In January 2009, The Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 2009 was published. This happened to be the inaugural publication of a Wave for this particular market. The primary author of this Wave was Jeremiah Owyang (bio, Twitter handle, blog) who conducted an incredibly transparent – for a Forrester or Gartner analyst – process for the creation of this Wave (see list of relevant blog posts at the end of this post). Jeremiah’s use of social media gave vendors in this nascent market plenty of opportunity to know what was going on with this research.
As is with the case with any piece of analyst research covering a new, dynamic, and extremely fragmented market only a fraction of the possible vendors can be fit into the time and space available. In this case, it was nine of more than 100 vendors. Neighborhood America, a social networking platform vendor, was left off the Community Platform Wave and did not take kindly to the exclusion. Neighborhood America created a web page, “Why weren’t we included in the Forrester Wave Report?”, to tell its side of the story. They also put a link on their home page (graphic above) to make sure visitors knew to go to the page. The explanation was reasonably well done (SageCircle would have counseled some additional text to provide context) and did not overtly attack either Forrester or the analyst. The latter part is important because an attack would have looked like sour grapes by a sore loser.
This was a very smart step to do. You can see the Community Platforms Wave graphic on Flickr and the PDF of the research note is easily available for free on the web. As a consequence, Neighborhood America prospects might see the graphic or Wave research and decide to drop them from a pending sales opportunity without further information. While Neighborhood America’s response will not get the breadth of readership that a Forrester research note will, it is a useful exercise.
SageCircle does not know the exact details about why Neighborhood America did not make the cut for this Wave. We also don’t know if they have an effective analyst relations program, so we cannot make specific comments on this situation. However, there are several suggestions we can make to any vendor – including the 91 vendors who did not make this Wave or vendors left off some other Wave, Magic Quadrant (MQ), or other highly-visible research.
The circumstances for this example assume that the Wave/MQ is for a new market with lots of small vendors that do not necessarily have experienced analyst relations (AR) professionals on staff. The recommendations for experienced AR with a long standing Wave/MQ are somewhat different. In either case certain best practices should be followed:
- When presented with information that a Wave/MQ is underway, the vendor’s AR team (or someone in PR or marketing) should determine whether it is relevant and worth the effort to influence. If the answer is “yes,” then the vendor should realize that it will require significant expertise and labor investment (between 80 and 200 hours of various types of staff) to effectively compete for a “dot” on a new Wave/MQ
- Develop expertise on the Wave/MQ process either through third-party training or reading (e.g., these blog posts)
- Don’t expect that purchasing a contact with Forrester or Gartner will negate the need for a formal project and those potentially hundreds of hours of work. Having a contract provides some useful tools, such as the ability to do client inquiries, but it does not guarantee success if little formal AR effort is invested in competing for a “dot”
- If the vendor does not make it onto the Wave/MQ they should communicate their side of the story via their website and other marketing. However, telling their side of the story should not include an attack on the firm or analyst
- Vendors should train the sales team how to deal with the influence of the Wave/MQ either by leveraging positive placement (e.g., Equipping Sales for the MQ Effect: the Magic Quadrant & Tech Vendors [part 7]) or to mitigate negative positions or being left off entirely
- If the vendor does not make it onto the Wave/MQ, there are positive actions to be taken. Rather than getting angry, get to work by analyzing the situation and put into place a campaign to get the relevant analysts educated about the company’s competencies, differentiation, and customer success stories. Remember, while a Wave/MQ might not be updated for a year or longer, every day the analyst is potentially talking with a potential prospect and will put the vendor on a short list even if the vendor was not on the previous Wave/MQ. Waiting for an analyst to tell the world that a Wave/MQ update is underway is a common mistake. Savvy vendors will proactively reach out to analyst well in advance of an anticipated update
- Take the long view – analyst relations success is built on consistent execution over many months and years
A pushback we can anticipate from our readers is that the amount of effort suggested is too much for small vendors or that it is the analyst’s job to do all the work not the vendor. There are several responses to these objections. First, if the Wave/MQ has sufficient clout in your industry such that the vendor will forgo quality leads or risk being dropped from short lists by not being on the graphic, then the investment in a Wave/MQ project should be easily justified. How many leads for large enterprise deals would it take to pay for a reasonably resourced AR program? As to the point that it should be up to the analyst to do all the work, do these vendors say the same thing about prospects not doing the work required to find the vendor and recognize their superiority over other vendors? Of course not. Vendors invest in their sales organizations and expect that enterprise deals will require many months and hundreds of hours to close.
Shameless marketing plug - The blog posts linked to in this article are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SageCircle’s intellectual property on AR and how to work with analysts on the Wave or Magic Quadrant. In addition to the 43 pages of best practices for AR and Sales in the Online SageContent Library, we have a training session on “Moving the Dot”. While the marketing material focuses on the Magic Quadrant, the best practices are applicable to the Forrester Wave as well. This 90-minute session is packed with practical tips, information, and insights. There are two ways you can take advantage of this information-packed practical training: Public Webinar – regularly scheduled, live with Q&A from attendees ($95) and AR Team Briefing – live for just you and your colleagues via webinar, scheduled at your convenience ($495). Click here to see the agenda and register. The next public webinar sessions are:
- August 20 at 12 pm PT
- September 1 at 9 am PT
Bottom Line: Vendors, even small vendors, should realize the getting onto a Wave/MQ or “moving the dot” requires developing expertise, investing significant hours, and executing consistently over the long term. The ROI for the effort is measured in the leads generated and sales deals saved or accelerated.
Question: Small vendors – If you invest in public relations but not AR, why have you made that decision?
Blog posts by Owyang on the creation of the Community Platforms Wave:
Status: Forrester Wave Report for Community Platforms
January 13, 2009 How we filtered 9 vendors out of 100 for the Community Platform Wave