Constellation Research continues expansion with digital marketing appointment

By Dave Noble, IIAR board member & APJ chapter lead

Constellation Research has added to its research portfolio with the appointment of an Australian digital media veteran to lead its coverage of digital marketing transformation, a new research theme which again shifts focus away from traditional IT purchasers and on to business buyers.

Based in Sydney, Gavin Heaton was for five years the leader of social media engagement for SAP’s Premier Customer Network, a CEO peer group encompassing 300 of the software vendor’s most strategic global accounts – not surprisingly, few of these customers are located in the southern hemisphere.

Heaton has an extensive IT and marketing background, having worked with IBM Global Services and DMR Consulting, an Australian services firm acquired by Fujitsu, and then as director of interactive with marketing agency Creata, where he lead the global digital strategy for McDonalds.

He also walks the talk. Heaton is a prolific tweeter and blogger – his Servant Of Chaos blog is one of most-read business sites in Australia and a source of constantly-updated insights into what’s happening in social media, digital strategy and related business issues. He is also a passionate advocate of crowd-sourcing, micro-financing and other community-based, social media-enabled processes.

The appointment of a single analyst is not news in itself – this brings Constellation’s roster to just 13, most of whom don’t work full-time for the firm under its “franchised” model. Nor should it be seen as a geographic play, rather it’s another data point in the ongoing discussion about the changing roles and focus of the analyst business.

In the IIAR APJ Forum on new & emerging analyst firm business models a couple of weeks ago, Constellation founder R “Ray” Wang talked about the firm’s focus away from traditional IT purchasers.

“We’re focused on business needs and business challenges – we’re not focused on technologies, or roles, or markets… we’re targeting people who are buying from the business side, not IT,” he said.

According to Constellation’s press release on the appointment of Heaton, his research will focus “on the changing role and expectations of CMOs, the fusion of marketing channels and change-driven marketing innovation, [and] expand Constellation’s ability to provide digital marketing research and advisory services to its early adopter clients worldwide.”

In a blog post discussing his new role, Heaton continued the theme of disruption in IT spending. “There is no doubt that we are seeing a dramatic shift in the role of marketing. Advertising is under pressure, social is changing our customer relationships and the consumerisation of IT is changing the way we do our work. There has never been so much change or opportunity…” he wrote.

From an AR perspective, this trend is a challenging one. While traditional analyst firms have fairly clearly focused on influencing purchasing through IT departments (or working directly with vendors), the business buyers are a little less obvious. Vendor sales forces don’t necessarily target business buyers – yes, some do, but many don’t – which makes aligning AR to sales a much tougher proposition.

Social media influence on enterprise IT buyers of any stripe is also still unresolved, but it’s a trend that AR pros cannot ignore. Once again, though, the level of focus that AR should apply to this channel is unresolved, and varies considerably depending on the product/solution portfolio.

It’s the speed of movement – not necessarily change – in this space that makes it both interesting and challenging. Current information and insight has more value than research published only a few months ago, but it doesn’t always make it more correct. (Though I must give Gavin Heaton a thumbs-up in that respect – his Twitter, LinkedIn and Servant of Chaos bios were all updated within hours – if not minutes – of this announcement).

It’s a bit lame not to come to a solid conclusion with a piece like this, but this is still an evolving space. AR pros need to watch, listen & learn and – picking up a few tips from the analysts driving the agenda here – engage outside the traditional IT purchasing silos.

And ask questions of these new firms and new analysts. And ask questions of your peers – that’s what these platforms are all about.

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