I’ve been observing the rise of product reviews since my early eBay store days on a dial-up connection. Reading the words of others willing to share their experiences made me feel much more confident in the next investment. The rating systems are important, but the reviews are where I make more decisions.
While I’m here let’s mention that not all reviews are useful or fair. The high or low number of “stars” may or may not mean squat.
To properly evaluate anything from office supplies to full touring rigs, you need to be able to evaluate it under the intended circumstances. If someone else already bought it and utilized it in a similar manner, I’d like to know how it went.
Consequently, if I’ve made some noteworthy discovery in using someone’s gear or service, I’m likely to run my mouth a bit. Seriously impress me or provoke me to rage? Yeah, I’m writing that down somewhere. I’m going to share the information I didn’t find before the purchase.
Against all things socially acceptable, I’ve developed a theory that says “society moves forward on arrogance.” Case in point: YouTube. Millions of instructional videos share various accomplishments with a variety of outcomes. Basically anytime a human figures out some way do do something, we feel obligated to announce it. Even if we’re just tooting our own horn, others can learn from it. (It’s pretty much the foundation of my career.)
User reviews often feature similar arrogance and instruction, only focused at a specific item. If you know how to read them, they can be infinitely valuable. Let me explain how human arrogance can actually a good thing, especially for your wallet.
I’m over stupid cliche phrase with no substance. The best offense is a good offense, the best defense is a good defense. Offense is getting busy and pushing towards your goals and making the money. Defense is protecting what you have. If there’s a hole in your pocket it really doesn’t matter how much change you had.
At this point in our online monetary system, the average person hasn’t fully embraced the real value of the user or product review system which is slowly changing business. Products and services presented online aren’t limited to the folks in traffic reading your fancy truck wrap. The entire world now has the opportunity to evaluate your worth. And they talk about it, good or bad.
From hotels to airlines, road cases to road crews, microphones to loudspeakers… We’re in the business of spending money, hopefully less than we’re bringing in. User reviews let you make substantially more informed decisions than just taking the word of a commissioned sales agent. It’s called “playing defense.” It doesn’t matter how much you make if you’re wasting most of it, or spending more than you’re making.
Reading the reviews of others brings you into a forum scenario where folks can discuss the difference in reality and marketing hype. The manufacturers are playing offense on your next deal, going for the wallet, and the wallet looks like a poorly defended rugby ball to many of them. Reviewers can come to your aid before the purchase.
Even after I had written several product reviews for PSW and Amazon, I still hadn’t grasped the full potential. For a while I just tried to be as positive as I could without focusing too much on the negatives. Then I just returned products I couldn’t find useful on any level, so I wouldn’t be obligated to dance around the fact that it just sucked. Now I’m just more picky about what products I touch so I have relevant and useful information.
I don’t have time or money to waste on crap that looks great in the photos and fails immediately. You probably don’t either. I consider it a public service to announce my joy or impending wrath towards whoever talked me into the purchase.
It’s not uncommon to find fluffed reviews where it’s obvious someone just needed to say something positive even if it lacks substance. Those don’t help. Telling me it was awesome doesn’t clarify the actual performance as compared to the specs. Telling me you hate it, or dropping your rating by a few stars doesn’t tell me if you’re qualified to make that assessment.
Breaking Out The Soapbox…
So, should you decide to jump in and speak your mind about whatever gizmo made you dance or cry, let’s lay a few ground rules so your voice is heard clearly…
Explain your reasoning for the purchase.
With plenty of other products to choose from, why did you settle on this? Was it the price, performance or recommendation from another user? Help me find common ground between what I need and why you figured this particular doodad would be perfect. If our scenarios are similar I’m more likely to read every word and leave positive comments for you.
Describe the intended application.
A network cable stabbed into a desktop that will never move is a very different beast from the cables stretched and taped across an arena floor 200 times a year. Basically the same product, two completely different applications. I don’t need to know if you like all the pretty wire colors, I want to know how it held up when the case lid slammed down on it. That’s useful information.
Telling me some microphone or loudspeaker sounds great means nothing if the reviewer obviously doesn’t know the difference between great and garbage. I sold a lot of speakers back in the day by staging simple A/B comparisons between what they wanted and what I recommended. I had cheap boxes that sounded better than expensive boxes. I also had cheap boxes that sounded like really cheap boxes. Until they were running side by side with the same source material, it was all guesswork.
Making Your Case
To have better reviews we need better reviewers. If you’re the crew replacing an industry standard with some gizmo from an upstart manufacturer, I’d like to know that story. If you’ve found some miracle tools that makes life better for us, please let us know. Tell us that story and help the good manufacturers move forward. And if they’re pushing absolute garbage on your fellows in the industry, we should probably know that too.
And whether you’re a gear junkie with a gift of gab or a manufacturer with legitimately useful products relevant to my audience, I’d like to hear from you. Impress me with your offering and I’ll try to help you connect the dots between the other buyers or sellers you might need to know.
But just know this… I’ll check the other reviews first.