Why analyst relations matter – Analysts do not have time to do all-inclusive research

(After an interesting Twitter-based conversation with Illuminata’s Gordon Haff and former IDC analyst Ida-Rose Sylvester over the use of the word comprehensive, we have decided to use the word all-inclusive instead. )

One aspect of the analyst industry that is not widely known by technology buyers (aka end users, usually IT managers) and vendors is that industry analysts do not have the resources (e.g., time and travel budget) to conduct and publish comprehensive all-inclusive research about a market.  Advisory analysts gather most of their data from client inquiry and vendor briefings.  The major firms do not conduct product evaluations, lab tests against specifications, or quality of service investigations.

 This point was highlighted by Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang in Starting the Forrester Wave: White Label Social Networks and Community Platforms about some research he is working on:

 “…I made a call for the vendor product catalog in this market, (and via email and twitter) that document is a detailed index of over 40 vendors in the space, (aprox 50% of the market) and will be available to Forrester clients…”

 “…Due to the rigorous methodology … The Wave will only include several vendors.”

There are two key points here, one is that the vendor catalog is only a subset of the market and, two, the Wave will be a further subset of the vendor catalog the analyst assembled.

For vendors in this market these points should send a shiver down their spines. If they do not make the cut and get included in the Wave they could simply never appear on the radar screen of many tech buyers considering these products. Remember, analyst end-user clients assume that the analysts have done a comprehensive survey of the market and put all relevant vendors in the report (see Do your customers assume that Gartner or other analysts have done all the due diligence?)

Before you start thinking that this particular analyst must be lazy or worse, the reality is that Jeremiah is actually quite hard working and much more effective than most analysts.  Besides all the usual analyst research techniques, he leverages social media via the massive number of readers to his blog and Twitter stream. Many other analysts would identify the vendors to cover in a research report merely by doing a few Google searches between – or during – client inquiries or vendor briefings and by casually asking vendors who are their competitors.

This situation just does not pertain to markets where a firm is just starting coverage, but to markets where analysts have long covered the vendors. Often analysts are working with old information about vendors because they did not have time to call vendors asking for an update.

The harsh reality is that analysts do not have the bandwidth to thoroughly investigate all the relevant players in a market. There is an implicit assumption that any vendor worthy of covering will be reaching out to the analyst to introduce themselves and provide briefings on their strategy and products. If a vendor has under invested in analyst relations (AR) then that vendor might be invisible to the analyst, even if the vendor is actually serious contender in a market. A more significant situation is when the analyst is giving tech buyers old information that puts the vendor in a negative position vis a vis its competitors.

Side note – For those AR managers who are still skeptical about the value of reading analysts’ blogs, this particular post illustrates that you can get important insights into an analyst’s work-in-progress via a blog post.

SageCircle Technique:

 AR -

  • Never assume that analysts will call you asking for an update when they are working on new or updating existing research
  • Every time you interact with an analyst ask them what they are working on in order to know as soon as possible about relevant work-in-progress that requires information from you

Tech buyer clients of analysts -

  • Never use just analyst published research to create your short lists of vendors
  • Always check research from multiple analysts and multiple firms when making decisions
  • Use client inquiry to ask analysts about
    • What vendors were not included in the research and why
    • How the published research would change in light of new information
    • What vendors might be appropriate to add to a short list based on the client’s specific situation

* Need assistance educating your executives about how the analysts work? SageCircle’s Executive Briefing series can be a powerful tool for getting executives to that “ah ha!” moment that leads to greater support for AR. To learn more about available topics and purchase a briefing conveniently using a credit card, please visit the Executive Briefings page on the SageCircle website.

Bottom Line: AR is a critical and strategic function for communications and IT vendors.  Without active outreach to the analysts, using AR best practices, vendors could be missing many opportunities to be included on vendor short lists or have their sales deals disrupted by misinformed analysts commentary.

Question: Analysts – How do you develop your lists of vendors to cover, especially in a new market? AR – Have you ever assumed that an analyst working on a piece of research will naturally call you asking for a briefing? End users – Do you assume that analyst published research will include all relevant vendors?

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8 Responses

  1. I think this post kind of proves why “declarative living” and social media matter perhaps as much as AR. in an age where things churn way too fast to work with a 12 month editorial calendar… you need new ways to keep abreast of what analysts are working on… Jeremiah is currently a great example of spanning traditional and “blog”-based analysis.

  2. Carter,

    Good points. And let me raise an additional issue. In a “hot” area–say, cloud or virtualization–there are any number of vendors (both startups and established players)–who wrap themselves in the exciting buzzword of the moment whether they have products that legitimately fit there or not. This additional noise makes it even harder for anyone to put together a catalog of the legitimate players in a space. Especially in software, it’s far too easy to put together a Web site and a concept when, in reality, there’s little behind it.

  3. James, One can debate which matters most, but that is not the point. Both matter and savvy vendors leverage all ways to educate the analysts.

  4. Gordon, Excellent insight. There is way too much “New! and Improved! Now contains cloud computing!” (or whatever) on the packaging.

    This just shows how critical it is for AR to bring serious proof points with them when they brief analysts on an emerging market / technology.

  5. James, Carter, thanks.

  6. […] Why analyst relations matter – Analysts do not have time to do comprehensive research « SageCircle …The danger of just using the vendors in the analyst magic whatevers to choose a short-list: the analysts don’t actually evaluate products. […]

  7. A good rule for vendors is to never assume any analyst will be including you in any research and to set up a outreach program that in timely and makes information readily available for the analyst. If all you do is push content based on events, such as a product launch or conferences, then you are not having a relationship with the analyst community, but instead you are dumping on them like everyone else.

    In addition, it is important to directly engage via social media in the greater community that includes analysts, vendors and users and not just rely on the old-style one-on-one analyst relations. This also can be a great way for smaller or new vendors to get noticed and rise above the noise if they are really engaged with the community.

  8. […] room on a MQ and therefore only a subset of vendors can be included. This is also an issue with the Forrester Wave. Often the criteria for excluding vendors can be arbitrary and inflexible. Some analysts will […]

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