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The Art of the Customer Quote

I spent some time recently working on an announcement so I guess I have press releases on the brain.  I love the process of creating press releases.  Good ones end up a bit like minimalist poetry, where every word is chosen deliberately and any extraneous information has been thoroughly expunged until you are left with nothing but the pure essence of the announcement.  Yeah, OK, that hardly ever happens but we can dream, can’t we?

Customer quotes in particular are a piece of the press release that are sometimes used very well and sometimes overlooked.  Quotes are important because they are often the only part of the release that is used verbatem in the media and you can use them again in other maketing pieces.  Here are a few things to think about when you are crafting customer quotes:

  1. Make it something you’ll want to use again – Getting approvals for customer quotes (especially ones from larger companies) takes time and effort and often a long wait while it goes through legal.  Don’t waste the effort on a quote that only makes sense in the context of your press release. You’ll want to use it on your web site, in your collateral, in your presentations and other sales materials.  Make sure it works for other things.
  2. Write something that at least has a hope of being approved – Larger companies will want the quote to go through their legal department for approval and that process could take days.  If you start with a quote that they really hate, they will write you a new one that is so clean and sanitized that it will be completely useless for you.  Write something that says what you need it to but don’t go so far that legal feels the need to throw it out and create something new.
  3. Have the speaker say what you can’t – This one might seem obvious but it gets missed sometimes (especially if your draft quote stinks and legal ends up writing one for you).  You saying that the solution saved the company X dollars means pretty much absolutely nothing.  Customers have the authority to say things that frankly, you can’t.  Think about it when you craft the quote.
  4. Keep it short, simple and memorable – Don’t try to pile on too many messages into one quote.  Keep it simple and it will have more impact and be more memorable.


Andrew in the comments asked for an example of #3.  Here are a couple:

Here’s the Sun/Oracle press release from this week, which in my opinion is very, very good.

The opening quote from Safra Catz is aimed direction at Oracle shareholder and states in gorey details how they will be good for the Oracle share price.  The first quote from Sun’s Scott McNealy says:

“Oracle and Sun have been industry pioneers and close partners for more than 20 years,” said Sun Chairman Scott McNealy. “This combination is a natural evolution of our relationship and will be an industry-defining event.”

This can’t come from Oracle – it has to come from Sun.  This is a statement for Sun’s customers that says “this is just an extension of what we’ve always been doing, no need to panic.”

Pretty much any release from IBM is a good example, they are great at this stuff.  Here’s a recent Lotus customer win announcement.  The customer quote here is great.

“Our strategy is focused on minimizing software interdependencies and, likewise, taking control over license related costs,” says Dr. Bernhard Thomas, head of IT Infrastructure Strategy at Continental AG. “We didn’t see major differences between Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook with regard to client functionality, but the IBM software was more open and flexible and it also had lower infrastructure costs. That’s why we chose it.”

Could IBM have said any of that?  Nope.  The first part speaks to the customer’s strategy and why they were looking for a solution.  The second part takes aim directly at IBM’s competitor and says (in the customer’s voice) why they chose IBM’s solution over Microsoft’s.  Powerful, succinct and completely something that IBM could not have said themselves.

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  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the comment. I wish I could show you the release I’ve been working on but it’s still going through legal 😉
    I’ll give you a couple of examples. In fact, I will add it to the post so everyone sees them.

  2. Hi April,
    Thanks for the tips on customer quotes and the examples. I like the storytelling format of the IBM release.
    I might add that quotes should sound like what the customer might actually say, without too much corporate-speak. Even if someone writes the quotes for the customer, try to make them sound like the person would naturally talk – using contractions, etc. They’re far more interesting and believable.

  3. Hi Casey,
    Thanks for the comment. I normally recommend that you write a quote for the customer so that you at least start with something that is really useful. The customer doesn’t know your messaging and positioning the way you do. I agree that the quote should sound like it is in the customer’s voice. I’m not sure I would go so far as to have slang (and I’ve worked with my share of customers whose language wouldn’t be safe for the news wire) but natural is good 😉


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