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

To generate short list placements, you need to narrow your claims to analysts [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgFounders and senior executives at startups frequent speak about the future of their companies and markets with grand sweeping statements about how they are going to change the world. They also will say that every enterprise and small business or consumer should buy their product or service. While these might be legitimate statements and required when speaking to the press, when used with IT industry analysts they are often a credibility killer. After hearing such claims from a tiny vendor without many existing customers or demonstrated ability to execute, an analyst will often quietly smirk and not consider mentioning the startup to clients – potential prospects for the startup.

If analysts perceive that you are so scattershot in your target markets that you won’t be effective then they won’t risk their reputation putting you on short lists. What is more effective is Continue reading

Portland’s tech startup community – Startupalooza [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgLast Saturday I attended one of the events coordinated by Portland’s vibrant startup tech community and encountered entrepreneurs, executives, bloggers, analysts, and consultants.  Startupalooza (link) is one of the various ways that social media is helping to bring people together.  Organized through the web this event had capped the attendance at 200 people due to space limitations, but had an additional 67 people on the waiting list.  Its goal was to provide a live networking opportunity as well as a forum for presenting ideas.  Many of the attendees had their twitter addresses on their name badges.

Among the presenters were executives from Jive Software to explain their successful startup process.  They understand the influence of the analysts and have dedicated resources to an AR program.  You will note that Continue reading

Are the analysts laggards or have startups neglected to brief them? [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgHere is a comment from a blog that is representative on the attitude about analysts at major firms covering an emerging technology:

“…I think that the Social Revolution is being underreported by Gartner et al, because the enterprise world is a laggard …”

Or maybe the thought leaders and leading providers of an emerging technology market (in this case social media technology and services) have not done a good enough job briefing the analysts and sharing market intelligence.

Myth #1 – The analysts know everything (see Analyst Myths Revisited)

The commenter was right that a significant portion of the advisor analysts’ client base is large enterprises. It is also true that most enterprise CIOs are inherently conservative in adopting technology. So advisory analysts, like Gartner, that get a lot of data points from their end-user client inquiries will not hear about cutting edge uses of emerging technology. Another critical fact in this situation is that an important source of information for the analysts is the vendor community. However, tech startups and small vendors are less likely to have formal AR programs. This means that the emerging technology crowd is not making its point-of-view heard.

So it is logical that if only one side of a debate (e.g., enterprise IT managers concerned about the risks whatever new technology) is talking to the analysts then that side’s opinion and factioids will be overweighted in research. Equally damaging for emerging technology is when end-user clients don’t talk about Continue reading

Commenting on analyst blogs to build relationships with analysts on the cheap [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgOne of the challenges for startups is how to build relationships with analysts when they do not have a services contract. Because many analyst firms put the analysts behind a paywall, startups cannot call up the analyst for an ad hoc conversation. Yes, one can do some relationship building via briefings and informal interactions at events, but not having client inquiry takes an important tool out of the AR tool box. Luckily, there is a new avenue for building relationships without requiring client status and that is commenting on the analysts’ blogs.

More and more analysts are writing blogs, either directly tied to their firm or as a personal branding tool. In addition, savvy analysts are using their blogs as idea development platforms to incorporate a broader community into their research work. This increased usage provides a huge opportunity for startups – and any AR team – to develop top-of-mind presence Continue reading

Startups, when was the last time you did an inquiry? [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgStartups agonize about buying analyst services – influenced by the myth that analysts are pay-to-play – but then underutilize what they bought. As we always say, it is what you do with the contract that gets you the benefit, not the act of writing a check.

One of the biggest crimes is not using that retainer-based analyst service (e.g., Gartner Core Research or Forrester WholeView) that you spent the big bucks to Continue reading

Startups should look for “bite-sized” services that provide AR insights and tools at modest prices [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgStartups rarely have huge sums to spend on analyst relations and AR services. This is often perceived as a barrier to getting the help they need to get their AR programs launched or taken to the next level. However, there are some modestly priced services that startups can turn to.

Analyst Directories – ARinsights’ ARchitect and Lighthouse AR’s AR Intranet are full featured analyst relationship management (ARM) applications that include analyst directories. Because these are full ARMs, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars per year. If a startup just needs access to a directory of analyst information, check out Tekrati’s Analyst Profiles. The cost is only $379 per seat for a full year and is easily purchased using credit card.

Advisory – Annual advisory services – retainer-based, on-demand ad hoc access to AR experts – can run over ten thousand dollars from SageCircle, Forrester, Lighthouse AR, KCG and other firms. Another choice is Continue reading

Should startups use PR agencies to do AR? [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgThis is a post that will no doubt irritate my PR friends, but the answer to the question about whether startups should use PR agencies for AR is “only for the boring stuff.” By boring, I mean interaction logistics and basic information dissemination. However, when it comes to building the relationship and developing credibility with the IT analysts, then the startup’s smartest people need to roll up their sleeves and own these aspects.

If you look at what the analysts Continue reading

Feedback from analysts on what a tech startup knows that would be really interesting [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgIn addition to last week’s post (see Startups have unique market insights that they can use as currency with IT industry analysts [Startup Saturday]) I also listed a question on LinkedIn Answers to see what sort of feedback I would get from analysts. I am glad I did as I got some really interesting and useful responses. They fell into three basic categories: standard briefing information that all vendors should provide, information that should be included in briefings by startups and unique “ah ha”s that startups can provide analysts. Here are a few of the key quotes from the responses. All of the responses are included at the bottom of this post and are worth the read and not just by startups either. Established companies can learn a few tips from these suggestions as well

  • The biggest unknown [for analysts] is how the market will evolve – and who/what will be left standing. The insight provided by start up’s is invaluable to helping to understand the market and the changes that are already in progress.
  • Understanding of the buyer side … especially if it sets up factors to track that might indicate the leaders and challengers … are about to be shuffled. Getting in front of that with Continue reading

Startups have unique market insights that they can use as currency with IT industry analysts [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgAs we said in Should tech startups invest in analyst relations?, the currency startups should use with analysts is not euros, yuan, pounds, dollars, yen or pesos. No, the real currency is information (and the executive time to deliver the information).

Startups need to provide analysts with all the usual information such as strategy, ability to execute, product road map and so on. However, startups will be at a disadvantage to mature vendors in some areas like formal customer references. As a consequence, startups need to mix in some information or data that they are better suited to know and share. In this article, we will offer some suggestions for topics that startups might have unique insights that will appeal to Continue reading

Avoid emotion when building the analyst list for emerging tech markets [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgJust as with larger firms, emerging technology companies need to rank and tier their analyst lists.  Ranking establishes the relative importance of the analysts and sets a priority, while tiering is the process of allocating resources.  Based on the available time, money, staff, executive support, and so forth you need to group the analysts into top level analysts who get full attention and lower significance analysts who get email responses only.  SageCircle has detailed information on this process for traditional vendors.

So often the problem in creating these analyst lists is that emotion and the squeaky wheel syndrome play a larger role in Continue reading

How end user revolts impact startups’ analyst lists [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgBack in the 90’s I used the concept of “end user revolts” extensively when doing speeches at Gartner events. The idea always got approving nods of the head from the throngs of IT managers in the audience because most thought that end users were pretty revolting. However, I pretty much stopped using the talking point after leaving Gartner for KCG and then launching SageCircle.

Fast forward to today and it is apparent that the end user revolt is a critical concept that applies very much to vendor AR teams trying to build analysts lists. The group of vendors most impacted by these revolts is startups. Startups should be paying closest attention to revolts because Continue reading

Why startups have their briefing requests turned down [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgMarketing managers at startups and intrapreneurs (functions like an entrepreneur but within large companies) often get frustrated because their requests to brief an analyst are often turned down. They then start thinking it’s because they don’t have a contract with the firm (see Should tech startups invest in analyst relations?). Alas, the problem of getting a briefing accepted is not as easy as writing a check for some analyst services.

When startups have trouble getting analysts’ attention, or their requests to meet for a briefing are turned down, it is usually because Continue reading

Startups can create business value by focusing on industry analysts [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgThere is great value for startups that sell to corporations or large governments to invest in analyst relations (AR). The analysts can: 

  • Bolster startups’ credibility by characterizing the startup as “viable” or an “up-and-comer”
  • Generate highly qualified leads by placing the startup Continue reading

Why is it so difficult for startups and intrapreneurs to identify analysts to talk to? [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgOne of the most difficult tasks for a startup or intrapreneurs (functions like an entrepreneur within large companies) is to identify who the heck in the analyst community they should be targeting for interactions. Often the first few analysts that are contacted flatly turn the startup down leading to discouragement or a suspicion that it’s a pay-to-play situation. That is usually not the case, but frankly it is much more difficult for startups to identify the appropriate analysts. Continue reading

What is the ideal stage for startups to start working with the analysts or building relationships? [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgToday’s post is an answer to one of the questions outlined in Should tech startups invest in analyst relations? The question is “What is the ideal stage for startups to start working with the analysts or building relationships?”
 
The rule-of-thumb answer for this question is “much earlier than you think.” Continue reading

Gartner’s Cool Vendor annual research note set [Startup Saturday]

rocket-for-startups.jpgOften startups with interesting new technologies feel like there are no IT analysts that want to cover them. For example, they are usually excluded from signature deliverables like Forrester Waves and Gartner Magic Quadrants since they often don’t fit neatly into an existing market. Rather than give up, startups should consider targeting Gartner’s annual “Cool Vendors” research note series.
  Continue reading

Should tech startups invest in analyst relations?

rocket-for-startups.jpgLast night I attended the Marketing SIG monthly meeting of the SDForum (an association for tech startups) because Dana Marks of Weber Shandwick and analyst Rob Enderle were talking about “Analyst Relations — It’s All About Influence.” It was a pretty interesting meeting. Rob was very candid and had a lot of funny stories about dealing with vendors that illustrated important issues.  The most salient point for me was that even in the 21st Century the IT industry analysts are still a mystery to a broad swath of the tech vendor community, especially startups. The questions that were asked by the attendees were to the point and reflected real concerns. Here are some examples: 
  Continue reading

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