I received a package today from Amazon.com. It was some lighting equipment that I purchased.

Inside the box of lighting equipment was a small, glossy postcard. It read:

“Please go to the item that you have purchased and leave a review of the product. If the review is at least 4 or 5 stars, you can enjoy 5% off of your next order from [company].”

This made me feel really uncomfortable. I don’t mind being asked to review a product. That’s totally fine and it is a good idea for them to ask me to do so. No, what made me feel weird was them tying an incentive to the score of the review.

To use a scientific term, that just feels icky. It makes it seem like you aren’t incentivizing honest reviews, only positive ones. If the product is good, you don’t have to do that.

Furthermore, it calls into question the integrity of all posted reviews. How many of these 4 and 5 star reviews were because of the incentive? People start to doubt. It’s not fair, especially not to the reviewers who honestly liked the product, but it happens.

If you are going to do this, why not do it in a way that shows integrity and shows that you trust the quality of your products. They could have said “review our product (good or bad, just be honest) and we’ll send you a coupon for 5% off!”

This isn’t just a good thing to do, it makes business sense. When you show integrity, you improve your chances of being liked and respected. When you tell someone that you simply value honesty, not just positive reviews, they’ll take their review more seriously.

Besides, it has been said that people are suspicious when all they see is positive reviews. Having some negative reviews won’t kill you.

Disclosure is a tricky subject here because I am sure that some people feel that if you offer a customer a coupon in exchange for reviewing your product, that creates a conflict of interest that should, ideally, be disclosed. I agree with that general line of thinking – again, ideally. A 5% off coupon basically means “if you review our product, we’ll give you 5% off the next time that you want to give us your money. We’ll keep 95%. Yay, money!” So, the disclosure issue is one to ponder. I’m not terribly bothered by it, but others might be.

That aside, as I mentioned above, asking for reviews is a good thing. When you do it, you want to communicate two main things:

  1. There is no pressure. We’d love for you to review our product, but if you don’t, we totally understand.
  2. All we want is your honesty and, good or bad, we’ll treat you the same and be here to support our product.

If you follow those two principles: ask away.