit Amazon reviews for my books on Amazon. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a step-by-step system for finding people who may be interested in receiving a free copy of your book, and asking them to leave an honest review in return. I’ve generated tons of reviews using that system.
An Almost Perfect System
There was one thing that I found missing in that plan. When you send someone a complimentary book or other product, their review on Amazon won’t be marked as an Amazon Verified Purchase. Any review is valuable, but a review on Amazon that’s marked as a verified purchase is the “gold standard” for reviews. If the reviewer received their item directly from you instead of buying it through Amazon, Amazon won’t be able to verify their purchase.
There is a hack for this, though. You can buy your own book, gift it to the recipient, and now when they post the review it will post it as a verified purchase. But this prior system I came up with, even with that “gifting” hack for verified reviews still isn’t representative of true readers of your book. I thought, what if there was a way to get more – like way more – real customers and readers of my books to post reviews?
This question inspired this point. I found a method to get more reviews from actual readers and have been using this method to generate hundreds of legit Amazon reviews and thousands of new fans for years. Now that I know it works, I feel it is time to share it with you. This method works for more than just book authors, it can be adapted for almost anyone selling a product online and looking for reviews on any platform (Amazon, Yelp, etc.).
More Fans, Step By Step
The simple idea behind this method is that you are going to under-promise and over-deliver on your product to customers who are looking to buy. Then, once you’ve staged them to be over-the-top happy with what you’ve delivered, you’ll ask them for an honest review. And who’s better to give you a good review than a customer who you’ve personally made sure had an extraordinary buying experience? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Open Your Own Store
The first thing we’re going to do is to open an Amazon Store. It’s simple to get started. Amazon makes selling nearly anything on their platform very easy to do. To get started, visit Amazon.com and click the “Sell” link at the top of the screen:
Fig 2. A screen shot from Amazon.com
Or, you can visit this link directly: Getting Started Selling Online With Amazon
Amazon will walk you through setting up your store easily. As you may know, Amazon is not just for books. You can sell almost anything there, and Amazon will notify you with all of your buyer’s information when you make a sale, including an email address and shipping address to send the products.
Since I sell books, I’ve started a bookstore on Amazon called Mint Quality Books. If you want to see my store, visit the page for any of my books (like my most recent book Profit First), then click on the “Used” link below the Hardcover listing:
Fig 3. Profit First has 115 customer reviews as of December, 9 2014. My experience is that a newer book (Profit First was released on July 8, 2014) will have less used copies in circulation. That means, you can sell your own used copies for a premium (in this picture it is selling for $11.99 and I am constantly price testing, so the price is different now). The higher price also means more people default to buying a new book instead. Those new book sales directly through Amazon cannot be affected through this process, hence fewer reviews.
Then, you’ll see Mint Quality Books as the best offer for sale in the used category:
Fig 4. Displays the current 268 ratings of my used Amazon book store, Mint Quality Books.
You’ll notice the 100% positive seller rating, and the (typically) best price in the listings. Remember, I want to make my customers into rabid fans, and I work to do that with outstanding service. We make buying a used book from Mint Quality Books such a great experience that some reviews have compared us to Zappos! More on this in a later.
Step 2: Under-Sell
There is an old business principle of being awesome: To wow customers you must under-promise and over-deliver. It makes a lot of sense! What if you go into a car dealer thinking all you can afford is a used Ford Fiesta, but then the dealer shows you a brand-new Chevy Corvette you can afford instead, complete with that expensive “new-car smell.” Wouldn’t you be way happier? Like, kiss-the-dealer-on-the-lips happy? Sure you would! And the dealer would benefit from your happiness, if not from the kiss.
Now maybe a new copy of one of my books isn’t as good as a new Corvette. But, if you’re expecting a used copy of my book and get a new copy instead, wouldn’t you be happy?
If you click on the “Read More” link under the Condition heading on the Mint Quality Books listing for Profit First, you’ll see this description:
Fig 5. A description of the "used" book Profit First on Mint Quality Books. Notice the plug (for myself) "Best Business Book of 2014." You should do the same. I mean, why not?
Notice “dented corners”, “scratches” and “possible markings or highlights inside”. Not great, right? But, you’re trying to save a few bucks, so you’ll make the sacrifice and buy the book used. What you don’t know is that you are about to get an upgrade.
Step 3: Over-Deliver
Now comes the fun part. We’re going to make our customers love us!
When their order arrives, our customer doesn’t get a used, banged-up copy of Profit First. Instead, Mint Quality Books ships them a brand-new copy of the book they thought they were buying used!
But, as they say on the infomercials, that’s not all! We also enclose a copy of Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, along with a personalized note explaining the switch. The letter starts like this:
Surprise! This is Mike Michalowicz here, author of Profit First. I am closely connected with the folks at Mint Quality Books (it’s my favorite online bookstore) and when I stopped by the shop I heard about your book order through Amazon.
Well, I am so flattered that you ordered Profit First that I am including a brand new copy of my first book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. This is my little way of saying “Thank You!” for your interest in my books, and to thank you for buying through the Mint Quality Bookstore on Amazon.”
Oh, and did I mention that the copy of of Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is autographed? (I autograph books while listening on conference calls.) My customers love the bonuses!
Now, while we have a happy customer, we move on to…
Step 4: Ask To Stay In Touch
Now, I’m not through with the surprises for this new customer, but I’m going to start asking for a little quid pro quo.
My personalized note goes on to say:
“Also, I have another surprise. I’ve set up a page on my website, specifically for you, to get free additional stuff (including my 10 most popular Wall Street Journal articles). Enter this URL into your web browser to check it out: http://bit.ly/MintQB (There is a super-cool video there too… you know, minus the ‘super-cool’ part.)
I really believe it is entrepreneurs like you who are “saving the world.” My hats off to you for following your passion and being a leader. I am rooting for you and wishing you tremendous success.
If you go ahead and click the link for http://bit.ly/MintQB, you’ll see yours truly once again thanking you for your purchase, and offering even more free stuff if you sign up for my mailing list.
This is known as a squeeze page or capture page, and it’s been customized specifically for people who’ve bought from Mint Quality Books. This way, I can keep my new fans “in the loop” when I’ve got any new books, speaking engagements or videos that I think they may be interested in.
So, we’ve hopefully made a very happy customer with a surprise upgrade and gotten them to sign up on our mailing list. Now what we really want is reviews, so let’s get to our final step!
Step 5: Ask For The Review
There is one more part to the letter my Mint Quality Books buyers receive, and it’s the most crucial part of this Amazon hack. It’s in a P.S. at the bottom:
“P.S. A critically important part of getting the word out about my books are reviews on Amazon. If appropriate, would you mind posting an honest review of Profit First on Amazon.com?
It is really simple, and won’t take more than a minute or two. Just pull the book up on Amazon, click on the “customer reviews” link to the right of the book cover and then click on the “Create your own review” button. Your review can simply be a sentence or two if you wish. If you can’t or don’t want to do it, I completely understand that too, but hope you do.
Thanks again. I’m wishing you massive entrepreneurial success and all the profit in the world to help make it happen.”
You’ll notice that I only ask for an honest review. This method is about getting legit reviews, after all. But we’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure our customer is as happy as possible, so now is the time to ask them to review.
No amount of positive staging will make up for a bad product, of course. But you can’t possibly make a product good enough to overcome a bad buying experience. And a great buying experience just makes your great product look even greater!
Does this work? Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. (What the hell does that mean, anyway?)
You can see the 5-star reviews for Profit First to see the results. Here’s one of my favorites:
Fig 6. A 'Verified Purchase' review of Profit First that was generated through this process.
Notice the “verified purchase” designation? Because the buyer purchased their book through Mint Quality Books on Amazon, Amazon was able to easily verify that they actually bought the book. Listing the reviewer as a “verified purchaser” makes the review that much more credible in many shoppers’ minds. And, because we spent the extra time working to make our Mint Quality Books customer happy with their purchasing experience, they often carry that good feeling over to their review of the book.
Opening an online store might seem like a lot of work just to get better reviews, but after I got things set up, it doesn’t take me any more than 15 – 30 minutes a week to send out all of the orders, and that’s on a busy week.
But, for that little investment of time, the payoff is huge. And the best thing about this little system is that everybody wins.
First, your customer wins. They came in really wanting to buy your product, and looking to save a few bucks by buying it used. Instead, they not only got a new product, but they got a bonus product, too! They also got a personal “thank you” from you and got signed up on your mailing list for even more freebies.
Second, you win. If you’ve delivered a quality product (of course you did!), then you’ve probably got a new fan who is very happy with you, and looking forward to your next offer. It might seem like you’ve increased your marketing costs, but really you win here, too.
Take a look at my example here. Books cost me somewhere around $3 a copy, and I’m sending two, so let’s put that cost at $6. It takes some extra time to autograph the books, but as I said, I can do that while I’m doing other things. Packing and mailing takes some extra time, but they paid for the shipping of one book, and the second doesn’t cost that much more to add in the same package. And the customer paid $11.99! This is marketing that pays for itself!
This can be used in other places besides Amazon. Restaurants could run a “Buy One, Get One” special, but then give some customers both meals free along with a second “Buy One, Get One” offer for later, printed on a note asking for a Yelp review. If you sell a product, offer some used on eBay, but ship a new product instead with a free code for a second product from the website of your choice with a request for a review there. There are tons of possibilities, and I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences. Give me your suggestions and questions in the comments below!