Product Reviews: Who Can You Trust?

I have trust issues. When I start reading reviews online, I see some trends that are kind of disturbing. Some reviews appear copy and pasted, a little contrived, or you know, the ones that are made by employees of the company vs authentic reviews from real customers. SCANDALOUS!

I am also contacted “on the regular” by companies pitching their review services and sites – which starts out well but goes down a dark road quickly to pay to play vs earned reviews. Not only that, some of them request access to your customer list, which they can use for their purposes, sometimes even to encourage review writing for products they don’t own including competitive products. I’m not sure about you, but if a company asks me to hand over our customer list, red flags start to appear.

How do you get great reviews?

First you need to have the goods to warrant people saying great things about your company and products. That is the foundation of your entire business so before seeking endorsements, make sure your company is creating something customers are willing to rave about.

Sometimes customers want to help, but they don’t know where to start. Consider doing some outreach to give them links to reputable, independent review sites such as Google, Yelp, and Amazon if you sell physical products. Sites like these don’t have a vested interest in making money from the reviews people create.

Reach out and make the ask!

Reach out to your customer base and make the ask. Give them the tools they need to navigate to the review sites so they know where to go. Ask them to write about specific features they enjoy, unique use cases or an employee that they have worked with in the past. After this point, the type of review, should be out of your hands. If you have a great product, awesome people and reputable company, there should be no issues here.


What reviews can you trust?

Like I said, I have trust issues when it comes to online reviews. We’ve seen a number of situations where the reviews are, shall we say, less than legit. I do trust sites that aren’t in the business of generating high volumes of reviews for profit. If there are ways to verify that someone is a customer, that is even a bigger bonus, like Amazon with their verified purchase feature. But here are some red flags:

  • Seeing the same review comments over and over. It means the people have been provided pre authored content.
  • Employees reviewing their own company, products and services.
  • 3rd Party Review sites encouraging reviews for any products (even if you don’t use them) in exchange for big bucks if you write enough reviews.
  • Reviews that are so generic with no details.
  • Overproduced reviews that read like an infomercial. If it doesn’t sounds like what someone would say…it may be fishy.
  • Reviews by fake people and/or profiles.


What’s the difference between earned and bought reviews?

An earned review is an authentic review from a customer who genuinely wants to share their experience about your products, service and your company. It might take some instructions or reminders from the company to get the review (such as “leave us a review on Google”, etc.), and might also come with swag incentives for leaving a review. As long as the incentive isn’t contingent on a certain rating like (“Leave us a 5 star review for 20% off your next order!”), then the review is still earned. If you are asking your customers to give a review with no strings attached and give them a little gift card for a coffee for example, that is AOK too! No strings attached and focusing on your customer base are important differences!


Reviews are better for everyone when they are earned.

A paid review or encouraging individuals to submit multiple reviews for products they may or may not use gets into that grey area of unearned reviews. This tactic gets especially “dodgy” when third-party companies encourage reviewers to write many reviews to rack up $100’s and $100’s of dollars for their time. The numbers look good, but any close look will quickly uncover that these reviews are less than legit. In this way, reviewers are incentivised for the wrong behaviour, and third-party companies are also paid for potentially phoney reviews.

Don’t be Bashful, Use your Reviews!

Never be afraid to showcase your customer reviews, especially on your website, on social channels, and in your sales and marketing communications. Social proof is one of the most valuable currencies and reviews by customers you love are more likely to influence a new customer than any marketing copy. Authentic, positive customer reviews are golden for every business so showcase those reviews for everyone to see. Here are some great ideas that you can implement pretty easily but be sure to get permission from the reviewer and their company first:

  • Share social proof by creating easily consumable soundbites from review content and share on all of your social channels.
  • Showcase reviews on your website, front and center, on product pages. Make sure the are in text rather than a screenshot image so they can be indexed for SEO purposes. Include positive product reviews in product collateral, pitch decks and follow up materials.
  • Go the extra mile and add more context to the review with a case study. If a customer is happy with their service and gives you a great review, connect with them to see if they would be willing to participate in a case study.
  • Get a reference – See if your reviewers would be willing to also act as references should you require one for a strategic deal. Be sure not to overwork your references, remember, they have businesses to run too!

Duh Duh Duh

What do you do if you get a bad review. No company wants to be in this position, but if it happens, you should view it as an opportunity to delight the customer. Contact the customer and see what you can do to make the situation right. Remember bad reviews are just as important as good ones. We obviously want the great reviews, but bad reviews require some TLC and outreach to the customer who needs your help.

It speaks volumes if your company is proactive and turns a poor experience into a positive experience. You never know. You may end up keeping a customer for life!

About Anastasia Valentine

Anastasia Valentine is the Chief Marketing Officer at Versature leading the marketing and sales organizations. She is an award-winning product strategist and brings a wealth of experience to the Versature team. Anastasia has a solid track record of over 20 years of experience bringing products to market from idea through to commercialization globally. Anastasia has held leadership, technical and marketing roles organizations such as Sandbox, Cognos, IBM, Jetform/Adobe and with technology startup companies. She leads the multi-disciplined marketing and sales development teams at Versature using a customer-centric and data-driven approach to provide long-term strategic vision and day to day tactical direction. Anastasia is a strong advocate for women in STEM and regular keynote speaker at industry conferences.