Before reading this post, please note that you won’t find any hacks or quick fixes here – but I will give you a very simple recipe for success on Amazon. Simplicity can be hard, but the hard work will pay off.
We are a B2B startup and we only sell one product, our Airtame. It’s a wireless HDMI device that plugs into a TV or video projector making it possible to display content from any device wirelessly. We raised $1.3M on Indiegogo in 2015, winning the “Best of CES” award as a good push.
Since then, we’ve been working around the clock to produce our HDMI dongle, building a team of 40+ people, setting up international distribution channels, and continually updating and improving our software.
We sell Airtame from our own website and through a variety of distributors. Initially, we thought we didn’t want to sell on Amazon because our focus was on B2B relationships, and we didn’t want to be confused with consumer products. We also didn’t want to start a price war with ourselves and our resellers.
Then one day, someone said, “You’re gonna end up on Amazon anyways, so you might as well control it”. The truth of this statement was hard to ignore, and we did want to control the placement of our product in the marketplace, so we decided to put the Airtame on Amazon.
Luckily, we pulled some strings and got invited to selling on vendor central. This means we started out as an A+ site and are being “sold and delivered by Amazon”. Being on Vendor Central was the ideal way to go, and ended up being our best route for attracting new customers.
Now to the good stuff:
Prior to launching on Amazon, I naturally did some research. As an online marketer that is always testing the algorithms of Google and Facebook, I wanted to know how this Amazon machine worked. It didn’t take long to find the ultimate guide for success on Amazon by StartupBros. We pretty much followed all their advice to build a solid A+ site. Using the right keywords was instrumental, but also it became pretty clear, very quickly, that the key for success on Amazon is REVIEWS.
Reviews = Revenue
The golden equation for results on Amazon is simple enough. Reviews = revenue.
So here’s the catch: in order to maximize sales, we needed reviews, and in order to get those reviews, we needed a sizeable amount of sales with positive feedback as a foundation. Because reviews are the key to getting ranked, getting reviews became our focus and mission.
But where do we get these reviews? Should we pay for them using one of those services? As tempting as that sounds when you’re getting started on Amazon, never buy your reviews!
Instead, using a simple process of creating a structure for customer feedback will get you the rave reviews you need, and then some.
So how do you get all these reviews?
Here’s the simple recipe:
- Create a great product.
- Sell it to customers.
- Make sure they are happy. If they aren’t, do whatever it takes to make them so.
- Ask them for a review.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
Before we go any further, allow me to give you a little more background to the Airtame story. We had become the largest European crowdfunding campaign at the time on Indiegogo and had 10k customers from 100+ countries, which felt pretty awesome.
Then, we shifted our strategy a bit along the way, much to the despair of some of our crowdfunders. We went on to launch with a product (if I’m being honest) that was more of a beta than a sellable model. This resulted in a bunch of…let’s just say “not quite happy” customers.
Every time we made an update or tried making some noise in the market, people got all over us. We lost contact with a lot of our customers. Moreover, we didn’t know, and didn’t have a way of knowing if they were happy or not.
However, we DID know that since launching our beta product, our latest version of Airtame had improved immensely. But if no one knows about it, what difference does it make.
We saw only one way forward – we decided to email all of our customers and ask them how they were doing.
Even for an outgoing person, asking people you barely know to do something for you can be quite anxiety provoking. However, that’s precisely what we did for the sake of understanding our customers and rebuilding our relationship with them.
Our email looked like this:
From October 29 to March 14, we started 5,730 conversations and sent over 14,190 emails back and forth. To our surprise and relief, we found that 93.5% of our customers said they felt positively about the conversation!
If people were happy with our product, we politely asked them to leave us a review, and many people did.
For those who responded with less than happy remarks, we did everything we could to make every single one of them as happy as possible. One at a time. Once they were happy, we kindly asked them for a review.
Some might call this cherry picking, by only asking the happy customers first, and I guess they are right. But I see it more as cherry harvesting: if the cherries are happy and ripe, enjoy them, and if the fruit needs a little more time and attention to get to where it needs to be, then by all means, do what it takes. That’s how you grow not just a tree, but a startup tech business.
The goal of our mission started with getting Amazon reviews, but when I think of it now, it was perhaps the most important period in our company’s short history. We learned more about our customers, our product, and ourselves in this three month time period than ever before. We discovered what it really takes to win and grow. Not only what success looks like, but what it feels like to become the best in our industry, and how important it is to CARE about every single customer’s experience.
Getting the reviews we needed for Amazon ended up being just a bonus at that point, but quite the bonus indeed:
If you take one piece of advice from me today, I would advise you to go ask your customers or clients how they are doing – right now.
Asking for a Review
So how do you ask politely? It doesn’t have to be tricky. What we learned is to keep it short and get to the point. Skip the excuses for asking. Remember, they already like you and your product, and there’s no shame in asking for a favor.
Here is how we asked our customers for a review:
As you see, we use a SuperURL
link in the email. This makes Amazon think that people are searching on Google for “Wireless HDMI” and are ending up on our page to leave a review. Doing this greatly helps your ranking in the Amazon search engine.
A Review is Not Just A Review
After a while, we discovered that there is a system for how Amazon weighs your reviews. Your overall rating on Amazon is not done by simple math, using the average of the stars you have been given. These particular insights have not been made official anywhere yet, but we noticed a few things:
- The longer the review is, the better. 5-7 lines seems to be the optimal length.
- If the review has images or video, it counts more.
- If people click “useful” on certain reviews it seems to count more.
- If it’s a verified purchase it’s really, really good, unless:
- It’s a negative review. They matter more to the search engine than the positive ones. We found out that it takes between 5-10 five star reviews to get back to the same average after someone left you a one star review. Sometimes even more, if the one star review is a verified purchase.
So is there a way get customers to leave better reviews?
Well…Yes! Just ask them.
Politely and directly give them a little help. Like this:
An Added Bonus: Getting Keywords in Reviews
We also noticed that when some keywords were mentioned in our latest reviews, our ranking for these keywords improved significantly! However, the benefit of these rankings wore off when the reviews mentioning the keywords got older.
We discovered this while using a service to monitor our ranking on certain keywords. One day we saw we jumped +40 places on a keyword that we didn’t even have on our page! The only place it was mentioned was in our latest review. We don’t ask our customers directly to include specific keywords, but notice in our email above how we suggest keywords like “wireless hdmi” and “wireless presentation system” in the copy to get people to think in terms of using these words to describe our product.
I can’t say if this method works for sure, but once we started doing this, we saw more customers use keywords in our reviews.
When it Works… Automate It!
One of the key things in marketing today, and for startups in particular, is testing and automation. Don’t waste time trying to conjure up grandiose campaigns and projects that will maybe give you results a few years from now. Starting testing with what you have – right now. With so many tools available, most ideas can be tested immediately, and when you find something that is working, do more of it.
Test, reflect, and automate.
Starting up a dialog with every customer can be a bit overwhelming, so we use a few tools to help start the process. To identify happy/unhappy customers we use the Net Promoter Score. NPS is basically asking your users how likely they are to recommend you to a friend…this is the single question to judge from. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend reading this article on Harvard Business Review.
We send our customers the NPS question 30 days after they purchase an Airtame. Using Delighted.com and Zapier, we sort our customer’s feedback. All who respond as detractors go directly into our support system and get a call from us. All of the happy ones, who act as promoters, we reach out to with the intention of getting a review.
In the beginning, we tried automating the “asking for a review” process, but it didn’t give us the conversion we wanted. Instead we tried making the process more personal. By doing the process manually, we now receive a 10-20% response rate to our asking for a review.
Success is Simple
Success on Amazon is about persistent hard work, and it seems that this approach, when combined with direct communication techniques, has a track record of paying off. At least, that’s how we scaled our monthly revenues sixfold in nine months.
As mentioned, there are no guaranteed hacks or quick fixes here. It’s all about caring and making your customers happy one by one. It’s not often in marketing (or I guess in life) that the recipe for success is that clear. But then again, maybe it is.