Gartner and Forrester are not, repeat not, Tier 1

Analyst Relations PlanningYou read the headline correctly; Forrester and Gartner should never be considered Tier 1. Yes, yes, Gartner is the industry behemoth and Forrester is likely the number two firm for enterprise end users, but that does not make them automatically Tier 1 for the purpose of creating a ranked and tiered analyst list. 

In the analyst list methodology that SageCircle has developed, analyst firms should not be given an automatic “tier” because what should be ranked is analysts, not firms. Ranking should be done based on a set of criteria (e.g., industry visibility, research coverage, client base, and so on) related to the vendor’s and AR team’s objectives. After a ranked list is created, then AR draws lines on the list to split the list into groups (e.g., Tier 1, 2 and 3, or strategic, important, and secondary or whatever you want to call them) that will define the types the service level (e.g., 1-to-1, 1-to-many or none-to-many responses) the AR team will give each analyst on the list. Tiers and service levels are created based on AR resources (i.e., the bigger the AR team the more Tier 1 analysts can be supported). While the characteristics of the firm will contribute to the data for ranking, merely working at Forrester or Gartner should never guarantee an analyst that they will have Tier 1 status.

SageCircle strategists frequently see analyst relations (AR) teams give Tier 1 status to analysts of the Big Two, even if their true relevance should place them much farther down on the ranked list. This can lead to AR misallocating resources by putting too much emphasis on some analysts while not having sufficient resources to brief or respond to other analysts. Remember, depending on the market and the analysts, a single practitioner or boutique can have just as much influence as the Big Two.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Develop (or use SageCircle’s) analyst list management methodology that uses a mix of weighted criteria
  • Work with your internal stakeholders to set the criteria and weights as well as obtain buy-in for the final ranked list
  • Set service levels based on AR resources
  • Be disciplined – but diplomatic – about adhering to service levels even when you are directly contacted by lower ranked analysts

Bottom Line: Few if any AR teams have the unlimited resources required to support every request from every analyst. AR needs to develop a methodology for ranking analysts based on relevance to the company’s objectives. Then AR needs to split the ranked list into groups with the sizes of the groups based on the resources AR has available. Finally, AR needs to ensure that its internal stakeholders are in agreement with the ranking methodology and service level framework so that AR will not have problems adhering to the service levels when an analyst calls an executive to complain about their treatment.

Question: AR – How do you rank and tier your analyst list?



  1. Carter-

    I can tell you that even when working within these firms, depending on the practice area, the direct competition is not always Gartner or Forrester. Industry segments have different top tier market research providers (who may be very small research companies), and vendors within these segments do not see the big guys like Gartner and Forrester as their primary providers.

    Also, Forrester is not bigger than IDC, so you left one out of Tier 1 whenit comes to IT market research. But then your point of view is that it’s about analysts, not companies. Some MI organizations do think of Tier 1 in the analyst perspective, but others still do it by company (the bigger, older firms).


  2. There’s no question that many companies consider IDC, Gartner and Forrester the Tier 1 players. But then some analysts choose to go to boutique companies and then that’s where the real “value” of the individual comes into play – can they survive without the IDC/Gartner/Forrester brand behind them?

  3. This is simple: Who is most influencing customer purchasing decisions – directly or indirectly.

    If a Gartner analyst speaks with 40 customers each month who are actively making purchasing decisions, then they are Tier 1. By definition, that’s what all of the Gartner (RAS) analysts do. Therefore and hitherto, Gartner is Tier 1.

    Yes, there are other, mostly indirect, means by which an analyst may influence purchase decisions. But I’d like to see someone draw some degree of correlation between Tweet volumes and actual customer purchase decisions before I declare a Twitter-based (or any social media-focused) analyst to be Tier 1.

    Without that evidence, limited AR resources are better spent on making sure you’ve got Gartner and Forrester covered.

    you also need to consider levels of influence. Tweeters and bloggers might help drive some IT Managers’ opinions one way or another, but are they actually driving purchase decisions? We know that actual purchase decisions are made in large part on Gartner advice.

    It’s too early to give full credit to Twitter-based analysts.

  4. Carter

    This is like comparing the NBA to the NFL isn’t? Aren’t there many, many markets beyond IT?

    A “Tier 1 firm” that covers Enterprise IT has no relevancy in covering the real estate industry. Secondly, cascading all the resources into one firm doesn’t make sense, there are independents at smaller firms that may have greater influence if they resonate with their end market.


    Tweet volume shouldn’t matter, nor number of followers. What matters is how much does that influencer shape the market that they cover.

    Maybe it’s time for “Analyst Relations” to name itself to what it really is trying to accomplish “Influencer Relations” and realize that influence takes place in many mediums (pdfs to 140 characters to keynote speeches).

    True influencers will be able to measure quantitatively and qualitatively how they impact the sales cycle. Speaking of which, I’m going to launch a survey soon on my blog, and a separate one on my Twitter account to gauge the true impacts. I may let Carter have access to the data as a third party independent –he needs to ask nicely of course 😉

    -From some guy on Twitter.

  5. Can’t agree more with you guys, tiering should be at the individual level.

    Carter, IDC maybe a better example. It all depends on your objectives and that’s a point you actually missed Carter. Depending on what they are, IDC can be in that Tier I list or not: if it’s about sales influence, then probably no in most cases, if it’s about strategy or marketing or opinion, then probably yes.

    – Jeremiah: I’m tiered to see people tiering analysts based on tweet popularity at one end (absolutely irrelevant in most cases, at least for Tiering purposes) or at the other end of people putting every single Gartner analyst as Tier I. It’s again about your objectives, the coverage area (for instance, Gartner doesn’t cover industries Business Services, Oil&Gas, Engineering&Construction, etc… where other smaller firms make a good Tier II or Tier I’s even) and the message.

    The medium doesn’t really matter, AR pros just have to use what channel works best, and again that’s at the individual level. Phone works better with some, others prefer Twitter. So be it!

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