Guest posts – Analysts – Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR) The IIAR is a not-for-profit organisation established to raise awareness of analyst relations and the value of industry analysts, promote best practice amongst analyst relations professionals, enhance communication between analyst firms and vendors, and offer opportunities for AR practitioners to network with their industry peers. Tue, 05 Feb 2019 21:56:32 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 76177372 [GUEST POST] Looking Back at Three Analyst Firms by Barry Rabkin / Market Insight Group Tue, 05 Feb 2019 21:21:31 +0000 By Barry Rabkin (LinkedIn, @Impactoftech), President & Principal Analyst, Market Insight Group, Ltd.


Barry Rabkin / Market Insights GroupI was fortunate to become an insurance industry analyst in 1997.

Before that time, I had worked in the business side of the insurance industry for 17 years (primarily in marketing and/or market research across all major lines of business) and then due to, what was to prove a very lucky event in hindsight, being caught up in a purge from John Hancock, becoming a management consultant. After eight years as a management consultant, I got and grabbed the opportunity to become an insurance industry analyst. I definitely found my true professional love being a part of the analyst community. [One difference between a management consultant and an analyst? Analysts don’t have to be nice!]

My insurance industry analyst experience included leading or launching and leading insurance strategic advisory services in the US and the UK. Looking back at those experiences at META Group, Financial Insights (IDC), and Ovum, these highlights standout to me. BTW Before going into my highlights I want to state that I respected all three firms for not being just vertical (i.e. industry) analyst firms but instead were homes for analysts from a large variety of IT and Telco disciplines as well as having vertical analysts.

I continue to not understand where analysts who work for analyst firms that cover only industries (i.e. only insurance or only insurance, banking, and capital markets) get their IT and/or Telco information. I felt blessed that I could walk over or talk to IT or Telco analysts. Part of my role as an insurance industry analyst was to understand and learn what the IT and/or Telco analysts considered to be trends, issues, challenges, and implications, in their respective fields and then repurpose their ideas, where appropriate, for the insurance segments I was covering.

From 1997 on, I quickly discovered that “the world is not flat” – what may seem to be an important emerging technology (or even a maturing technology) really wouldn’t capture the insurance industry lines of business at anywhere near the pace that the IT or Telco analyst thought it would. I carried a large number of sharp pins to prick their balloons when we discussed the insurance industry – or really, specific insurance lines of business.

The Three Analyst Firms

Returning to the title of my post, here are my key take-aways for each of the three analyst firms:

META Group

  • Very strong analysts – they knew their technology and industry spaces cold.
  • Very opinionated analysts (which I totally loved) – to this day I continue to feel / behave as if I am still a Meta Group analyst.
  • Analysts used sparingly by the consulting area – the philosophy was to use analysts as subject matter experts but don’t take up their time pursuing consulting engagements. (Analysts exist to research, do analysis, write reports, deliver presentations, and be briefed by firms or brief firms.)
  • Analysts ‘took a stand’ but changed their position as they ‘got smarter’ from more research and ‘talking to their market.
  • Short reports (about 1,200 words MAX) but each analyst had to write 6 – 8 reports / month.
  • Coherent themes for the analyst firm and simultaneously for each service area.
  • Had freedom to create an insurance research agenda that aligned with the Meta themes – still left a huge opportunity area.
  • Analysts’ text took priority over the editors – correct the grammar but do not replace the analyst’s text.
  • Quick editorial process – get those reports published !!

Financial Insights, IDC

  • Strong analysts but nice people, really nice people – I once told one of my colleagues that if IDC analysts were any nicer I would need an insulin shot.
  • Quite a few templates to write our reports – quite a few templates. But I didn’t think the templates were ‘over-engineered’ as some of my IDC colleagues.
  • Significantly more than analysts “who count boxes.” Quite a brush-back I almost always heard from Gartner analysts (and only Gartner). Didn’t take me long to realize that IDC analysts are waaaaayyyy more than box-counters.
  • However, IT Spend is a critical component / theme for IDC – ironically, I don’t believe in IT Spend at all. Not even an iota. I care about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ but not the ‘how much’ or ‘how many.’ IDC analysts cover that entire spectrum of those facets.
  • Relatively efficient editorial process – with the right attitude that editors shouldn’t re-write what an analyst has written (except correcting grammaritical mistakes).
  • Still shocked that our reports didn’t have an Executive Summary – but the 3 – 5 bullet points on the first page served that purpose.
  • I was part of a great global team of insurance industry analysts – and it was global: Canada, London, Italy, and Singapore. I always reminded the team that when we crafted our annual research agenda to change it however they felt necessary because they knew their regional significantly better than I ever could.
  • Colleagues from other parts of the world – and other practices – graciously agreeing to participate in the areas around the globe where we didn’t have insurance industry analysts.
  • I did run into some IDC analysts in my first year who told me that they never would have hired me once they found out I came from The META Group. (That gave me a few chuckles ….)
  • Used analysts in consulting engagements, including pursuit teams. Analysts had a consulting component of their compensation. Hated it.

Ovum (an Informa Company)

  • Gave me an opportunity to better understand first-hand the issues and challenges that insurers faced around the world, specifically Europe and Asia-Pacific.
  • Erroneously believed that one insurance industry analyst, or two analysts for that matter, could cover the entire planet. Insurance regulatory differences make that impossible (even if the one analyst or the two analysts are willing to work without any sleep).
  • Strong analysts including extremely strong Telco analysts – it quickly became apparent that Ovum’s roots were in Telco.
  • Editorial process (peer review and editing) that served to slow down the production of analyst reports.
  • Editorial process that erroneously was built to enable the editors to over-ride what the analyst wrote (beyond grammatical errors).
  • Reports that were too long – really too long … and when I first got there were organized as books with chapters. Books !! I continue to believe if an analyst has a lot of material the analyst should write multiple reports.
  • Far too much emphasis on head-to-head (i.e. Decision Matrices) for my taste – yes, they are important but they take way too long and analyst areas with three of fewer analysts shouldn’t be asked to do any H2H reports.
  • Analysts from various services were happy to collaborate – significantly different from IDC where some of the analysts would only collaborate if their service got a % of the subscription price (of the analyst asking for collaboration) or wanted to be shown as a co-author even if the collaboration was a short paragraph.
  • Wonderful approach to help analysts not just understand issues their market faces by sending the analyst to different parts of the world – got me to Australia twice and New Zealand once to visit clients and prospects.
  • However, wouldn’t tackle North American when I was with Ovum. Yes, there is a whole world out there but not being willing to compete with IDC, Gartner, and Forrester in North America is myopic IMO.
  • Used analysts in consulting engagements. Analysts had a consulting component of their compensation. Hated it.


If I had a magic wand, I’d combine META Group and Financial Insights, IDC into the analyst firm that I’d want to work. (I would eliminate the IT Spend and, of course, any head-to-head reports.)

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Around Giorgio Nebuloni from IDC in 10 questions Tue, 04 Sep 2018 15:04:44 +0000

We have had the pleasure for Giorgio taking time out of his busy schedule to take part in our infamous 10 questions. Giorgio is a research director for IDC’s  European Infrastructure and Cloud research and leads the team of analysts responsible for tracking the cloud infrastructure, server, storage and converged systems markets in Western Europe.

What are your coverage areas?

My main focus area is European infrastructure, a broad spectrum of things ranging from Multicloud management software to service provider datacenters. I’m also increasingly involved in this year’s research sprints (we call them Launchpads) around emerging technologies (Quantum, Edge, Blockchain…) driven by brilliant analysts across multiple IDC teams.

What are your opinions of the IT Analysis Marketplace and where do you see it going?

Analysing the analysts! Three trends I see: the traditional need for ad-personam advisory to IT buyers is not only steady but increasing. With technology topics becoming ever more complex (see the interdependencies of Multicloud, or political nature of Blockchain use cases or AI’s ethical dilemmas), leaders need fact-and face-based opinions more than ever. The second is the changing nature of data. Data are the wheels of any self-respecting research vehicle. In the 3rd Platform era, generating data differently, from new sources and manipulating it better and faster than ever before is crucial. The third is the growing connection between branding, marketing and analyst house services – i.e. the analyst company becoming a digital agency.

What’s your typical day like?

The day starts at breakfast or in the bus, swiping through emails. After that it’s a lot of “Can you guys hear me alright?”, pulling out the toothpaste at security LHR T2 and providing feedback on reports and deliverables. The fun part are workshops or improvised whiteboard meetings with customers, and the unpredictable, sometimes heated conversations with IT buyers at our events. Also enjoyable are the rare isolation days (often in summer heat) with a piece of paper and pen, drawing the research agenda for the next months.

Now, c’mon, tell me an AR horror story?

Not a horror – but a thriller story. I’ve once attended an analyst event linked to a broader customer conference where the facilities were just not fit (or not booked properly). The poor AR person spent two days leading a bunch of analysts (distracted fellas in general) across ultra-crowded, immense halls from one meeting room to another, holding a tourist guide sign and a megaphone. In rare cases did the analysts arrive on time. In some cases they never made it to the meeting room. I think a couple of analysts are still roaming in that conference center (haven’t seen them since). In another case I flew into Vegas on the promise of an analyst track with executives – except there was no such thing, only technical sessions. Learnt my lesson on asking for agendas then!

What is your research methodology?

The ideas stem from anecdotal discussions with “Pathfinder” IT buyers and other IDC analysts. The proof points from primary research in form of small to large surveys. The hard data on market numbers from vendor conversations and guidance process.

Any favourite AR professional you’d like to mention? Any why?

Most of AR folks I know are great and enable easy access to vendor executives. I’ve worked closely and for a long time with Jos Baltes (HPE) who is not only hyper-responsive but also great to get a beer with. Most recently Caroline Dennington (NetApp) adds the British humour (!) – Antonella Crimi (Equinix) and Anna Carzana (AMD) the Italian flair. I’m missing several I know – impossible to mention all!

Tell us about one good AR practice you’ve experienced or one good AR event you’ve attended.

I’ve recently attended a one-day analyst-only event where keynotes were kept to less than 1 hour and most of the day was spent on one-to-ones, with some breaks in between. I thought it was great – even if I ended up talking myself dry. A good AR practice is booking events in the calendar well in advance – even if analysts themselves are sloppy RSVPers!

What are your offerings and key deliverables? 

Within my team, we deliver on a subscription program with report, surveys and customer enquiries; release multiple Tracker datasets on a quarterly basis and work on challenging custom project advising vendors and buyers on infrastructure-related decisions. A recent one I liked was advisory work for a custom chipset manufacturer to identify and position their Edge Computing and Gateway strategy.

Any hobbies or favourite restaurant / food that you’d like to share?

With a mixed Asian-Italian family we are way too fussy about food. For the Londoners – L’oro di Napoli in South Ealing. For the Frankfurters – Sushi Boy in Eschersheimer Tor; Lam Freres in Bahnhofsviertel.

What is your biggest challenges for the upcoming 6 months? And for the next 30 mn?

Selecting what NOT to do or cover is the tough one for the next 6 months. With Innovation Accelerators kicking off it’s like the candy shop, but one can’t do everything properly! Next 30 minutes getting home on time for dinner!

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[GUEST POST] What I Learned from 5 Years at Gartner Mon, 23 Jul 2018 14:57:32 +0000 Martin Kihn / ex. Gartner, now DentsuMonday — on what would have been my five-year anniversary at Gartner — I left to join Dentsu Aegis Network. It was a good span at a well-run company doing God’s (technical) work. It was simply time.

When I was a management consultant, I couldn’t describe what I did. Not to my parents, not to strangers. Not in a way that convinced them I had a real occupation, and maybe I didn’t.

Try describing what an “industry analyst” does: “Research, writing, 30-minute consulting engagements.”

“But you can’t solve any problem in 30 minutes.”

“Just watch me.”

“You don’t know anything about the company.”

“I know something.”

“But — but — but –”

The assumption most people make is that marketing problems are unique. Perfect knowledge of the context, the company, its tech stack is required to construct a solution. This assumption is false.

Marketing problems are not unique. There are just a few of them, with variations. It’s the solutions that get complicated.

Anyone can make good progress on a problem in 30 minutes, but they have to really know the problem. Most of the time, they don’t.

My particular areas of coverage were ad campaign measurement, including multitouch attribution (MTA) and marketing mix modeling (MMM); other marketing analytics; and programmatic advertising, particularly data management platforms (DMP) and demand-side platforms (DSP).

So most of my inquiries took the form of: “How can I measure the impact of my ad campaigns?” … or, “How do I organize my campaign data for targeting and measurement?”

Those were the real questions. See what I mean: Not unique. Any marketer could (should) ask them.

The trouble is, the way they are originally phrased in the meeting invitation makes them sound like some fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls. “We’re in the process of spinning up a 360 view of the customer and we need to find a universal ID we can map to our CRM and MCCM but the customer files are all sitting in the data warehouse we think …”

Real question: “How do I organize my customer data?”

There is no 360 view of the customer. Give it up. Marketing profiles are by nature incomplete. They should be. We’re not building an encyclopedia. If we did, we wouldn’t have time to read it. We need only one piece of information: the right one.

  • She really wants a pair of red shoes now. She’s not price sensitive.
  • He secretly wants to test drive that Tesla but has to convince his boyfriend it’s safe.
  • The only thing he really loves are Bernese mountain dogs.

These are far from 360 but are perfect for marketing.


Vendors can’t pay their way into a Wave or Magic Quadrant

Most clients of analyst firms do not use the service enough. They mistake it for a Delphic Oracle that is sometimes wrong, rather than a research tap that is often right. Ask a question in advance. Most analysts — like me — spend time preparing for the call. This is called research-on-demand.

Sometimes I think research is my only real talent. And then I remember that I am also a dog trainer. And then — then I realize I am very bad at that.

Vendors sometimes believe analyst firms do P.R. for them or they can pay their way onto a Wave or Magic Quadrant. I have been deep inside the machine, my friends. This belief is not true.


The real benefit is analyst inquiries, not the research subscriptions

There’s not even much of a benefit to being a client, unless you want to use the service as a service, like other clients. It can help you craft your story, improve your pitch, not sound like everyone else; anticipate end user needs, murmurs in the market; help you emerge from the bubble wrap of hermetic V.C.-and-conference-speak, which seems — from what I can see — to be much better at building brilliant solutions to invisible problems than at finding problems that need to be solved.

Most marketers are not advanced. The real disease we all have is an inability to admit we have no idea what real gangstas are talking about.

“I just wish I were more technical,” a very well-regarded ad tech analyst told me recently.

“We all do,” I said. And it’s true.

Our agenda this year should be to admit what we don’t know, not promote what we do. Don’t nod along if the point is obscure. The talker is faking it anyway. Nobody knows the difference between A.I. and machine learning or why they’re conflated or how to get to a local maxima or why you need XG Boost today when a simple gradient descent algorithm worked yesterday … it’s okay.

If you knew it all you’d be dead, right? There is perfect knowledge in silence. It takes a lifetime to be a good mystic too.


Most vendors are bad at briefing analysts

Most vendor briefings are just not very good. They are too long. They wander from the point. From too many it is impossible — and I say this as an intelligent insider who knows a thing or two about your market — completely impossible to say what the product does, exactly.

You don’t do everything. You don’t sell to everyone. Pick your fight. The best predictor I know of a doomed start-up is not a weak board or a psychotic founder, it is a polished pitch deck.

The best start-ups I’ve met are modest and clear, friendly and fairly honest. They do not spend five slides telling me that Millennials crave experience and mobile is the new Web. They do not say the DMP or email or apps are dead. They do not say anything is dead or that everyone else “just doesn’t get it.”

Above all, they do not say they have no competitors.

Think about it, people. Who has no competitors? Who? I’ll tell you. People who are in a market that doesn’t exist. Delusionals. Hallucinators.

Use 12 slides. Don’t have any set-up. Tell me what you do. Name your three competitors. Say what about your tech is proprietary, original, or interesting. Explain the things you’re going to improve. Describe your funding. I liked a demo, if there’s time.

Maybe once or twice a year, I encountered a new company that seemed to me like a winner. I’m trying to think why. They had very little spin and a lot of technical detail, but not as hype. They seemed to be engineers talking to a blogger rather than sales people who had read some white papers. They were somewhat awkward, informal. And their products all emerged from a technical discovery – a thesis, an experimental approach, an application of some new platform to an persistent problem.

A problem like: “How do I reactivate dormant customers?” or “How can I link records faster?” or “What is the real LTV?”

And they all wanted to learn. What have you heard? Is this thing needed? Are we lost in emotion?

Good products take off fast. They surprise their creators with momentum.


Take time off. As much as you can.

If I can indulge in a reflection, I also learned some things about myself. It is important to manage burnout, whatever your age. Working life is a marathon. I’m not talking about getting enough sleep or eating right or exercising; you know that. I mean in the long run, over years, managing a build-up of stress that tears you down from the inside until — one day — you realize you simply can not make another phone call, write another document.

The only way to recover from this situation is to take time off work. As much time as you can afford.

But don’t let yourself get there. You can avoid it. Take vacations. Cultivate a hobby that has nothing to do with your work. Get a Bernese mountain dog. Get married. Hike alone.

Don’t fight fear. Live bravely. Smile more. What we forget about the Hero’s Journey is that it does not change the world. That is not the point.

The journey changes us. We are our only real problem.


By Marty Kihn (@martykihn, LinkedIn), originally published here. Subheads have been added by the editor.

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[GUEST POST] How not to be an analyst? By Jon Collins Tue, 29 May 2018 14:38:15 +0000 Today’s guest post is a long(wish) read by Jon Collins from GigaOm (LinkedIn, @jonno) following our IIAR Webinar on “How not to be an industry analyst?

If you enjoy this, why not check his “How not to write an autobiography?


Jon Collins: How not to be an industry analyst (IIAR website)Introduction – a glass of wine…

For a start, a bit of background. I never meant to be an industry analyst, not as such: indeed, having done my time as a programmer, then IT manager and various forms of consultant, I hadn’t a clue what one was. Back in 1998, I was responsible for training and other informational services at a mid-sized consulting firm when a report from a company called “Butler Group” came across my desk. That was my first connection with the world of analysts.

A year or so later, I was looking for something new (a cyclic habit in my career); I was also drinking a rather fine glass or two of red, when I stumbled across an advert from Bloor Research. With my inhibitive defences down, I banged off an email straight away.  I barely had time to regret it, as the following Monday I went for an interview… and the rest is an 18-year career.

These were exciting times. At the turn of the millennium the dot-com was still bubbling up: we launched a couple of web sites and face to face forums at the time (IT-Director and IT-Analysis) and set to making the most of the complexity and uncertainty, charging for clarity and simplicity. I remain proud of my 2001 report about the inevitable move towards universal service provision. We call it the cloud these days.

I paraphrase history, but by and large, analyst firms emerged in the mid-1990’s, as attention moved from bespoke ‘turnkey’ solutions and towards custom-built software. From there, they made sure to cover the space like any good ecosystem. So, has anything changed, over the past two decades?

I have worked for a variety of smaller firms and I have done a short stint at a bigger one —IDC. I’ve spent an awful lot of time hanging out with analysts, AR professionals and the firms they represent. I’ve also spent some time not being analyst, working behind the scenes to help some of the largest vendors tell their stories. And this, to an extent, is mine.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the C.S.Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters — written from an old devil to a little demon? In a similar vein, I thought I’d capture some of the things I might tell my younger self. As they say, getting it wrong is the best form of experience, and it is good to share.

Analyse, don’t preach (the clue is in the name)

Jon Collins: analyse, don't preach (IIAR website)What’s an analyst, anyway? While this is a very good question, you can vanish up your own rear trying to understand how or why you are trying to understand things. I didn’t have any such challenge: when I started, an empty vessel, I was just pointed in the right direction, wound up and sent off — with some excellent mentors to guide me.

Had I not had such guidance, I would advise myself, simply, to start analysing. Luckily enough, I’d always done that, both as a consultant and beforehand (as one client said, “Of course, I knew all of that, but it’s nice to see it all in one place.”). The job is to make sense of all this complexity — you can prioritise areas that are less well understood, or you can keep a count of what’s being sold, or any other area you fancy.

Simply doing research makes you an analyst, for better or worse. Back to my client’s glib remark, analysts are service providers first and foremost, outsourced intellectual services to help all kinds of powerdecision makers with over-stocked brains. Consulting firms, publications such as HBR, journalists and indeed vendors do pretty good analysis: I often think we stand on the shoulders of giants, but in doing so we can sometimes see that little bit further.

As a result, a certain kudos surrounds being an analyst: indeed, the more analysts are seen as high priests of insight, the more true it becomes. A few grey hairs can be an advantage, as these add to that all-important gravitas (a word I learned early on, hat-tip to James Cooper). But, I would advise my younger self against prima-donna-ish behaviour, or seeing this privileged position as a soap-box to preach from.


Don’t get distracted by influenceJon Collins: don't get distracted by influence (IIAR website)

Being an analyst also means you are not an artist. The latter group struggle with the dilemma of the purity of creative thought, versus the dingy world of commerciality (though everyone has to eat). As analysts an insight service, it is wise to make this what people are prepared to pay for. Which generally means ‘business and IT decision makers’ alongside other stakeholder groups — investors as well as the broader technology community.

This opens the door to a wide variety of business models, touching many points in a complex web of decision making cycles. No restrictions exist on analyst business models: vendors may be prepared to pay for certain things, as may end-user businesses, government institutions and so on. A pan-governmental grant to research the current thinking and practice of AI may result in the same outputs as a vendor-financed, or a subscription-based report.

Of course, some will look to put categories on all this. There’s a school of thought which says that analysts only matter if they influence the moment of hard-nosed purchasing, within the enterprise buying cycle. While it’s true that contract negotiations are very important (and those who can impact it will be pretty powerful), it makes for a pretty myopic view. Wherever people are looking for insight to help their decisions, if you can reduce costs and increase benefits, you are worth having around.

Debates around the nature of influence ultimately boil down to this, but the truth is that just as technology is becoming increasingly fragmented, dynamic and complex, so are the decisions and insights around it. Developers and engineers, outsourcing managers, and indeed lines of business are all players in the game; meanwhile, vendors want to be around for the longer term, even as they focus on shorter-term revenues.

Influence is a two-edged sword. It is thought analysts can have an opinion on anything, particularly by journalists approaching a deadline (“We need an analyst comment!” “Who’s available?”). This can be flattering (as well as offering the oxygen of publicity) but it is shallow. Equally, keynote speaking and writing branded marketing materials are fine if the research exists to back them up, but presenting opinion as fact or worse, endorsing a vendor’s position for money, creates a steep and slippery slope.

I would argue you should be insightful first, influential second. Celebrities can impact stock markets, but for all the wrong reasons. So, find a research-based model that works for a decision making audience you consider worth targeting.


Jon Collins: Beware of silo-ed thinking (IIAR website)Beware of silo-ed thinking

The above kind of assumes you have any say in business models, which the majority of analysts do not, as they work for bigger firms. The point still stands however, that the analyst’s job is to offer insight-driven guidance to decision makers. One challenge faced by bigger firms more than smaller firms is that of inertia, and therefore thinking, so models and practices can become out of date.

For example, ‘consumerisation’ is still sometimes seen as a bad thing, and for sure, if you are a vendor used to selling to the IT department, you won’t want to see their power undermined. But it’s equally important to understand how lines of business are increasingly empowered — the flip-side of consumerisation. You won’t find a quadrant for that; indeed, recent research I was involved in showed that technology-related information wasn’t really reaching business decision makers.

Examples are frequent, and indeed, undermine the credibility of the entire industry which is still largely oriented around product selection criteria and models, even if it makes role-based tweaks or puts out thought leadership papers. “Market sizing the cloud/GDPR/IoT/Hadoop etc” statements are reflections of multiple worlds colliding. Meanwhile, while scope is important, it can lead to silos of thought: cf “That’s a layer 7 problem,” “It’s all about management,” “Nobody cares about security,” and “that’s not an enterprise procurement decision.”

On the upside, as well as offering a better service to end-user-business-decision-maker and other clients, there can be career and commercial advantage in being able to change or broaden your thinking. As well as, simply, knowing that your views are congruent with what’s actually going on. I know, working for a big firm can feel like you are spending more time engaging in internal battles and getting views heard than actually doing the job, but it is still highly advisable to start from the perspective of what’s real

The trick is to be able to change your thinking. This is different from changing your mind: the latter assumes it was just an opinion anyway, whereas the former implies that you are working on the level of how the world is changing, rather than a more superficial view. This does come back to the power of research, as then an analyst is learning, and talking from a position of genuine, defensible authority. Research should guide both the current thinking and how it is framed.


Jon Collins: There's no "I" in analyst (IIAR website)There’s no ‘I’ in analyst

In being an Industry Analyst, you are analysing an industry. I know that’s obvious but the truth lies behind these two innocuous words. I’ve covered analysis above; meanwhile, the tech industry is an increasingly complex and distributed, dynamic and amorphous. It’s also, as I have learned over the past three decades, about people. People doing clever things; people brokering relationships; people making mistakes and adopting coping strategies. It’s an ecosystem of folks interacting with tech.

None of us are acting in isolation: when an analyst puts out unsubstantiated opinion which unfairly criticises a vendor, that reflects as much if not more on the analyst. Even more innocuously, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle comes into play: by measuring things, you can affect their behaviour. Whatever we think about quadrants or waves, they provide a great service in creating market spaces which then help technology decision makers understand what is going on.

As a result, it is incumbent on the analyst to recognise their own role in the ecosystem. An analyst can never be truly, 100% independent of the industry. The notion of an independent analyst is as flawed as it is misused: some see it to mean vendor-independent, while others see it as big-firm-independent; neither will be true if pushed to its logical conclusion, not only because there are no luddite analysts, but also because no analyst operates in isolation of the ecosystem he or she represents.

It’s a reason why the pay-per-play question — “If I spend money on Gartner, will I be more talked about?” will never fully go away. If vendors are not investing in analyst conversations, then they may not be heard so well. Of course there is room for abuse, but even without such a possibility, all stakeholders stand to gain from investing in the relationship.

These truths also play out in terms of the day to day. I remember long ago, seeing a post-it on an AR person’s computer. It listed seven analyst firms: The two ‘majors’, two mid-sized and three smaller firms (including my own at the time). The goal, as I saw it, was to get onto that post-it: we all have limited space in our heads, so we have to prioritise. This links to a whole seres of do’s and don’ts, above and beyond ‘simply’ doing world-class research analysis.


Jon Collins: Avoid the basic gotchas (IIAR website)Avoid the basic gotchas

Building on this, perhaps what I have learned most of all is that the industry analyst business is an ecosystem all of itself, built on people. This means that as well as understanding the table stakes — research and output, transparency of model and so on — analysts can also avoid some basic gotchas, and do their bit to deliver on the expectations of the role.

From an industry perspective, the most critical quality for an analyst is to be open and fair, or openly fair. This means being accessible before, during and post-research, for example to give a vendor the opportunity to contribute, to enable review of materials where applicable, or to offer a right to reply if not. If you don’t have a research agenda, it might be a good idea to have one for a slew of reasons, not least (for smaller firms) it minimises the risk of becoming the cart, not the horse.

Analyst briefings are an extremely useful tool: while analysts are right to be focused on the immutable stars, briefings help reset the theodolite on an ever-shifting sea. Or something. So, being open to briefings is a straightforward hygiene factor — note that it doesn’t mean you have to travel abroad, which can be very time consuming. Do your homework before briefings, and reflect the information in your outputs wherever possible.

Above all, look to add value — don’t assume that because you are an analyst you somehow deserve to be paid a premium for turning up. A briefing quid pro quo in my experience is to offer feedback, even if you will not be writing about the vendor in the short term. You have to earn the right to be seen as influential: this means being consistent, fair, rational and honest, respecting NDAs and delivering transparency and pragmatism.

In summary this is about no surprises — being clear about what you bring to the party, then bringing it as expected. In this complex world of no absolutes, analysts will continue to have a great deal to offer, as advisors, curators and guides. While nobody can second-guess what the industry will look like in 10 years time, we can say that analysts who align to their context will be in a better position to help. Perhaps the final advice I would offer is not to lose your sense of objectivity: in a changing world, clarity of thought is worth hanging on to.


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[GUEST POST] Tips to Ensure a Productive Analyst Briefing Mon, 28 May 2018 15:16:26 +0000 IIAR blog: illustration for post on briefing best practices by Cindy Zhou / ConstellationSince becoming an industry analyst almost two years ago, I’ve sat in on nearly 100 vendor briefings and have some tips and do’s/don’ts to share to help you prepare for your next analyst session. First, know that Constellation is a firm very accessible to technology companies of all sizes and no, you don’t have to be a client to brief us. Based on availability and relevance to my coverage areas, I’m happy to take the call and enjoy helping young start-ups.

Let’s ensure we both get the most out of our limited time together, so here are my tips for you :


  • Be respectful of the analyst’s time. Our free briefings are 30 minutes, and if I’m able to, I will often extend to 45 mins (at my discretion).
  • A little light research to understand who I am and my coverage areas (Marketing (B2B and B2C), Sales, and Customer Experience. I prepare by visiting your company website and learn about you on LinkedIn before the call, please extend that courtesy.

The best way to utilize the 30 minutes is to have a concise/tight deck to walk me through the following:

  • 1 slide on company background – Where’s your headquarters, who your investors are, revenue (or you can share a range), highlight any unique experience of your executive team, and the space/market you play in.
  • 1 slide on who your customers are – “Nascar-style” logo slides are fine, but please highlight 3-4 customers and tell me what you do for them. For example, I often see the same logo for multiple competing marketing companies. Tell me the group using your solution and the context. Also, Who is your target customer and their role?
  • 1-2 slides on your go-to-market strategy.
  • 1 Marchitecture slide to illustrate your product or market slide on your solution and where it fits.
  • Tell me about your pricing model, how do customers buy?
  • Share what’s new or coming soon. Whether it’s an upcoming product launch, you sign(ed) a new customer, secured new funding, etc. You would be surprised how many times the news gets buried and forgotten in a briefing.
  • Prepare a demo. Especially if I agree to extend to 45 minutes, I want to see your solution in-action.

Send me your slides the day before the briefing. This way I can save you time by not asking questions answered on a later slide.


  • Spend time to educate me on the market. If you looked at my background, you’ll know that I was a practicing marketing executive then an industry analyst. I do understand what the market challenge is for marketers/sellers and have the battle scars to prove it. So telling me the marketing technology landscape is more complicated than ever with 6000+ vendors or that the sales process is broken – is well, wasted time.
  • Come unprepared and attempt to do a “discovery” call in a briefing. Talking through your product architecture with no visual representation only adds confusion. Our time together is limited, preparation is key.
  • Ask me or emphasize every 5 minutes, “This is under NDA right?”. As an analyst, I respect our confidentiality and take it very seriously as a matter of integrity. If there is something I’m interested in tweeting about or sharing publicly, I will ask you if the information is public or ok to share. Otherwise, understand our briefing is confidential.
  • Say, “we don’t have any competitors” when I ask who your competitors are. I am not asking because I don’t know. I want to know who YOU think your competitors are.
  • Follow-up with me asking what kind of “article” I will write after the “interview.” Please understand the differences between industry analysts and the press/media.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the best Analyst Relations (AR) teams in the business, people who understand how to best engage with us and if you work with one – take their advice!  If you use a PR firm to help with Analyst Relations, make sure they can demonstrate to you they understand the differences with AR.

If we haven’t spoken yet, I hope this was helpful and look forward to a productive briefing from you!


Cindy Zhou (@cindy_zhou, LinkedIn)covers digital marketing and sales effectiveness at Constellation Research. Originally posted on her LinkedIn and reproduced with permission. Opinions expressed in this guest post are not an IIAR position and may not reflect IIAR members individual opinions. 


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[GUEST POST] How to Create a More Compelling Analyst Event Mon, 14 May 2018 13:14:42 +0000 Yawning catI thoroughly enjoyed and could very much relate to Jon Reed’s recent post, How to screw up a vendor analyst day – in 12 simple steps. So much so that I’m inspired to write my own take on how to create a more compelling analyst event that’s more rewarding for all involved.

Vendors spend a lot of time and money on these events. Presumably, they want to deepen their relationships with analysts and influencers, and give them the insights they need to offer constructive feedback and provide perspectives to the broader market. However, like Jon, I’m constantly amazed at how often they seem to miss these marks–as evidenced by analysts that have tuned out to look at news, email or sports on their laptops or phones. So here are my suggestions for how to create an analyst day that will help you better engage with analysts.

  1. Make the presentations as interactive as possible. Having to hold questions until the end of presentations is an unnatural act for analysts. It also signals that you are way more interested in talking to us rather than engaging with us. Two-way street, remember? At smaller venues, take questions along the way. At larger ones, try something new–maybe some interactive polling or live-streaming sentiment analysis. After all, you are a technology company,
  2. Give us the deck upfront so we don’t have to keep taking photos. A picture is often worth a thousand words. That’s why analysts are constantly snapping photos of presentations, whether to share on Twitter or use later. This is crazy! Just provide us with the deck and make it easy for us to share screen shots during the event.
  3. Remember that everything you do does not have to involve a talking head and a Powerpoint deck. Some of the best (and sadly very infrequent) sessions I’ve been to have focused having a dialogue with analysts! Imagine that. Schedule more break out sessions and roundtables–they can lead off with a few slides, but the goal should be dialogue.
  4. Ditch the canned panel presentations. So you’ve schedule an hour panel session, and use up 45 or 50 minutes having the moderator asked canned questions. What is up with that? Ask a couple of planned questions to warm things up, but get to the analyst questions after 15 minutes.
  5. Feature SMB and midmarket customer, not just your large enterprise clients. Everyone loves sharing their marquee names. But businesses with fewer than 500 employees account for 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms! Plus, the creation-destruction cycle in business is accelerating. Creative SMBs will disrupt and replace slower-moving large businesses. I want to hear how you’re helping them to do that.
  6. Schedule relevant 1-1 meetings for analysts. I shouldn’t have to even say this! But at many events, I end up in 1-1s with people who have no responsiblity for anything event remotely SMB related–and what I cover are SMB and midmarket. It’s a waste of time, both for the analyst and the executive.
  7. Inform executives and others at your company about the analysts they’re meeting with. The best AR teams not only schedule analyst 1-1s with the executives in your firm that most relevant to analyst coverage areas, but also supply the executive with analyst bios and some samples of their blog posts or reports.
  8. Make it easy for analysts to get to your event. As frequent business travelers, travel is not a novelty or adventure for us. So we appreciate anything you can do to ease travel to your event. Make it easy for us to book air and hotel. Provide a van, or car, or coupon for Lyft to get to the hotel from the airport. And don’t scrimp on the little things. In addition to picking up the major expenses, cover analyst expenses for parking, meals while they’re traveling, minor upgrades like the $15 Southwest fee to reserve Early Bird seating, etc. These little things add up–especially for independent analysts or analysts that work at boutique shops.
  9. Hold your event somewhere different. We get that you need to be in Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, etc. to accommodate thousands or even tens of thousands at your customer-centric events. But analyst events are small, tens to maybe a couple of hundred of people. Go off the beaten track. Having your event somewhere else (still easy to get to though!) is a welcome change.
  10. Take us out to or bring in some local flavor. So now that you’re in a more interesting place, take us somewhere to experience just a bit of it…dinner at a museum, on a boat, whatever. Or at least bring some local flavor in.
  11. Schedule enough time for analysts to take a break between the end of day sessions and dinner. We’ve given up a couple of days to be at your event, but we need a little buffer to get other things done, whether it be business related or personal. 5 or 15 minutes isn’t enough. 60 minutes is okay, but 90 minutes works best.

Some vendors already do some of these things, and some do many of them. But many haven’t shaken things up in years.  While I understand that it takes more time and energy to do try new approaches, I’m at least one analyst that thinks your investment will pay off.

By Laurie McCabe (@lauriemccabe), Co-founder, SMB Group. Reproduced by permission © SMB Group 2018


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[GUEST POST] What is your product and what does it do? by Adrian Sanabria / Threatcare Mon, 05 Feb 2018 16:16:04 +0000 Adrian Sanabria / Threatcare, guest post author on the IIAR websiteThis post by Adrian Sanabria / Threatcare (@sawaba, LinkedIn) was first published here on his blog.


Lessons I learned trying to make the most of vendor briefings

I’ve always been a sort of ‘cut-to-the-chase’ kind of guy. I’m self-taught when it comes to security and technology. Over the years, I’ve learned how to skim through a book, article or website to extract the important information. Sometimes I’m just trying to figure out how to do something, or I’m looking for an answer to a specific question.

Just tell me what time it is, I don’t need to know how atomic time clock frequency standards work.

Conversely, I also have an appreciation for context and a good story — as long as you eventually get to the point.

Anatomy of a Vendor Briefing

Here’s how the average vendor briefing usually goes.

The WebEx Tax (5min)

Waiting for everyone to join, restarting WebEx or some other screen-sharing app because it’s misbehaving. Chit-chat about weather and where everyone is physically based, or happens to be at the moment. I quickly communicate that attempts to talk sports are wasted on me — I just don’t follow them anymore.

Introductions (5min)

These are important — I want to understand who I’m talking to. I want to know whether or not I can ask technical questions. I want to understand the backgrounds of who is on the phone.

About the company (5min)

How is the company doing? How did it start? Where is it located? How many employees? Is it growing? What about that lawsuit? Who are its customers? What company size/verticals are being targeted?

The Problem Statement (10min+)

This is where about half of vendors start to lose me. Typically, I’m talking to a vendor in a space that I cover closely and have covered for years. I’ve probably written about this space, given talks about it and discussed it at length… well, you get the idea. This is also where platitudes and hyperbole start to roll out. Silver bullets and ‘one weird trick’ to fix security! Most of these meetings are occurring over the phone without video, so the vendor may not hear the sound of my eyeballs violently rolling back.

On the other hand, I do want to hear the problem statement from the vendor, provided it is concise. The problem statement helps me understand how the vendor sees their market and their place in that market. Sure, I understand it, but I want to see it through the vendor’s eyes. In some cases, the problem statement reveals an outdated or artificial view (in my opinion), but in others, it offers insights or perspectives I hadn’t considered before.


  • Ask the analyst a few questions to gauge their familiarity with the state of security in this particular market segment.
  • Be concise — briefing an analyst isn’t the same as talking to a sales lead.

The Product (10min+)

This is the most important section, especially in security, where the variety of products and technologies combined with the prevalence of buzzwords can result in some very confusing messaging.



  • Please start this with an architecture slide. Too often, I find myself wondering throughout this portion what the product actually is. I’m hearing about features and functionality, but I don’t know if it’s SaaS, a hardware appliance I rack in my datacenter, a VM I download and deploy, a managed service… This is important context to have for the rest of the conversation!
  • Lay out all your products and services, even if you’re only focusing on one in this call — this also helps to give important context.
  • Mention partners and integrations — few security products these days can survive long without integrating into the customer’s existing environment. I want to understand where you overlap, where you replace and where you complement.

Roadmap, competition, future of the market (remainder)

Most of security is a missing feature market, so chances are good that your product may not be long for this world. How are you going to handle that? Especially for startups — if you’re counting on an acquisition exit, how do you ensure you’ll have a seat when the music stops?

The next meeting

If this one went well, I might be interested to see a demo or speak with a customer. Sometimes I want to see a demo because I’m excited or skeptical. Demos are typically easier to keep to 30 minutes because the meeting will be focused just on a screenshare and walk-through of the product.

Other Recommendations

Briefing Length

I find I really need an hour for a briefing. 30 minutes usually ends up feeling rushed.

Analysts are not Sales Leads

When talking to an analyst, your goal isn’t to convince them to buy your product. Instead, you want them to understand your company, products and goals. Make the analyst understand why different customers would want to buy the product and the different approaches that get the customer to sign a PO.

Ideally, you want to make a fan out of an analyst. An analyst that casually or actively mentions your company or product is a huge win. Everyone wants word-of-mouth marketing, but analysts tend to have ‘bigger mouths’ and more influence. Help the analyst understand:

  • What you do
  • Why you do it
  • Your target market
  • Market differentiation
  • Use cases
  • Roadmap and long-term goals

Have a purpose

You sell encryption? That’s great, but how’s it different from the other encryption? Why would I go with yours over another? Do you compete entirely on price and features, or do you have a deeper story and purpose that draw customers in and make them want to be loyal to you?


Don’t use them unless it’s efficient to do so. For example, if your product is EDR, just say you play in the EDR space. If it’s EDR plus some innovation, don’t avoid the EDR term because you don’t want to be ‘pigeonholed’ with your competitors. It just ends up being confusing.

I remember the first time I talked to FireEye. And the second. And the third. Each time, the sales person described the product (the NX appliance was the only product at this time), and it came off sounding like an IDS/IPS. They ensured me that it wasn’t an IDS/IPS and proceeded to use the same words to describe it again. It wasn’t until I got an engineer on the phone for that fourth call that I was finally able to understand what the product did.

Call a spade a spade — not a next-gen superior triangular manual digging tool. You can even call it an awesome spade if you think it’s awesome, just use words a normal person would understand.

Clarify B2B relationships

DON’T use the terms integrate, partner and alliance interchangeably. They have different meanings.

Integration: “We did some work, they didn’t have to do anything. In fact, we didn’t even really talk to them — we’re just ingesting their API/feed.”

Partnership: “We got together, talked about it, and each of us built pieces that work together in some way.”

Alliance: “We got together and built something entirely new”

Additional DOs and DON’Ts


  • Go over the agenda for the call and set expectations right at the start. If I’m expecting a demo and there’s no one on the call that can give a demo, I’m going to be disappointed.
  • Use specific examples or anonymous customer examples
  • Walk through demos
  • Give me access to the product, if this can be done easily
  • Give your pitch to an engineer/product manager to ensure you’re explaining it correctly — nothing’s worse than being contradicted by an engineer during a briefing. We’re going to second guess everything else you’ve said.
  • Suppress toaster popups during a screenshare. Or don’t. Sometimes the content of your IMs and Emails is VERY revealing. More revealing than your General Councel would be comfortable with.
  • Share your presentations beforehand. I can ask better questions if I know what we’re going to cover. Also, because WebEx WILL fail you.
  • Learn how to use the screenshare app and/or Powerpoint before the call. I’m frequently amazed at how many people don’t know how to get Powerpoint full-screen.
  • Go over product naming/branding — I’m also amazed at the number of vendors that never even tell you what product they’re talking about and don’t reference it in the slides.
  • Tell me how it is priced, sold and licensed.
  • Tell me cool customer stories


  • Rely on an engineer to explain things — if the marketing/sales guy can’t explain it or doesn’t understand it, you’re not ready to brief an analyst.
  • BAD: “I’ll have to check with one of our engineers on that”
  • WORSE: The engineer is on the call and confuses the situation more.
  • Badmouth competitors — there’s just no excuse for that. If you think you do something better or have an advantage, fine — tell me that. But don’t start telling me how much more effective your product is unless you’ve got some data from a study that I can review. And no, a Ponemon PDF is not “data from a study”.
  • Make fun of other products — I’ve found this usually backfires. In almost every case I’ve seen a vendor do this, the flaw they’re pointing out exists in their own product as well.
  • Example: a security awareness vendor was campaigning a piece on “AV’s Dirty Little Secret”, which turned out to be that AV wasn’t 100% effective. No shit! What’s the effectiveness of security awareness tools again?
  • Make me fill out a form on your website to get basic details about your products. Often, to fill gaps in the briefing, I’ll go to the website to fill in the details. Maybe I forgot to ask what platforms the product is compatible with, or when the company was founded. Please don’t make it hard to find this information. If you put me in a position where I have to endure sales calls in exchange for basic information, I will hate you.
  • Expect me to be impressed about your lightweight agent, CISO dashboard or the founder’s time in Unit 8200.

Suggestions for the Analyst

  • Explain how your firm works — if briefings rarely result in coverage, let them know ASAP, because that’s typically not the norm (or so I’ve been told). What interactions are paid vs free? How are meetings scheduled?
  • Manage expectations before the call — what are you looking to get out of it? That will impact who the vendor needs to schedule for the call, what materials need to be prepped or how long the call needs to be.
  • Stop the presenter if they’re going into stuff that isn’t a good use of your time. Redirect the conversation down a more productive path.
  • Stop the presenter if you don’t understand something. Don’t just nod and let them continue. Don’t be afraid of feeling dumb. When I started as an analyst, I had never heard “north-south” or “east-west” used to refer to network traffic flow before. Just a few months ago, I found the definition for “east-west” was contentious when I thought it was more straight-forward.


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[GUEST POST] Webinar Fatigue and How to Overcome it Wed, 14 Dec 2016 16:16:41 +0000 Webinars, illustration for blog post by Jonathon Gordon / EMI on the iIAR website

Webinar fatigue is now as common as the cold

Let’s face it, to say the webinar scene is overcrowded would be a monumental understatement.  Webinar fatigue should come as no surprise. After all, I seem to receive a new webinar invitation every other day.  While many of them sound super interesting, who has time to sit on webinars all day?  I often find myself signing up for many more than I actually attend.  Webinars, if done right, are a lot of work (the ultimate webinar project plan here).  Is it worth the time and effort?  I must admit that I am still a believer.  I consider webinars to be a great platform to interact with customers, prospects and the wider audience.  So how can you make sure they’re successful?


How to get the Audience?

Make it educational and not a sales dump. That much is obvious to most of us by now.  I would go beyond that and say make it CONTROVERSIAL!!  The most successful webinar I recall was when we discussed a topic that was hugely contentious.  I am not saying go out of your way to be antagonistic. Just pick a topic that might have two opposing sides.    Make it entertaining and compelling.  Instead of rolling out your favorite product manager, bring on guests and set it up as a debate. Bill it as the main event!  Do something different if you want to stand out.

No substitute for Quality

Don’t skimp on the slides. Don’t over-text them and don’t throw up random pictures.  Make the design simple, consistent and visual!  So many folks are still reading off their slides.  Make sure you’re not stuffing too many slides into your 35-40-minute webinar. As I have had to explain to many an overzealous slide-bearing product manager, its quality and clarity of message, not quantity.

Audience participation

Nothing brings on a case of Webinar fatigue quicker than a “slide-fest”!  One of the best things about the format is the chance to interact with the audience.  Set some interactive polls to ask the audience during the webinar.  It helps wake up the audience and break up topics.  Most webinar platforms have the ability to conduct interactive polls.  For maximum interaction, you can combine a poll question with a Twitter chat or other social media.  Make sure to leave time for Q&As and prepare for them!  Don’t leave things to chance. Prepare back up questions just in case.  Some platforms enable webinars to be pre-recorded, but I always suggest you do a live Q&A.

You don’t need an audience

Well you do, but you don’t necessarily need a live one.  Many webinar platforms today will let you record the live webinar and then offer it on demand.  What’s great about this is your audience will never “miss” your webinar.  It is always there, online and viewers can even log back in later and pick up where they left off.  I personally have utilized EverGreen (here) but there are quite a few options out there for automating the “long tail webinar”.

Don’t forget to…

Stretch it! Repurpose that content.  First off, upload the deck to SlideShare and Youtube if you don’t have an evergreen platform.  Some webinars make great ebooks or “How to guides” depending on the content.  Webinars can make excellent fodder for social media. Use the visuals, break up the text and voilà – you have a series of thematic posts for a couple of weeks or more.

Practice makes perfect

Get your team geared up and pumped for the webinar.  Make sure the speakers are trained to speak enthusiastically about the topic.  Rehearse a couple of times. Get everyone comfortable with the script and flow. It helps to record the dry runs and play them back to the speaker.  Think more Broadway performance than mind-numbing college lecture and you’ll be half way there.



Originally posted on Jonathon’s LinkedIn page on the 14/2/16 and on EMI Insights. Opinions expressed in this guest post are not an IIAR position and may not reflect IIAR members individual opinions.


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[GUEST POST] The secret trick to working with sales Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:16:21 +0000 Working with sales is easy. Just think like a salesperson!

Working with sales should come naturally to a marketer once you get into the head of your sales colleagues.  More than once I have been accused by my colleagues of “sounding like a salesman”.  While not often meant as a compliment, that’s how I take it.   If truth be told, I have spent a few of my years in the Sales trenches and believe that’s what gives me a unique perspective on working with sales.

Sales incentives, illustration for blog post by Jonathon Gordon / EMI on the IIAR website

Just like in any relationship, to really get to know someone, you need to understand what makes a person tick.  The thing I really loved about being in sales, is that in most cases, it’s easy to know what you should be doing and how it’s measured.  Mostly it’s about the target.  OK, there may be other KPIs thrown in for flavor, but it’s the target that really matters.  That’s pretty much what makes sales people click and how to get there is what keeps them awake at night.  The key to working with sales is helping them reach and pass that target, quarter after quarter, year after year.  Do this, and they will always be there for you.

Two brutal truths about B2B marketing & working with sales

  1. Marketing has no reason to exist without sales!

  2. We are all sales people or should be!

Some marketing folks like to think certain aspects of their job are not about working with sales – positioning, branding, awareness, thought leadership, PR, AR, etc.  Sorry to tell you, it ain’t so! As marketers, we really have no reason to exist beyond that of serving sales. I not advocating that marketing be enslaved to sales, it is more about joining forces.  Our job is to spread the word, find prospects, produce sales collateral and tools.  In the end, we should also be thinking about what will close the sale.

Everything you do should be about the sales process, or don’t bother doing it.  Marketing is an inseparable part of this process, which has defined steps, with a start point and a clear objective.  In team meetings, when we go round the table for updates, everyone knows they need to think like a salesperson.  Team members, whether working on a campaign, corporate video, new mailer, building personas or a presentation – everyone needs to be able to explain clearly how that task or deliverable is going to move the sales process forward.

 Working with sales – Create value, not likes

Keep your eyes on the metrics that count.  Don’t get side tracked with vanity metrics or the latest hype in social media.  You can only hope to gain respect from sales if you can create value and demonstrate a clear understanding of their needs and a willingness to focus on them.  In the end, we all need to know how to sell and the end goal is more often than not measured with a currency symbol.  If you start speaking the same language, you will be surprised at how well marketing and sales can communicate.

 Working with sales – Leads

Whether you are using the latest marketing automation software, or handing out leads on little yellow post-it notes, leads are what feed the machine.  Too many marketing folks complain that sales can’t, won’t or don’t take action on the mountain of leads they generate.  The root cause of the problem, more often than not, is that there is no clear definition of a qualified lead.  Marketers may have their own definition of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).  They know when a visitor become a prospect that should be nurtured. However, defining Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) requires discussion and agreement with the sales team, it cannot be done alone.  Some salespeople I know will say a “hot lead” is only when they get an email with a PO attached, but realistically speaking, a frank and positive discussion between sales and marketing will help set expectations and set a clear, agreed definition of what an SQL is. It will help to set SLAs for salespeople to follow up on leads, and make sure there is a feedback mechanism in place for sales to rate the SQLs.

Working with sales – Build a relationship

Make sure your teams are interacting, both formally and informally.  Set quarterly or half yearly meetings to understand what the situation is in each region or with a particular product line.  Make sure your team members ask salespeople for input and feedback when creating collateral or messages.  The salespeople should be intimate with your target audience, so use them!  The relationship should go both ways.  Create a sales wish list and let them know they can add items to it.  You won’t get it all done, but even a little will create some goodwill and who knows, they may have some good ideas.

Working with sales – Ask for feedback!

The good thing about sales departments is that they are mostly managed. They have quarterly business reviews and annual sales conferences. Take advantage of these events to get feedback from the sales teams.  The best approach would be to write up a short questionnaire and let them tell you what they thought about different deliverables you initiated, what they feel they need to succeed.  One year I had them rank by importance a list of six white papers in which we were prepared to invest time and budget in and the numbers told us where to start, which white paper was really urgent for them to have (it was about NFV if you are curious…).  An additional event was a Sales Management meeting where all the regional directors came to a review with the CEO and VP Sales.  We asked them to rank their confidence in the new messaging and how relevant it was to their region.  It was very helpful to get their feedback and they actually helped tweak the messaging.

Working with Sales – Never Skip Sales Training

Make sure the sales training program always has a slot on the agenda so you can introduce yourself, the marketing team members and the marketing platforms and resources.  Sales training is a good opportunity to meet new sales people that have just joined.  Take a few minutes to review the corporate website and its content, the resource library and any other platforms you have created for them to use.  New salespeople are eager to find information.  Take a few minutes to explain how the lead process works, and what are the leads’ criteria are.  All of this front-end investment will make sure they are aligned.  At the same time, make sure that you and your team have gone through at least one sales training course yourself.  See what they are being trained for!

Additionally, for product or solution training that includes a major marketing launch (major investment) make sure you share the launch plan with the sales team.  Tell them how the new product will be promoted, what the planned messages are and what kind of leads should they expect.  Sharing is Caring.

Working with Sales – Get out of the office

Do you want to understand the sales process and really contribute?  Get out from behind your desk and go on a sales call.  Just being in the room when salespeople present to clients and prospects will teach you more about working with sales than anything.  Make it a regular thing, for your team members too.  Switch between salespeople, regions and product lines and check out their style, pitch and how (or if) they use your content and tools.  Sales will appreciate it and you will learn fast what is working for them.

Marketing should not only understand the sales process, but be an active participant in it.  The dividing line between marketing and sales should be saved for the org charts!


By Jonathon Gordon / Directing Analyst, Expert Market Insight (LinkedIn, @Jonathon_Gordon), originally posted on his LinkedIn page on the 4/2/16. Opinions expressed in this guest post are not an IIAR position and may not reflect IIAR members individual opinions.

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[GUEST POST] So, You Did Well in an Industry Analyst Report… How Do You Get the Word Out? by Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hall Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:08:39 +0000 Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHallBy Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hall (LinkedIn@VickiJ_NH).

This is the fifth in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to optimize the relationship between AR and industry analysts. Here I take a look at promoting your organization’s inclusion in an analyst report.

Often times, before committing to participating in an industry analyst report, subject matter experts will say to their AR colleagues, ‘What happened with the last report we participated in? What did we get out of it?’ In many organizations, it’s not realistic to send the report to the marketing team simply asking them to leverage it, as they have many other commitments and deliverables and might not understand the value of the report and how to make best use of it internally or externally.

Based on my background as both an AR professional and an industry analyst, I and NelsonHall colleagues have put together guidelines for planning promotional campaigns to communicate positioning in analyst reports, using NelsonHall’s (vendor) Evaluation & Assessment Tool (NEAT) reports as an example. NEAT reports help strategic sourcing managers to evaluate outsourcing vendors, and consists of a two-axis model: assessing vendors against their ability “to deliver immediate benefits” to clients and their ability “to meet clients’ future requirements”.

Plan for promotional rights

When participating in industry analyst reports, it is important to secure budgetary funds for promotional rights (or ‘reprint rights’ in old terminology).  If your organization does well, the rights will be needed to promote your organization’s position in the report. In the case of NelsonHall’s NEAT, promotional rights allow vendors to use the NEAT graphs, supported by quotes from NelsonHall analysts, as part of their service marketing initiatives (e.g. in marketing collateral, press releases, news articles, social media, websites, etc.). NelsonHall also delivers a bespoke report containing a summary analysis of the vendor’s capabilities within the specific service type (including financials, strategic direction, and strengths), plus the latest market analysis summary for the service in question.

NelsonHall and most other industry analyst firms have guidelines on how the reports can be used and have a review process regarding their usage.

Promote your positioning internally to support external campaigns

Promotional rights of analyst reports typically allow promotion for an agreed upon timeframe. The extent to which a vendor is able to leverage the promotional rights depends on being able to communicate their positioning effectively within their organization, and to encourage usage.

In reaching out to colleagues across the business, explain the significance of your positioning as well as the potential benefits to your organization. Make sure the personnel that participated in the report preparation, briefing, and securing of client references are made aware of the analyst firm positioning of your organization.

Make it as easy as possible for colleagues to leverage promotional rights by, for example:

  • Getting approved analyst quotes
  • Preparing slides for internal departments to use externally. Usage examples include sales presentations and inclusion by solutioning employees in proposal responses
  • Developing brief articles (or simply bullet lists) based on the report

NelsonHall recommends vendors share their NEAT positioning with the departments listed below and provide direction on how it can be leveraged:

  • Marketing/Social Media:
    • Develop some one- or two-line quotes or facts about positioning to be used as tweets
    • Share a link to a news release about your positioning, to be posted on LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media used by your company
    • Place an article about your positioning in client and employee newsletters
    • Seek opportunities to include your positioning in marketing brochures, marketing campaigns, annual reports, and if applicable earnings scripts
    • Develop an e-mail marketing campaign about your positioning.
  • Web Team:
    • Explain the significance of your positioning and ensure the NEAT graph(s) have strong website real estate for the full duration of the promotional rights(in my time as an AR professional, I once paid for reprint rights for a year, only for the web team to remove the relevant collateral from the website after a month! I had to remind the team of the value of the reprint rights in order to get the web post reinstated)
    • Ensure the NEAT graph is accompanied by key benefits and include a quote as well
    • Provide a link to the NEAT report.
  • Public Relations:
    • Draft a news release
    • Provide the NEAT graph(s)
    • Ensure the news release is shared with key global media contacts as well as trade media, and local media where the company has contacts and a presence.

Following these simple guidelines can help AR to ensure that their business gets the most mileage from their participation and positioning in an industry analyst report such as NelsonHall’s NEAT series.

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Briefings: The Delicate Business of Client References, by Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hal Mon, 13 Jun 2016 15:39:46 +0000 Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHallThis is the fourth in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to optimize the relationship between AR and industry analysts. Here I take a look at using client references and case studies in the briefing process.

Quite often, participating in an analyst report requires providing client references as part of the briefing process, and in the area of outsourcing these can be rather difficult to secure. It is important to develop relationships with your sales and client services teams and to let them know about upcoming analyst reports that will require references so they can assist you without it being a fire drill. Knowing that references are required well in advance also enables your colleagues to select references appropriately, and avoid overusing certain clients where they are handling multiple requests for the client’s time.Make sure that the client is consulted and that they are happy to participate. Then, be sure to get all of the preparation details from the analyst: how much time the interview will take, what type of questions will be asked, is the interview confidential, will the analyst or someone else from the firm be contacting them, when will they be contacted, will they need to complete a survey or will it be a phone call?

Remember, client references provide the opportunity to have a third party vouch for your organization’s products and services, and it’s important to thank clients for serving as a reference – a hand-written note from one of your executives can go a long way. Some firms ask for a large amount of references for a single report, but you can usually negotiate down to a reasonable number. Ideally, the client reference should be the person who works closest with your company on a daily basis. Often times, AR pros think it’s important to share the highest-ranking contact in your client organization as a reference, but that only tends to work if they really are working closely with you. Above all, be sure to talk to the client to get a strong understanding of what the client will say about the work your company is providing for them. I have seen situations where the client takes the opportunity to complain about issues with their vendor in the hope that the industry analyst can help resolve the issues.

If sharing client case studies (verbally or in a slide deck as part of the briefing), they should be recent, and show how your company delivered measurable results to benefit the client, especially in areas that drove them to outsource. Try to include the measurable benefits as part of the main briefing rather than promising them as a follow-on; this is the best way to highlight the work done by your organization. It’s important to work with your operations colleagues to ensure that the benefits are appropriately tracked, so you have a story to tell that is measurable.

Finally, most industry analysts will understand that publishing client names is not always possible and will be willing to describe the client by reference to their industry sector only. However, if you can obtain approval from your client to include their name in the report, it does make the story more powerful. We all love a great reference!

Next up in this AR blog series… why media training isn’t necessarily advantageous when dealing with industry analysts.


By Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hall (LinkedIn@VickiJ_NH). 


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[GUEST POST] Analyst Briefings: Preparing for Success, by Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hall Sat, 04 Jun 2016 11:29:30 +0000 By Vicki Jenkins / Nelson Hall (LinkedIn@VickiJ_NH) Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall

This is the third in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to optimize the relationship between AR and industry analysts. Here I take a more detailed look at preparing for analyst briefings.

Getting ready

So, you’ve decided to participate in an analyst report and managed to persuade your executives and subject matter experts (SMEs) to commit their time for a briefing. How do you start preparing?

Many report participation requests arrive with an explanation of what the analyst is looking for during your briefing. However, it’s important to also review what the analyst firm has written about your company, and it also helps to know what they have written about other companies. When reviewing analyst reports, look at the type of information typically covered, and the style of presentation, as this will help you understand in general terms what the analyst might be looking for during your briefing. If you do not have access to previous reports (perhaps you are participating for the first time), it’s a good idea to ask the analyst to share an old report, or at least an outline report, to better understand what’s required.

If you feel you’re missing any information that will help you prepare for the briefing… ask the analyst. This preparation will make your executives and SMEs feel confident during the briefing, and will reduce the number of follow-up items after the briefing.

To share a deck or not?

As an industry analyst, I have participated in a wide range of briefings, some based around a presentation deck, some not. So, do you need a briefing deck?  Here are a few things to consider:

  • If your executives and SMEs are prepared to cover the material the analyst has requested, it is not always necessary to share a deck, but you may want the analyst to have a take-away for further reference
  • Remember that the briefing will most likely be between one and one-and-a-half hours. It’s important to do a run-through of the deck to see if the information can be presented in a little over half of the time allotted. The remaining time will be needed for brief introductions, questions from the analyst, and the closing of the call (which includes discussion of next steps such as follow-up items and report timing updates)
  • An obvious one, but if you have a deck, confirm that the presenters have reviewed it and have the final version before the call!
  • Large decks can cause problems – e.g. it’s difficult for the analyst to ask questions when someone is trying to beat the clock presenting material from a 100-page presentation! Also, your SMEs may feel they didn’t do a good job presenting if they were unable to cover everything in the time
  • Additional details you may wish the analyst to be aware of, though not requested directly, can be included in an appendix rather than presented during the session
  • If you provide a deck, it’s good to share it with the analyst at least a couple of hours prior to the briefing, and preferably the day before. Having the deck in advance gives the analyst the opportunity to review it, and not ask questions in the session that are clearly answered in the deck, which optimizes time on the briefing for everyone
  • Be careful when pulling slides from other decks to avoid duplication
  • If the analyst provided specific questions or an evaluation tool in advance, it really helps to present answers concisely in one place rather than sharing a super-set of information that was previously produced for another request.

Further preparation tips

Here are a few more tips on preparing for briefings:

  • Remember to agree with your colleagues how NDAs will be used during briefings. Typically, the information being shared can be included in the analyst’s final report unless an NDA is marked on a specific item in the deck, or a verbal request for non-disclosure is made during the briefing
  • Having the analyst agree to a fact-check prior to publishing the final report also helps ensure that nothing sensitive makes its way into the report. Be careful with fact-checks: make sure you get to see all sections of the report that contain references to your company, not just a selection. I have had cases of client names being revealed because they were in sections I didn’t get to see!
  • Check with the analyst first to see if they need a corporate update during the briefing – often this isn’t required and only takes up time that could be spent on the relevant subject matter. Corporate updates on number of employees, locations, etc. can be contained in an appendix
  • Try to avoid giving generic numbers such as ‘our analytics offering reduces waste by 50%’. Instead, give specific client examples and tie benefits to them
  • Remember that analysts have to write from an objective perspective and are not able to use ‘adjective heavy’ wording, or wording with a marketing slant in their reports, so it’s best to avoid providing marcomms-style answers to questions
  • During the briefing, have your subject matter experts on IM so you can communicate behind the scenes. This helps avoid awkward questions on the call such as ‘am I allowed to say X?’

In the next blog in this series I will take a look at the use of client references and case studies in the briefing process.

This post is part of a series by Vicki Jenkins and was originally published on NelsonHall‘s website on 29/03/16.


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[GUEST POST] Analyst Briefings: Are you a Strategic Team Member or the Note-Taker? by Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:54:45 +0000 Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHallBy Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall  (LinkedIn,  @VickiJ_NH).

This is the second in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to optimize the relationship between AR and industry analysts. Here I take a look at the role of AR in the briefing process.

Your briefing team is aware of upcoming analyst reports on your AR calendar, so they shouldn’t be surprised when you request their participation in a briefing. When I was an AR pro, for a major report, I used to pull the team together to discuss the evaluation criteria, the key messages we wanted to convey, and the references we would be using. However, the level of enthusiasm varies from team to team. Some think it will be easy to ‘do well’ in a report because they have done so in the past; others will be upset about how your company was represented in a previous report, and may not be so keen to spend time on the next one.

This is where diplomacy comes in handy. I once had a situation where a team spent a large amount of time providing the latest information for an analyst report, only to find that when the draft arrived for fact-checking, the previous year’s data had been repurposed – which upset the team, as you would imagine. However, I was able to work with the industry analysts in question to ensure that the key points from the latest information set were included in the report. Unfortunately this happens sometimes, but the key is to work as go-between to ensure that your key messages get across irrespective of any hick-ups that may occur along the way.

Having served as both an AR pro and an industry analyst, I think AR pros often sell themselves short in terms of their role in the briefing process. One approach is for AR to position themselves in a pure admin role. This shouldn’t be underestimated, as there’s plenty to do in terms of prioritizing and scheduling analyst requests, getting buy-in from executives and subject matter experts (SMEs), and preparing the participants for the briefing. But when it comes to the briefing itself, AR has the opportunity to adopt a more strategic role, not just as the note-taker or time-keeper for the session. AR is the key facilitator of the session, but can also be an important contributor; for example, covering specific sections of the presentation such as the corporate overview, or presenting case study material (having been briefed by the relevant SME).

While most industry analysts invite vendors to participate in a report by providing a briefing, some will include vendors whether or not a briefing has taken place. It is important to understand this point and share it with executives and SMEs because not briefing can mean losing control of over the currency and accuracy of the information presented about your company. This is a persuasive argument to use with your executives and SMEs, particularly when presented with the promise that they will get to see a draft of the report for fact-checking prior to publication. Your colleagues will also appreciate it if you can reduce their workload by presenting them with previous versions of the report annotated at the points where key information items and data points need updating.

Finally, a word about when to schedule briefings (i.e. early or late in the analysts’ schedule). Here there are two schools of thought: some think it’s best to be first and set the bar for the other vendors, while others like to be at the front of the analysts’ mind at the end of a project. My preference was to set the bar early, and I also think it’s good form to participate as early as possible to ensure your company is not holding up the industry analysts’ deadlines. Does the early bird catch the worm, or is it best to be last? You decide!


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[Guest Post] AR Planning Doesn’t Have to be Like Nailing Jell-O to a Tree, by Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:43:15 +0000 By Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall  (LinkedIn,  @VickiJ_NH).Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHall

With a background as both an analyst relations (AR) professional and an industry analyst, I have seen what happens on both sides of the fence, and communication between the two sides is not always straightforward. Hence, this is the first in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to ensure that the AR/analyst relationship stays smooth. Topics will include briefing preparation and follow-up plans, promotion plans for report placement, and industry analyst days. As it’s that time of year, I’ll start by taking a look at AR planning. 

Where did 2015 go? Yes, quite. But 2016 is upon us, and planning for the year ahead is a priority for most of us. Many AR professionals will by now have liaised with the industry analyst firms to learn about their research plans for 2016, plotted project dates on their calendars, and coordinated the calendars of their executives and subject matter experts. If you haven’t already done so, it is also important to make your internal marketing, sales, and public relations contacts aware of when relevant research is planned to be published so they can plan their time and arrange budgets to promote the research outcomes. Project dates and topics may change, so it’s important to remember to check in with the analysts’ client services contacts to stay up-to-date with any changes and adjust internal calendars accordingly.

My analyst colleagues might not thank me for this, but it’s also not too late to suggest additional research topics. While the analyst firms’ research schedules are primarily set for the year, there might still be opportunities to add topics or influence the scope of planned projects.

It’s also a good idea to mark your AR calendar with the major events your company is planning, such as product launches, new delivery location openings, and any other events that will require major external communication. This will enable you to tie your messaging into what the analysts are working on, and ensure that your key events are covered during interactions with analysts throughout the year, including meetings, strategy days, briefings, inquiries, or even an e-mail or a quick phone call.

A big part of the AR calendar is planning time to meet with the industry analysts in person, including strategy days and industry analyst days. Getting these dates into the calendar early is essential, as it can be difficult to make the stars align for your business stakeholders and the analysts themselves if this is left to drift. Check to see if analysts are attending key industry events and if you can connect them with your stakeholders and subject matter experts who are also attending. Generally, it is important to check in with the analysts throughout the year to keep updated on their travel plans: will they be in the vicinity of your office locations, or other locations your executives are travelling to so that a meeting, lunch or dinner can be arranged? Industry analysts are spread across the world, some office-based, some in remote home locations, so there are likely to be opportunities for meetings in more locations than you think.

Finally, it’s important to remind colleagues that the AR calendar is a dynamic document that changes often. You’ll find yourself updating and re-sharing it with your internal team regularly. I wish you all the best as you make your plans for 2016 and look forward to working with many AR pros throughout the year. AR planning can sometimes seem like nailing Jell-O* to a tree, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

* Other gelatin-based desserts are available


This blog post was originally published on NelsonHall’s website on the 22/1/16.

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[GUEST POST] Do You Have a Digital Devil’s Advocate? You need one. Mon, 07 Mar 2016 09:09:38 +0000 By Phil Hassey, CEO CapioIT (@PHassey, LinkedIn)Phil Hassey / CEO, capioIT (IIAR guest post)

Digital is truly transformational to an organizational ecosystem when it works, but it is increasingly runs the risk of significant corporate exposure and risk when it fails.  Unfortunately the failure of digital will lead to the reduction in innovation and down we spiral. No-one wins with that environment. Just ask Westfield/SCentre who had to completely alter their strategy for ticketless parking after capioIT identified major security issues in Nov. 2015 (Reference – Westfield may have a “Smarter Way to Park”, but the risk to individual privacy and security is not sma… Westfield simply was not in the position, or resourced the right individual to identify the unknown unknowns, or unintended consequences of the otherwise positive innovation of ticketless parking.

When Digital fails and the customer experience is at best suboptimal, and at worst destructive, it is typically due to key factors being overlooked. All to typically  inputs and implications are not on the project radar let alone measured correctly. In instances of digital failure that capioIT has addressed in the past 6 months, the security division of the enterprise was not in alignment with Marketing or technology, for a security based solution, in others the legacy infrastructure was leveraged which was not flexible enough to prepare for the required digital solution. Organisational isolation kills digital.

Unfortunately, and frustratingly it is clear that most organisations have failed to consider the unintended consequences of digital investments. Even within such humble business areas as car parking, capioIT has identified major flaws in the execution of so called digital innovation because of the failure to take an end to end approach and think laterally about unintended consequences.

If you or your organization believe digital is about simply enabling Cloud, or investing in Analytics, then you are seriously misguided. Digital has to be much more than that. As capioIT has regularly opined, Digital is much more than technology. Technology vendors and technology departments alike get too focused on defining it in technology terms, (SMAC being the worst example), and fail to identify it in an integrated approach including regulatory, customer, or employee perspectives, as a result they fail to engage broader aspects of the business. (Think the Digital Economy is just a Technology Play – Prepare to fail

To avoid these negative outcomes of Digital, which can ultimately  materially impact a share price or brand value, capioIT believes that a new role must emerge. That role is the Digital Devil’s Advocate.

The Digital Devil’s Advocate role will become essential to enable the organisation to cut through  internal issues and ensure that the unintended consequences or unknown unknowns are identified prior to flawed digital outcomes being dropped upon customers and stakeholders.

The Digital Devil’s Advocate will need to be across the business, optimistically cynical about all s/he is told, and not afraid to look under the hood, whilst bringing all parties together. He maybe an outsider, and in some instances will work best when s/he is an outsider to the industry. The clarity of a new perspective is critical.

Capture Point

In short, the Digital Devil’s Advocate is more than just a function of the Chief Strategy, Chief Technology or Chief Digital Officer. The role is rapidly becoming increasingly essential if organisations are going to maximize the value they create for Digital outcomes, rather than have to settle for sub-optimal and potentially negative outcomes which ultimately will denude innovation.

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[GUEST POST] The mysterious HfS business model… revealed Thu, 03 Mar 2016 20:55:49 +0000 By Phil Fersht (@pfersht, LinkedIn) from HfS (@HfSResearch).


So how do you build a business where not a lot of people understand how you make money and many assume you’re a not-for-profit that provides the industry with free research?

The answer is simple: flood the market with a daily dose of insight and have everyone feel part of what you are doing.  Make your information company open, social and collaborative; make everyone feel like they are a “client”, even when they are not. Make people want to spend time reading your stuff and also invite them to weigh in with their views and opinions.

Do you feel like a member of Facebook, or LinkedIn, even though you probably never gave them a dime?  Of course you do – and you probably don’t think too much about their business models… However, because we do get asked about ours’ frequently, we thought is high time to reveal the secret source of our business model… in all its naked glory:

We make money selling premium research.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are producing over 30 awesome flagship Blueprint reports this year, each encapsulating an entire market, profiling and rating all the key service providers and defining the process value chain, the key trends and dynamics. That’s the core 30 services markets in the industry across IT Services and BPO.  That’s a lot of research.  On top of this, we produce service provider profiles, market sizing forecasts and a services price benchmarking service, PriceIndicatorTM , that is widely adopted by the services industry.  Service buyers, providers and advisors all pay us subscription fees to access these services. More and more service provider selection decisions, today, are being made with the insights from an HfS blueprint.

We make money selling access to our analysts.

You want to find out how to get value from today’s RPA platforms, or how much you should be paying to process insurance claims in Colombia, then call us up.  But I have bad news for you – you’ll need to be a subscription client if you want us to answer the phone. Our subscription clients get time allowances to have on-tap analyst support with their strategies – whether these are quick fire one-hour inquiries, or half day strategy sessions.  We also do custom strategy projects from time to time, whether it’s a new market assessment study, a marketing strategy review or simply interviewing buyers to write about their experiences.

We make money orchestrating a huge global community.

We attract over a million visits a year to our websites and have well over 100,000 subscribers who regular access our ongoing research insights. We are constantly conducting both quantitative and qualitative research studies with our network, which forms the lifeblood of everything we do – sharing real-time market insights and dynamics with our clients, and performing exhaustive interviews with buyers to learn about their experiences and the performance of their service providers.  We also get an average number of 500-1500 people on our regular webcasts, which provide a genuine window to interact with our community and share research insights.

Plus, our analysts get to conduct service provider reference calls independently of the same old rose-tinted clients who are the few willing to go on record regarding the performance of their service providers.

We make money selling research to buyers.

At HfS, we diversify our business across service buyers, service providers, consulting firms and investors to make our money. The biggest issue here is that if you are restricting your firm only to selling to tech vendors/ service providers, your growth is restricted to a small universe of clients.  If you can cater your research to tech users and service buyers, you have literally tens of thousands of prospects out there.  And you have to be objective when selling to buyers – they know when your research is too biased towards your sponsors.

We run the best buyer summits in the services industry, that bring together the physical experience with the electronic.

In today’s era of information overload, digital bullsh*t, fantastical claims of “disruption”, impending employment apocalypses, and just general confusion, there is more appetite than ever from enterprise service buyers to get together and decipher reality from the marketing hype.  At HfS, we have created the community platform to bring together the global services community in private, unvarnished discussion forums.  When we invite senior service buyers to attend specific summits to get involved in our community, many sign up as research clients because they see close up how valuable the HfS experience is.  This is how we sell – we share the experience with people and they want to become clients.  Simple or what =)

The Bottom-line: The HfS experience sells itself

Our golden rule is simple:  if you’re going to give something away for free, it better be worth reading!  Enticing someone to give up their precious time to read your insights is one of the hardest things to do.  If you can’t create compelling insights, then just stuff all your “research” behind a paywall and invest heavily in sales people to convince clients it’s worth signing up.

However, if you can share a little bit of your experience up front, it’s a much less aggressive sale when your prospects have already seen a glimpse of the goodies they will get when they sign up to the premium stuff.  What’s more, you can’t build a global analyst brand in today’s market, if no-one is reading your stuff, networking with your analysts at your summits, and listening to edgy and informative webcasts. What worked 10 years ago no longer works today.  The big established analyst brands will survive because they are a destination amongst the confusing clutter of information and wannabe experts all putting their stuff out into the market.  The second and third tier analysts are struggling – and some are fading fast – because they just can’t command a global audience with a compelling research experience.


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[GUEST POST] The Truth About Freemium Research Thu, 18 Feb 2016 16:23:35 +0000 By Paul Connolly (@Paul_NH, LinkedIn) from Nelson Hall (@NHInsight).

For over a decade, freemium has been the ubiquitous business model for fledgling internet firms and the developers of smartphone apps. Users sign up for free to enable basic features, and are then drawn into subscribing to various levels of premium functionality. More recently, the freemium model has been the subject of considerable attention in the B2B market research space, with some rather extravagant claims and unsound thinking being used to herald it. Let’s have a closer look.

Some of the self-styled new breed analyst firms, who hail from either a blogging or offshore background, would have you believe that freemium is a key differentiator. But freemium research is far from new, and is hardly ground-breaking. Have a look at almost any analyst firm’s website, and you’ll find free material. On the NelsonHall research portal you’ll find masses of high-quality analyst commentary, blog articles, webcasts, research summaries, and opt-in research newsletters (and for the buy-side, hundreds of NEAT vendor evaluation quadrants too) – all there for free. What matters is how good and impartial the free research is, and also what you find when you scrape beneath the surface of the free stuff.

One thing’s for sure. With over 40,000 global research reports across a large number of service line and industry-specific programs, NelsonHall has a wealth of high-impact research available, all of it based on original interviews with the buyers and vendors of outsourcing services around the world. And every piece of research tackles the tough questions and delivers insightful answers that help clients narrow the risk of decision-making in complex sourcing environments. Some of this insight we choose to give away. We always have done. We just don’t see this as a differentiator.

What is a differentiator is meticulous attention to detail, and a refusal to adopt anything other than the best methods of gathering and analyzing research data, and delivering insight to our clients. For example, we do not use on-line surveys, which are hopelessly inadequate for extensive data gathering in complex B2B markets. Nor do we believe that it’s possible to write outsourcing vendor profiles based on information entered into standard forms by the vendors themselves. That’s a sure-fire way of collecting lots of vendor marcomms and wishful thinking, but certainly no basis for accurate data gathering, let alone objective analysis.

And now for a reality check. Doing research the right way is not an inexpensive business, and has to be paid for one way or another. One way is to set a reasonable fee for all clients who wish to access premium research, and to grant them enterprise-wide access. Another way is to find a sponsor who’s prepared to pay a much larger fee for the privilege of first access to (or co-hosting of) the research. We take the former approach.

But here’s another very important way to look at the freemium issue. We challenge any organization to build a successful sourcing strategy based on free research alone. Googling for free information is a non-starter, and relying entirely on free analyst research doesn’t get you much further. We wouldn’t advise it, much as we wouldn’t advise web-based self-diagnosis of that nagging abdominal pain you’ve had for the last two months.

Some of the newer players point to their freemium model as evidence that they are changing the established order of the ‘legacy’ analyst firms. Really? Other than the fact that freemium is nothing new, the reality is that analyst firms founded on well-established principles, rigorous methodologies, and a refusal to dumb down what they do, are more important today than they ever were.

You may ask, does any of this really matter?

Well, not unless you happen to believe that substance is more important than form. In which case it matters rather a lot – your business could depend on it.

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[GUEST POST] Analysts’ Dirty Little Secrets Sun, 24 Aug 2014 15:16:21 +0000 The Gartner Godfather, illustration from the 1972 movie for a blog post by Jonathon Gordon / EMI on Gartner on the IIAR websiteNetScout is crying foul against Gartner. The NetScout lawsuit against Gartner has raised the ‘pay-for-play’ specter once again. Whether this is a case of a vendor just peeved at their spot on the GMQ or they have a legitimate grievance, I am not in a position to judge Whether NetScout will be successful with their legal foray is for the lawyers and judges to say.

However, the latest outcry against Gartner should ring warning bells for the mega-analyst firm and others too. The fact that ‘pay-for-play’ has once again raised its ugly head is symptomatic of the lack of regulation and transparency in the Industry Analyst Business.

The lawsuit calls for ‘structural reforms’ similar to those imposed on the financial system in order to ‘remove the conflicts of interest and unfair and deceptive business practices’. Incidentally, this is a topic that has been discussed on this blog before.

What’s the BIG Deal?

As long as Gartner and the rest of the industry refrain from implementing some kind of industry-wide ethics or practice code, this will continue to be an issue. I believe that regulation is in the industry’s best interests. After all, if there aren’t really any secrets, what does everyone have to hide?

To start, I would suggest that each firm is required to make public their client list including the nature of that relationship. Of course, analysts will have relationships with all players in the industries that they cover. Knowing who their paid clients are should afford some transparency. This transparency will enable businesses to beware of a possible conflict of interest before undertaking any interaction with the analyst firm (paid or otherwise). Secondly, best practices for separation of church and state (analyst services/sales) should be implemented (granted this will be more difficult in the smaller firms). Analyst companies must make a concerted effort to weed out improper sales practices that may lead to misunderstandings (or lawsuits).

Need for change!

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Gartner being the industry leader (with no one else even close in the quadrant) must adopt these practices for the sake of the industry if not their own image. It’s time for Gartner and the industry to do away with the smoke and mirrors. It’s high time to pull the curtains back and get a good look at what’s going on behind. Only then can we move past these discussions and focus on delivering credible research.

One thing is for certain, the lawyers are pay-for-play!


By Jonathon Gordon / Directing Analyst, Expert Market Insight (LinkedIn, @Jonathon_Gordon), originally posted on his LinkedIn page on the 24/8/14. Opinions expressed in this guest post are not an IIAR position and may not reflect IIAR members individual opinions. Note that the legal proceedings referred in the post were dismissed, see links below.


IIAR Code of Ethics

Related IIAR posts


Other links on Gartner vs. Netscout


Other posts on the Gartner Magic Quadrant

Other posts by Jonathon

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[GUEST POST] Key Requirements for Vendors When Briefing Software Analysts, by Natalie Petouhoff / Constellation Thu, 17 Jul 2014 08:06:42 +0000 Natalie Petouhoff / Constellation (IIAR)By Natalie Petouhoff (@drnatalie, LinkedIn) from Constellation Research.

In any given week, analysts hear many pitches. What may not be apparent is “How engaged is the analyst?” So if you are a vendor, how do you engage an analyst? First, don’t be one of those people who is more interested in getting through all your slides in the short period of time you have with the analyst versus really having an engaging conversation with the analyst.

Slides are important as a visual representation of the product and / or services, but more important is the conversation that happens between the vendor and the analyst. Presenting a slide deck where only the vendor presents and the analyst has no time to comment or interact, is not engaging and doesn’t really help the analyst understand your software.

Most analyst have been listening to vendor pitches for years. And after a while they all sound very similar. The only way often times an analyst can grasp what is new or different, is if the vendor has really done their homework prior to presenting to the analyst and can articulate the following things in the first three slides:

1. What does your company do?

2. Who are your top 5 competitors?

3. Why is, what you are offering, so different and so much better those top 5 competitors?

Analysts don’t want a linear presentation with the history of the company, with how many employees… We don’t really always believe when vendors say they have “displaced” this vendor and that vendor. If all the vendors who said they displaced another vendor were true, then no one would have software.

What we want, as analysts, is to quickly assess in the first 5 minutes is “Why am I listening to this presentation?” (Besides the obvious, which is, it is our job to take vendor briefings… )

The issue is that most vendors don’t really know the answers to the top three questions. Why? Because it takes a lot of work to do a SWOT analysis, to understand what your company does and to be able to message that in a unique and interesting way.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve seen nearly the same slide deck from different vendors in the same week, month or year. What I mean by this is that the content on the slides – even though they are different vendors — is very similar. So if the vendor can’t tell me why they are different, better, unique… it makes it very difficult for us, as analysts, to describe to end-users of software why they should consider a particular vendor over another one.

It’s up to the vendor to really do the SWOT analysis and know your competitors and how you are different or better than your competitors. What I find is that most vendors don’t spend the time to do this exercise. The issue is that when a vendor doesn’t do this, the presentation doesn’t really inform the analyst what they need to know to help recommend them to their network of end users. Which is part of what a vendor wants – they want the analyst to know enough about the vendor to make a recommendation to their end-users so the vendors can make more sales.

The net-net is that the analyst’s attention is not captured in the way that the vendor would like or perhaps thinks that is happening during the briefing.

The solution? Before briefing an analyst, make sure that your first three slides are about:

1. What does your company do? What problem(s) in a company does it solve? Who does it solve those business problems for? What roles? Do you know what keeps that role up at night and why does your solution solve their problem(s)?

2. How does your software solve that problem for that role? What are the details — the how to’s –how does the software solve those issues for that role better than any other software company?

3. And why is your software able to solve those problems differently and better than any other competitor? What is your competitive edge?

I hope that vendors that want recommendations to buyers take the time to either go through this exercise themselves or get help to create conversations and presentations that do engage analysts. If vendors are able to do this, they will make the conversation between the analyst and the software vendors richer, more productive and in the end, both parties will end up with what they both want – analysts to have a clear picture of the marketplace and the vendor to get more sales.


About the author

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (bio, @drnatalieLinkedIn) is a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Researcg focusing on the integration of traditional business strategy and operations with social / digital business transformation at scale by using the latest trends in software that result in increased customer and employee engagement and major shifts increased revenue and decreased costs. Prior to this she was a Forrester software analyst and change management consultant ta PWC.


Related posts:

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[GUEST POST] Analyst value does not equal word count Sat, 14 Jun 2014 15:16:17 +0000 Click to tweet - illustration on post by Jonathon Gordon / EMI on the IIAR blogYesterday I was reading a thread (here) on the IIAR (Institute of Industry Analyst Relations) LinkedIn group regarding Analysts’ adoption/use of social media and it got me to thinking.. It was claimed that the CIO did not see social media as an ‘appropriate source’ of analyst information. Maybe it’s because the analysts themselves have conditioned their customers to think that value=word count? As someone who still writes the occasional piece of copy, I can agree that it is much harder to write short than it is to ramble on. How can you possibly distill the core value of a 25 page whitepaper into a tweet of 140 chars? Some analysts firms regularly produce reports in excess of 100-150 pages, where is the value in that? Does the same customer then have to buy consulting hours so the analyst can explain the top 5 points of the report or the key takeaways? Some of you will be screaming, there’s an executive summary, you can read only that! My point is, you can write only that!

Social Media and CIOs

Going back to the social media comment. I have no problem either way if CIOs do or don’t like/use social media (though it is ironic that people who deal all day with technology are often the slowest to adapt), but I do have a problem with the amount of data that some analysts create and try to pass off as value. In my opinion value ≠ word count, and I would even state that is the duty/job of the analysts is to inform their customer of what they need to know in the shortest possible way, whether that is through a tweet, blog, phone call or a one-page whitepaper(you can always ask them which they prefer). CIOs and other customers have plenty of other stuff to do, they pay analysts to distill the information and tell them what they need to know in order to make the best possible decision.

I realize that some CIOs have teams of researchers just waiting to get their hands on your next 500 page report on The Internet of Things (or any other topic), but I dare say their time could be put to better use.

I know there will be people saying that I am just after instant gratification (Generation Me and all that) and that I should be willing to wade through a 150 page report to find out the 3 things that are really important to my business! Isn’t this the tail wagging the dog?

The Answer….

So for those of you who accused me of just ranting, and not providing any tangible ideas on how to improve things, here is my first BIG contribution to the industry (ready for it) …. Introducing the ONE PAGE WHITEPAPER. I suggest that if your analyst can’t distill the message down to a single page, then find one who can.

Maybe the next step will 140 chars Whitepaper that fits in a tweet? Tough, you bet! Impossible, we shall see!


By Jonathon Gordon / Directing Analyst, Expert Market Insight (LinkedIn, @Jonathon_Gordon). Originally posted on his LinkedIn page on the 14/6/14. Opinions expressed in this guest post are not an IIAR position and may not reflect IIAR members individual opinions. 

Other posts by Jonathon

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