«Return to Blog List What’s Better – Customer Feedback or Vendor Success Stories?


As buyers, we need help making decisions. There are just too many options.

My last post revealed my own decision anxiety, multiplied when there are no customer reviews or success stories for me to rely on.

From personal experience, reviews help us make decisions faster and feel more confident about them.

But what’s the difference between customer feedback a la Amazon or eBay compared to vendor-produced case studies and success stories? And how can companies benefit from both?

Customer Reviews

Smart companies today ask you for your feedback. They email you after a purchase requesting that you follow a link and “rate and review” the product or service.

  • Feedback is raw, real, unpolished information right from customers.
  • Customers are free to share their negative experiences.
  • Any grammar errors or typos are still there, adding to the authenticity.
  • It’s free-form, so customers talk about what is important to them, usually without any prompting questions.
  • As a short review, it only takes a few minutes.
  • There may be a shortage of free-form reviews on higher-end solutions (i.e. $1 million ERP software implementation).
  • That content isn’t leveraged beyond showing up on review sites.
  • Cheap or free for vendors.

Vendor Case Studies & Success Stories

Case studies and success stories, produced by the vendor company, formally capture a customer’s experience.

  • Vendors reach out to their most successful customers, so no negative stories.
  • Prospective customers see them as more slick or “commercial” than raw feedback.
  • Customers agree to share their story formally and publicly.
  • Formal interviews draw out specific aspects of the customer’s experience.
  • The story format engages readers in a different way, taking the audience through challenge, solution and resolution – allowing prospects to better see themselves in those stories.
  • Results are measured – to the extent possible.
  • Once approved, the content can be used in various formats – press releases, stand-alone testimonials, award applications, etc.
  • Takes more money and time.

In today’s buying climate, you need these customer experiences to help buyers.

What do you choose?

Both. Ideally, your prospective customers can find free-form feedback on the web AND review more formalized, comprehensive, measurable stories about customer experiences.

Customers today benefit from both. The first provides more AUTHENTICITY and the second much-desired DETAIL – both critical pieces of a buying decision.

In fact, make both a part of your marketing plan:

  • Give happy customers links to online feedback sites.
  • Approach those same happy customers about documenting their stories more extensively in print, audio or video.
  • Send prospects to sites with customer feedback (hopefully it’s good!) and to stories on your website.

Regardless of what mix you choose, always ensure that you give prospects access to other customers’ experiences. You can help them get past indecision.

What’s your take? What do prospects gain from free-form feedback versus vendor stories?

4 Responses to What’s Better – Customer Feedback or Vendor Success Stories?

  1. Shelli Z says:

    Menu A, Menu B and all of the above. Yes customer feedback, yes case studies, and more importantly, give prospects access to the customers featured in the case studies and web testimonials, via Q&A sessions on forums and webinars etc… And if the vendor gives a fair and thoughtful response to “less than positive and polished” customer feedback, usually that resounds with prospects much stronger than would 10 more web banners or ads… But to manage the diversity we need, we rely more and more on our overloaded customers – how do we keep them on board? We all know the Achille’s Heel of every referencing program is the difficulty of coming up with enough new, more/ attractive incentives…. BTW I have only recently “joined the conversation” but I have been a silent reader of your blog for a long time now, thanks for your interesting content!

  2. Casey Hibbard says:

    Hi Shelli Z,

    I really appreciate your comment. It’s true that vendors too often go back to the same happy customers because their stories are so great, when more energy probably needs to be spent finding fresh references. I think being clear upfront with each reference about how much and how often they are willing to be referenced is critical. What have you found works in terms of new, attractive incentives?


  3. Shelli Z says:

    Hi Casey,

    I usually think the best incentive is to ensure your best customers free access to management and to top consultants and tech support, but that will only take you so far… some customers are appreciative when you proactively get them media interviews and editorial space, though others find that more bother than help… paying for your customers to speak at an event in Orlando or Las Vegas sometimes works…you need to have a long and creative list of goodies, eh? I used to work for a big corp where many customers liked to get their name associated with our brand, now I have moved to a start-up and the tables have turned on me – I want to associate our name with our customers’ brands.. how should I meet this challenge?
    Shelli Z

  4. Casey Hibbard says:

    Hi Shelli,

    Most of the companies that I work with are small to mid-size trying to get their biggest names on record as case studies and references. It’s definitely harder asking from the SMB perspective than the big-name company, but I’ve seen many be successful with this.

    In terms of what works, it’s hard to generalize because each situation is different. But the most common thing is that the main contact at the customer company was excited about bringing this story to light. The VP, director or manager saved his or her dept big money, improved customer service, etc. and they truly want to tell that story not only publicly but to the higher-ups in their company.

    They see documenting their story as a way to get internal PR. They get even more excited when they might be submitted for a relevant industry award because of their efforts. You have to see what motivates them and get them excited, and that excitement hopefully helps them get their legal and PR to agree to let them. Get the highest person in the affected department on board to help get company permission.



  1. Curated Stories Feb. 16, 2010