How not to request a product review

Like many of my fellow Microsoft MVPs, I regularly receive messages from software vendors requesting me to review their products. This is not unexpected as it’s perfectly reasonable for vendors to seek reaction and feedback about their work from people who are active in the industry. The fact that a product review might be positive and therefore usable in publicity is just a side-effect. Or perhaps not.

In any case, most requests find their way to my electronic wastebasket. There’s not enough time available to go through the process of downloading software, finding suitable systems on which to install the code, grappling with the inevitable pre-requisites and other requirements that must be met before the software will install, learning enough about its functionality to make an intelligent assessment, and finally writing and publishing a review.

Setting up a realistic test of any software usually takes a couple of days and then you have to remove the software in case it causes problems with other products, future updates, and so on. Those who complain about Microsoft’s testing prowess when it comes to the interaction between Exchange and third-party products should try installing a couple of third-party products on the same Exchange server. The “interaction” between different products can be interesting and instructive. And those who complain about TechNet might have a look at product documentation generated elsewhere. You’ll like TechNet afterwards.

In any case, I have plenty of other things to write about without having to figure out the details of yet another software installation, which accounts for the automatic reflex that exists in my brain to delete email announcing the chance to test software.

Perhaps my attitude would be different if the typical message asking for a review was well written. Take the following text from a recent communication. I have removed some text and altered some words to protect the company that sent me the email. However, you’ll get the gist:

From: Webmaster Blah []
Sent: 03 April 2014 06:38
To: Tony Redmond
Subject: Request for Product Review

Dear MVP,
Mr. Tony Redmond


I am writing on behalf of Blah Data.

I stumbled upon your blog through Google Search and found quite a bit of useful information.

We would like to introduce our company Blah Data established since 2007.  We have around 50 K satisfied customers across 80 countries and 150+ products to fulfill the user requirements. Blah is a leading data recovery company and our products are trusted globally by corporate and home users.

We would appreciate if you can have a look at our product Blah Software is an effective EDB to PST conversion tool that will allow users to repair damaged EDB file and convert it into PST. The software is capable to convert multiple exchange mailboxes in one go.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Thanks & Regards
James Smith

I’m sure that James Smith is a skilled marketing professional but really…

  • It would be nice if the message was personalized. The way it is written makes it seem like it’s a form note sent to many different MVPs. I especially like the “Dear MVP” salutation.
  • James stumbled upon my blog through Google Search. There’s no notion of a detailed examination of the market to identify subject matter experts there, just a stumbling through the output of Google search to find people. For all I know, I might have earned this chance to review the software by random choice. Being selected in this way made me feel very special.
  • I’m sure that the company carries out its business in a laudable manner. Hyperbole is to be expected and it is laid on thick with statements such as “… a leading data recovery company… trusted globally…” No backing data is provided to support the assertions (are all of their 50K claimed customers truly happy, I wonder). I had not heard of this company before receiving the email. Clearly a deficiency on my part.
  • The lack of punctuation and the indefinite article in the paragraph exhorting me to look at the product creates an impression of a hastily written message. Not just one, but two. The last sentence in that paragraph is odd too. I imagine that it refers to Exchange (the product) rather than some odd interaction involving conversion, but it’s hard to understand what the writer means.

Leaving aside the copious thanks that close the message, the overall impression is that this company does not really care about their image as projected through communication with people who might review their products. The lack of attention to detail makes me think that their software is likely to exhibit the same characteristics and confirms that I should not bother to go anywhere near it.

They asked for a review and got one. It’s just that their email was reviewed rather than their software. And they failed. Absolutely.

If I write anything about a software product, I do so independently and because I am interested in the product rather than being asked (or paid) by a software vendor. That’s the only way to remain objective in a world where so many so-called reviews are barely-disguised paid-for advertisements that are worth not a jot.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna


About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
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2 Responses to How not to request a product review

  1. Thank you Tony for explaining how not to request a product review. Can you also mention how a well written review request looks like? Should the email describe all the main features about the product or just the basic product introduction is okay? How to conclude the review request email nicely?

  2. Good question. I think any request for a review has to contain something to catch the attention of the reader and make them want to learn something about the product. A blah-blah we’ve released version 99.xx of our super-duper product release will never get my attention. But tell me (without hyperbole) why I should want to know about the product and I might just look further.

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