What to do when you only have a few dollars for AR

rocket-for-startups.jpgThere are many IT vendors that are either launching or reinvigorating their AR program for the IT industry analysts (e.g., Gartner, Ovum and Yankee Group). It is typical for nascent AR programs to have a small budget to work with. This heightens the importance of spending decisions because when there is little money the margin for error shrinks considerably. 

The first priority for AR managers is that they demonstrate effectiveness early to get more support for AR. This requires a ruthless focus on the key success factors and how money spent can help achieve those factors. While there are many reasons why IT vendors invest* in AR, more often than not the initial reason is to obtain increased visibility with the analysts talking to their prospects. This post focuses on that premise.

First, spend your money with the right analysts. There are three primary types of analysts: end-user advisory, market research, and white paper for hire. It is the end-user advisory firms that have the hundreds of thousands of personal interactions with IT buyers every year. Thus, dollars spent with those analyst firms will have the biggest payback by obtaining relationship-building tools. Advisory firm contracts provide the ability to do inquiries on a frequent basis, which are invaluable for gaining insights into the analysts’ thought processes and research agenda, getting “top of mind” presence, doing spoken word audits, and developing a personal relationship. These types of activities will greatly enhance an IT vendor’s visibility with their primary analysts leading to analysts being more comfortable recommending the vendor to their clients.

Market research firms are less important because their clients are vendors and financial firms. The exception is when the market researchers are affiliated with an end-user advisory firm (e.g., Dataquest and Gartner) where a well-crafted and keenly executed “market driver” study can be used to influence the advisory analysts. In this case, the AR program might be able to leverage their company’s research/competitive intelligence’s market research budget for this project.

White paper for hire firms should NOT get any of your meager AR budget. These analysts’ primary clients are vendors’ marketing and Continue reading

Analyst Relations budget – Use it, don’t lose it

It’s now July 22nd, about half way through the third calendar quarter. Many communications and IT vendors have budget policies in place where departments lose any budget that is not spent within a particular fiscal quarter or calendar year. AR managers frequently find it difficult to find a good use for remaining budget, especially when it might only be a few thousand dollars. Are you kicking yourself because you had had left over budget at the end of the last quarter that you did not use? In addition, you don’t want to blow any remaining budget on something that might not be used to its fullest extent, like a reprint of a so-so research note or a Gartner Advisory seat for someone who probably won’t do inquiries.

An excellent use of remaining budget is AR staff development because it increases efficiency and effectiveness, boosts staff morale and adds variety to the job. Staff development  is even more important during a recession when bonuses are meager and pay raises are not likely.

To make it easy for AR managers to spend odd amounts of end-of-the-quarter budget, SageCircle offers its services à la carte as well as by annual subscription. We have many services under $1,000 such as webinars ($95), Online SageContent Library ($395), AR briefings ($495), workshops ($495) and advisory blocks (2 hours $495, 5 hours $995) and seminars ($995).

Another advantage of SageCircle AR training offerings is that many are 90 minutes or less, making them easy to fit into a busy schedule or a regular staff call. Oh, did I mention that you can conveniently buy any SageCircle service via credit card to ensure you get it into this quarter’s purchases? We will also work around the clock to complete any paperwork you need for traditional purchase order/invoice.

Here are three examples of how you can mix-and-match SageCircle training services to meet various needs:

AR continuing education – This example assumes an experienced AR staff located in one office. The first two items are free, which of course is a great price. Using the AR DiagnosticTM as a continuing education tool is atypical, but the questions asked Continue reading

The Top 5: Mistakes when Buying Analyst Firm Services

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgWe have identified over 40 key issues that analyst contract managers at vendors (e.g., analyst relations, market research and competitive intelligence) need to be aware of when buying and using services from the IT industry analysts. In this post we list out the Top 5 Mistakes that buyers of analyst research commonly make.

5) Not determining the firm’s commitment to the research topic

4) Falling into “contract renewal trap”

3) Expending too much energy on obtaining incremental discounts from the Big Two (i.e., Forrester and Gartner)

2) Purchasing the premium version of a service, when the basic version would suffice (e.g., Gartner for Business Leaders versus Core Advisor)

…and the number one worst practice is Continue reading

What would make an analyst firm sales representative really great

During our “Managing Your Gartner and Forrester Expenditure” webinars and inquiries where we were helping clients with contract renewal issues, one comment we frequently heard was about the “great relationship” the contract manager had with a sales rep for an analyst firm. Often the definition of “great” turned out to be a rep that would not harass the client over “violations” of the contract, get the occasional freebie research note, or would bring a visiting analyst around. While these are all nice and useful, this did not strike us as being particular “great.” For both vendor and end-user clients these are more baseline activities that should be expected.

 What we think would truly make a sales representative great is someone who make sure that the client got full business value from their contracts throughout the contract duration. Here are some questions you should consider to determine whether your sales rep might qualify as “great:”

  • Does the sales rep actively work to demonstrate how the client has achieved business value and even hard ROI from the analyst contract?
  • Does the sales rep provide monthly reports on utilization of the services (e.g., the number of inquiries conducted by each advisory seat holder)?
  • Does the sales rep conduct a contract checkup at least quarterly?
  • Does the sales rep actively push clients to use the services purchased?
  • Does the sales rep proactively identify underutilized services and make suggestions to increase the utilization?
  • Does the sales rep proactively identify underutilized services and suggest that the service be given to another person that might use it or suggest swapping the service for a potential more useful service?
  • Does the sales rep work with you about incremental purchases in order to prevent redundant purchases or identify new users for underutilized services?

SageCircle Technique:

  • Vendor and enterprise analyst contract managers need to communicate with their analyst firm account executives the expectations of Continue reading

Are you in a “contract renewal trap” when it comes to Forrester and Gartner contracts?

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgAs we work with clients on helping them manage their analyst spending, one major problem that keeps popping up is what we call the “contract renewal trap.” This occurs when the analyst contract manager (e.g., analyst relations, market research or IT manager) lets the analyst firm control the renewal process by starting with last year’s contract. The previous contract then becomes a de facto floor to build upon. It is a seductively easy trap to fall into because it appears to have minimal work involved and there is little likelihood of not renewing. Of course, this trap benefits the analyst firms immensely. 

The contract renewal trap is likely costing the average vendor or end-user client of the analyst firms tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of unnecessary spending every year.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Contract managers, whether end user or vendor, need to determine if they are in a contract renewal trap
  • Contract managers need to take a “sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger” mentality and approach renewals as if Forrester and Gartner might not get any contract
  • Contract managers need to seize control not cede control to Continue reading

NCVI are the four most important letters in the English alphabet for a Gartner sales rep

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgKnowledge is power when it comes to purchasing decisions about analyst firm contracts. Unfortunately, too many contract managers do not understand many of the underlying behavioral drivers when it comes to dealing with Gartner sales representatives, which puts those managers at a disadvantage. 

For instance, an important piece of information is that Gartner reps are measured on NCVI, net contract value increase. NCVI is calculated based only on the total syndicated research revenues, seats, and clusters. Other purchases such as event sponsorships, consulting or SAS are not included in the calculation.

Gartner sales reps that achieve NCVI are golden. Those reps whose client contracts are less than the prior year’s amount are in danger of termination. That is why Gartner sales reps start getting desperate when it looks like contract renewals are going to be less than the previous contract.

It is possible to reduce spending – notice we did not say “save money” – with Gartner without damaging the ability to access analysts for influencing purposes. However, it is not as simple as trying to negotiate a better discount from the sales rep, which is quite difficult because of the pricing discipline mandated by Gartner’s CEO. Rather it takes intelligence about Gartner’s business and sales practices to know what Continue reading

Saving money on your Gartner and Forrester contracts is a year round activity

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgSageCircle is handling more and more client inquiries about how to reduce the cost of Forrester and Gartner contracts.  One aspect jumps out: too many purchasing managers (e.g., AR, market research, or procurement.) focus on managing costs mainly at contract renewal time. The reality is that saving money needs to be a focus each month of the contract, both to manage incremental spending but to also set the stage for the next contract renewal. 

What many vendors do not recognize sufficiently is that the Big Two account teams are scouring the vendors for additional budgets to tap with a sale of an Advisory seat here or some Service Units there. In some cases, the incremental purchases can easily add up 50% of the original contract. This can be very wasteful if the individual doing the purchasing does not how to be a good research consumer (very likely), does not use the resource after the initial couple of weeks (more likely) or buys something this already available in other parts of the company (regrettably likely). Because there is rarely a line item in the chart of accounts for analyst services, it can be very difficult to track these purchases.

Contract managers need to constantly work on monitoring actual utilization of the services in the prime contract. This includes making sure that Continue reading

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