Insights from Forrester’s CEO presentation at an investor conference

This analysis does not look at areas of interest to investors, but seeks to pull out insights that are relevant to clients and prospects of Forrester Research, the number two advisory analyst firm, as well as communications and IT vendor analyst relations (AR) teams.

logo-forrester.gifForrester Research (NASDAQ: FORR) Chairman & CEO George Colony (Twitter, blog) and CFO Michael Doyle presented (replay available for approximately 90 days) at the William Blair & Co. Emerging Growth Stock Conference on Tuesday, October 6, 2009. Because the presentation was oriented toward investors that might not know much about Forrester, instead of the usual Wall Street analysts on quarterly earnings calls, there were some tid-bits of intelligence useful for clients and AR. 

A large number of diverse data points but spread thin: One of the advantages that a large analyst firm has is that its analysts can – not always – have access to a large number of formal and informal data points to include in research and use with end user clients during inquiries. Forrester revealed that its analysts conduct 3,500 vendor briefings, 16,800 inquiries, 250,000 consumer survey responses, and 10,000 large company survey responses.

Sounds like huge numbers, right? Actually these numbers might not seem so impressive when the average per analyst is calculated. Forrester currently lists 193 analysts, not including research associates and researchers. That means that the average number of inquiries per analyst is only 87 per year or seven (7) per month. Of course that is the average, which means that some analysts will be doing much less than the average, maybe as little as three (3) per month or less than one a week.

Calculating the number of briefings per analyst is a little trickier because a single briefing can have multiple analysts in attendance. For this discussion let’s say three analysts per briefing, which then calculates to each analyst getting about six (6) briefings per month. Again, this is not an impressive number when taking into consideration how important vendor information is for advisory analysts.

Of course, inquiry and vendor briefings are not the only sources […]

Saving money on contracts with the Forrester / Gartner duopoly is not simple

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgA common client inquiry we receive is in the context of someone negotiating with Gartner. Our clients want to know why in the midst of a terrible economic downturn, when vendors are cutting budgets left and right, that Gartner does not exhibit greater flexibility (i.e., cut prices) when it comes to contract negotiations. The short answer is that due to its end-user advisory market dominance – we estimate that Gartner has ~70% of the end user contracts – it does not have to be flexible. 

However, this issue is a little more complex than slapping a “monopolist” tag on folks over on Top Gallant Road. The reality is that there is an effective duopoly with tacit partner Forrester which gives them both the flexibility to be inflexible with it comes to negotiations. The last time this market saw pricing and packaging that in anyway favored the buyer was the mid-90’s when Giga and later META used significantly lower prices and “all you can eat” research seats to take market share from Gartner and Forrester. Alas, today there are no such firms that can play that role to counter Gartner and Forrester. As a consequence, the Big Two’s CEOs habitually inform Wall Street that they are maintaining their pricing and discounting discipline.

However, it is possible to reduce spending – notice we did not say “save money” – with the Forrester / Gartner duopoly without damaging the ability to access analysts for influencing purposes. However, it is not as simple as trying to wrangle a better discount from the sales rep. Rather it takes:

  • Knowledge about the firms’ business models
  • Knowledge about the firms’ research methodology and analyst culture
  • Knowledge about the true business value of […]

A warm compliment for Merv Adrian and an interesting comment about the Forrester layoffs

Background:  This text originally came in as a comment to Forrester experiences analyst layoffs. Because of the last line, I did not approve the comment leaving it as a private communication to SageCircle. But I did tweet that someone had sent along a very nice compliment for Merv Adrian. That triggered this comment to the original (and not published) comment:  “Saw your tweet. Oops. sorry. meant keep IP confidential. pls reveal details. =)”  So with that permission from the author, we are now publishing his or her comment. However, rather than a comment I decided to elevate it to a full post. BTW, you can follow Merv Adrian on Twitter at www.twitter.com/merv.

photo-merv-adrian-official-forresterIt is truly sad to say good-bye to co-workers especially during a lay off.. I will miss each person who has left. But it is quite a travesty when you lay off someone who is an icon, someone who makes a big difference in everyone’s lives, and someone who has had the company’s best interest at heart at all times. I have struggled to tell this story about my team and the more I wait, the more I regret it. I must tell. I shall share. I now reveal.So I say this with great conviction: “It is unconscionable for Forrester to lay off Mervyn T. Adrian without a proper explanation to our clients and our employees”

Why?

I was there when we first bought Giga. It was a scary time like now. The Internet bubble had burst. We had finished 2 rounds of layoffs. Our business was tanking. Our stock in the toilet.

When we bought Giga, we were nervous. Our first reaction was who are all these gray hairs? We were all much younger. Why’s everyone a VP? We only had principal analysts as the highest title and there were only 2 or 3 of those. Would we get along with these old farts? They seem crotchety and nerdy. How come they all work from home? We lived in a must show up to HQ culture.

But throughout the acquisition, this bubbly gentleman would reach out. He showed us how to work together. He showed us the value of an inquiry to clients. He showed us the how to collaborate across teams. He would reach out and mentor new analysts. He would tell it to us like […]

Is your email to industry analysts value-add or spam?

Forrester analyst and best-selling business book Groundswell co-author Josh Bernoff (blog, Twitter handle, bio) has an interesting little critique of the emails he receives in Three quarters of the PR email I receive is irrelevant. Why? Josh tweeted me that this post applied just as much to analyst relations (AR) professionals as PR.

You should take a moment to read his post and do a quck review to see if you are you guilty of any of Josh’s offenses.

SageCircle’s Analyst Hierarchy of NeedsAs we pointed out in the “Analyst Hierarchy of Needs”, the analysts do appreciate outreach by AR teams. However, they want more than simple, generic outreach. They want “Personalized Outreach.” In our interviews with analysts the common refrain is “Just send me information about stuff I care about.” Once your AR program is proficient at providing analysts the basic information they need, your program should work to begin personalizing content based on the specific coverage, speaking calendar, and editorial calendar of individual analysts.  Targeted information supporting issues they are concerned about is highly prized by the analysts and can raise your AR program’s visibility significantly.  However, analysts who receive too much generic content will stop looking and miss your personalized information.  

Another point to be aware of when applying the Hierarchy of Needs to your analyst email distribution is emphasis changes depending on the analyst’s status. A Sage analyst will be significantly less tolerant of generic emails than a Novice analyst, who might appreciate the basic information (see Know your analyst – Novice, Luminary or Sage).

The situation differs when you are […]

Never assume during an annual renewal that the analyst service contract remains the same

Annual syndicated research subscriptions are a common approach for enterprises and vendors when it comes to gaining access to published research and advisory. However, for all the value and convenience in this type of contract, there is a potential “gotcha” to watch for during the contract renewal – changes in the terms and conditions.

Often contract renewals follow a simple path of adjusting the number of seats and add-on services based on past year’s usage, new requirements, and new offerings by the firm. Often the analyst firm sales representative will send along the new contract with a note that says “it is basically the same as last year, so please look at pages x and y to make sure we have captured the number of seats and services you need.  Then sign on page z.” If the client does not carefully go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb they might miss that the “basically the same” contract actually has some key changes to the terms and conditions that severely limit their use of the analyst services or gives the analyst firms the right to audit the client for contract compliance. 

In some cases, the firm sales rep does not know that the changes are there, they are simply using the new standard contract. In other cases, the sales rep is aware of the changes but does not […]

ThinkBalm – focused on the Immersive Internet

Too often analyst relations (AR) professionals and analyst services buyers, both vendors and end user clients, focus on the larger firms. While this focus is natural because the larger firms have greater market presence and a large dedicated sales force, ignoring boutique analyst firms misses the opportunity to obtain interesting insights and advice or to brief a potential market influencer. Of course, not all boutique firms are relevant, so AR and buyers need to do their due diligence to ensure that time and money is not wasted. This post is one in a series to introduce the community to an interesting boutique firm.

                        __________________________

ThinkBalm was launched in June 2008 by former Forrester industry analyst Erica Driver and entrepreneur and inventor Sam Driver. ThinkBalm offers independent Immersive Internet industry analysis and strategic advisory services to technology marketers and Immersive Internet advocates, implementers, and explorers in enterprises. ThinkBalm also operates the ThinkBalm Innovation Community, a serious game-based online community dedicated to advancing enterprise use of the Immersive Internet.

This email interview was conducted with ThinkBalm co-founders Erica Driver and Sam Driver.

Q: Erica and Sam, thanks for speaking with SageCircle about ThinkBalm. Can you give us the elevator pitch for this new analyst firm?

A: ThinkBalm offers independent IT industry analysis and strategic advisory services to technology marketers and Immersive Internet advocates, implementers, and explorers. We focus exclusively on enterprise use of the Immersive Internet, which includes:

  • Virtual worlds and campuses
  • Immersive simulations
  • 3D business applications
  • Serious or industrial games

ThinkBalm also operates the ThinkBalm Innovation Community, a collaborative online community with a serious game at its core. The community is dedicated to propelling enterprise use the Immersive Internet forward.

Q: OK, what is the Immersive Internet and why do we need another buzz phrase?

A: The Immersive Internet is the term we use to describe a rapidly evolving […]

Why is it that more analyst blogging is better?

This morning I got an interesting tweet from Forrester analyst John Rymer (bio, Twitter handle): 

            “@carterlusher why is more analysts blogging better?”

icon-social-media-blue.jpgJohn was responding to my reply to a comment (“Good news, Gartner is allowing analysts to blog @carterlusher will be thrilled”) by Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang (bio, blog, Twitter handle).  This comment pointed out Gartner analyst Gene Phifer’s (bio, blog, Twitter handle) post about how Gartner analysts are now permitted to have a personal-branded blog. I don’t know if I was thrilled, but I did say “Excellent, the more analysts blogging the better.” Thus, John’s question.

Hmm, that is a good question. My initial thought was “well of course it’s better because blogging is good.” It took me about two seconds to discard that answer as glib and dumb. The real answer is […]

Bursts of analyst departures in a hot research area is not unusual

The clump of departures of social media analysts – Brian Haven, Peter Kim and Charlene Li (from Forrester), and Rachel Happe (from IDC) – is not at all unusual and follows typical patterns.

There are several reasons why analysts leave a firm: just want a change or new professional challenge, recruited by another company, desire to start own firm, the current employer has grown too large and its culture has changed and a few others. In this current sitaution, there are two primary reasons why the analysts are leaving: lured by startups and hanging out their own shingle.

From late 1997 to early 2000 a number of analysts covering ecommerce/ebusiness got lured away from the firms by Dot Com startups. For example, in one week Gartner lost four of five analysts covering ecommerce. Yes, they were lured away by various startups dangling stock options, but these analysts were also annoyed at the money Gartner was investing in Jupiter Communications (ancestor of JupiterResearch) rather than beefing up Gartner’s own ecommerce/ebusiness research team.

Another common reason for analysts in a hot research area to leave a firm is to […]