Blog post

How (Not) To Brief an Analyst

By Martin Kihn | September 04, 2014 | 2 Comments


Recently, I received a self-description from a vendor seeking to brief moi on their product strategy. It began thus:

Conventional B2B lead gen relies on stagnant data that’s outdated and completely useless . . .

Notice anything? A certain suboptimal twist of phrase? (See Don’t #9, below.)

It’s vendor briefing high season here at Gartner for Marketing Leaders HQ. I’ve sat through dozens of confabs in recent weeks and anticipate dozens more in the weeks to come. Most are handled adroitly and are a sparkling use of time.

Some . . . well, less so.

Herewith is my entirely subjective, unofficial list of:

9 Don’ts (and 1 Do) When You’re Briefing an Analyst

  1. Don’t Not Show Up — There are many graces granted an industry analyst, but an excess of unscheduled time isn’t one of them. We’re no more busy than you are, of course, but we are equally busy. Not showing up does not project an aura of leadership. Enough said.
  2. Don’t Have Lurkers — Some organizations have platoons of lurkers dispatched to analyst calls — they simply sit, muted, identified only by a number on the WebEx roll. Who are they? If you’re worried about technical questions (which is fair enough), bring an engineer. Dozens of silent partners make me nervous.
  3. Don’t Have No Slides, Unless You’re an Actual Genius — Slides are passé, outré, je ne sais quoi, and many other French expressions. But they have advantages. In moderation, they can support info you are sketching verbally. They are a reminder of high points. And they can provide the outline of what one hopes is a rousing narrative. At the very least, they don’t hurt. If you’re a genius, well, these rules don’t apply — but you already knew that.
  4. Don’t Say, “We want to make this interactive!— This is the most common phrase I’ve heard in analyst briefings this past year. I’d say a good half of them include this statement word for word. I’m not sure why. In addition to being unoriginal, it’s unnecessary. We will interrupt. Trust me on this. We can’t help ourselves. It will be interactive.
  5. Don’t Say You’re “a real-time customer-centric omnichannel Big Data cloud solution on Hadoop [more buzzwords here] — Of course you’re customer-centric and work across channels and process a lot of data. Who doesn’t? For me personally, the best briefings are conducted in English and not marketingese.
  6. Don’t Skip the Rules of Rhetoric — Meaning, don’t forget to (1) tell us what you’re going to tell us (e.g., a table of contents), (2) tell us, and (3) tell us what you told us (brief recap). This way we’re sure what your Top 5 points are, and we’re sure that you’re sure, too.
  7. Say What You Do Right Away — This may be a personal preference, but I don’t need a lot of slides up front laying out the landscape. You know, the marketing-is-disrupted mobile game-changing millenials-have-money type things. The briefing should be about your company. Say what your product does right away. No need for suspense.
  8. Don’t Call Yourself “Game-Changing” or “Revolutionary” — Turn this around for a moment. Imagine I came onto the briefing call and introduced myself as a “game-changing and revolutionary analyst.” Would you not pause a moment and wonder if I were not, perhaps, exaggerating. If you were a generous soul, you’d think: I’ll be the judge of that. If you’re truly revolutionary, believe me, we’ll notice.
  9. Don’t Say Your Competitors Are Idiots — The rules of high-school sports apply here, I think. Please talk about how your strategy is different, you offer features competitor X doesn’t have, you have a solution that is 2X faster than competitor Y. But don’t make the mistake of calling all other options worthless. They aren’t.
  10. Do Gossip Off-the-Record — We’re people too and love to talk to industry insiders. It’s our vocation. Before, after — even during — a briefing, please go off script from time to time and share insider info, news, opinions. It’s endearing. We won’t share it publicly.

Finally, I’m sure many analysts feel the way I do: we have a lot of respect for people who start and run companies, and we are honored to listen to you describe what you’re doing. We enjoy it and learn from it. We are not judging you and probing for weaknesses but honestly trying to understand what you’re up to and how it fits in our understanding the industry. If I had more courage and wildfire, I’d be on the other end of the phone. Don’t think I don’t know it.

Thanks for briefing.

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  • Akbar Jaffer says:

    I had some flashbacks while reading your post. So true. Most industry analysts have been around the block a few times and they see right through BS. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • jan zlotnick says:

    Add one more: Don’t Not Print This Out and Pin to Whiteboard . 🙂 Thanks, Chris!