The Lean Marketer Blog

6 Myths About Industry Analysts and Startups

This week I attended a fabulous session hosted by Gartner Israel, designed to help CEOs and Marketing executives at technology vendors learn how to get the most out of working with Gartner. As Nancy Shapira-Aronovic, Gartner’s newest account exec put it, “When you think marketing, I want you to think Gartner.” And Nancy should know, since she headed marketing and analyst relations at several leading high tech companies. Listening to the presentations and speaking with my fellow attendees, I realized that there are several prevalent myths about working with analysts:

Myth #1: You have to “Pay to Play.”

Startups have a love-hate relationship with analysts, and not just Gartner. The assumption among many entrepreneurs is that if you pay an analyst firm, they will write favorably about your company. Let me set the record straight. There are analyst firms in which you can pay for coverage; however this is considered “sponsored” coverage, and the document will typically have your logo on the front together with the logo of the analyst firm. You quite literally will be buying the analyst firm’s services to create a white paper or other document, leveraging their industry expertise and name recognition, to produce a piece of content that you can use in your sales and marketing efforts.

If the document contains just the analyst firm’s logo, for example a Gartner Magic Quadrant, or Forrester Wave, or a shorter research piece, your company does not have to pay to be included. It is completely up to the analyst’s discretion which companies he or she decides to mention.  From personal experience, I have seen startups get mentioned and even lauded in analyst documents without spending a cent. Of course for the annual surveys like Magic Quadrants and so forth, there are specific criteria that the companies must fit into, for example, a certain level of revenues, or minimum number of enterprise customers, so these types of documents may be harder for a young company to be included in.

Of course if you DO pay for an annual subscription or for consulting hours, it is easier to get more access to your relevant analyst(s), which may (or may not) turn into coverage. But there are no guarantees of this, and you still need to proactively keep the analysts updated about your company’s progress. And there are completely free ways to keep analysts informed about your company, through vendor briefings, quarterly email updates, and so on.

Myth #2: Analysts sit in an ivory tower – we know more about our market than they do

Startup execs tend to be experts in their specific field. Anyone who is passionate enough to create a company around a certain subject is bound to know a lot about it. And it’s true, analysts may have a broader field of expertise, within which your specific niche is just that – a niche. But that doesn’t mean you know MORE than they do. You may know more about your specific product area, but the analysts have a valuable broader perspective. They are out there, day after day, talking to your potential customers.

As Michael Yoo, SVP High Tech and Telecoms Programs for Gartner put it, industry analysts can help vendors get a view into customers’ minds, for example, how do they make a buying decision? What other elements are necessary in the sales puzzle in order for your specific widget to get selected? What are some solutions competing for the same budget that you may not have considered competitors? Exactly the types of questions that are hardest for a vendor to answer on their own. So be careful about having snobby attitude towards an analyst’s knowledge – there is much to learn from analysts if you will simply listen.

Myth #3: We should start briefing the analysts around the time of our product launch

Analysts take a very long range view of the market, and prefer to know what is coming down the pike months in advance, just like their customers. As was mentioned in the Gartner event, it’s best to start speaking with the relevant analysts for your target market at least three months in advance of your official launch, since that will give you time to get feedback from the analyst and possibly incorporate it into the product or at least into your marketing messages. Analysts may not be willing to sign an NDA, but they’re also not going to go running to the competition to tell them what you are doing if you ask them to keep it under wraps. They are used to “off the record” chats, and like anyone, enjoy being given the opportunity to contribute their expertise, rather than having your product and marketing content basically presented to them as a done deal.

Something I was not aware of, but learned at this event, is that clients of Gartner can run their marketing materials by analysts, to receive feedback. For example, you could send a slide deck for feedback, and the analyst could tell you which messages from the slides s/he feels will most resonate  with your potential customers. This sounds like a great service that I encourage you – if you are a client of Gartner – to take advantage of. If you are a client of other analyst firms, it’s worth checking if they offer a similar service. It may not be in their brochure, but if you have a good relationship with an analyst they may be willing to do it anyway.

Myth #4: Gartner is the only analyst firm worth talking to 

Certainly among IT decision makers in large enterprises, Gartner is one of the leaders, with other companies such as Forrester and IDC also leading in various areas of IT. But there are literally dozens of other analyst firms, and that’s just if you are targeting IT buyers; many of these may be a better fit for your particular needs. There are also lots of startups out there that may be in high-tech, but whose target audience is  not IT decision makers.

You can be a hi-tech company targeting veterinarians (believe me, I recently met just this combination). Depending on what market you are targeting, you need to identify the key influencers in that market. And you are right, if it’s not enterprise IT, Gartner is not relevant for you. Even if it is enterprise IT, depending on what you are selling, there may be some niche or “boutique” analysts that cover your specific exact area, and have even more influence than Gartner, Forrester or IDC for your specific target customers.

Update June 24: Nancy points out in the comments that Gartner is no longer just focused on enterprise IT, and has invested in Retail, Manufacturing, Government, Telecom and Mobile, Healthcare and SMBs.

Myth #5: Being placed in the “Niche” quadrant of the Gartner Magic Quadrant is bad. The only place worth being is in the “leader” quadrant 

Most analyst firms have some version of the Gartner Magic Quadrant, an annual document that maps product vendors according to if they are “niche,” “visionary,” “challenger” or “leader.” The terminology might change slightly from analyst firm to firm, but the concept is the same.  (One boutique analyst firm I have worked with in the past offers something they call a “Market Quadrant,” tee hee). While it’s important for vendors to be included in such documents, there is no shame in being considered a “niche” solution, unless you really are designed for the masses. The niche quadrant is a perfectly respectable place to be.

Usually in the body of the document there will be an explanation of why you are considered niche and not something else. Just getting on the quadrant itself is usually an important accomplishment for a small company, since as I’ve mentioned, there are typically fairly rigorous entry requirements to even be considered. You might be considered niche since your solution only integrates with a particular platform, or because you only target companies with over 5000 employees, or…because you are a small company from Israel.

If it really drives you crazy, put a special effort into how you answer the quadrant questionnaire the following year, and spend the year speaking with the relevant analyst(s), helping them get to know your company better. Companies have been known to move “up” a quadrant as a result of positive analyst relations, but this will only show in the next version of the document, usually around a year later.  One tip is that this ranking can be influenced by the number and type of inquiries the relevant analysts receive about your company, so if you have customers or prospects that you know are clients of a particular analyst firm, try to remind them to ask the analysts their opinion of your company. Of course, if you’ve never briefed the analyst and they have no idea who you are, this could actually hurt you, so this has to be just one part of your overall analyst relations program.

Myth #6 Analysts don’t really want to hear from us – we’re much too small

Not true! Every analyst firm has a page on their site with instructions about how to give a vendor briefing. Follow those instructions carefully, fill out the relevant request forms, and you, too, can talk to an analyst. Of course it’s wise to invest some time in researching who is/are the relevant analyst(s) for your specific industry. See what they’ve written, look at their bios, check out their blogs and their tweets in order to determine who you should be speaking with. You are entitled to do vendor briefings once or twice a year at NO COST, even if you are not a client. This is because analysts like to hear about new things in the market. In fact, it’s part of their job. They need to know more than their customers, and this is one easy way for them to stay ahead. BTW before you do your first analyst briefing, check out these excellent tips from a Gartner analyst.

Today there are other ways to get in touch with analysts besides vendor briefings. Many vendors write blogs that are open to reader comments. If you see something interesting on their blog & write a comment, you could very well begin a dialogue with them. Same for tweets – you can retweet what an analyst says, or respond to things that they tweet, and potentially begin a relationship that way. Don’t be obnoxious about it, though. Analysts are people, and they respond to people, not random tweets.

What has been your experience working with industry analysts? Please share in the comments.

Image by…me. Word cloud created in Wordle.

Updated June 24, 2012 – added one sentence to myth #4 based on a comment.

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  1. Yves de Montcheuil - June 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I can absolutely testify to the points that:
    1. You don’t need to pay to be included in research.
    2. Engaging analysts through blogs is a good idea.

    The challenging part is to  maintain a proper balance between being controversial enough to make your point, while respecting the other party’s independence and methodology.

    For example, when I got all pissed off at not being included in a magic quadrant, I did not challenge the analysts work, but rather Gartner’s methodology:
    And this sparked an interesting debate:

    • Rebecca Herson - June 14, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Yves, This is fantastic – thank you for sharing your original post & Gartner’s response. I read the entire thread on both Talend’s & Gartner’s blog – it was absolutely fascinating & I strongly recommend to anyone who has read this far, scroll back up a little bit & click through the 2 links on Yves’ comment. 

      One question I have for you – your original post & the back&forth with Gartner was written in 2008. What’s happened since then? Have you been able to make progress with Gartner and/or other analysts? How? 

      I remember from when I headed global marketing at Whale Communications, an Internet security startup, in the early days every setback with industry analysts was considered major, as were the tiniest accomplishments. This is because we were evaluating everything we did on a fairly short time window because we were so new. But I headed marketing there for six years (!), and over that amount of time a lot can happen, and indeed we went from not being included in the magic quadrant one year, to being included as a niche vendor the next year, and then visionary the year after that.   

      • Yves de Montcheuil - June 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

        Rebecca, thanks for the kind response. This exchange was indeed very interesting (and passionate). I heard through the grapevine that it prompted some analyst firms to at least rethink about some of their rules and processes. Not saying it got them to change them – I am not that arrogant – but thinking is good.

        Since then, we’ve gone a long way. The following year we were a visionary in that magic quadrant (and we’ve progressed in it every year since), now trying to break through the horizontal line that’s right above us.

        We also entered a few more magic quadrants, always as visionary. Still have an issue with the admission criteria is some other ones, and this is the topic of fierce discussions with the analysts.

        A couple months ago, we also made leader in a Forrester Wave, which was great – and proved further the point about the independence of good analysts (see this post:

        Of course, we would not have gotten this recognition without a fantastic set of products, a great market execution, a super fast growth, and a disruptive model (open source). Marketing is only the catalyst that brings all these ingredients together and distills it to the analysts!

        • Rebecca Herson - June 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

          Thanks for sharing about how Talend’s been able make such  great progress over the years with analysts, and congrats on being validated as a leader in the Forrester Wave on ETL! 

  2. Michael Gally - June 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    great post.
    I will adress my post readers to it.

  3. Nancy Shapira-Aronovic - June 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for the great post.  You covered a lot of really important points.  Although I agree with Myth #4 in part—Gartner is not just about enterprise IT anymore—Gartner has invested in several major verticals in the last few years: Retail, Manufacturing, Government, Telecom and Mobile, Healthcare and SMBs.  In addition, the programs for Business Leaders recognizes that Marketing and other business leaders are highly involved in the Technology decisions and has special programs for them.  I look forward to working with israeli technology vendors and assist in making better strategic and marketing decisions.

    • Rebecca Herson - June 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      Nancy, thanks for this – you are right, Gartner often gets unfairly labeled as being only focused on enterprise IT. I’ve edited the post to reflect this. 

  4. Brazosastro - June 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    FACT:  Analyst (not Gartner) asked us to “sponsor” a study and we did. 
    FACT:  We were mentioned in a good light in the study. 
    FACT:  Analyst (not Gartner) asked us to “sponsor” another study (push vs. pull)
    FACT:  During the discussion, Analyst could not define difference.
    FACT:  We did not sponsor study. 
    FACT:  We were never mentioned again. 

    Don’t tell me it is not pay to play!  (perhaps Gartner is the exception)

  5. Nancy Shapira-Aronovic - June 21, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    This situation is relevant to Rebecca’s Myth no 1 about Pay to Play.  The 2 analyst groups that treasure their objectivity above all are Gartner and Forrester.  Most of the rest will write white papers sponsored by you—it may be good for some marketing efforts but the problem is that everyone knows that it is sponsored and not objective so the value is very different from a report written from an expert, objective point of view.  This gives you the value of exposure but not the insight and influence that you would get from the top analyst groups.

  6. Nancy Ellis - June 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Nancy, please remember that Gartner has strongly increased it coverage in SMB, SOHO (small office/ home office) and consumer technologies. The smaller you are the more Gartner can help expedite growth. 

  7. Duane Kuroda - June 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I’m a former Gartner Analyst and have had to deal with several executives since I left there who have mentioned experiences such as “Pay to play” example in the comments or complained in ways that match your myths.

    I think your article is a great starting point for discuss around these myths. I especially appreciate how you encourage the relationship development to take the discussion beyond griping about the myths. I’ll be bookmarking your article so I don’t have to repeat the points as I’ve been doing in the past. 

    • Rebecca Herson - June 22, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you very much! I am glad to hear you found this post useful and would like to refer to it in the future.

  8. Paul Cubbage - June 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    As a former analyst, when asked if I was objective, I always replied, “Certainly I am objective! and I’m the most objective about clients!”

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  11. Duncan Chapple - June 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    This is a really great article. Thanks so much!

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