Vendor briefings are part of what it means to be a Gartner analyst. They’re an important input into the constellation of data we collect to form insights about vendor and provider categories and ecosystems.
We value the time and preparation vendors put into these sessions and genuinely appreciate it when they’re taken seriously. But, if we’re being brutally honest here, the usefulness of briefings varies widely.
From time to time, other Gartner analysts have shared their thoughts on the characteristics of the most and least effective vendor briefings. I thought I’d share a few of my own, FWIW.
Four Patterns (Do these things!)
- Cut to the chase—Some vendors consume the first 20 minutes with the equivalent of throat clearing, including long introductions, rhetorical wind ups and boilerplate background on the company. The best briefings cut to the chase. These vendors keep the preamble to a slide or two, recognizing that analysts will generally skulk around on their website before the briefing.
- Lead with examples—Analysts have an insatiable appetite for examples, both in the form of use cases and case studies. The best briefings tell your story through the lens of specific customer examples, generic use cases and day-in-the-life usage scenarios. Make the abstract concrete.
- Show, don’t tell—Demonstrable products, specific data and referencable customers offer proof; everything else, nice as it may sound, is a bunch of words. Make it tangible. Make it visual. Make it real. Demo everything that’s demonstrable. Some analysts disagree on this last point, but I’ll always vote for the demo (but don’t let features drive the demo; see lead with examples).
- Admit what you don’t do—Depending who you ask, there are between 2500 and 4000 vendors in the digital marketing ecosystem. That’s a lot to keep track of, even for those of us who do this for a living. I wrote a blog post on what I describe as the convergence of everything, which is more of a pathology born of hyperbole than some actual marketplace phenomenon. The convergence of everything is the perception that everyone does everything. It’s easy to check boxes. It’s easy to say, yep, we do that. The best spokespeople are honest and forthcoming. They’re equally clear and articulate about what their product does—and what it doesn’t do.
Four Anti-patterns (Don’t do these things!)
- Preach to the choir—That you’re passionate about your market is what makes you a great spokesperson for your company. But occasionally this passion mutates into something else. Remember that Gartner analysts follow your market, in many cases, in great depth. And while we do want to hear how you see the market evolving, much of the time, you’re preaching to the choir. Tell us how you see things, but please remember your audience and keep it tight and bright.
- Say “we have no competitors”—If you ever want to raise the hackles (and heckles) of a Gartner analyst, please, go ahead and say you have no competitors. Whether it’s a direct competitor or simply an alternative approach, very few companies can credibly make this claim. Even if you have to squint and hold your nose while deigning to utter their name, help us understand how your customers may have thought to solve this problem before you showed up. Oh, and when you mention competitors, please don’t disparage them. That’s tacky.
- Insist on a two-way dialogue—Feedback is reserved for Gartner clients (which you may or may not be) and it’s delivered as part of scheduled inquiries, not in vendor briefings. We’ll ask questions, for sure, but please understand our need to honor these engagement boundaries.
- Make it about you—How do I put this delicately? From time to time, a spokesperson seems to forget that they’re not interviewing for a job or reuniting with old high school pals. Long recitations on your resume and track record, as impressive as they often are, are only marginally relevant to the purpose of the briefing—and, frankly, not all that endearing. To be fair, this is only a semi-occasional phenomenon. The best spokespeople, mercifully, represent their companies, not themselves.
I hope this is useful. Please feel free to add your patterns and anti-patterns in the comments below.