Lack of hands-on testing for products by industry analysts [AR Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgQUESTION:  It disturbs me that analysts don’t have hands-on experience with the products they advise their clients about.  How are can they be credible?

ANSWER: Analysts, especially at the larger end-user centric firms like Gartner and Forrester, have access to what they would claim is the world’s largest testing lab – their clients. Analysts covering hot product areas, both software and hardware, are hearing from scores of clients every month who are evaluating products or using them in production. As a consequence, the analyst firms claim that they can develop a series of data points that quite accurately portray the quality of a vendor’s products. 

Note: This is a classic SageCircle article from our pre-blogging newsletter. This particular article appeared in March 2001. It is being brought into the blogging era because ZL Technologies in its lawsuit against Gartner criticizes Gartner because it does not do “a single minute of independent testing of the products it purports to evaluate” (page 9 of the original court filing).

SageCircle Technique:

  • Vendors can help themselves by ensuring that their product evaluation programs for prospects are Continue reading

Where do social media metrics fit into an AR measurement program? [Practitioner Question]

AR Metrics & MeasurementQuestion: Are social media like blogs and Twitter something we should be measuring or is it too early yet? Where does social media fit in a measurement scheme?

icon-social-media-blue.jpg If your analysts are using social media, then including those sorts of metrics in a measurement program is really not optional. In this case we are putting social media on par with published research, press quotes, and activity counts as something worthy of measuring. While a 140-character tweet does not have the impact of a Gartner Magic Quadrant, it can provide useful information that should be added to the data mix.

Social media has elements of both operational metrics and performance metrics. Some example uses include:

  • Operational
    • Unfiltered opinions feed into plans and briefings
    • Activity insights feed into interaction calendars
    • Tweets and blog comments by AR to an analyst fulfill top-of-mind touches requirements
  • Performance
    • Tonality tracks analyst opinion movement
    • Mentions of company, products, and competitors with opinion can track changes in perception

Social media metrics complement other sources of data. For example, social media can complement Spoken Word Audits because social media-based conversations between analysts and end users are often personal, unfiltered, and Continue reading

Asking analysts about sales impact [Practitioner Question]

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAt last week’s workshop “Launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program” we had a number of insightful questions.  We posted one item already about getting feedback from recorded sales training but here is another that came from a participant. 

We were suggesting the use of inquiry as a way of asking analysts about the influence they have in your market space.  Questions such as “how many short lists did you review in the past week (month)?” are examples of ways that a short inquiry can be used to approximate the impact on sales.  However, what if you don’t have a contract and cannot do an inquiry?

We always suggest that inquiry access with your key (tier one) analysts is a requirement for AR teams.  But with the current economy and associated tight AR budgets we are hearing of some teams that wind up without all the desired contracts.  So how do you pose these questions without inquiry?

Most analysts will reply to well-placed and appropriate questions during a briefing (note: this has been a problem with Gartner analysts – we suggested a workaround in the SageInsight sent to client “Schedule inquiries the day after briefing Gartner analysts to deal with the ‘no questions during briefings’ issue”).  We always suggest that you have prepared a sequence of general questions to go with every interaction of any type.  These of course include such things as “what research are you working on next?” or “what interesting thing did you learn at the XXX conference”.  Placed in context you could also ask about the kinds of questions that IT buyer clients are asking or places where the market might be changing.  This gives you the rationale to ask questions that would give you insights into the influence this analyst has in a particular market.

While having inquiry privilege is the best approach you can be creative and still get some information.

Another potential resource is the analyst firms’ account representatives. They Continue reading

How do you get feedback when you do recorded training? [Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgAt yesterday’s workshop “Launching an AR-Sales Partnership Program” we had an interesting question about the use of non-live training for sales representatives.  The workshop participant asked how to go about getting feedback.  Feedback, comments, and student reactions can often help you tailor your training or understand areas that could be improved.  Of course this would also apply to any other recorded, web-based, or portal training or information that the AR team wants to deliver.  

There are two easy-to-implement approaches to this problem.  Perhaps the simplest solution is to create an email address such as:  AR@company.com.  You can direct sales (or others who listen to recorded training) to use this team address for questions, comments, and requests for information.  You can then put this at the end of any recorded training (e.g., MP3s) or add it to content you deliver via web streaming.  SageCircle has even created a specific space in its recorded training for sales representatives where we can insert a “For more information” comment that is tailored to your team.

Alternatively you can use technologies such as blogs or wikis for posting the recorded training, which provide a Continue reading

Do I place my bets on AR-Sales partnering or adopting social media?

icon-dollar-euro.jpgQuestion: If I had to choose between starting an AR-Sales partnership or launching a social media initiative, which way should I go? If I did both, but with limited resources, how should I divide my efforts?

 During the happy hour after the first session of our STRATEGIC ISSUES advanced AR seminar, one of the attendees asked these great questions. Both Dave and Carter answered immediately and in unison:

     “AR-Sales!”

Why? Even a simple AR-Sales partnership pilot will give the AR team an opportunity to gather real world examples of the analysts impacting sales opportunities. These types of hard sales numbers, even in anecdotal form, are powerful tools for illustrating the strategic value of AR. In addition, a pilot project can Continue reading

What are the pluses and minuses of former analysts taking on vendor AR roles? [Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgComment/Question: Re: your point below about jobs for senior analysts, here’s an idea for a blog entry – the pluses and minuses of former analysts taking on vendor analyst relations roles. That ought to stimulate some discussion on the comments section.

Rob Curran, wicked smart AR professional at Waggener Edstrom, sent along that comment after this week’s newsletter where we wrote in light of the recent spate of layoffs at analyst firms: 

Do you know of a job appropriate for a senior analyst? – Now is the time to grab talent. The job could be at a firm you know is hiring or maybe your company has a position open in product management, strategy or market research. If so, notify the analysts you know that are “in transit” between positions. Not just former Forrester analysts, but the others as well.”

It looked like Rob noticed we did not include analyst relations (AR) as a possible job for former analysts. Hopefully that was a simple oversight on my part (this is Carter, a former Gartner analyst, writing) and not a Freudian slip. Obviously there can be real value to having a former analyst in the AR role. On the other hand, I have seen some former analysts really botch the job of AR.

This is a topic that really does Continue reading

Acquisitions of analyst firms are likely, so who would be buyers and targets?

question-mark-graphic.jpgQuestion: A common question SageCircle has been receiving concerns the likelihood that there will be acquisitions of analyst firms during the current recession.

During a recession, companies with strong balance sheets often acquire companies with weaker financials because the purchase price has been cut. Both Gartner (cash at September 30th was $145.2 million) and Forrester (NASDAQ: FORR, cash and marketable securities at September 30th were $254 million) have a history of acquisitions.  They also have dedicated M&A teams and CEOs that assure Wall Street during quarterly earnings calls that acquisitions remain a potential tactic “at the right price.” As a consequence, there is always the possibility that one or more small or mid-sized firms will be acquired by one of the two major public firms. 

Who could be acquired? Almost any firm. Obviously mid-sized firms like AMR Research that have gone through recent job actions could be thought to be shoring up their finances to ride out the recession… or make themselves a more attractive acquisition target by reducing cost structure or eliminating duplicate reearch coverage.

Who could be buyers? While Forrester and Gartner have the requisite strong balance sheets and motivations, they are not the only potential buyers of analyst firms. Companies that have made analyst firm acquisitions over Continue reading

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