Customer Reference Managers have become more aware of the dangers of “tainting” customer references through blatant incentives for participation. In fact, the survey that we conduct annually as part of the Customer Reference Forum events shows that most programs are avoiding traditional incentives (free services, product discounts, gift cards, etc.) in favor of program benefits of a more strategic nature. These include greater participation in product direction/development, expanded access to company executives, advisory boards, etc.

I was surprised to see an AP article today entitled:
FTC plans to monitor blogs for claims, payments

Wow! The FTC is going to start digging into the validity of customer endorsements? It’s a whole new world now that so much of what we do is crossing geographic boundaries via the Internet cloud.

How do we advise our clients? The same as always. Customer references should do what they do because of the quality of your products and services. Don’t undermine a quality reference with transactional incentives. But do provide them with loyalty-building reasons to be part of your program starting with great products and service.

This will keep your program from crossing over to the dark side.