I started working at Gartner exactly 10 years ago and have been blogging pretty much weekly the majority of the time. I thought it might be interesting to go back through those posts to find some highlights and assess what has and hasn’t changed (including my opinions) over that time. FAIR WARNING: This is a very long post.
First, a look at the breakdown of the primary focus of my posts:
The top 3 are no surprise to me. When I joined Gartner I had two ideas that drove me. First, I wanted to encourage one standard way to apply positioning across Gartner. We did not reinvent the wheel; we used the model from Crossing the Chasm with a small tweak to add in elements of experience. Second, I felt that the best way to help our vendor clients be better was not by studying the competition (there are others that do that), but by studying their customers.
As a result, my first few years were heavily focused on positioning and storytelling; then deeper exploration of buying became (and continues to be) a focus; with ETAs and ideas like the New Chasm adding depth and nuance. The other categories vary based on my current thinking or whims. Now, a look at around 5 or 6 posts from each year (I warned you).
- February 27 – One of my earliest posts was “Think Progressive Engagement to Fight Short Attention Spans.” I still talk about this today. The idea is not to make sure everything you do is short, but to capture attention and guide to a “tell me more” mindset. We now know (possibly more on this later) that more effective buyers crave deep information. Less effective ones don’t. If we only go with surface information, we are frustrating the better buyers and encouraging missteps by the less effective ones, leading to delays and no decisions.
- June 30 – A was pretty surprised that this post was that old. “Teams, Streams, and Provider Dreams” was our first conceptual visual model of the buying cycle. In some ways, I prefer this version over the updates. It laid down the idea of activity streams vs discrete steps and a few other concepts that still apply today. Here is the graphic that some of you may remember.
- August 7 – Working with Tiffani Bova, we developed an idea we called “The Connected Model” that year. Our point–you needed a balanced approach across marketing, sales, and product–with the customer in the center–to be most effective. The post “Can you sell me now? – The impact of disconnected strategies” explored when disconnects created problems across the organization. Today, those same challenges continue to arise again and again. It is still a pain point and an opportunity for major improvement.
- August 21 – One of the things that my early days at Gartner showed is that many vendors and service providers had a narrow (think MQ and influence) view of Gartner. For the first 5 or 6 years, over 1/2 my calls ended with “I had no idea Gartner does this.” That drove me to write “Getting Value from Gartner (and other Analysts).” I don’t live and die over metrics (more on that later), but this is probably my most read blog post over the years. It still appears in the top 10 every month. And there is still a lot of folks who could benefit from the ideas as they look at their analyst strategies.
- Oct 15 – My first Symposium I did little other than meet with startups. 55 of them over 3 1/2 days. After coming back, I wrote the post “Three Ingredients for Success: Clarity, Passion, and Awareness.” This w2as me reflecting on what stood out for some of the meetings vs. others–I still think the ideas apply today to any new company or new product, for that matter.
- February 25 – Like many, much of my work and thinking has been shaped by Geoffrey Moore. I already mentioned the use of the positioning model from “Crossing the Chasm,” but that is not the sole value–there is a lot more (and I’m sure we’ll be looking at some of those things later). But, at the same time, the concepts in the book are often applied improperly. One of the biggest issues is equating product life cycle with market life cycle. I talked about this in “Products, Markets, and Crossing the Chasm.” I still see this mistake happening today and it can have a major impact on effectiveness.
- March 11 – Linking to the ideas in the above post, I wrote the blog “The Impact of Market Stage on Messaging.” Frankly, a post this year is better, but I was surprised when I went back and found this one. This did pull in some work from John Lovelock about additive, destructive, and competitive innovations. The general ideas are pretty solid overall.
- June 17 – Back then (and still now), Simon Sinek’s work around “Start with Why” was something everyone was talking about. But that, and an article I read, got me thinking about “Why We Don’t Tell Why.” There is some stuff in there that is somewhat silly in hindsight, but other aspects still apply. Everyone wants to talk about their products; few talk about why they should be considered—the key value scenarios they address. As buying continues to shift around the company, this is becoming more important.
- Nov 11 – It is 2023 and we are still seeing challenges around customer experience. When I was at Adobe, I wrote a piece about customer experience that I revisited in “Getting the Balance Right – Your Business and Your Customers.” It provided a model for CX strategies based on assessing the value of doing something for customers and the business. It also talked about the need to “overcorrect” when muscle memory forces behaviors. To get customer experience right, you have to lean harder into the customer perspective. Here is the graphic, the post provides more context.
- December 16 – Another surprise for me. At the end of 2014, I found the post “The Biggest Content Gap in Technology Marketing.” It talked about how most content focused on features and benefits back then. Case studies talked about value. But there was, and still is, a lack of details about how you get value–the implementation details or the stories of how customers succeeded. This is more important than ever today as we see better buyers crave this type of information (we now call it “Change Enablement”). The age of the post reflects just how long it takes to change behaviors.
- Feb 17 – Looking back, I don’t really talk about career development very much. But my post on “The ‘Cons’ of Personal Performance” was a bit of a departure. I was looking at my daughter’s early experience at med school and also my time at Gartner. The post was a bit of a lark, but when i reposted it on LinkedIn a few years later, it was one of my most read posts ever. In this time of the great resignation, it might be worth a read for those contemplating their future.
- March 17 – I was pretty impressed that I published a post on St. Patrick’s Day, and this one may have been ahead of it’s time. In “Is Self-Service Creating Acceptance of Average?” I first explored the issues of people that aren’t experts doing the work. And the need to “dumb it down” and simplify to make that possible. Today, our buying research is showing how inexperienced buyers struggle to make confident decisions. We have to find a way to help make things easier, while not sacrificing quality. More work ahead.
- June 5 – This next post was never on the Gartner Blog Network. It (and others) only appeared on LinkedIn. Some, like Dave Brock, may want to make this day a holiday, but the first #FridayFails post was “#FridayFails – Sales Coaching Co. Demonstrates E-Mail Worst Practices.” The idea came about in a conversation with Tiffani Bova and then took off. The intent was not to celebrate failures, but to offer coaching via examples. Looking back, I’ve done 97 #FridayFails posts through the years ( I guess I have to do at least 3 more in 2023). To be honest, the repetitive mistakes got a little tiring and the insights to improve repetitive. But maybe I can find a few things to make it interesting like these end of year posts from 2021 and 2022.
- June 16 – Trust was on my mind alot in 2015. In “The Trust Cycle – Are you Developing or Eroding Trust?” I touched on some of our trust research and offered a conceptual model for trust development for vendors. The graphic is below, but my perspective has changed a bit. Trust still matters, but it is fundamentally table stakes vs. differentiating. The ideas back then assumed an educated, thorough buyer, but they are the exception vs. the rule. Still, the ideas of trust being more defined by what others say about you rings true today.
- June 23 – I touched on this post in my recent review of “The Jolt Effect.” “Creating Calmness, Clarity, and Confidence – The Anti-FUD” feels more important today than ever. As buying continues to disburse across the organization, FUD tactics will continue to be less effective. While trying to create FUD around competition, you are actually encouraging indecision. Definitely worth a fresh look.
- September 15 – Prior to the CEB acquisition, I was a big fan of some of the work of my soon to be colleagues. In particular, “The Challenger Customer” reflected a similar perspective to much of my buying research. This triggered one of my first attacks (!!!) on personal misuse. In “Positioning, Persona Overload, and the Consensus Buy” I first explored the idea of focusing on orgs over individuals. My feelings on this continued to grow with the importance of organizational context being first and foremost in B2B situations.
- October 6 – Oh, how wrong I was. In “Buyers are More Prepared – Are You?” I talked about buyers having more access to information and being more prepared, urging vendors to do the same. Boy was I (largely wrong). The majority of buyers today are not prepared. They don’t know how to seek the right information; they don’t know the steps to buy; and they don’t know how to uncover insights to gain value more easily. Today, we talk about buyer enablement to fight those issues. Back then, I leapt to a conclusion based on logic and practicality. Boy was I wrong.
- March 29 – I shared the first rendition of the buying cycle back in 2013, well we expanded it in 2016. “Beyond the Buying Cycle” captured an expanded view that looked beyond purchase to the whole customer life cycle, exploring the idea of an “owning cycle” that leads to growth, replacement, or abandoning the effort. We also took experience out of the activity stream concept, feeling it was an underlying element of everything. Here is a look at the updated view:
- Various Dates – Several of my posts in 2016 were promoting our first conference dedicated to the Tech and Service Provider community, the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference. I was the conference chair in the first two years and used the blog to help explain what the conference was all about and why it would be great to attend or sponsor. After a couple of virtual events, we are back in person this year for our 8th event. The conference will be held on June 14-15 in San Diego. The agenda is being finalized now, but you can bet I’ll be talking about buying dynamics. Hope many of you can join us.
- October 4 – “The Differentiation Two-Step” is one of my favorite posts on differentiation ever. In it, I coached folks with innovative products to start by differentiating from the old way of doing things, rather than differentiating against others like them in the first step. Once you make the case for the new way, then highlight what makes you different than others doing similar things. There is the potential to tee up the second step early, but you have to be careful. This is still something I think is important and valuable.
- November 22 – One of the best, and worst, things I’ve done at Gartner was creating the term “The Enterprise Persona.” In “The Enterprise Persona Matters Most in B2B Tech Markets” I introduced the term. Referencing work of Bob Apollo, it took the idea of an ideal customer profile, and attached a new term to it. I mainly did it because of all the focus on personas and a concern, that I expressed earlier about missing the point of the matter–in B2B it is the money of a company that is being spent; not an individual. This turned into a research note that may be the most read of anything I published at Gartner. The downside? It being miss applied. I’ve had many inquiry requests (and figure that analysts focused on personas, segmentation, and ICPs have had more) where I am asked to review a clients “enterprise personas” and the start talking about CIOs, CISOs, Marketing Directors and more. Personas matter, but you need to understand the organization first and foremost.
- November 29 – When possible in our research, we like to contrast what customers do and want with what providers do. In “Buyer/Vendor Disconnects – Reasons for Immediate Rejection” we contrasted what buyers said would cause them to disqualify a vendor with what vendors thought. While there was some agreement, their were big differences in some areas–a pattern we continue to see repeated as we study more and more. It highlights a never ending problem of both customer understanding and adjusting strategies in light of that understanding. It still does not happen enough.
- March 14 – This was an interesting one for me to find. Back then, I asked whether there is “An Over Emphasis on Innovation?” I referenced some of our earlier work on Enterprise Technology Adoption profiles (called Personality Profiles back then) and the fact that only a small % of the market is made up of dynamic companies that welcome change. And yet, we all love to talk about “breakthrough innovation”, “disruption”, “cutting edge”, etc. The research since has truly validated this. Innovation matters, but you need to spend more time helping customers understand how they will get value from that innovation.
- May 9 – Everyone likes to talk about the status quo and how customers prefer it (although we now know it is more nuanced than that. In “The Other Sides of Status Quo-Your Own” I tried to turn the tables. Instead of talking about customers, I decided to talk about the tech provider community, and how many struggle to change and evolve their practices and processes. While we lament customers failure to change; we exhibit much of the same behavior. This still feels worth thinking about today; although I do see significant changes happening in many of our clients (with varying levels of internal resistance).
- May 23 – Today, thoughts about the changing role of categories spin around in my head. Therefore, it was interesting to find “Customer Definition May Be More Important Than Category Definition” back in 2017. In it, I continue my quest to get more definitive about who are your ideal customers and how that framing may make category less important. Today, the combination of a great customer definition and the identification of key value scenarios (use cases that bring the most value) is more important than ever as buyers with less category awareness become more and more active.
- June 27 – The idea of customer definition got another look after our #GartnerTGI conference in June. In “The Soul of Lean Startup is Not MVP” I referenced a keynote by Steve Blank, one of the founders of the Lean Startup movement. The big takeaway for me was that the key to Lean Startup is not the creation of a minimum viable product. They key is Customer Validation and Development. Without it, there is no MVP. This is a lesson worth repeating again and again. It is worth sharing the slide from the presentation again here:
- September 19 -Once an idea gets in my head, I often fixate on it. One of the favorite buzz phrases in B2B Tech is “The Art of the Possible.” Vendors, and many analysts, love this term as it exposes the idea of real breakthrough opportunities. I, on the other hand, kinda hate it. In “Art of the Possible vs. Proven Paths of Success” I again talk about the market as a whole and the majority of customers who prefer to avoid change and risk. I offer some ideas of when you could use Art of the Possible vs. focusing more on how to achieve success and reduce risk. I still talk to this regularly, often proposing stories about “The Art of the Practical.” This might never take hold, but I will keep trying.
- October 3 – Like I said, ideas spin around in my brain. I mentioned value scenarios earlier and in “Scenarios – The Missing Link in Simplifying B2B Buying and Selling” I continued to pull that thread. The post makes the case for having use cases dominate buying requirements and a similar path for vendors. We are doubling down on this idea as we progress into 2023.
- April 10 – I created a “mini-series” of blog posts about “Thing’s I’d Like to See Go Away” in 2018 with the first post being about the Logo Slide. The idea behind these was to highlight areas of improvement from changing approaches. I ended up doing 9 posts in 2018 in the series and a colleague, Stephen White, added a 10th of his own.
- May 1 – As you can tell, a big theme of my posts on messaging is getting to how. What is possible is nice, but how builds confidence. In “The Conceptual How” I offered suggestions on a way to do this without getting mired in every single detail (there may be a time and place for that too, BTW). Instead, lay out a logical story that is the high level picture of how to get value. I still strongly advocate for this.
- June 12 – I have a conflicted view of data. I hugely value the data and insights our research reveals, but I also worry about how it gets applied, most specifically with metrics. Too often, I see people using a metric as though it tells the whole story. in “Metrics Provide Clues, Not Answers” I explored this perspective and discussed some examples of metrics becoming the basis for decision making–without digging into the whole story. This doesn’t just happen with metrics, almost any interesting data point that captures attention requires deeper exploration, but metrics are the most glaring example.
- September 4 – Lately, I’ve been talking about regret a lot–most of 2022. Looking back at 2018, I found the post “Purchase Regret – The Bane of Land and Expand Strategies.” In it, I reference some of the early data on regret from the work of our sales practice. I was largely speculating on how it might impact land and expand approaches–something we confirmed in a study that followed. But the post also explored the idea of easing the buying path. I’m not sure I fully believe that advice any more. The issue is not really how hard vendors make it to buy; it is how customers struggle internally. If we try to make things easier by helping customers address their internal challenges, I’m in. If we try to dumb down our content and think easy means skipping steps, I’m out. More on regret is coming.
- September 18 – I get frustrated with the idea of standardization and memorization. A standard script or a mandated step by step sales process are just too examples that bug me. In “Fundamentals Rarely Change-Situations Do” I discussed this, using a mini-book by Jill Konrath to make the point. When you look at the things that work in most businesses, the core fundamentals rarely change. Things like preparation, customer research, negotiation skills, and more. What does change is the situations. Just like in sports, you don’t use the same plays in the same order every game. Mastering fundamentals opens the door to improvisation and on the fly adjustments. If we spent more time mastering fundamentals (even pro athletes revisit them again and again) and skills to recognize situations, performance would improve dramatically.
- May 28 – I think my first foray into rewriting song lyrics came in “Burning Down the (Messaging) House.” Using lyrics and stories, I sought to create a fun way to express my feeling about messaging documents that get created once, with lots of effort and angst, only to be largely ignored. I also find that these documents create an illusion of memorability in short statements that, in hindsight, are rarely memorable or compelling. This is often because of the watering down process that happens in collaborative reviews. My alternative is story libraries–short stories that provide context and structure to create memories.
- July 2 – We know that buying is down by teams, but one of the most interesting elements of this is that more functionally diverse teams are more effective buyers. In “Integrating Different Perspectives” I explore this idea and offer some suggestions on helping buying teams gain those different perspectives using internal or external resources.
- September 17 – I loved working in startups. The flexibility and constant change was energizing (and challenging). But, in biggest companies, it is easy for that flexibility to disappear. In “Doing What’s Expected vs. What is Needed” I explored this idea in a bit more detail, discussing some situations in my early career and looking at how it impacts employees as companies get more structured. I still strongly feel that an orientation built around rigid role responsibilities gets in the way of creativity, growth, and job enjoyment.
- October 29 – This is one of my favorite posts and goes nicely with the one I just discussed. In “The Scale Excuse” I lament about the (often large company) approach of evaluating any new idea with “will it scale” before even assessing if it could have impact. The post explores my thoughts on what sits behind the excuse (concerns about risk and change and added investment) and offers some ideas on fighting against it. I think this still is super important.
- December 10 – In 2019, we dove into our buying research with an interesting statistical method called MAXDIFF. The approach shifts from asking respondents to explicitly rank items to offering sets of values and then asking respondents to say which of them matters most and least within the set. The options are then presented multiple times in many contexts to compute a score. I find that it is more insightful than traditional ranking. We used this to see that “Risk Mitigated Innovation” mattered most to line-of-business buyers. They wanted advantage opportunities by being one of the early users in their industry, but wanted the risk to be reduced by demonstrated success in other industries. In “What Matters Least to Line-of-Business Buyers” I explored the opposite end of the spectrum–the attributes ranked lowest. The bottom three for these business buyers were time to results, cost, and preferred status in the organization. Those three have been a bastion for many established vendors and products sold to the IT organization. This was an early bellwether of change and a shift to focus on value opportunities.
There was a lot going on early in 2020, so I paused blogging for much of the year. But I still found some interesting posts.
- September 15 – One of the biggest challenges facing tech buying teams is inexperience. They don’t know how to buy. In “Checklists : Critical ‘Confidence’ Content” I made the case for more extensive use of checklists by vendors. I referenced the great book, “The Checklist Manifesto,” that explored the value of simple checklists in improving patient care. The point–checklists help you avoid mistakes. For buyers, checklists can streamline buying through less missed steps and better communications.
- September 22 – The first post I mentioned in this blog was about progressive engagement. In “Word, Slide, and Second Counts Increase Your Appeal to the Mediocre” I came back around to a similar idea. Basically, I made the case that if our focus starts with minimizing because of short attention spans, we actually are appealing to the people who don’t put in the effort to make great decisions. While recognizing shorter is often better, it, like metrics should not be viewed without context. Have you had people look at a presentation, see the slide count, and say it is too long without looking at the style of the pages? I have. The main point is to develop the best story, then seek ways to shorten it or to take a progressive engagement approach.
- September 29 – Three weeks in a row, but this post may be one of my favorite data points from Gartner ever. It came from a study conducted by our marketing practice. In “The Personalization Paradox” I explored the fact that they data showed that personalized content increased engagement. Great. But, buyers who felt content was highly personalized were also much more likely to experience delays. Oops. The data graphic is below, but it just reinforced for me the importance of focusing on ideas that bring buying teams together vs. pushing them apart.
- November 3 – Our Enterprise Technology Adoption Profiles are core to most of our buying research. In “The Challenges of (and with) the Conflicted Customer” I talk about the biggest profile group. Back then, we used the acronym for their attributes (largely because the original nicknames proved to be non reflective of actual behavior). This group is FCM – Flexible Planners (they actually don’t seem to have a plan), Collaborative Control (shared responsibility), and Measured Pace of Change. We have since updated nicknames and call this group the “Conflicted Laggards.” They are important, because there are so many of them, but they are also the most challenging Dive into the post for more details.
- November 17 – Our buying research always highlights interesting ideas. I’d already talked about word, slide, and second counts and how better buyers crave information. I explored this more in “Attitudes Toward Information Signal Buying Effectiveness.” The post started with a mini-pet peeve of mine–blind allegiance to headlines. The big fact “43% of Buyers Feel Strongly that the Volume of Information is Overwhelming” was presented. This often drives some consideration to have less information and content for customers. But, looking at it using ETAs, the picture is different. The more effective buyers (think “Left Side” of the New Chasm) all have less than 30% of respondents that feel that way. The least effective buyers, including the Conflicted Laggards mentioned above, are over 50%. As you evaluate the market stage you are in, this should have a big influence on your content strategy.
- February 9 – Another favorite post was “The Tyranny of More.” It explores how we are seemingly compelled to do more of everything, even when we want to streamline and simplify. We talk about Gartner about producing less research volume and more value, but still produce more and more. We all seem to want more leads. The inertia of more is hard to fight. But we need to. Worth a read as you get started on executing your 2023 plans.
- April 13 – We all understand that there are some differences in generational groups based on the experiences they have lived. In “My Generation – Talking ’bout Generational Factors in B2B Tech Buying” I explored some of these factors as it relates to buying. The jist of it–there are definite generational differences, but those differences are reduced in organizations that are more disciplined in their buying approach. As we continue to look into buying we are seeing gaps in effectiveness driven by the combination of generational issues, buying experience, and org dynamics. More to come on this in 2023. Oh, this one also closed with a song parody.
- April 27 – Our CIO research team has spent a lot of time analyzing the evolution of something we call Fusion teams – cross-functional teams that work together to create or improve technology solutions. One of the core ideas of that study is that teams with better digital judgment delivered better outcomes. In “Digital Judgment – The Skill Set to Fight B2B Frustrations” I explored this idea from the perspective of buying. It relates to the post above, but I fundamentally believe that CIOs and Procurement Teams should be creating, in collaboration with the business to insure it will be balanced, courses in Digital Judgment for all employees. It will help teams look at things from multiple perspectives to reduce issues and surprises.
- May 4 – I took a look at the challenge of change and new ideas in “The Perfect Paralysis Paradox.” The core position was that when we look at new ideas, we often spend time finding their weaknesses to fight acceptance. We want them to be perfect. Even though it is rare if anything we do today is perfect. The post makes the case for trying and learning vs. seeking perfection.
- September 28 – In possibly my most impactful post ever, I introduced the idea of a New Chasm in “The Democratization of Technology Has Created a New B2B Chasm.” I’m sharing the LinkedIn edition since it had a spirited set of comments. The core value is further simplification of the application of Enterprise Technology Adoption profiles and a context for go-to market planning. The New Chasm has dominated my subsequent posts.
- March 15 – Our buying research continues to highlight how disbursed decision making for technology has become. Nothing expressed that better, in my opinion, then “The Long Tail of Technology Decision Makers.” The piece explored the diversity of decision making for major technology purchases, with several different views (one example below). The impact: ABM matters more and you can’t focus on your technology category to define decision makers — you have to look to use cases and value scenarios.
- May 10 – Another week, another song parody. In “Regret: A Song Parody,” I started to tease out the ideas that I would reveal later that summer in the virtual Tech Growth and Innovation Conference keynote. The big idea: Buyers that have high regret took 7 to 10 months longer, on average, that buyers with no regret.
- July 26 – The Gartner Hype Cycle documents are some of our most read. They can be really useful for end users and vendors. But I constantly remind people that they reflect early stage technologies–from inception to the point they reach the early mainstream. In “ETAs and the Hype Cycle” I attempted to map the various ETA profile groups to different stages of the hype cycle. For me the most important idea that came out of the work was the hypothesis that the trough of disillusionment is most impactful when organizations in ETA groups by ahead of their readiness or willingness.
- August 16 – Back in 2014 as mentioned above, I talked a bit about timing of messaging. In “Messaging to Market Stage,” I revisited this with some perspectives shaped by ETAs and the New Chasm. This too is an important post for marketers. Too often, messages are designed to appeal to the most innovative companies, even as markets mature.
- November 8 – Finally, another important post. In “The Effort Effectiveness Crisis,” I used a rowing analogy to bring together many of the ideas mentioned in this post: fundamentals, experience, tyranny of more, quest for scale, and more. The point–we don’t have an effort problem; we have an effectiveness problem. Effectiveness comes with more experience, more focus, and more discipline. Another good read as you kick of 2023.
2023 and Beyond
There you have it. A look back at 10 years of blogging. To be honest, I’m not sure what exactly the future holds (in terms of blogging). I may back off on weekly posts and focus on more impactful ones from time to time (although some of my best have been spur of the moment). I’m sure I’ll continue to look at the impact and challenges of shifting buying behavior on customers and vendors. We’ll see what else works it’s way into the mix.
For those that stayed this far, and any of my readers, thank you for spending your time with my posts. Those that got here are on the positive side of the effort effectiveness group.
The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.
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