When looking at editorial calendars and seeking product reviews make sure you create a “Reviewer’s Guide” and manage the review. Having won PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award seven times in a row with one of my companies, I can tell you that the review doesn’t always go to the best product, but to the vendor who can properly manage the review process and ensure that his/her features become the criteria for the review.
The reviewer’s guide would include the following items:
- A software package (if not electronic or SaaS)
- Brochures and sell sheets (the piece that goes to resellers (shows category, positioning, SRP and anticipated street price (you never want to use list and have a competitor use street price), promotions, size, etc.
- Copies of other positive reviews (so they can see other review criteria (at least that’s how you position it (selecting the criteria is like selecting the jury–your attempt to bias the review in your favor)).
- Demo script (the fastest way for them to see the “best foot forward” features of your product without having to touch the manuals). This should be in paper format, and video if possible (you can always link to YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia or host it yourself). If you are faster, you will highlight the speed. If you have a better interface, you will point out how few clicks it takes to execute a task. If you have a better price (the price/performance leader is often a category), then you will bold the price in red and create a price savings buildup. If you have totally unique features, you will coat them with positioning verbiage like “the only product to do…”, etc.
- Your product’s positioning and unique value proposition. See the Chanimal presentation, “How to Position Your Product, De-Position the Competition, and Generate a Ton of Leads” within the Cave (if you have registered), or you can pick it up in the Chanimal Store.
- Your “external” Tom Cruise chart (You’re better than Tom Cruise because you are taller, have bigger feet, can play piano, fewer wrinkles, etc. (irrelevant to Tom’s girlfriend or biased fans, but still has value). i.e., a comparative matrix (the external one that shows your good features, not the internal that shows both strengths and weaknesses). The Chanimal Cave and the Reseller Sample Portal has samples. Register to gain access.
- Other items that you think are valuable (such as special hotline numbers)
This is not a press release that is supposed to be news and neutral–this is promotion and you are expected to be biased (although not flagrant), which is why you’re putting your product up to the test.
Reviewer’s Guide – Outline
Following is the typical outline I recommend for a Reviewer’s Guide:
- Cover Page
- Welcome Letter
- Table of Contents
- Six Reasons to Consider Acme
- Key Features
- How Acme Compares
- Version Comparisons
- Useful Videos & Links
- How to Download
- Contact Information
Manage The Review Process
By “managing the review” you must know when to submit, to who, and have access to the actual reviewer(s). If you can give a “quick start” demo it will help. Regardless, you need to ensure the actual reviewer has your reviewer’s kit and all the “hotline” phone numbers and e-mails to get any question or problem resolved quickly.
You also have to ensure that folks in the company know the review is occurring, the reviewer’s name(s), and the proper responses (which should be to redirect all “non-public” questions back to you (or whoever is managing the particular review). You don’t want future features (or products) pre-announced when the reviewer speaks with support, engineering, etc. Any potential internal contacts (including the receptionist) must be coached (see Media Training).
Winning a review (and then leveraging the results (press release, post on site, list in an ad, put on the front of packaging, immediate leads, etc.) can be the most important single promotional activity you will perform and is too important to be left to the uninitiated (get help if need be (check the Chanimal Alliances for individuals/companies I use)).
By the way, other sources for reviews also include Users Groups. I’ve identified every major user group that covers my category. Many folks will do product reviews in return for a copy donated to their user group meetings. The person/people who receive extra copies have to review it. These often go into newsletters, etc. A great viral approach to getting the word out and getting additional product referencing. Check out the book, “Working with Computer User Groups” (Amazon) if you want more help.
Infrasystems, who I have referenced before with their article on the MRD, has an interesting new article on, “Writing a Reviews Guide.” They take a different approach than I do but have some good points.
Below are links to sample reviewer’s guides (PDF):
- SoftNAS Reviewers Guide
- Logic Software Reviewers Guide
- Instant Video Presenter Reviewers Guide
- Todo Cloud 7 Reviewers Guide
- CoreValue Reviewers Guide
The best reviewer’s guide I’ve seen was the one from Goldmine–which won PC Magazine Editor’s Choice for 9 consecutive years (before it was acquired by FrontRange (they let it slide)). I helped produce the ones shown here.
Notice the use of testimonials from other positive reviews (puts the reviewer on notice that he/she is already reviewing a product that others consider award-winning (so be thorough)), the testimonials will also overcome typical objections (“Don’t let the fun fool you, there is a lot of serious technology under the hood” (fun but powerful), “The basic version is great, but I like the import capability from the ”higher” version.”
Also, notice the use of screenshots and features (they tilt the review (as in, “Make sure all these features make it to the review matrix”)–it is difficult for many reviewers to decide the review criteria. The vendor that can help influence the criteria often has a major advantage (the criteria are usually assisted through a reviewer’s guide).
Note that there should be a special e-mail to ensure that it routes to the proper person and gets extra special attention (CRITICAL), plus notice it should have unique call numbers to all the proper contacts that get them straight through. This is especially important for companies that actually have a problem with busy support lines. These companies MUST get the reviewers to bypass their support lines (by providing a special number) or the entire “product” review could get destroyed by a reviewer complaining in his review about their bad support.
It is also important to note that major software reviews are usually conducted by an entire team (a technical person who has to plod through installations, support, etc. and a lead writer who may or may not see the reviewer’s guide). The key is to call and find out how their process works so we can properly manage the review.
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