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Hell Hath Frozen Over: What The Amazon Review Changes Mean (And What To Do)

When I was interviewed on the Private Label Podcast last year, I said that I was “surprised that it’s taken so long for the physical products community to mature.”

Now, they will have to. 

This week, Amazon announced that they are no longer allowing incentivized reviews, which means that doing giveaways in exchange for reviews.

In other words, those who spend thousands of dollars to give away free product in order to get reviews will have to adjust.

This may put out of business several “Review Clubs” that exist only to connect reviewers and sellers.

Ultimately, this will do away with the mass inflation of reviews that Amazon Sellers have come to expect, and it will likely return the playing field to the days of more modest numbers of reviews.

So… what should ecommerce entrepreneurs do? 

In short: if you do things the right way, build a brand with a strong following, and you give your customers what they want, then review getting will continue to be easy. 

But if you are looking for hacks or tricks, you will be toast.

The market eventually will adjust; new ways of getting reviews will come up. But brands with good products and strong followings are not affected by any of these changes… and it is my recommendation that those of you who have been putting off “brand building” should stop putting it off. 

For a long time, I have stated that the “slap your label on something cheap” process had to be replaced by true brand building if entrepreneurs wanted to stay alive. 

There’s a reason we call our training the Brand Builder Bootcamp and not the “Sell Stuff On Amazon” course. Because they are very different.

Ultimately, building a brand makes more money… and the company is worth more money when you sell it if it’s a brand.

What’s the difference? 

There are two types of businesses: cash cows and brands.

Cash cows are great, but they always have a shelf life, because they are dependent upon a temporary opportunity (loopholes, tricks, hacks, etc).

Private labeling in 2014 was a cash cow. It was so easy to make money. But no one expected it to last.

Brand building, on the other hand, is giving specific products to specific people for a specific reason, and developing a following in the process.

ONNIT and Quest are two of my favorite examples of this. They sell the same things as a lot of other people, but they have an extremely targeted market, and their customers are passionate fans because the products solve a problem. 

So what does that have to do with “Review Gate?” 

Everything.

Because reviews are easy when you’re building a brand. If you’ve been building a commodity based business, then you have probably been reliant on review groups and giveaways.

So the solution to this new “problem” (which, by the way, I think is a fantastic opportunity for people who play the long game) is to start using good brand building strategies as soon as possible. 

Here’s you can start doing now: 

Last month, at the Amazing.com Summit (video coming soon), I described my obsession with the company Julian Bakery.

JB is a food company that makes paleo and keto versions of food… and I eat their products every day. I’m an addict.

I didn’t become a buyer because of the number of reviews. I bought because they served a very specific need of mine. I needed protein sources that were low in net carbs and did not have sugar alcohols (which tend to make me a bloated fart machine).

Julian Bakery’s products have only a few dozen reviews… and they usually average about 3.5 stars. I don’t care. I buy from them anyway. 

I didn’t care about their reviews. I cared about the product and how it solved my problem (the problem being that most wraps and meal bars aren’t keto or paleo friendly).

I don’t care if they ever get another review. I’m already a fan based on what they do. If they aren’t available on Amazon, I’ll find them elsewhere.

Do you think that Apple is affected by not being able to give away free product in exchange for reviews? How about Quest? Julian Bakery?

Is BioTrust Nutrition affected by this, since they have no Amazon presence (and still sell $100m in physical products every year)?

How about ONNIT? Are they affected?

What about TrueDog, or Organifi? Both have strong Amazon presences but do their marketing on other channels (both have been common examples used inside of our training classes).

Brands are not affected by this change if they a) serve a specific target market, b) solve a customers problems, and c) are not exclusively reliant upon Amazon to send them customers.

If you’ve been selling on Amazon to any success… or if you are just getting started… then the “fix” is the same: double down on your brand differentiation and build an audience. 

Doing so not only makes you immune to changes, but it also helps you sell more product.

When you have an audience, it allows you to launch new products profitably, ask for reviews in a cool and ethical way, and actually protect your profit margins.

And then you send them to Amazon to close the transaction.

“But I don’t wanna build an audience! That sounds hard!” 

Just like the three stages of building a million dollar business, there are three stages to building an audience. And if you put the same energy into that as you put into ranking for products, you’ll see results quickly. 

You’ll never have to use a review group again (not that you would want to now).

Here is what the three stages look like:

The Grind: When you have no following outside of Amazon, your job is to put your message in front of an audience and pay to show up. 

Where does your ideal customer hang out? Do they follow certain YouTube channels or listen to podcasts? Do they follow Facebook pages or spend more time on Instagram?

Wherever they are, put your content there. Your content should be relevant to the problems they experience, or the benefit that they want to enjoy, not what your product does. 

Most companies play the “hope and pray” game. They put their content out and hope that their customers show up.

My recommendation: put your content in front of them by advertising it to them. Pay for YouTube videos to show up, boost your Facebook posts… pay for Instagram shoutouts… do whatever you have to do to get in front of your ideal customers so that they start to notice you on the platform that you are using.

Pick ONE platform (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc) and pay to put your content in front of your ideal customers. I would suggest spending between $10 – $25 per day to start.

With the little following that you have, get them engaged. Put them into a Facebook group if you have to… hire someone to reply to their comments and Facebook messages if you have to… your job is to turn them into fans that want to share everything that you do.

Do this until you have at least 1,000 engaged followers. You can measure this by tracking how many people see your posts when you don’t boost or pay to advertise.

The Growth: When you have at least 1,000 followers, but no one knows who you are.

Your job in the growth is to continue to put out content that your audience wants… .while also developing relationships within your space. As you develop content, people will start to notice you.

But the fast track to growth is to get influencers to notice you. If you have zero following, then they won’t pay attention to you. If you have at least 1,000 fans, then there is a chance that they will pay attention once they notice you.

In this stage, continue to develop content; it may be recipes… or photos… or pure content, depending on what your people want.

It’s then your job to get that content in front of the influencers.

Start by following the Instagram or Facebook pages that make an impact in your industry. Make content specifically about them to get their attention. Share their content with your audience and tag them in your shares.

Most will ignore you. A few will pay attention to you. Develop the relationships with those that pay attention.

Pay them if you have to. Hire ambassadors if you find it helpful. But do this process until you have ten strong relationships with people in your industry, and at least 5,000 people see your content. 

The Gold: When your stuff is being seen and shared, you can begin to monetize it. 

Getting to this stage takes about 90 – 120 days of grinding and growing. But once you are here, you are invincible.

Think of Dave Asprey as an example.

Dave start the Bulletproof blog with no following, but he kept providing awesome content. The result was that he developed a following… which then began to talk about him… and then began to share his stuff.

Then, he launched Bulletproof Coffee. It went nuts.

Not because it was revolutionary. Not because it had reviews. But because he had a small, passionate following.

Now, his brand is invincible… even though his products are in saturated markets (ha, and have saturated fat… that’s funny), he kills it. And he will ALWAYS kill it, as long as he keeps the attention of his following.

In this stage, you can monetize your following.

That includes (but is not limited to):

  • writing blog posts that link to your products
  • creating ads that share the content that is going viral
  • selling advertising on your site
  • launching new products to the email list
  • selling info products
  • using your list as leverage to get into retail or other channels
  • running discounts and specials
  • asking for reviews

 

No one jumps to this point overnight.

They have to go through the Grind first.

And no one wants to go through The Grind.

But those who do develop scalable and sellable brands that never need to rely on review groups, mass giveaways, blast services… and they never have to worry about pesky competitors “eating into their margins.”

Since this is such an important topic… we have decided to make this process a major focus of this year’s Freedom Fast Lane Live.

If you sell on Amazon… or you run an ecommerce business…. or you are a big thinking internet entrepreneur… then Freedom Fast Lane Live is a 3-day experience that deconstructs the strategies behind the world’s most successful people. 

There, we will discover the strategies behind Quest Nutrition – which grew from zero to $400m in sales in just five years.

We’ll explore BioTrust Nutrition, which went from zero to $100m in twelve months (not a typo).

You’ll learn from Cameron Herold, who advises Amazon businesses and physical products companies on going from $1m to $100m…

We’ll explore Mike Dillard’s new hydroponics company as a live case study… and he will share how we went from $0 to $100,000 per month to pay for his ideal business… 

PLUS… you’ll meet Peter Diamandis, John Mackey (the founder of Whole Foods), Alicia Silverstone, and other business and investment leaders. 

PLUS… to give you peace of mind and confidence, we have put together an Investment Panel, who will show you how to invest your business profits for passive income… so that you can relax and actually enjoy life while you’re building your business.

If you sell anything online… this is the must attend event of the year. 

At this event, you will learn how companies break from seven figures to eight, and eight figures to nine.

We’ll cover going from Zero To $100m… and every stage in between.

Plus… you will be in an environment where people are doing big things, so you will expand your network and your mindset at the same time… while leaving with a clear plan of how to grow your business going forward.

To be perfectly honest: F2L2 is the most expensive thing we do. We don’t make money from the event. We actually lose money. We do it because it is literally the greatest contribution that we could make to the community, and because I wanted to make the event that *I* wanted to attend. 

Very few business owners understand the power or the opportunity that they are sitting on.

If you sell physical products online… you are participating in a modern gold rush.

Honest Company just sold for $1b…. and it was just a few years old.

Dollar Shave Club sold for $1b… and it was just a few years old.

Yeti sells coolers and is valued at $5b.

You are sitting on that type of a potential… or at least a fraction of it (which would still be millions of dollars!).

It’s our job to help people build businesses and invest the profits, and we start by helping people build scalable and sellable BRANDS. There is no better place to see it in action than at Freedom Fast Lane Live.

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