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The Current


Gathering reviews that (actually) build your brand [part 1]

Struggling to make use of user reviews that are positive, but not really worthy of a pull quote? Here are some tricks to help your customers WANT to wax eloquent about your product.

Everyone wants to transform. 

It’s why we diet, work out, listen to podcasts, make resolutions, and get lost in niche-y forums. After all, our aspirational future self is sooooo much cooler than the self we actually have to live with.

As we embark on transformations big and small, we look to products, brands, influencers, and communities that can help guide us to our future selves. 

And who does our future self want to be? To name a few universals:

  • More confident
  • More knowledgeable
  • More lovable
  • More secure – both financially and relationally
  • More connected

This creates a massive – and critical – opportunity for brands. When you nail the story of exactly what you can help people be, you’ll win their business. And one powerful tool you may not be taking advantage of is reviews & testimonials.

  • 70% of people consult reviews and ratings before purchasing [source]
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations [source]
  • 161% higher average conversion rate from visitors who saw user-generated content vs. those who didn’t [source]

Without creating fake accounts and typing up your own over-exuberant testimonials, how do you get the most out of this opportunity to hear from your customers?


First things first: Get your story straight

Before you start winging out requests for reviews, think about how your product or service truly helps people in their transformation journey. There might be several possible answers, and that’s okay. Exactly what problem did you set out to solve with your product? You may find it helpful to collect some input from outside sources here (🙋), because the closer you are to your brand, the more difficult this can be.

Aim for 1-3 sentences or bullet points. Spend time getting them crystal clear. 

Then celebrate, because what you just arrived at is likely suited to be the cornerstone of your entire brand messaging. 


Three practical tips for getting great reviews

So, how do you get great reviews out of people who invited your product along on their transformation journey?

1. Ask at the peak of their satisfaction. 

The right timing depends on your product. But for example, three days in to a 30-day cleanse would not exactly be prime time. A week after the holidays, however, for a gifted item is just about perfect. 

2. Ask the right questions

A golden review is one that clearly shows what someone’s life was like before your product, then how it improved with your product. If your inbox looks like mine, you’ve received plenty of emails asking “what did you think of our product?” How boring and blank-page-syndrome is that? Prime your customers by asking specific, targeted questions about how your product helped them do x. Here’s where you get to think back to those bullet points you came up with. Someone wanted to reach their potential. Your product helped them.

3. Don’t be afraid to edit their review to what you need. 

Instead of crossing your fingers for a perfect direct quote and feeling disappointed when something too short or jumbled comes back, think of reviews as a collaborative process. Rephrase and confirm: “So what it sounds like you mean is…” Guide them through their story. Don’t get nervous if they ramble, rather trust yourself to edit their story down to what you need. You can even write the review for them if you have to and send it to them for their sign-off. A good review should sound human and nuanced, so don’t feel like you need to get these reviews sounding like they came from a PhD, or worse, completely strip the human element out. 


What to do with negative reviews?

We’ve had brands hesitate when asking for reviews because they were afraid of the occasional negative impression. Hard truth: If you’re not confident in your product, you need to go back and get it right – no amount of glossy images or overblown promises can sugarcoat your shortcuts.

Negative reviews WILL happen. Guaranteed. (Some people are just perpetually disappointed, we’ll come right out and say it!) So here’s what to do when three stars or fewer pop up: 

Don’t hide them. 

While of course every brand out there wants five stars across the board, trust actually starts to erode if there’s not a single less-than-perfect review in the bunch. By showing all honest reviews, you do actually build your credibility. Because guess what – people know that products are bound to not work perfectly for everyone. 

Trust that people have common sense.

If you’ve hooked someone to the point where they’re reading through reviews, they’re already on your side. And because we generally want to believe what we want to believe, it’s easy to dismiss a few reviews from folks who ordered the wrong size or didn’t take time to read the product description. 

Respond carefully and personally (and publicly).

Also: quickly. Give it a personal touch. Don’t let it feel like a template. A great response can cover a multitude of (perceived) wrongs. Remember that your response isn’t just for the person who left the review – it’s going to influence everyone who reads it. 

While you’re at it, respond to every review if you can. Be engaged with your customers. Build relationships. Help them on their journey. Be there with free information. It adds up.

Our friends at climbOn couldn’t have given us a better example: 


An image is worth 10,000 words

Photos of real customers are great. Photos of real customers using your product in their real lives are gold. And not just because it’s fun to see your products out there in the wild, but because it builds trust, authenticity, and makes other people want to join in.

Brands that participate in the identity transformation of their customers create passionate brand evangelists.


Not every brand is fortunate enough to be able to pair their testimonials with pictures of the most adorable babies on the internet, but Owlet’s parental-peace-of-mind product cues thoughts of “I need this right now” with their customer stories:

… and video at least another dozen.

Even in the age of the internet, we still find it hard to resist the allure of the moving image. Intimidated? Don’t overthink it. Great brands have been built on user-generated content (UGC), and one might argue that this content feels more authentic and has more conversion power. After all, we’re more apt to listen to a friend’s review than an advertisement. 


“Do influencers count?”

Short answer: No.

Influencers are traditionally a good source for images and reviews, but don’t use these as a substitute for average-joe reviews. What you’re really trying to capture is a transformation, and it can be too easy as a customer to dismiss influencers as less approachable or less believable. Why? Because we have a feeling that they achieved their transformation before your brand even entered the picture. Your best “influencers” are real, everyday people. And to that point, depending on your brand, less shiny and polished images may be more powerful because of their authenticity. 

If you’ve made it this far, #impressed. You’re committed to getting it right! And we want to help… Take a quick jump with us over to a checklist you can start tackling now to build out your testimonial library, PLUS a list of questions that will vastly improve the quality of reviews that come in…

Buckle up, buttercup >




VOLTAGE is a digital agency specializing in eCommerce, digital brand experiences, and web apps. Get emails and insights from our team:

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About Julie Overby

Julie Overby

Make stuff & make stuff happen. Help clients look good and hit goals. Growth strategy. Brand experiences. The art & science of copywriting. Surprise & delight. Brand DNA. "Does it support the story?"

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