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Don’t Quote Me

By Joseph Flaherty, Director of Content & Community

In my role at a VC firm, I have the privilege of seeing the pitch decks of startups as they set out to raise new funding. In the main, they’re masterful, but I’ve seen a lot of founders making a similar mistake—including quotes from random users in their presentations.

For instance:

“Product X has changed my life!” — James W.

Don’t do this.

The motivation is understandable. After years of struggling to build a product, you’re excited to share the enthusiasm from passionate customers! But at best quotes like this are a waste of space, at worst, they make you look amateurish.

Think of your startup like a restaurant competing with other eateries. Your competitors are touting their Michelin stars. Anonymous user quotes are like touting Yelp reviews.

VCs will assume that if you’re making money or building a user base, there will be half a dozen end users that will sing your praises. The question becomes, why are you highlighting this dubious data point, rather than a scalable competitive advantage?

What to do instead?

Get quotes from credible users.

“Product X has changed my life!” — Dr. Jennifer Jones, Mayo Clinic

The point of quotes is to provide 3rd party validation of your business. That’s much easier to do when the person vouching for you has credibility. The same quote, backed by a trustworthy institution, is far more powerful, so take the time to solicit useful soundbites from key opinion leaders in your field, rather than some rando on Twitter.

Use customer feedback as the basis for more quantitative customer stats.

If you really have exceptional customer feedback, quantify it with an NPS survey, ideally compared to a panel of peers. Or show a tally of Amazon ratings, Github stars, or other objective benchmarks.

Feature the aspects of your business that people love.

What’s driving the enthusiasm behind these quotes? Unique product differentiation? Stellar customer service? A clever business model? Use the space you’re devoting to user quotes to analyze and explain the underlying drivers of enthusiasm.

What do you think will impress a group of investors more: A slide explaining the clever operations strategy you employed that allows you to provide faster delivery at no cost, or, a quote like… “ Got my package so fast, magical customer service! — RickAndMortyFan349.”

If there are users who have done truly impressive/crazy things, like tattooing your logo on their body, go ahead and showcase that, but otherwise, there is almost always something more interesting to feature than a random user quote.

User feedback can be the lifeblood for team morale in the early days. Testimonial marketing can even be a decent consumer marketing strategy. But if you’re past the pre-seed phase, you have more powerful tools at your disposal when pitching investors. Use them!

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