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How to get reviews without any sales

by | May 1, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Here’s a common problem that you might have encountered if you’ve ever tried selling online. 

You do all the hard work to write an eBook for Kindle…

Or you spend weeks of research before you find a killer product to list on Amazon.

Or you set up your brilliant new freelance service on Fiverr or Upwork… 

Then you sit back and wait…

And wait… 

And wait…

But NO SALES. 

You scratch your head in confusion. 

The product is good, your listing is correct, and you know you have something valuable to offer.

What’s going on?

Well, sometimes (usually, in fact) the slow start in sales is all down to a lack of reviews.

Because the fact is, people buy based on something known as ‘social proof’. 

That is, they want to see that other people have bought a product and enjoyed it or benefited from it.

They want reassurance that it’s good quality and deliver what it promises, based on the experiences of real people who are – more or less – just like them.

For example, if you want a book of guitar music for beginners, you’re more likely to buy it if there’s a review that says, “I just started playing guitar recently and this is really helping – I can already play two of these songs!”

Or if you want a designer to make a logo for your website, you’ll be encouraged when you see a review from someone who ordered the same thing and says they were “delighted with the result.”

It’s basic human psychology.

We only jump into the sea when we see that other people are jumping into the sea.

Nobody wants to go first.

What if there are jagged rocks? 

What if there are deadly sharks? 

What if there are jagged rocks AND deadly sharks?

But then if you see someone happily bobbing in the water, shouting “Everything is fine, you’re missing out”, then you’ll take the leap.

This is why reviews are essential.

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But how can you get a review if you haven’t got any sales…?

A Classic Chicken-And-Egg Problem

You need sales to get reviews… but you need reviews to get sales.

AAAAAAARGH!

The only way round it is to take action yourself.

Now, this is a grey area.

Almost all platforms state that, officially, they don’t like ‘fake’ reviews.

But then almost everyone still does it (or if not, they should do it for the reasons I just outlined!)

The trick is to skirt close to the edge of the rules without breaking them…

And to do it with integrity.

Here are some suggestions:

First, find some trusted friends, colleagues and family members who can buy and review your product or service.

You can pay for the cost of the purchase by sending them money (cash, PayPal, bank transfer, etc).

Don’t feel ashamed about this – it’s what all the major mainstream book publishers do before they release a book. 

They send as many as 100 free copies to various authors and reviewers for advance reviews they can quote on the dust jacket.

Months before publication they also put books on a website called NetGalley, in which reviewers and bloggers can download a free digital copy in exchange for a fair review.

So what you are doing is NO different.

However, avoid directly paying friends or family for reviews. Amazon views any form of incentive as a violation of its policies. 

Instead, providing the product for free or at a discount, without any expectation of a review, is well within Amazon’s guidelines!

I also recommend that you only ask people who will genuinely read or sample your product to leave a review. 

This ensures that the reviews are based on actual experiences, which is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the feedback (the review will be much more authentic and this will come across to people who see it). 

Ideally, find someone you know who already uses the platform you are selling on (even better if they have left a review for something in the past). 

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That way they have established credibility on that site and people who check the reviewer can see that they’re the real deal. 

But be careful… 

Watch out for the Platform’s Hidden Checks

With Amazon, for instance, there are lots of checks and measures in place to reduce fake reviews.

Never get someone with the same surname or IP address to review. 

Reviews from the same IP or household can be flagged as biassed or manipulative, leading to the potential removal of the reviews and penalties against your seller account. 

Don’t even ask them to review you if you’ve been to their house and used their Wi-fi on your device!

The same goes for anyone you have bought something for in the past and had delivered via Amazon – that could also land you in trouble.

Here are some things worth bearing in mind.

People CAN leave a review on Amazon even if they did not purchase the product through that platform. This includes both products and books. 

However, note that these reviews will not be marked as ‘Verified Purchase’.

Amazon is the only one of the main selling platforms where this is permitted. 

People CANNOT leave a review on Etsy without purchasing through Etsy. 

A buyer must either have an Etsy account or claim their order to an Etsy account if they purchased it as a guest. Then they need to navigate to the ‘Purchases and Reviews’ section on their Etsy account to leave a star rating along with a detailed description. 

Similarly, eBay only allows reviews from verified customers, and after the transaction is complete.

On Fiverr and Upwork, reviews can only be left for services that were purchased through the platform (once a service is delivered and marked as completed).

Of course, it might be that you are selling services, products, info or advice through your own website. 

In which case, you have some more options.

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How to Encourage Reviews for
Information Products and Services

Let’s imagine you have a membership site, subscription service, newsletter, digital course, self-help manual or online training programme. 

Here are some ways to get those essential reviews in nice and early (or even before you launch!)

  • Run a ‘beta’ or trial version of your service. Make a rough ‘n’ ready version of your service to provide to a select group of people at a discounted rate or to friends, family and colleagues for free. It doesn’t have to be polished or even 100% completed. You can just give them the rough draft in whatever form it is in.  By doing this, you can gather valuable testimonials and case studies.
  • On your website or through emails and social media, offer discounted prices or free samples in exchange for honest feedback. Make it clear there is no obligation to leave a review. 
  • Leverage Existing Success Stories. You might not have testimonials yet, but you could still show potential customers some social proof. For instance, have you ever shared your expertise in another way? Maybe through coaching or consulting? Maybe for a friend or relative who got a result from your help? If you have, it’s entirely acceptable to ask those who’ve benefited from your expertise to share their success stories. 
  • Encourage all customers to leave feedback via follow-up communications – use your thankyou page, your welcome emails, or social media to invite them to share their experience of your product or services. 

Once you get a few comments and reviews in, you’ll notice that more will follow, as people feel confident enough to jump in with their feedback.

Humans really are social animals, and in general we don’t like to be solo pioneers – we much prefer to move with the herd. 

If this advice helps, let me know – and also tell me about any hassles and pitfalls you’ve experienced while trying to sell online.

I’ll do my best to help!

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