In this article:
- Why Clutch alone won’t help you find a reliable development partner
- Why you can’t trust everything you see on Clutch
- How to verify Clutch reviews
- What else to look for when seeking the right development partner
Clutch is a website rating IT, marketing, and business services companies. It collects client testimonials, case studies and objective quantitative data, and compiles them into neatly organized, trustworthy company profiles.
Clutch is the industry go-to place for reliable reviews of potential software development contractors. On paper, this sounds like a perfect way to x-ray your next outsourcing company without jeopardizing the project. But – like anything else on the internet – even Clutch reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt.
With several years in the industry under our belt, we feel entitled to shed some light on how Clutch works and offer a few tips for companies wanting to find a reliable software development partner.
Everybody shines on Clutch
There are hardly any negative reviews on Clutch, and there is a good reason for that – for many companies Clutch is another tool helping to sell development services. As Clutch reviews have become increasingly important for clients, many IT services providers can no longer afford to have a bad rap and spend a lot of time buffing their profiles to perfection.
Of course, this is not to say Clutch reviews are only marketing waffle that’s completely at odds with reality. The reviews and ratings can (and should) be taken into consideration, but the ability to read between the lines certainly helps a lot.
Too much of the good thing
If you are looking for something very generic like “web development” or “mobile app” you’ll be inundated with hundreds of matching results – and every company is great! It takes a lot of hard work to plough through all the elaborate bragga-bragga. This is where Clutch fails at its foundations – the more popular it is, the harder it is to choose a reliable partner from hundreds of samey-looking companies with stellar reviews.
Of course, you can try to further adjust the search criteria by various industry verticals like locations, technology, etc., but even then the number of results may be unwieldy, except for some technical, narrow business niches.
The overwhelming number of providers on Clutch – speaking purely statistically – makes it more difficult to confidently make up your mind. This is a rule of thumb broadly discussed by Barry Schwartz in his bestselling book The Paradox of Choice.
To properly verify the quality of a company on Clutch, you should go the extra mile and find their actual product in the wild and put it to a test – whether it’s a website, a creative campaign or an app they’ve made.
Credibility of reviews
We have no reason to doubt that the majority of Clutch reviews are still trustworthy. Clutch itself is known to put a lot of attention on getting reliable reviews: for example, they only contact companies directly to interview them (the reviewed company does not participate in the review process).
But even Clutch falls prey to marketing tricks or fraud. We’ve heard a few times of some fraudulent companies which keep doing their job unprofessionally and deliver very bad projects. And, surprise surprise… Those companies consistently receive 5-star reviews. There have also been examples of companies doing a complete rebranding where – partly in a bid to wash away bad reviews and start from scratch – companies changed their name, logo and even address. There is little that can be done to protect against it.
What if the company you’re looking for is not even on Clutch?
The sheer number of companies featured on Clutch might leave you with an impression that all companies have a profile – as if it were synonymous with taking good care of the business. But it’s a completely wrong assumption.
There are examples of very successful companies that don’t have a profile at all. Or, even if they do, they don’t flaunt it excessively. I know a bunch of reputable businesses that ignore Clutch altogether. This could be seen as either a glaring oversight or something completely intentional.
But not all that glitters is gold. In fact, it’s the companies that blow their own horn the most you should be wary of. After all, pruning the Clutch profile is, in essence, a part of the company’s PR/marketing strategy and may not fully reflect what the company really is. Being on Clutch is great for lead generation, link building and SEO.
Why don’t some projects get featured on Clutch?
Companies that show off on Clutch are very selective about their work. They include successful projects which are guaranteed to earn them good reviews. But at the same time, they often downplay every project that did not exactly go to plan or went completely sideways. This could be done either by stopping the client from submitting a bad review (be it via polite requests, negotiations, or otherwise), not mentioning a bad project at all, or by simply not including the Clutch badge on their website to keep your clients from looking at it.
Another reason for projects not appearing in the profile is because software companies sometimes operate as part of “white label” arrangement (i.e. one company provides a product or a service which another company rebrands and promotes as its own). In such cases, the subcontractor may be contractually forbidden from bragging about the project. This means they can’t request or receive reviews or recommendations directly associated with it. That’s why there are so many anonymous reviews on Clutch from mysterious “ghost customers”.
Spying around a bit won’t kill you
Try to do some research. No worries, everybody does a little espionage now and then – it’s normal! Find a company that has done projects like the one you’d like to employ them for. If you have a chance to talk to the company’s team members, do it and ask some crucial questions to get an idea on what the company really is like, and how the projects actually progressed. If possible, reach out to their former employees – they may be even more willing to talk about the dark sides and problems. See if there are any LinkedIn connections that you already share with those folks – it might be helpful to pick their minds too. Consulting them may help you get you an honest opinion on the potential software partner.
Also, try to reach out to the company that has given a review. Just say something along the lines of “Hi, I’ve read the review you gave to the company X at Clutch, could you tell me more about them? How was the cooperation? Is there anything I should be careful about? Did you have any problems with them? Would you recommend this company? Would you hire them for another project?”. It’s a good start. Of course, there is no guarantee you will get a response, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Double check everything
Going back to our rule number one: take everything you see on Clutch with a pinch of salt. Verify, verify and verify – when speaking with your potential partner, ask about the details of each project.
At Naturaily, unlike in many other software development companies, we try to treat each client with due diligence and professionalism. The CEO is engaged even in the early talks about each project. We also introduce potential team members to our clients to give them a hint of what kind of professionals they would be working with. And this level of openness usually pays off.
When you contact us to discuss your project, we will be ready to provide you with in-depth portfolios and detailed testimonials of each of our specialists. If you want to, you will also get an opportunity to talk to them directly in your first calls.
Reach out directly
Try to reach out to decision-makers who are in charge of the teams that would develop your digital product – it’s best if you ping them directly. You can try to arrange a short call with the CEO or CTO of the company – it could yield more valuable insights than anything else you read or see on Clutch. In the video call, you can ask them to show their office and the people who work there. It would be also helpful for you to find out who they really are: what the office looks like: is it a comfortable place, do the people look happy? Solid, reliable companies respect their employees as much as they respect their clients (Delivering Happiness, anyone?). And happy employees who care for the success of the company will do their best to build exactly the product you need.
The client may not always want – or be contractually allowed to – share the details of a project. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, the project may involve a long chain of subcontractors, and disclosing such an arrangement is not in the client’s best interest.
Also, a long list of anonymous reviews may be a warning sign in itself. Such a strategy could suggest a clever marketing agenda of a company wanting to get Clutch-worthy based on fake reviews and projects that never really took place.
When considering using the services of such a company, ask a question or two about the anonymous projects – the company could shed some light on the reasons why the projects are anonymous and disclose a few solid details. Or it will completely throw them off their balance, blowing the disguise.
Clutch is a good first step, but it is not a magic wand to single out the best development company. With Clutch being one of the most impactful marketing vehicles today, companies use various tricks to keep their image pristine.
Apart from having tons of good luck, you’ll need to put some extra effort on your end to find a software company that precisely matches your technical and business needs. And our experience suggests that a good specialization match and experience may be more important for the success of your project that the rating and pricing combined.