Welcome to the second of three articles in this “How to Write a Stunning Product Review” series.
Let’s begin by recapping Part 1 of this series.
Article 1 is all about the customer: her problems, her pain, her emotions, her language.
- We talked about a product review or sales page being not about making a hard sale, but about helping the customer.
- We found that your customer has a critical problem, a need or a desire that she hopes you can solve or fulfill.
- Your customer is on one side of a door. To her, the door looks closed and barred. She has no idea how to get through it.
- Your job in writing a product review is to start where your customer is, unlock the door and lead her through.
The key point to remember is:
When writing a sales page, you’re not selling a product. You’re offering a solution, filling a need or fulfilling a desire.When writing a sales page, you're not selling a product. You're offering a solution, filling a need or fulfilling a desire.Click To Tweet
Why are we bothering with this? Because there’s no point putting up a page of links to products and expecting them to sell. Anyone can do that — and a lot of people do — but it simply doesn’t work.
As Solo Build It! teaches, it’s all about the PREselling.
Remember: your sales page is the door through which you need to lead your customer — the missing link between her strongest problem or desire and your (or your affiliate’s) product.
You’re going to harness this and provide proof as to why this product is the one thing that solves her problem or satisfies her desire as completely as possible.
And it won’t look anything like the sales pages of a scammer. It will look and sound like you, helping your customer.
So let’s examine the product we’re about to write a review page for. How can we ensure that it provides a solution and meets our customer’s needs or desires?
Part 1: It’s All About the Product
Remember the formula “feeling + thinking = purchasing”? Today is the “thinking” part.
It’s important that the thinking part — the factual information about the product — links back to the feeling part. That’s where our work lies now.
We’ll split this into two: products you’ve developed yourself, or have owned, used and love, and products you wish you had the money to try but haven’t.
Finally, we’ll look at smaller products, for which this process may feel like overkill.
Let’s start with your own products, or affiliate products you’ve owned and used.
Step 1: Where to Start
There’s a template for you to use, if it would be helpful. Download the How to Write Product Reviews Worksheet or sign up below to receive a link via email!
It will be very important when you come to write your review that you have this information at hand. So don’t just think about it — write it down.
Today’s task is to sit somewhere quiet with a nice cup of your favorite beverage, and think through the benefits your product has.
If this is a product you’ve created yourself, or an affiliate product that you own and use, it’s a fairly straightforward process. You’re giving your personal, individualized feedback on the product: not just its features, but real, authentic information about how it’s helped you.
The template allows for 5 features and their related benefits. If you can only think of 2 or 3, that’s fine.
If there are more, that’s also fine, but bear in mind you don’t want to overload your customer with information. What she’ll want to know most is how this product addresses her (again, we’re using “she” and “her” as a shortcut) most pressing problem, need or desire.
Break this down into small parts.
- Are there other, similar products your customer is likely to have tried?
- What makes this particular product stand out above those others?
- What are its 3 – 5 best features? How did those features work for you?
- If your product is a solution to a problem, what specific problem does each of its features solve?
- Whether you’re addressing a problem, need or desire, what are the specific benefits of each feature? List them individually.
Your customer is more likely to buy a product if she can see its features as direct solutions to her problem or an exact match for her need or desire.
- How do each of those benefits meet the overall needs of your customer?
- How do each of those benefits meet the emotional needs of your customer?
- How to they make her life happier, more relaxed — whatever she wants her life to be?
Let’s Look at an Example.
I have a website about Italy, which is where I live. I sell a lot of electric pasta machines on my Italian site.
My Italian friends cannot believe that anyone would want to buy an electric pasta machine at relatively high cost when a bowl, a table and a rolling pin do exactly the same job at less than one tenth of the price.
But the most obvious, and best, feature of the pasta machine is that it automates the process. Flour, egg and water go in. 35 minutes later, push a button and pasta comes out the other end.
And the greatest benefit of that for my customer is one we can all relate to: a saving of time. A working parent of two toddlers may want to give the family fresh pasta for dinner, but time is against her.
What does she feel about that? Perhaps frustrated. Guilty that she’s not able to be a “perfect parent.” Tired, if she tries to make pasta anyway… Stressed, because (at least in her mind) other parents seem to manage to provide healthful meals every day.
How does she want to be? Relaxed. Happy that she’s providing nutritious meals. Glad that her children are learning about, and eating, food that’s not processed.
What solutions does the pasta machine offer, and how will they help make her feel good?
- The #1 benefit of automating the pasta-making process is that she has more quality time to spend with her two children.
The added, less obvious benefits of that? Perhaps improved relationships with the children. A more relaxed household.
- A second benefit is that she’s able to feed them nutritious meals that taste good (if you’ve ever tasted really fresh pasta you would never want the dried sort again) and have no additives.
The benefit of that is for her entire family: healthier food means healthy children, an improved lifestyle.
Which may mean fewer doctor’s visits, less time off school, less stress…
And then there are lessons for children about preparing food with fresh ingredients…
See how each separate feature can lead to multiple indirect benefits, many of them emotionally based, which all lead back to how our customer wants to be?
Task 1: Use the template to think through your product, its benefits and, most importantly, how it will make your customer feel.
Step 2: Acknowledge the Negatives
Very few products have absolutely no drawbacks at all, and it’s important to acknowledge that in our reviews.
Why? Because there are too many fake reviews out there that praise products, making no mention of any drawbacks. That’s doing a huge disservice to customers — and will dispel any trust you’ve built up.
So, be honest.
As well as thinking about the positives, consider whether there are any negatives in your product. It may be a missing feature, or a high price. It may be something very specific to the product: for one of my chicken incubators, for example, it’s the fact that high humidity causes some of the moving parts to rust.
If you’re reviewing your own product and it’s already live, look at what your customers are saying. If they’ve not said anything negative, why not ask them? Questions like “how do you think this product could be improved” or “what’s the one thing you’d change about it?” are a good starting point.
If it’s an affiliate product and you can’t think of anything negative, have a look at some reviews. Amazon, of course, is a particularly rich source of information. Look at all the reviews: one or two stars are the obvious ones to read but sometimes reviews of 3 or 4 stars can give more nuanced problems people have come up against.
Are those issues going to stop your customer getting through that barred door? Are the drawbacks enough to put her off buying the product?
Take some time to think about your product drawbacks. How could you overcome them?
If you draw a blank, look for reviews from people who’ve used the product and found it lacking but have overcome the obstacles. Are their solutions something you could also offer to your customer?
Task 2: Think through the potential negatives of the product you want to review and consider potential solutions to those drawbacks. Don’t forget to use the template to keep specific notes.
Part 2: What If You’ve Never Owned the Product or Tried the Service?
Writing about a product we own and love is obviously the best way to write a review. But much as I would love to try out all of Italy’s best hotels to review for my site, I don’t have the money, the time or the inclination (well — maybe the inclination…).
We don’t always have the luxury of testing every product we think will meet our customer’s needs.
So, what then?
Ask other people.
Sometimes we can do this in person. Friends or family may have tried it. I know people who have tested out different hotels in Florence that I’ve never stayed at. I badger them for photos and have been known to interview them in horrendous detail.
Sometimes we can ask our most trusted customers. Have they tried this product? What can they tell us?
Be careful about this one. People’s memories can be very selective, and individuals have differing ideas about what’s a necessary feature. Not everyone thinks having six different kinds of tea in their hotel room is critical to their enjoyment of Florence.
Many times, we don’t have either of those options. In that case, the option we do have is to look at other people’s reviews.
Now, this one is tricky. Earlier, I mentioned the phrase “fake reviews.” Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor have struggled with this issue for years.
Why? Because reviewers have written reviews not to offer help to prospective customers but to make competitors look worse. It’s particularly prevalent in the hotel and restaurant industry.
(Want to read more about this? Take a look at “Fake Reviews: Peeling Away the Dark Side of Internet Marketing.”)
Some companies, like Amazon and Expedia, have become better at preventing this. They highlight reviews from people who have actually bought the product or stayed at the hotel. They’ve also prosecuted when they’ve found proven fake-ness — but the problem is still there.
So, what should you look for if you’re curating other people’s reviews for your review page?
- A phrase like “verified purchase” or “by a verified traveller” is a good place to start.
- This kind of comment:
I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review
may seem honest, and the intent may well be genuine, but research shows that even with the best of intentions, people who receive goods in return for a review tend to be less critical and more positive, and they give a higher rating than others. (See, for example, this study). Be careful of this type of review.
- Look for reviews with personal photos. They usually confirm that the person has used the product, stayed at the hotel, eaten at the restaurant.
- Don’t just look at 5 star or 1 star reviews. Go for the middle ground. Very few products have no flaws at all, very few are utterly dreadful.
- Look for reviews that tell a personalized story. Some people relate how their family uses a product, or why their dog hates a particular squeaky toy and goes for their slippers instead.
Is This Tantamount to Writing a Fake Review?
Is this a manipulative way of writing a review? Some say it is. Clearly, having personal experience is the ideal.
But this is the real world. Do your research thoroughly and, critically, make clear in your review that’s what you’ve done.
Whatever else you do, do not, ever, make things up to suit your needs.
Your customer will trust your ideas, knowledge, passion, technique and understanding to make a difference to her life — to unlock that door and lead her through to a more contented life.
Abuse that trust at your peril.
Part 3: What About Small Items?
Is it really worth going through all this for a $9.99 ornament from Amazon?
Let’s take another real-life example.
I love Christmas decorations. Love them. I have so many that they half fill our huge loft space (genuinely — just ask my husband).
So I love writing about them. But the fact that I love them doesn’t mean that everyone will. Unless I discover why people in my niche like to buy them (as opposed to why I like to buy them!).
One of my most successful small affiliate products on my Italian site is a $20 snow globe. I sell dozens as soon as we get to August (I know — August! — it’s like wishing your life away!).
Why so successful? It’s not a problem looking for a solution, after all.
It’s successful because it’s hand made in Italy. It’s robust enough to become an heirloom. And I know this particular section of my Italian site’s audience: they’re very proud of their Italian roots, and keen to keep those roots alive for their children and grandchildren.
So that’s where my product review page starts: with an appeal to emotional ties to Italy:
Looking for a unique and relatively inexpensive Christmas gift, hand made in Italy, that can be passed down your family for generations?
Whatever the product you want to review and sell, it all comes back to that issue we always come back to: putting yourself where your audience’s emotions are, using language that resonates, and finding a solution, or an item that satisfies their need or desire.
In terms of how much time to devote to researching and writing about smaller items, give as much or as little as you think your product is going to merit. You’ll be — quite rightly — more prepared to put additional time into thinking about the language to use for your $500 course than the $20 snow globe.
These are the last of our preparation tasks. If you’ve completed the tasks and used the templates, you now have the background material to help make writing your review a pretty straightforward process.
In the next article, we’ll write our product review pages. Don’t miss it!