Boutique Analyst Firms: Pretenders and Contenders

The analyst landscape is constantly changing. In some cases, an analyst leaves a larger firm to start a boutique firm because he or she wants the flexibility that comes with being part of a smaller firm. For instance, former Forrester analyst Charlene Li responded to a Twitter questions about her new firm with the following tweet: “New company is flourishing, lots of activity and best of all, lots of freedom and autonomy.” In other cases, acquisitions by larger firms or layoffs cause the formation of new boutiques. To the vendors these new boutique firm requests represent the opportunity to interact with a potentially influential analyst or to waste valuable time and money. 

Because former analysts from other firms started many of these new boutiques you must carefully look at the potentials for influence in your specific market space. The problem for AR is deciding which boutiques to ignore, which to devote minimal resources to, and which to dedicate significant time and effort.  In the Online SageContentTM Library article “Contracts – Pretenders and Contenders,” SageCircle discusses how to establish service levels for responding to requests based on ranking and tiering of analysts. This article includes the downloadable SageTool “Decision Framework on Boutique Firm Status.” However, due to the sheer number of startup firms in any year, this article’s research needs to be extended to include your criteria that specifically focuses on new boutiques.

Some startup firms have only a couple of former practitioners, where the goals of the firm are to generate enough revenue to match their former salaries and to maintain their status as analysts.  In some cases, the principals are coasting on reputations developed at their former employers, rehashing work they did previously, and failing to generate new business, research, and ideas.  These are the firms that SageCircle categorizes as “pretenders.”  At most, pretenders receive only Tier 3 status, supported through none-to-many information delivery channels (e.g., analyst newsletter, AR blog and access to the analyst portal). 

On the other hand, there are boutiques where the principals are aggressively seeking to grow their company and contribute to the marketplace through placing quotes in the press and landing speaking engagements to increase firm visibility. These firms, categorized as “contenders,” are intent on generating salient new research and developing clout in their markets.  They can be accorded Tier 2, or even Tier 1 status, depending on AR’s analysis of how far the firms will go and how closely they match the vendor’s market.

Rapidly assessing contender vs. pretender status is important for AR because there can be a significant payback by developing an early relationship with an Continue reading

You have to focus on influential analysts even if they are negative or unpleasant

An all too common comment from vendor executives is “That analyst is such a jerk, I don’t want anything to do with him.” Or maybe the executive thinks the analyst is out to get the vendor, an idiot, or just wants to extract money from the vendor. For whatever reason, the executive has decided not to brief or otherwise interact with the analyst because this influential analyst is unpleasant. 

On the other hand, this executive loves to talk with another analyst who is by no stretch of the imagination influential, but is nice, agrees with the executive’s points-of-view, and is just more pleasant.

A critical success factor for your AR program is getting your executives to understand analyst influence and to get on board with a plan to turn around negative or unpleasant analysts instead of just Continue reading

Good post by IBM’s John Simonds on “Getting Your Executives to Cut Down Their Presentations To Analysts”

John is an AR professional running AR for IBM’s Lotus division. The post is well worth reading, click here to visit John’s Delusions of Adequacy blog. Here are a few extracts (with my emphasis in maroon):

2. If you can’t get your message delivered in 15 charts or less, you likely have clarification issues.

5. No chart is golden, (many) could (should) be sacrificed.

8. If the analyst wants to go off the charts, be willing to go as long as you stay on topic.

9. Use A/R to speak to the analyst before the briefing/discussion/meeting/conference to see Continue reading

Is There a Need for a Magic Quadrant on the Analysts?

"Magic Quadrant" for the analystsFrom time-to-time, we get a suggestion – sometimes tongue-in-cheek, other times quite serious – that we need to create a Magic Quadrant focused on the analysts. One client passed along that he heard the two axes could be “The Analyst Gets It” and “We Care that the Analyst Gets It.” This remark produced both a chuckle and an “hmmm.” 

The idea behind the Magic Quadrant is to provide a visual snapshot of a market or situation to provide the reader with a framework for making a decision or shaping an opinion. Graphical representations of data are generally considered to be the most powerful form of information delivery. Thus, internally using a graphic to show the analyst landscape vis-à-vis your company can dramatically shape an executive’s perception about AR.

To be effective, the graphic needs (click on example MQ to enlarge) to convey succinct, interesting and provocative information. The axes above are a good starting point. Knowing whether an “analyst (not firm) gets it” is critical to AR because it impacts the information campaign directed toward that analyst. Gauging whether the analyst is relevant (“We care”) is just as important because it determines whether effort should be expended to influence him/her. For example, if an executive insists on briefing an analyst with low relevance, a well thought-out graphic could help persuade him/her not to bother.

So, how do we determine the key issues to map on Continue reading

Tool for Sales – The Prospect Profile Form

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThe analysts possess a wealth of information that can help vendor sales organizations better understand their prospects. The question is how to get the information from the analysts. SageCircle has put together a simple process and checklist that AR can use to conduct a structured inquiry with key analysts to collect and organize important information about your prospects. The process is simple. Schedule an inquiry with one or two of your Tier 1 analysts (with whom you have Inquiry privileges). Use the questions on the Prospect Profile checklist to gather information from the analyst and enter the responses into the form. After finishing the inquiry, complete the form and forward it to sales.

There are two main categories of input that you are looking for: “Analyst’s Perceptions about the Prospect or its Peer Group” and “Analyst’s Perceptions about Your Differentiation in this Situation.” Within each main category there are sub questions like market, prospect and business challenges. 

Besides obtaining valuable information and insights for your sales teams, using this technique is also a great way to improve your relationships with key analysts. As we mentioned Continue reading

Getting executives to agree to making changes to their presentation for an analyst briefing

SageCircle strategists review a number of presentations each month in the context of phone-based inquiries. First-time critiques often result in recommendations for significant revisions.  This is because atypical sales or marketing presentation does not produce the sequential flow or information content required for an effective analyst briefing.  Unfortunately, when a sales presentation is used with an analyst, it frequently results in a negative perception of the company and its products by the analyst.

For example, SageCircle conducted a presentation review with a new client. The AR team representative and the intended product spokesperson were on the phone. Upon review, the “deck” resembled a typical sales presentation and suggested changes met strong resistance. The spokesperson had very firm ideas on how his presentation had to be built. Many of his beliefs were rooted in years of successful selling, but were quite inappropriate for an analyst “deck.”

The impasse was resolved by stepping back from the immediacy of the presentation and focusing on the intended result – getting the analyst to agree with a set of perspectives held by the company.  From the spokesperson’s selling background, he agreed that to achieve this result, the message had to be tailored to the audience.  The spokesperson further admitted Continue reading

Give analysts time to think toward the end of an analyst consulting (SAS) day

A nifty idea we picked up from one of the participants at an AR Effectiveness seminar is to build private thinking time toward the end of an analyst consulting day (AKA “SAS day” using the Gartner term). This gives the analyst(s) an opportunity to reflect on everything they have heard in order to provide vendor participants with a crisp analysis on the topic at hand before they leave for the day.

Another benefit of building this time into the agenda is that it improves retention of the information the analyst was exposed to during the day. 

SageCircle Technique:

  • Include private thinking time into the agenda of an analyst consulting day. 30 minutes should be sufficient – this is in addition to some email phone time
  • This agenda item should be Continue reading

This Holiday Season Don’t Play Santa Claus to the Analysts [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgWe are starting to get the annual round of inquiries about what is the best gift for AR to send to analysts during the holiday season. Common Items that vendors have sent in the past include bottles of expensive wine, boxes of chocolates, consumer electronic gadgets, pen sets, clocks, Steuben glass trinkets, and so on. This annual exercise can produce anxiety in AR staff and distract from the true strategic mission of AR, which is generating leads and assisting sales to close business. 

Frankly, this annual exercise is a waste of precious time and resources. Why? Analysts receive so many packages during the holidays that any one package does not stand out. Many items are not even kept by analysts, either ending up in the trash or in the coffee room for administrative staff to pick through.

While some analysts like gifts, many others cannot Continue reading

Stealth analyst firm reorganizations trigger the need for analyst list maintenance

Analyst firms are no different from any other company in that they go through periodic reorganizations. There are many reasons why firms reorganization, such as: 

  • Changes in the tech marketplace which causes changes in analyst research coverage assignments as emerging technologies are added while declining/consolidating markets are dropped
  • Acquisitions (e.g., Forrester buying JupiterResearch) that bring in new analysts, market coverages and services
  • Modifications to the firm’s business model to go after new opportunities or exit poor markets

The problem for analyst relations (AR) professionals is that firms rarely tell clients or AR teams about these organization changes. This could dramatically decrease the efficiency and effectiveness of the analyst education effort as AR wastes time working with analysts that are no longer relevant while missing newly relevant analysts.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Ask analysts in a casual manner during interactions (e.g., briefing and inquiry) whether the firm has recently gone through or is planning a Continue reading

The Volume of Analyst Publishing and Quotes

In the “Metrics – Written Word Audits” section of the Online SageContentTM Library we recommended that AR establish a multi-faceted program to capture and analyze analyst opinions – in as near real-time as practical. This is easier said than done because the sheer volume of research and quotes being generated is growing as new forms of publishing opinion (e.g., blogs and Twitter) are added to the traditional methods. 

While browsing some research, it becomes quickly apparent that there is a huge range of research documents, not all of which need to be monitored by AR. Some research is teeming with opinions that could sway technology buyers, while other research merely provides simple product or market descriptions. Length does not correlate to volume of opinions; single page flashes can present more opinions on multiple vendors, multiple products, and markets than a 30-page report.

Blogs and Twitter add new complexity to Continue reading

Your analyst list is likely wrong – half the analysts should not be on it, half that should are not

Having reviewed many analyst lists over the years, it never ceases to amazes us how such a very high percentage of them are wrong. The analyst relations (AR) team’s analyst list(s) are a critical success factor. Having a poorly constructed list means that AR professionals are missing important analysts and wasting time with non-relevant analysts. As a consequence, the AR team will find both its efficiency and effectiveness negatively impacted. In the most dire circumstances, having a poorly constructed list could also negatively impact an AR professional’s ability to keep their job.

 This post focuses on which analysts should be included or excluded from a list, not on ranking and tiering (see here for that discussion).

There are many reasons why any particular analyst list can be so wrong (in order of importance, most important first): 

  • Perception that there is no time to do the work
  • Lack of formal analyst list methodology
  • Inadequate consideration of corporate, business group and team objectives
  • Lack of carefully considered weighted criteria
  • Infrequent review of the analyst marketplace for changes in analysts and coverage
  • Lack of mechanism for capturing how analyst list decisions were made
  • Focusing on large firms while giving boutiques short shrift
  • No access to a database of analysts
  • Internal political pressure
  • External squeaky wheels

 Frankly, creating and maintaining an analyst list is not Continue reading

Should your industry analyst conferences be combined with other company events? [AR Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgQuestion: As AR managers look forward to 2009, many are thinking about scheduling an analyst conference. A common question SageCircle receives on this topic is whether to co-located the analyst event with other events.

Are you holding an IT or telecom industry analyst conference in the next few months?  If so, planning should be well under way.  One of the questions we have received several times over the year concerns the possibility of combining your analyst event with some other company function.  This other event might include customer or user group meetings, partner events, financial analyst events, or PR or marketing meetings.  The logic seems to be that you have gathered all the key executives together and can leverage their time and travel.

We think this is a really bad idea. 

The needs of the Industry Analysts are Continue reading

77% of industry analysts would read AR blogs, if…

…”they had relevant, useful, timely information.” There is always a catch, eh?

icon-social-media-blue.jpgFrankly, this percentage is significantly higher than we would have guessed before we conducted our survey of thousands of industry analysts. Even though we are ardent proponents of AR using social media, we expected that many in the analyst community might be adopting a “wait and see” attitude at best. However, we were pleasantly surprised that many analysts said they would read AR blogs. Here is the full question and percentage replies:

Question:     I would read vendor AR blogs if they had relevant, useful, timely information (pick one)

  • 20% – Yes, regularly
  • 31% – Yes, occasionally
  • 26% – Yes, episodically related to major news or announcement coverage
  •   5% – No, because I do not read blogs
  •   8% – No, because I do not have time
  •   9% – No, because most vendor blogs are a waste of time
  •   1% – Undecided

This would indicate there is an obvious opportunity for AR teams to Continue reading

ARchitect Users Group Meeting – lively discussion on AR metrics

icon-tools.jpgLast week, following the Forrester Technology Leadership Forum in Orlando, ARInsights held their second ARchitectTM Users Group meeting.  ARchitect is the leading Analyst Relationship Management (ARM) system with a significant number of client companies using it.  It was nice to see some of those companies represented at the meeting and the dinner that followed. Of course, there was a lot of good informal information exchange during the reception, aka the booze and schmooze.

Rick Shuri, ARInsights’ Chief Technology Officer, outlined some of the new features recently implemented as well as plans for the upcoming year.  The development schedule is strongly influenced by customer requests and some discussion of what the group felt was important gave an indication of where the product is likely to be expanded. It has been our experience managing an actual ARchitect deployment that ARInsights is very responsive when it comes to listening to customer and prospect suggestions.

Sunder Sarangan of Infosys shared his perspective on why it is Continue reading

Don’t listen to the squeaks when managing your analyst list

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is one of the hoariest clichés in the culture. When applied to building and managing analyst lists, it is also incredibly dangerous. 

Just because an analyst demands a briefing, access to your executives, or whatever, it does not mean that they should get it. What becomes difficult for analyst relations (AR) is when an analyst that is not getting what they want starts squeaking in order to get attention. The squeaks could be in the form of intemperate quotes in the press, back channel complaining to your executives, or other such actions. Their goal is to be annoying enough to get the briefing or the contract they want.

If AR is committed to the first of The 5 I’s of Analyst Relations, “Identify”, and the team has developed a standardized process for ranking and tiering analysts, and has a set of tools for list management, then it should be relatively easy to ignore the squeaks. Even an executive who is pushing for including an analyst on a list because of a few press quotes will likely concede that the analyst does not belong when presented with AR’s list methodology and audit trail. When it comes to tools, you can have a simple Word list with a list of analysts, their ranking and why. Or you can have something as detailed as SageCircle’s “Analyst List Workbook” SageToolTM which gives you the ability to do “what-if” analysis by playing with the weights of criteria (click on graphic for a larger version of the workbook section for setting criteria weights).

AR teams that do not have a formal methodology and tools will often find themselves with an ever shifting analyst list based more on emotion and squeaks. An unstable analyst list makes Continue reading

If you are going to Gartner Symposium, go to the AR Forums

logo-gartner.gifSageCircle highly recommends that AR professionals attending Gartner’s Fall Symposia in either Orlando or Cannes go to the AR Forums. This is the opportunity to ask tough questions of Gartner’s CEO and CRO. While some AR professionals express frustrations that Gartner does not immediately do what they ask for in these meetings, the AR Forum is a venue to get the issues on the table and in public.

___ email from Gartner ___ Continue reading

Kudos for the Oracle AR about analyst support at OpenWorld

Nice gesture by Forrester’s Merv Adrian (bio, Twitter handle, no blog) to give a shout out to the Oracle AR team.

There is also a serious message here for all AR teams planning an analyst event — don’t try and cut off the analysts from the Internet. While you might want them to Continue reading

Vendor AR teams need to achieve balance between outbound and inbound interactions

One of the biggest mistakes that an analyst relations (AR) team can make when trying to influence an industry analyst is focusing too much on outbound communications (e.g., briefings) and not using inbound interactions (e.g., client inquiry) enough (click to enlarge graphic).

Analyst relations (AR) is typically interrupt-driven so it is easy to get caught up in responding to analyst requests and getting ready for the next briefing. Unfortunately, this leads to a situation where some of the most effective tools AR has are not taken out of the toolbox. To correct this problem, AR teams need to make it a priority to balance inbound and outbound interactions.

SageCircle suggests an interaction plan that creates a schedule based on Continue reading

Q&A from SageCircle’s “Dealing with Problem Analysts” webinar

A “problem analyst” is in the eye of the beholder. There are analysts whom vendors think are problems, but are really only doing their jobs in an effective manner. However, there are truly analysts who cause problems for vendors with technology buyers and the press. The two SageCircle webinars on “Dealing with Problems Analysts” were lively with questions and discussion as AR professionals grabbled with how to identify and deal with various types of analysts. Here are answers to some of the questions we received during the webinar.

Shameless Marketing – If you missed the webinar, you can schedule a SageCircle “AR Briefing” on the topic for you and your colleagues. Click here for a brochure or contact us at 650-274-8309 for more information.

Q: What do you do at analyst events (50+ analysts) where you have a blending of problem analysts – to avoid “public problems”?

A: First off, you should always invite a problem analyst to an analyst event they would logically participate in. The analyst would hear about the summit or conference and become ever more of a problem if they decided in their mind that they were disrespected.

Analyst events can actually be good opportunities to turn around a problem analyst, depending on the type of problem of course. There are some planning steps you have to take to ensure they don’t disrupt the event.  These include Continue reading

What AR should blog about – common questions

icon-social-media-blue.jpgA frequent comment that SageCircle gets when discussing AR blogs with AR managers is “But I don’t have anything to write about.” Horsefeathers! Not surprising, we think there is a nearly infinite number of interesting, useful topics to discuss. Some topics just fall in your lap, making it really easy to whip up a quick post.

Harkening back to what Mike Braude, one of my many research mentors early in my Gartner analyst career, use to say “If you get the same question twice, write a research note” – in this case, if you get a similar question from different analysts, write a blog post. These are great subjects because obviously there is a lack of knowledge or confusion about the topic, thus they rank high on the usefulness scale. The answers should also be easy to Continue reading

Presentation déjà vu could be a sign you are dealing with a problem analyst

Something that always stands out in my experience as an AR manager at a major vendor is what I call “presentation déjà vu.” This happens when you are reviewing an analyst presentation and just feel like you’ve seen it before. This typically occurs when you are looking at the slides of an analyst you have not dealt with before. Perhaps you have seen the presentation before or maybe the deck is just so generic or archetypical that it is immediately recognizable. No big deal. However, presentation déjà vu might also be a warning signal that you are dealing with a type of problem analyst.

Some analysts fall into a trap of doing a light revision of a past presentation for an upcoming conference. This is especially true for Gartner analysts who have to do essentially the same presentation year-after-year at Symposium (e.g., the Powerhouse Vendor and its successor session Gartner Compares). This can be a real problem because if the analyst is not paying careful attention in the revision process, old information and recommendations could be repeated.  This may cause tech buyers to make wrong decisions resulting in missed sales opportunities for vendors who are mis-represented. This could be disastrous for both the IT manager and the vendor.

Rather than pouncing on the analyst for using Continue reading

Marketing hype language to avoid with the analysts

One of the nifty aspects of blogging is that past articles can be improved over time. For example, When hype can go overboard and hurt credibility was originally posted on February 19, 2008. Today it was updated with a list of terms that trigger analysts’ hype alert Continue reading

There are many types of problem analysts

For the most part, IT and communications industry analysts are a hard working, diligent group. They do their homework, make sure that they are up-to-date and act in an ethical manner. Unfortunately, this description does not cover all analysts.

While the analyst community can rightly say that there are problem AR teams, the reality is that there are problem analysts as well. However, there is no single type of problem analyst. Rather there are a variety of types each with their own characteristics. AR professionals need to identify the type of problem analyst they are confronted with and develop a plan that addresses his or her specific characteristics. The types of problem analysts that SageCircle has identified are:

Essential AR skill – knowing analyst firm research methodologies

One of the essential skills for all analyst relations (AR) professionals is knowing the different types of research methodologies used by analysts and the implications for vendors. 

For example, advisory analysts* are very well positioned to spot  a vendor’s message inconsistencies. That is because advisory analysts are talking to a wide variety of people that interact with that vendor in addition to the analysts’ direct interactions which are arranged by the vendor (click on graphic to enlarge). Advisory analysts hear from their end-user clients during inquiries what the vendor sales representatives are saying to the end user. The analyst is then in position to compare what the sales rep is saying to prospects/customers versus what AR and executives are directly telling the analyst. Advisory analysts are also talking to financial analysts and the press, which provides additional opportunity to compare what AR is saying to the analyst in contrast to what the vendor is saying to these other communities.

This is a critical insight for AR teams that Continue reading

How to manufacture a “problem analyst”

After promoting the Dealing with Problem Analysts webinar (September 17th at 8:30 am PT and 4 pm PT) on Twitter, I got the following tweet from Martin Atherton (profile, Twitter handle) of Freeform Dynamics:

 

The tweet was good for a chuckle, but it got me thinking. Martin has great points, but what he brought up were just AR best practices* not true problems. However, it sparked a thought that vendors could “manufacture” a problem analyst. Here are some “worst practices” that AR should consider avoiding:

  • Complaining about perceived bias without offering measureable proof
  • Demanding changes to draft or published research without Continue reading
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