The third episode ended up being mostly a discussion of questions that I had based on listening to the first two. As you might be able to tell, I learned a bit through discussion on the topic of customer references. Going into it, I thought that the references are more of a connection or document to show that other customers like the product, use the product, etc. In this scenario, I think there would be a very big agency problem if the vendor company pays a third party agency to simply write these references, because they would necessarily be glowing.

What I learned is that Brittany was referring more toward reference models that companies develop with customers. If you take the example of a cloud provider trying to market and sell a suite of technologies, say, API caching, database, queue, and rate limiters. If this is a net new application of the products, that cloud provider may work with a customer, possibly at a discounted rate, to develop and execute the new application of the tech products. Alternatively, if this is a proven pattern or model, that cloud provider would more likely go to a customer that has already seen success implementing these models and write a detailed “how to” with choices made, reference architectures, and pitfalls to avoid.

I see this as avoiding the agency problem and a more “rising tide lifts all boats” approach for the tech marketers. Sure, they are selling companies a package of products. BUT, they’re building cases and examples of discrete wins of the products they develop and market (possibly not in that order 😉). If you are in a company that faces a similar problem and has a similar set of choices, you feel much more comfortable taking a risk on a suite of technologies that has been shown to work and has a detailed case study of a successful implementation. I’m still not sold on the extent to which these show all the magic behind the curtain or tell you the real problems and hidden costs of products. However, I do see it as a step in the right direction.