When hype can go overboard and hurt credibility

SageCircle on the danger of vendors overhyping

Updated September 9, 2008 — In response to a tweet, a number of analysts have left new comments about specific types of marketing language that vendors should avoid.

Updated September 10, 2008 — Compiled a list of terms to avoid. Look for them after the “Bottom Line.”

While the US Federal Trade Commission in the Lanham Act said that puffery is “harmless exaggeration or colorful hype” and is not prosecutable as false advertising, too much hype can severely damage a vendor’s credibility. This was reinforced the other day when I participated in a Twitter conversation (right, click to enlarge).

Redmonk’s James Governor (“Monkchips”) in response to a marketing statement by a vendor about its product said “sorry but a. how can i take the statement seriously,. and b. what does it have to do with customer value?” Later another analyst, Jon Collins of Freeform Dynamics (jonno), joined in with the scathing “don’t think (products’) scalability issues are totally behind them either, a minor inconvenience to marchitects ;)”. While you might dismiss this because it is happening on Twitter, think again.

  • This Twitter chat represents the visible tip of the iceberg. Think about how many other chances these analysts have to convey this opinion to the press, other analysts, IT managers and the like?
  • Reporters are starting to follow analysts’ micro-blogging like Twitter so this can become a PR problem as well.
  • Don’t assume that “nobody is following Tweeting analysts” because their followings can be quite large (e.g., Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang has over 3,300 followers with new ones everyday).

However, the focus of this post is not on Twitter but on the issue of hype. SageCircle has identified hype as one of the five “analyst hot button” issues that can needlessly derail a vendor-analyst briefing. The big problem is that analysts really listen to […]

Are you guilty of monologuing and death by PowerPoint?

One of the top annoyances of IT industry analysts are vendor briefings where the spokesperson is talking at the analysts instead of having a conversation with the analysts. Not only does this annoy the analysts, it causes vendors to miss the opportunity to find out if their message and content is getting through. We have heard analysts often say: “If they had only stopped to take a breath and asked us what we thought, we could have eliminated the misunderstanding right upfront!”

One of the easiest ways to improve the effectiveness of a briefing is to dump the 64-slide, 153-build PowerPoint presentation and engaging in a real and candid dialogue.

SageCircle Technique:

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 […]

Illuminata’s Gordon Haff on four things AR teams should be doing to be more effective

photo-gordon-haff.jpgCarter ran into Gordon at the Redmonk 5th Birthday Party in San Francisco. When asked about what AR could do to become more effective, Gordon immediately came up with four suggestions:

#1 – Don’t use Webex or virtual rooms.

#2 – PR agencies should understand analysts’ coverages and not […]

AR–Sales Partnership [part 1]: It’s not about pushing out reports

icon-dollar-euro.jpgI think that most, if not all, of us in analyst relations (AR) have been on the receiving end of a phone call from a desperate/angry sales rep who is confronted with salvaging a deal squashed by analyst commentary. Often these calls are unpleasant as the sales rep takes out his or her frustration on AR. Worse yet is when it is the VP of sales who is on the other end of the phone line screaming at you.   Sales VPs have political clout and the ear of your top executives.

The research and recommendations of the IT advisory analysts like AMR, Forrester and Gartner can have a powerful impact on enterprise IT vendor sales cycles, whether hardware, software, telecomm or services. This impact can result in a sales cycle being lengthened or shortened, a vendor being included or excluded from a short list, or most dramatically a vendor that had won a deal finding it evaporate during contract negotiations when an analyst at the last minute gives a thumbs down.

Quite often the success or failure of the sales representative hangs on how well he or she overcomes a hurdle created by analyst recommendations. Unfortunately, the typical vendor sales team has not been educated about who the analysts are, what they do, and how to overcome negative commentary. As a consequence, sales reps experience high levels of frustration as deals go to competitors, sales cycles lengthen and contract negotiations go in favor of the buyer.

Equally unfortunate is that most AR teams do not have formal programs set up to help their sales colleagues. Typically the most that AR does is to push a positive research note out to the sales force. However, even this can be counterproductive if the research is not presented to the sales teams with the proper context and they don’t have the education to make it an effective tool.

What to do? […]