One of the questions that I frequently get asked by startup high tech providers is how they can become a Gartner “Cool” vendor. Vendors do not apply to become Cool Vendors. Instead, nominations come directly from Gartner analysts who are familiar with the topic area or market space and the vendor landscape. The nomination and selection process is kept confidential but there are a few details I can share:
- The nominations process begins each January and all the Cool Vendor research is published by the end of spring.
- Any Gartner analyst can write-up and nominate a vendor. And, the vendor doesn’t have to be a Gartner client.
- The vendor must be considered innovative or transformative for products, services or initiatives. Vendors are scored from on a scale of 1-10 across five areas: technology, use of technology, business model, transformative nature, and newness.
- Analysts must have spoken with multiple customers actually using the technology to make sure the product works as advertised and verify they are getting value from the solution.
- The maximum number of cool vendors per report is five.
- A vendor can only appear in ONE cool vendor report.
- A vendor cannot have been previously selected as a Cool Vendor in past years. Previously profiled vendors can only be profiled again in the “retrospective” section of a report.
The bottom line is that you can only get selected once (in a lifetime) as a Cool Vendor so you want to make sure you are selected for the Cool Vendor report that matches your market, topic area, or industry. And, you want to promote the heck out of your Cool Vendor status if selected.
What can you do to increase your chances of being nominated?
- Have a game plan to generate awareness. Don’t wait until January when the Cool Vendor nomination process has already begun. By end of the year prior to Cool Vendor season, analysts have already created their short-list of potential vendors to nominate. Almost all Cool Vendors will have had multiple interactions with Gartner in the year prior to becoming a Cool Vendor.
- Write down the one thing that makes your company or products unique. Avoid marketing-speak. If you look and sound like every other vendor in your market space, then you aren’t cool.
- Is it your cool technology, an innovative business model, or how the technology is being applied to transform an industry?
- Are you using your coolness factor in your marketing collateral, presentations, and website?
- How do customers talk about your company and products? How are you impacting their businesses?
- Identify which Cool Vendor report you want to be profiled. Is your coolness factor relevant for that Cool Vendor report? Are you known in that market or topic area? Who are the analysts that authored the current report? When was the last time you briefed analysts covering this market or topic area? The worse thing (almost) that could happen is that you are written up in the “wrong” Cool Vendor research. An example is that you had an interaction with an analyst and positioned your company as focused on a specific industry vertical (when in fact you offer a cross-vertical solution) and as a result you are selected as a Cool Vendor in an industry-specific report.
- Line up customer references who are willing to speak with Gartner analysts. Make sure they are public references so Gartner can publish their names in the Cool Vendor research. Have these customers tell you in their own words why they think you are innovative (cool). You want to tee up customers who are passionate and excited about your products and can articulate your coolness factor.
- Remember there are a lot of vendors nominated for a limited number of slots in each Cool Vendor research note. And, there are no guarantees that even if you are nominated that you will actually be selected. But if you aren’t selected this year, don’t fret. Continue working the game plan and briefing the key analysts. Nothing speaks louder than customer traction and revenue growth.
You’ve been selected as a Cool Vendor by Gartner, now what?
Being selected as a Cool Vendor provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for a startup. It immediately puts you on the radar of enterprise end-user decision-makers, large vendors, investors, and journalists. Ask almost any company that was selected as a Cool Vendor in the past, it can supercharge your growth trajectory. Since a vendor can only be selected once as a Cool Vendor, you want to immediately purchase reprint rights to the research note and proactively use it as a lead generation and thought leadership tool to market your company and products. Note that vendors must be Gartner clients to purchase reprint rights. You will want to promote your Cool Vendor status on your website, social media, blogging and release a press announcement to tell the world that you are “cool”. Don’t forget to let your installed customer base (and partners) know about your recognition as well; it will reinforce why they chose you and your products in the first place. I also highly recommend you promote your Cool Vendor status on your career page and postings to give candidates another reason to join your company.
Remember: the clock to promote Cool Vendor status starts as soon as the research note is published. You only have 365 days to use the reprint rights before next year’s report is published with the next crop of Cool Vendors.
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