Analyze This: The World Doesn't Revolve Around Gartner
Over the years, Waters Agency has fielded a lot of questions from clients around analyst relations. They frequently sound something like this: “I want my company to show up as a leader on the Gartner Magic Quadrant, a Cool Vendor report or in a Forrester Wave. Can you help us with that?”
If you’re reading this, you probably have a similar question in mind — or wrestled with this before. Whether you have a defined AR strategy or not, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the purpose of engaging with analyst firms, and to clarify what analysts can (and cannot) do for you. This will help ensure your AR plans support your business goals and deliver maximum value. For growth-phase companies with limited budget and resources, this is even more critical; otherwise, you may spend exorbitant amounts on analyst consultations without seeing much return on your investment.
Relationships with analyst firms can deliver tremendous value, especially when expectations and budgets are set appropriately. Having a smart AR strategy in place based on clearly defined goals will help generate the most ROI for your company.
Who’s Who in the Analyst World
Ask any business leader or marketeer to name a research firm, and they will likely say “Gartner.” Not without cause: Gartner has grown to be the largest business and technology analyst firm in the world, with over 17,000 employees worldwide and $4.2 billion in revenue in 2019. Forrester comes in a distant second (2,000 employees and $300 million in revenue), and IDC has the #3 spot (1,700 employees and $100 million in revenue).
However, Gartner, Forrester and IDC are far from the only analysts in town. For example, Aragon Research is a boutique Silicon Valley research firm, covering many of the same industry and technology segments as Gartner. There’s Gigaom, a client of Waters Agency, and a firm with an editorial focus and a knack for humanizing technology while providing deep insight on disruptive companies, people,and trends. And then there’s Crisp Research, an independent IT research and consulting company out of Germany that has a team of “contributing editors” with the leading IT trade publications. There are dozens if not hundreds of firms around the globe, offering comparable services at varying costs.
What’s more, the AR executives at these firms have maintained and grown their networks of C-level connections in many of the organizations you want to target, and are also open to making introductions on your behalf. Some of these are one-person firms that may have expertise and contacts in a specific area, which might be the perfect fit for you.
All analyst firms offer a range of “products.” The most common are:
Primary Research: Examples of primary research include vendor landscapes such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, Forrester’s Wave, IDC’s MarketScape reports and Gigaom’s Radars and Key Criteria reports. They also encompass market sizing (a core strength of IDC and CB Insights), technology trends (Gartner Hype Cycles), product reviews and shootouts (UL and many others). The research is packaged and sold to consumers and businesses, either as stand-alone reports or as part of a bundle of content and services. Research firms also make a handy sum by selling reprint rights to the companies mentioned in the reports.
Vendor Briefings: Briefings fall under the Research arm, but they’re worth calling out separately. This is how most of us first engage with analysts when we launch a new product or company. In essence, a briefing is a lot like a press or investor pitch, except the audience is the research analyst or analysts who focus on your specific technology and/or industry. You talk; they ask questions and listen. Put another way, a briefing is a great way for analysts to get up to speed on the cool new technology and industry trends that you and your competitors are helping to create.
While vendor briefings can give you insight into what a small cohort of customers and competitors are doing, they don’t necessarily give you a lens into the future. Over time, research analysts will synthesize all the data points, including what they learned from you, and publish them in a “trends report.” But in today’s fast-moving, hyper-competitive world, you can't afford to wait that long. By the time a report is published, your competitors may have already gained first-mover advantage.
Also worth noting: While most analyst firms will take a briefing call without requiring that you pay a consultation fee, you should expect a sales pitch from the firm’s account executive both before and after the briefing. Also, many firms only give high level reactions to the pitch unless of course you're a paying subscriber. The feedback then is more in-depth and substantive.
Advisory Services: Just as it sounds, analyst firms offer consultations and advice to both “sell side” (technology firms like yours) and “buy side” (your clients and prospects) on a range of topics. In most situations, they offer these services as part of a larger package or retainer, which also typically includes access to research materials.
Large corporations are the most frequent consumers of such advisory services, but analyst firms are beginning to be squeezed out of the picture. On the high end, consulting companies such as McKinsey, BCG, Ernst & Young and Bain & Company are including technology decision-making with their consulting activities. On the low end, digital natives are turning to peer review sites such as G2 Crowd, Trustradius and Capterra for decision-making support. In fact Gartner acquired Capterra in 2015 in direct response to this shift in behavior. As you think about where to focus your efforts, it may be better to start with the peer review sites, especially as these now offer sales and marketing tie-ins, so you can generate leads directly from the sites.
Events and Marketing Services: Almost every analyst firm has a portfolio of offerings here, from customized report reprints, to marketing webinars, full-on tradeshows and events. Why? Because these events and activities make incremental money for analyst firms. Before you make the decision to sponsor an analyst event, take the time to evaluate the ROI of analyst-branded activities compared to other marketing tactics.
Given the breadth of offerings and the wide range of firms to choose from, devising your AR strategy depends on understanding “what” and “how” of your approach. What are the tangible results you want to see from your engagement with an analyst firm? Are you trying to size up a new market space? Figure out your competitive advantage or unique selling proposition? Gain recognition and credibility for your product or brand? Make connections within target accounts? Accelerate deal velocity?
Once you’ve determined what you’re trying to achieve, figure out how you can achieve it. If your goal is to build awareness and credibility, being named a Leader or Visionary in an analyst firm’s report is an appropriate objective. But, it’s also risky. Often such reports are only published every year or two, and you have no control over your placement or positioning comparative to your competition. In a worst-case scenario you could end up labeled as a niche player for two years. On the other hand, some firms continuously and dynamically update their grid as new peer reviews are added. And while you also can’t control where you appear, you can take actions in real time to increase your ranking.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Let’s take a look at two common scenarios and the strategies that may be appropriate:
You’re a well funded, growth-stage SaaS company selling a thoroughly sorted Transportation Management System. You’ve had moderate success but you can’t seem to close deals with the larger transportation agencies. Your goal is to establish credibility and accelerate deals in this segment. In this scenario, showing up as a Leader or Visionary on the Gartner TMS Magic Quadrant may be exactly what you need. Large enterprises and government agencies like the assurance of an independent analyst firm such as Gartner. However, remember that getting there is expensive and may take several quarters.
You’re an early-stage, engineering-led company with some incredibly innovative AI and machine-learning technology with the potential to disrupt a market and up-end legacy players. You’re bold, agile and smart. You’ve closed a few deals but need to bring focus to your operations in advance of a new round of funding. The 451.com, IDC or CBInsights may be a much better fit for your needs than Gartner, because they publish reports or may provide quotes.
These are two very different scenarios, requiring two very different approaches. Other important factors are budget and timing. It’s helpful to work with a PR/AR agency that understands the technology analyst landscape and can help connect you with the most influential and relevant firms in your segment.
Navigating the Analyst Landscape
Waters Agency hires only senior-level marketing, PR and AR professionals that work closely with clients to set clear, achievable goals that align with their expectations and business initiatives. If you’re coming out of stealth mode and need a solid strategy for your launch, or if you’re established and want to expand your PR and AR efforts, contact us to find out how we can help.