One of the most common questions I get when talking to prospective and existing Gartner clients is how to get the most value from a Gartner relationship. I just saw this link on Gartner.com that shares a great perspective from Gareth Herschel and Matthew Goldman.
The ideas in that deck are excellent. In addition, here are some other thoughts that I typically share. Many of them are applicable to any industry analyst, or influencer, you might work with. This takes the perspective of a client relationship, where you have access to connect with analysts for inquiries on a variety of topics.
Understand their Role and Audience and Mission
The first thing to do is put yourself in the analyst’s shoes. What is their coverage area and what audience to they focus on. At Gartner, most of the attention and awareness is around our End User Analysts who cover various technology areas. Their mission is clear–help IT Buyers make better purchase decisions. If you are a vendor (we call them providers) you can interact with these analysts, but its important to remember their focus.
Gartner also has a large group of analysts that focus on providers (T&SP). Our mission (I’m part of that team) is to help providers grow faster. We spend our time helping providers understand market forecasts, dynamics and opportunities, while also advising on go-to-market strategies.
Once you have that perspective you can set your priorities for analyst interactions, determining if the goal is influence (primarily interactions with end user analysts) or improvement (T&SP interactions).
Tactics to Increase Influence
- Engage, Don’t Battle, to Increase Influence
If the goal is influence, think collaborative engagement v. arguing over who is right. Argumentative approaches have an impact that goes beyond the core truth of the argument as it creates more personal emotions. If you disagree with an analyst opinion, ask them what they see in the market that drove that opinion. Then point out the things you are seeing–with examples–to share your point of view. If you agree, acknowledge that and talk about other similar thoughts that might expand the discussion. Finding ways to help analysts broaden their perspective on what is happening in their technology sector, or things they should be looking for, is a very effective strategy when done in a collaborative manner.
- Ask Pointed Questions
As you develop a collaborative relationship with your key analysts, you’ve earned the ability to ask direct questions that are key to analyst relations strategies. If you think you should have been mentioned in a report and were not, ask why. Ask what else you need to share with the analyst for them to more completely understand your product or company. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ask them in what situations do they recommend your firm when IT buyers come to them looking for suggestions. You can ask these questions at any time, but I’ve found the dialog is much more productive and engaging once you’ve strengthened the relationship.
- Encourage Prospective Clients to Call
This is an important, and often overlooked tactic. If you like the way the analyst describes the situations when they recommend you (i.e. it aligns with your positioning and messaging), then encourage your prospective clients (who also have a Gartner relationship) to contact the analyst. Then, let the analyst know who will be calling and why. This approach is great for a couple of reasons. First, while you can’t participate or control the conversation, you need to remember that the prospect will probably leverage Gartner research or inquiries anyway. Second, it displays a level of confidence that your prospects should find reassuring.
Tactics to Drive Improvement
- Use the Research
Our research can be of much more value than just evaluating where you call on a Magic Quadrant. Use Gartner Research as one the inputs to your product strategies (along with customer feedback, competitive information, and win/loss data). Use forecasts to help choose new markets to enter. If you do use research in your efforts, tell the author about it. Analysts love to hear how their research helps readers.
- Treat as Team Members
This is particularly true for T&SP analysts, but you should view us as advisors that are an extension of your teams (in my case–marketing). As you develop strategies, you can work with us to refine your plans. Then as you produce outputs, we can review them prior to finalization. We regularly review presentations, marketing campaigns, collateral, and more–providing that external voice that can often find things that were missed in internal reviews.
While the above outlined some best practices (and in some cases highlighted things not to do), there are some worst practices that I have seen and hear about regularly (both in my time at Gartner and throughout the years when I was on the other side of the table).
- Briefing Based Strategy Days – Strategy days are a great opportunity for deep analyst engagement. The focus of these should be improvement, with the dialog that results creating positive influence opportunities. That does not always happen. The ideal agenda should be a mix of discussions led by you and the Gartner analyst(s)–roughly a 50/50 split–with lots of time for interaction. This creates a lot of positive energy. Unfortunately, I’ve worked at places where strategy days were treated as extended briefing opportunities–where the provider content dominated the agenda–leaving little time for engaging discussion. Analysts leave these meetings feeling discouraged, feeling like their research and ideas were of no value to the client.
- Not Engaging Until Things are “Perfect” - While this strategy might be almost okay (nothing is ever perfect though) for a briefing, it makes no sense to do this for inquiries. Engage when you have a clear idea of what you want to discuss and have some material or ideas (strawman or better) to share. If you wait for perfection, you are,once again, indirectly telling the analyst that their opinion does not matter.
- All About the Product – Many firms fall in love with their technology and spend all their time with analysts talking about it. This could be one of the biggest and most common mistakes. Analysts have to help end users make better buying decisions, and many other factors, particularly about the company and why you can be trusted and have staying power are equally, and sometimes more, important. Make sure you tell the whole story about why IT buyers should choose your firm and product.
There you have it. Some suggestions to follow and worst practices to avoid. What do you think? Any other thoughts on things that work and don’t work that you want to share?