A better metric for comparing products on Amazon

A few weeks ago, my PC of a number of years began warning me to replace my hard disk drive soon. That in itself is pretty cool. (Not that my disk drive was failing, but that the operating system warned me before it actually did!)

Rather than replace the hard drive, I opted for an updated computer.  I have a daughter entering her teen years faster than I’d like, and I want to postpone her passing me with the tech as long as possible.

Customer Reviews:  More than meets the eye

As with most things on Amazon, there are choices.  Boy are there choices!  After doing a small bit of research based on what I had hoped to use the computer for, a gaming machine seemed to be a good compromise between cost and performance.  (My main use for the machine isn’t gaming, actually!)

So, now I start trying to decipher amongst a bunch of fairly competitive choices.  They were roughly all the same price for what you got, and the number of stars, and number of reviews, were similar too.

I began reading the customer reviews.  I usually start with the critical reviews.  Not that glowing reviews aren’t helpful, but they can be padded by the vendor.  Critical reviews tend to reveal more.

As I was reading the reviews for some CybertronPC machines in my price range, I noticed something.  It wasn’t so much whether or not the computer had issues or not, or even what the customer said about the computer.

It was CybertronPC’s response to the reviews.

It wasn’t even just that they responded to the critical reviews professionally, and made every effort to fix the problem.

I’m quite sure that they read each and every review — even the five-star ones — and take every opportunity to go above and beyond to fix any issues that may have arisen during the purchase.  One of the five-star reviews on the machine I bought (linked above) mentioned a missing wifi adapter, as well as the prompt response by the company to fix the issue.  (This was certainly a good customer!)

CybertronPC took the opportunity to apologize again for the already-resolved issue, and throw in another reminder about the technical support for their PCs (which is free lifetime support, by the way).

A sign of taking business seriously

Does it take a lot of time, money, and energy to monitor, and respond to, these reviews?  Not a whole lot.

Is it a good return on investment to take the opportunity to build up relationships with satisfied customers, and reduce collateral damage with unsatisfied ones, in a high-traffic, high-influence forum?  Of course.

Good, or even great, customer service isn’t rocket science, and responding thoughtfully to Amazon reviews is low-hanging fruit.

But a company engaging in this way with its customers it does leave an impression.  And it can’t be just lip service, either; the customers can respond to the response and call the company out if they don’t do what they said!

This care was the distinguishing factor for me.  It was a sign that they took their business very seriously and worked to uphold their reputation, and it’s why I dropped nearly a grand with them, sight unseen and never having owned one of their PCs before.

I was buying a computer, sure.  But I was also buying into a company that, by all appearances, stands behind their products 100%.

So far, it looks like I made a wise purchase.  Oh, and it looks really cool, too!

Black Friday 2014 hits the rebate sites!

In-store fights on Black Friday are becoming as much tradition as Thanksgiving.

Does the thought of scrapping it out with a stranger over a $9.99 DVD player appeal to you? Me neither.

Thankfully, no one is going to reach into their computer to overturn your Amazon shopping cart or sever your internet connection.  I’ve managed to stay out of the malls and big stores for a few years now, and I can’t say that I miss the craziness!

Remember to click through to spend less!

A hefty chunk of my email from businesses the past couple of weeks has been Black Friday and Cyber Monday related.

While the stores are building up their own excitement, rebate sites like Ebates and Cash Back Cat are doing the same.  The stores are knocking down their prices, and the rebate sites are boosting their rebates!

Spend less and … spend less.  It’s win-win!

Here are some of the site-buster deals that a few of the rebate sites have going on:

  • EBates (sign up free) has 500+ stores with extra cash back
  • Cash Back Cat (sign up free) currently has ALL stores with extra cash back
  • Swagbucks (sign up free) has double SB in all Shop and Earn stores today and Cyber Monday
  • Panda Cash Back (sign up free) has triple cash back on select stores, based on reader choice

Even better:  Compare rebate sites to spend even less!

With all of the savings going on, it’s easy to get a decent deal on holiday purchases.

But these rebate sites are businesses just like any other, and they compete against each other for your business.  They all know that you have options.  They also know that no one site has the best rebate for every site, all the time.

That’s why I developed my cash-back comparison engine — to make comparison of the rebates easy, so you can make an informed decision.  I’ve used it myself to track down the highest rebate for a number of purchases.

Yesterday my family and I had a quiet, but productive, Thanksgiving.  My wife and her parents built the majority of a winter chicken coop, and I settled in on the computer to beef up the cash-back comparison engine a bit:

  • Simply Best Coupons is now included in the comparison.  This site has over 3,500 stores with rebates and coupons, and now you can compare them side-by-side with over a dozen other rebate sites!
  • I’ve compiled the 169 most active stores on their own page.  Of the thousands of stores that have rebates and coupons available, these get the most attention from the rebate sites.

All of the rebate percentages are hours fresh now, so I invite you to compare rebates quickly, and easily.  This is all free!

What would make it even easier and more useful?

Like I mentioned above, I use this tool myself.

But I want this to be useful to as many people as possible — especially you!

So … if you’ve played with the engine, and have saved money, I’d love to hear about it.  Also, please either send a message or comment below with things you’d like to see, questions you have, or problems you’ve encountered.

Happy Black Friday! :)

Want to make tons of money? Two keys

There are lots of people who claim to have the key to making money.

And with this post, I’m going to bite the bullet and become one of those people who claims to have the key to making money.

But, I’m not going to charge you anything for this key.  I’m not even going to ask you to sign up for my newsletter!  (Though, if you want to, please move your gaze to the right and enter your email address :) .)

Recognize the other side of the transaction

Over ten years ago (after spending twenty-three years in school) I began investigating ways to make money online.  I’m still investigating, learning, and trying different things.

One mistake I made for a long time, though, was treating the money “machine” — a website, an affiliate program, an online course — and the actual source of the money as one and the same.  As in:  “This program will make you money.”  “You can make money with your blog.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The websites don’t make money for me, or for anyone else.

People make money for you, not websites.  It’s people who decide to pull out their wallets or purses to:

  • buy a product or service you sell
  • buy a product that someone else sells, but triggers an affiliate commission for you
  • sign up for a trial service on your recommendation that triggers a commission
  • etc.

Websites or any other non-person thing don’t have a dime to spend.

One huge mistake I made for years with this website is taking people who read it, and commented, for granted.  The traffic was decent, as was the money.  So, I coasted.  Posts with seven or eight comments regularly got no response whatsoever from me.  How utterly ungrateful!

I was treating the website as the moneymaker, rather than the people.  Some regular commenters likely felt blown off, and decided to spend their valuable time elsewhere, taking traffic and goodwill — oh, and revenue! — with them.

And there is no one else to blame but myself.

At one point several of my blogging peers were people who would later sell their blogs for seven figures and catapult to bigger and better things.  I still have good relations with a number of them, but I’d be kidding myself to say that I’m a peer now.

And that’s all right.  It is what it is.  And the only place we can start from is where we are.

Recognize those who know

Those wildly successful bloggers I mentioned above — and many others whom I met and talked with here — all have something to teach about making money.

They may sell the information.  They may just talk about it for free.

Or they may just put it in plain sight and let perceptive people figure it out.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn posited: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I guess this is why married couples start to look and act like each other. :)

Kidding aside, we have a lot of leeway in choosing who we spend the most time with, especially after work.  (We ultimately have leeway even at work, though there’s usually a higher cost to switching colleagues.)

On the subject of making money, if we’re looking to do that, then we should strive to spend quality time — friendship, mentorship, or even both! — with people who do the following:

  • Manage their finances well.  Befriending frugal people begets frugality.  Befriending financially responsible people begets financial responsibility.
  • Bring value to their customers.  Whatever form that’s in.  This could mean having a key leadership position in an organization, or being a successful business owner.  The customers are different, but the amount of value that these people bring to them is the same: a lot.
  • Conduct themselves ethically.  Befriending a dishonest, lawbreaking person begets, well, dishonesty and lawbreaking.  The sword cuts both ways.
  • Have a higher purpose than the money itself.  This basically follows from the three things above, but it bears repeating.

It’s clear that spending time with people who do these things is beneficial to you, me, and anyone looking to step up their game.

But, in order for this to happen, it also has to be worth their time as well.  So this involves bringing what we can to the table, investing in the relationship, not just using the people, etc.

The two keys to making tons of money

In order to make tons of money:

  1. Seek out, and make meaningful connections with, people who have money – either to learn better how to make money yourself, or as potential customers.
  2. Provide value to them in exchange for money, directly or indirectly – being keenly aware that the relationship with them underpins it all.