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Using customer logos


#1

Hi all,

I useful tool for startups is having a list of big name customer logos on your home page - “We must be good - look who uses us…” type of thing.

How have people gone about getting permission to use your customer logos like that? Or do you use it and wait for them to ask you to pull it (assuming they ever do)?

In the past when I’ve trying to contact a few companies, either through people on their dev teams, or straight to the marketing dept, the request just gets lost or outright refused.

Allan


#2

Interesting question.

Once I managed to get a testimonial from a big co PM, but he requested to abbreviate his last name and the company name, because he was not sure how to go about getting such a permission, and did not have a time for it anyway.

I did not published the company name or logo, of course, because I did not get the explicit permission.

So every time I see a line of logos of large companies on a startup page, I cannot help but wonder – did they ask or …


#3

Hey @theallan good question. The social proof can certainly be important (or seem important).

If I was in your shoes, I’d do a quick analysis of your customers and figure out which 5-10 you’d want to feature and you think would be ok with being featured. I’ve got some customers who are head over heels with the impact we bring to their org, but wouldn’t want that shared with the world. So take the ones you think would be ok, and put them up on your site. Then you can fire them off a note that says, that you’ve created a “we work with” section and listed you.

Then if that creates a problem for them - remove them immediately.

Here is the crucial next step: so that this is a one time experience, add in your contract or TOS that you have the right to use their company name and/or logo for marketing purposes without approval. There may be some of your new customers who might not like that, but many will be 100% ok with it and you’re covered.

Good luck.


#4

I’ve taken the “easier to ask forgiveness” approach and not had any problems. One company politely asked us to take their logo down because they have a policy of not allowing that sort of thing.


#5

I have a clause in my contract saying some version of this (depending on the site):

4 - Development Credit
4.1 - The Principal agrees that the website created for the Principal may be included in the Web Services Provider’s portfolio.

On occasion, a client will ask me to remove that clause from the contract, but usually people are fine with it.

The text could be changed to mention use of the client’s logo for promotional purposes, as gavin mentioned.

My contract is a modified version of the standard AIGA contract.


#6

Hi all,

Thanks for the replies. Regarding @gavin’s point about adding it into the contract and @lori also having it - I did actually have a clause for that saying that I would be allowed to use a companies logo in a “used by” section on the site (this is for sold software I should say). However, the small companies never had a problem with it, but the big companies did. After a number of removal requests I just removed it from the base contract to simply the process.

@rfctr - it sounds like your experience matches my own. Normally when I ask someone in a large company they are either keen to help and then get discouraged quickly by bureaucracy (nothing in it for them after all), or they already know they won’t get anywhere. The biggest give away for me when I see a collection of logos that they don’t have permission is when the logos have all had their colours changed to fit with the style of the site. I’ve never come across a company that would allow that.

@starr - I suspect that this is the approach that most take. It doesn’t sit quite right on my “do it by the book” nature though. To my detriment I guess - something I need to overcome…

Thanks,
Allan


#7

I had another thought @theallan as I re-read the thread and your statement about “nothing in it for them” - it’s a long thought so stick with me.

We are all assuming their is value in the stamp of approval that BIGCO LOGO brings. That value could literally be $1 or $100,000,000, but we don’t know. We can’t figure out how to unlock that value appropriately, partially because we don’t know what it is worth. If I knew that every BIGCO LOGO brought me two more enterprise clients worth $100k in ARR, I’d fight a lot harder to put it on my site, my guess is you would too.

All that said, is there a third option where in the contract, you define that value and let them decide what it’s worth to them? I’m thinking something along the lines of in your contract you create an opt-opt for the logo inclusion, “In the event that you do not want your logo included, we offer to opt you out for a fee of 10% of the annual contract” Obviously pick your own numbers, maybe it is a flat fee instead of %

You get (some of) the dollars you hoped for with the marketing boost the logo would provide, and the BIGCO gets an easy way in your contract to decide what it is worth to them (and no one has to fight existing rules of endorsement). Additionally, you could of course waive the fee at any time for any company you wanted as a point to close a deal.

The inverse of this would be to charge more and then offer a co-marketing discount to the smaller companies who already are happy to be mentioned. You’d probably need to increase your prices so you could even drop this down to the normal pricing for anyone who opted into the program, but as above the outcome is still hopefully the same.

Of course any changes could change your close rate of business, and you may really just want the logos/endorsement on your site. But just trying to offer another alternative.


#8

Good question! Apparently one that has been around for a while too… I was doing a little research to see what others thought about this issue and I found it amusing to come across this link from the Business of Software forum* from 2007: http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz.5.553419.14

It even includes a comment from @Andy (Andy Brice), who is both a member of this forum and has been a guest on the Bootstrapped podcast.

For what it’s worth, they seemed pretty divided on which way to go. No easy answers!


*For those of you who haven’t read the Welcome post on discuss.bootstrapped.fm, this forum is inspired by the Business of Software forum.


#9

Since then (that was 2007) I have leant a bit more towards the Catholic model (‘it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission’).

My standard licences now says that I can name them as a customer, unless they ask me not to.

If it is a small to medium sized organization I will still email them and ask them permission to use their name/logo. If they say no (many famous organizations are very jealous of their name), I won’t. If they don’t reply, I assume that I can.

If it is a huge organization, like the US Army, there is no point even asking. Who would you ask? I will just use their name/logo and take it down if they ask me not to.

BTW My A/B tests showed that showing famous customer logos on the PerfectTablePlan home page has a significant effect.


#10

You can also include a provision in the license/terms that allows you to use the customer logo/name as a reference with an option to opt out of this. We do this and while we have companies asking us to opt out from time to time (usually large enterprise customers), most customers seem to be fine with this.


#11

Number, give us the number!