Business relationships are built on trust. Startups, agencies, freelancers, and consultants try to gain your trust by showing they’ve worked with other people or companies like you. To that end, they show off their customer logos.

Dishonest Customer Logos

That’s fine. It does help to know whether they have a portfolio of credible, successful, and relevant clients.

Unfortunately, many of those people are being dishonest with their customer logos.

They want you to think these big-name companies trusted them with a project, and were so thrilled with the results they let them use the logos.

In reality:

  • a) They were a (sub-)sub-contractor on a project related to this company.
  • b) In one of their previous jobs they participated in a few meetings and email threads related to this company.
  • c) They completed a minor task years ago for somebody who works at this company.
  • d) They once gave advice to a friend of a friend who works at this company.

(I know because I’ve witnessed each of these cases multiple times.)

If somebody is resorting to dishonesty or eggregious exaggeration to earn your trust, can you trust them to tell the truth, do the right thing, live up to their end of the bargain, and act in your best interest? I wouldn’t.

Don’t let your guard down. Next time you see a row of customer logos, ask:

  • What was the scope of those projects?
  • What were their responsibilities?
  • What was the outcome?
  • When was it?
  • How long did it last?
  • Did they work directly with the company?

If the logos are real, they’ll be delighted to share customer stories. If you hear deflections, hand-waving, or contradictory details, then move on.

… Then, check that they didn’t put your logo on their site.

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