“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 a Cool Vendor profile
  • Take the long view

His most important piece of advice is:

“Prime the feedback loop. Make it hard for any analysts to ignore your company. If the analysts are telling you they aren’t hearing from their customers about your company -make sure your sales reps are encouraging their prospects to call Gartner and ask about you. They’re probably going to do it anyway, so two birds, one stone. You look confident and your ‘stock’ rises at Gartner.”

Getting your customers to talk to Gartner analysts about your products is a critical success factor. One of the strengths – and weaknesses – of Gartner’s methodology is the reliance on informal data points from end-user clients picked up during phone inquiry. If end users never mention a vendor or its products, then the Gartner analyst will discount whatever the vendor says in briefings.

The only quibble I have with Waclawiczek’s post is his point “Buy consulting time to pick their brains” and it could be only a labeling quibble, i.e., he is lumping SAS and inquiry together as consulting time. While it is not necessary to be a client of Gartner in order to brief the analysts, having some sort of client relationship gives you important tools for developing the relationship, educating the analysts indirectly, and planting seeds to be harvested later. If Michael is referring to only buying SAS (aka Strategic Advisory Service or analyst consulting days) then the SageCircle recommendation is that the money would be better spend on an Advisory Seat so as to get access to client inquiry. An Advisory Seat permits clients to have many, many conversations with lots of analysts so there is a better return on investment. Plus, most analysts prefer phone based inquiry. As a senior Gartner analyst told me “I prefer a 15 minute chat every couple of weeks to a SAS day every six months.” Plus, client inquiries are quick and easy to set up while a SAS day is infinitely more difficult to arrange.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR needs to manage the expectations of colleagues and convince them that influencing Gartner and other analysts is an ongoing, long-term proposition
  • Vendors need to provide analysts with customer success stories and market insights, not just marketing messages about the products. Customer and market information is the most important “currency” to use with the analysts
  • Carefully target spending on analyst contracts to maximize interaction opportunities

Bottom Line: Vendors of all sizes would be wise to follow Dr. Waclawiczek’s advice about dealing with Gartner and by extension other analyst firms.

Question: How do you harvest customer stories to provide the analysts?


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