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

“Prime the Feedback Loop” VP of Marketing’s excellent advice about Gartner

rocket-for-startups.jpgThis advice is just as useful for large vendors as startups

In Gartner for startups Michael Waclawiczek, VP of Marketing at expressor software, has joined the conversation started by Talend’s Yves de Montcheuil and Gartner’s Andy Bitterer (see Vendor complains in a very public blog post about Gartner’s Data Integration Magic Quadrant)  about startups ability to be included on Magic Quadrants.

Dr. Waclawiczek’s observations and advice are dead on and well worth reading. While directed at startups, his main points are applicable to large vendors as well. A quick summary:

  • For any vendor selling to high-end/large customers, dealing with Gartner is a given. Even if you decide to ignore them, your customers won’t.
  • At some point, you have to realize that the MQ is designed to meet the needs of Gartner customers – big companies looking for information, insights and backside-cover for big-ticket IT purchases.
  • My advice to fellow startups? Give up hope of making a real impact in “your” MQ, for now at least. But don’t give up entirely.
  • Work the Gartner system the best you can. Pull every lever you can reach.
  • Set your sights on Continue reading

Vendor complains in a very public blog post about Gartner’s Data Integration Magic Quadrant

gartner-andy-bitterertalend-yves-de-montcheuilThere is an interesting online conversation via blogs going on between Talend VP of Marketing Yves de Montcheuil (A comment on Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant for Data Integration, photo left) and Gartner’s Andy Bitterer (Setting the Record Straight, photo right). This is interesting because it is unusual for a vendor to engage Gartner in a public forum about its research or methodology, and for a Gartner analyst to respond to criticism. Kudos to both Yves and Andy for engaging in this conversation. The other example that SageCircle knows of a vendor addressing perceived analyst shortcomings was by Jive Software Chief Marketing Officer Sam Lawrence. You can find a link to Sam’s post at Doing unto analysts what they do unto vendors. Sam received a positive response from the analysts to his post.

Yves basic complaint is that analysts like Gartner do not pay enough attention to open source vendors. He claims Gartner focuses too much on stodgy vendors that do not represent the future when researching the Magic Quadrant (MQ). Andy’s response is a point-by-point rebuttal of each of Yves’ comments including being very firm on their policy that vendors that do not meet the revenue criterion will not be included.

The Magic Quadrant methodology is not perfect when it comes to small vendors

While Gartner has steadily improved the MQ methodology over the last few years, it is far from perfect. One problem is that there is not complete transparency when it comes to all criteria, especially the ones based on the analyst’s subjective opinions. This is especially troublesome to small vendors without experienced AR professionals who do not realize they have to probe the analysts to get all criteria, their weights, and how they are scored. Another problem is that Continue reading

Killer questions to ask PR agencies to see if they are AR pretenders or contenders

icon-the-press-110w.jpgThere are many drawbacks to using PR agencies to conduct analyst relations – not the least that most analysts hate dealing with agency staff.  Sometimes, however, communications and IT vendors have no choice but to farm out some analyst-related activities. To minimize the chance of agency staff causing problems with the analysts, vendors need to carefully evaluate whether or not a PR agency is actually competent in analyst relations before hiring them.

A technique SageCircle has developed is asking a series of questions in the form of scenarios about AR situations. The responses to the scenarios can then be graded for compliance with AR best practices and insights as to how the analysts work. As always, it is important to weight the questions because some will be more important than others. In addition, it is critical that a standard evaluation framework be established so that responses from different agencies will be graded consistently.

The killer questions should not just be asked of the agency’s senior executive that is trying to win the business, but also the staff that will actually be doing the work.  Reluctance by the agency to introduce you to the staff should raise red flags about the breadth and depth of AR expertise in the firm.

The first killer question to ask the PR agency rainmaker and staff is Continue reading

The initial analyst briefing for a startup (Startup Saturday)

rocket-for-startups.jpgAs part of our Startup Saturday series we have suggested that AR should be a significant investment for emerging companies and how analysts can play a role in building market awareness.  We offered techniques for introducing yourself to an analyst – so let’s be practical about the presentation you use for your first briefing.

The most important thing about the first briefing is to keep it short and focused.  Carefully evaluate your three key messages and leave EVERYTHING else out of the presentation.  If you bore the analyst with 40 slides with 93 builds of technology (aka death by PowerPoint) you will never get a second briefing.

Your goal for this first briefing should be to Continue reading

Why AR is more important than PR for a Startup [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgResearch by SageCircle, H&K (in multiple Technology Influencer Studies conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates), Lighthouse AR and other AR advisory groups has consistently shown that the most significant influence on purchases is peer recommendation and personal contacts.  Second is industry analyst opinion, which leads all other influence including advertising and PR.  For a startup attempting to break into an existing market or carve out a new market space this is critical information.

For a startup, traditional PR is certainly important and should not be ignored, but allocation of resources to AR can provide a higher ROI.  Press is very transient and even an outstanding article or mention does not have staying power over the long run if it gets buried in the clutter of a Google search.  Analyst reports have a much longer shelf life and may be referred to months after they are published as a relevant research note is more likely to surface during a research search on the analyst firm website.  Good research consumers will then contact the analyst firm for an update or discuss the report during an inquiry.

Industry analysts also convey information at industry events, act as sources for reporters, and can even have influence on Wall Street.  It is therefore critical that they are Continue reading

Introducing yourself to an analyst for the first time [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgStartups are often in the position of introducing themselves to industry analysts as they start or expand their AR outreach. In addition to the initial outreach, startups find themselves introducing themselves to new analysts because the analyst landscape is very dynamic.  Analysts change firms, but more importantly change coverages and areas of research.  This means that your analyst lists need to be updated regularly and there is a significant chance you will need to interact with new analysts at some point.  Startups lack the name recognition that larger communications and IT vendors can leverage, but the process of meeting new analysts applies to all vendors.

How you handle meeting new analysts is somewhat dependent on the level of experience of the analyst as well as your product or services maturity.  Novice analysts are far more likely to Continue reading

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