To Be or Not To Be…a Quotable Reference

There definitely can be pros and cons to being a reference customer in a vendor’s press release but if the process is managed correctly, there should only be pros. 

Among the pros for the customer are: publicity for your company, a chance to have your company reaching a wider audience (especially great if you work for a smaller company), acknowledgement for the individual contact and a feeling of loyalty on behalf of the vendor. I once had a customer get a promotion after I wrote a press release on their use of our products. His boss and upper management weren’t aware of how successful the deployment was and how much money was saved.

If the process isn’t managed correctly, there could be many cons.

Some of the cons to being a quoted customer is a press release are if the vendor doesn’t set the expectations up front.  If the vendor says that the media will definitely be interested in speaking to them and then the customer doesn’t speak to media, it could cause trust issues.  Likewise, if the vendor gives the media the customer’s contact information without first touching base with the customer, there could be problems. No one likes to be caught off guard. 

Although it requires more work than just getting a quote, vendors need to know all background information on the customer that could be relevant to the press release. If the quote is for a product launch, the vendor needs to know what the customer thought of the product, if the customer used previous products and any issues that came up during the beta or use of the product. This will help you set expectations and better understand your customers.

Another issue that could arise when a customer gives a quote to a vendor is if competing vendors read the release. I have heard of competing vendors calling up the customer asking why they like vendor A over their product or why they ripped out their product. There’s not a lot the vendor can do to stop this, and it has only happened once (that I know of) in my years of running a reference program. It’s not a huge issue, but something that can bug your customer or put them in an awkward position. However, if they agree to being quoted in a release, it should be okay.

Without a doubt, vendors must get written approval from the customer to use the quote.  If you quote a customer that hasn’t approved the quote there could be major problems.  Likewise, if you quote a customer and have their wrong title, spelling of the name or company, or even worse, the customer is no longer at the company it could be a bad situation. Again, get customer approval to use the quote.

As a reference professional or the person responsible for getting a customer quote for the press release, you should set expectations with your customers.  Let them know if there’s a chance the media will be calling and I always let my customers know that if the media is interested in speaking to them, that I will manage the scheduling and will never give the media my customers’ contact information without first reaching out to the customer. It’s also important that you know what your customer’s schedule looks like the week the press release goes out. If your customer is on vacation and the media wants to talk to him/her, then it could backfire on you.

Overall, vendors need to set expectations, find out what the customer is willing to do (just because they are quoted in a release doesn’t mean they’ll speak to the media) and make sure that you, the vendor, has written approval to use the customer quoted in the release. 

What are some other pros and cons?


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