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Manufacturers and Product Reviews

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Last year I talked about the Three R’s of Web Marketing, to be real, relevant, and responsive. But the truth is that being real is challenging. Let’s take a real-life example—do you expect product manufacturers to post product reviews?

We’ve all seen customer-posted product ratings and reviews on retail Web sites. Amazon’s got ‘em. Shopping comparison engines do, too. And customers love to read them.

Some retailers have been reluctant to post ratings and reviews, however. They reason that they want to put their best foot forward—no need to say anything negative about something they sell. After all, why talk someone out of a purchase?

The truth, however, is that reviews talk customers into purchases. In fact, if customers don’t get reviews on your site, they’ll look elsewhere until they find them.

So, retailers have gradually talked themselves into providing ratings and reviews, because customers can pick between all of their choices and buy something. But manufacturers? Why would they want reviews? They may make only one model of a product—a bad review might cause the customer to buy from a different manufacturer.

It takes real guts for manufacturers to allow reviews to be posted.

Well, take a look at someone with guts: Curt Sasaki, Vice President of .SUN Web Properties at Sun Microsystems. Curt and his team has put product ratings and reviews for all of Sun’s products on sun.com—a sign of supreme confidence in what they sell.

Curt told me that what I call being real, Sun calls "openness and transparency," and that it comes down from "the top of the company, Jonathan Schwartz," Sun’s CEO. Schwartz is notable as that rare species, a CEO blogger, but providing product ratings and reviews really turns your marketing message over to your customers.

Sun had found that for every bad review they get, they get several good ones. Curt says that the really crazy reviews are "self-correcting"—someone sane comes along to override them soon enough.

Sun’s mot stopping, either. They’ve now started syndicating blog feeds from Technorati alongside the 3700 blogs from Sun employees. Do those blogs from outside Sun always say what Sun wants? Of course not. It’s not easy. But it’s real. And it’s what your customers want from you.

If they trust you are being straight, they will believe more of what you say. And that is the basis of persuading them to buy from you.

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