Thursday 9 August 2007

Hopkins: Gartner will continue to dictate terms to Gartner

This extract from a recent article by Bill Hopkins is a powerful summary of the way most AR professionals are feeling about Gartner's attempts to sell 'over the heads' of AR professionals, and to drive up pricing without corresponding increases in value. It deserves a wider audience -- and a response from Gartner.


Gartner has a number of potential customers at any technology products or services vendor
and, with a few exceptions, we think they have done a good job of building products that
will appeal to these different roles. Besides a specific product aimed towards Analyst
Relations professionals, there are products for product management/marketing,
market/competitive intelligence, a consumption based model for professional services and
even vendor sales people. From a breadth perspective, this is good and represents the
major roles we see in the tech vendor community today.
The problem with this is that the way most vendors buy analyst firm services, everybody but
AR are users, AR are both users and buyers. Like it or not, right now most of the economic
power for buying analyst products and services lies with AR, not in these other groups. It is
fine to build products for them, but you have to understand what your clients want to buy
and how they want to buy it.

Understand what your clients want to buy

Gartner claims to have done extensive product testing and research within their vendor
client base. It appears as if this is true when it comes to the more market research oriented
functions (Gartner for Product Management/Marketing, Gartner for CI/MI, Gartner for
Professional Services and Gartner for Sales.
From what we can tell (and despite some communication from Gartner to the contrary)
there appears to have been little or no research done with AR professionals as to what they
want to buy. We have talked to our vendor AR clients and friends, large and small, from
across all the major industries that Gartner covers and can find no one that was consulted
on what they wanted to buy. Whether this happened through ignorance, omission or
arrogance, it still has the same effect - alienation of the buyer - the Vendor AR professional.
Gartner needs to stop avoiding the fact that vendor AR staff is paid specifically to try and
get you to say good (or at least not-bad) things about them. Period. That is their primary
job. From a product perspective, they don't necessarily want to buy more research from
you, they don't usually want to buy more advice about how to do their jobs and they don't
want to buy days and days of your analysts' time (not unless doing so adds value to their
efforts to get your analysts to understand them better).
What they want to buy are things that help them achieve their goals - identifying the right
analysts to talk to, spending time with those analysts, engaging them to help in their
marketing efforts (reprints, speaking engagements, Webinars, etc.) and some kind of
feedback mechanism to help them understand what the analysts are thinking and saying
about them.

Understand how your clients buy things

It seems to us that in the genesis of these new products Gartner is trying to get closer to -
and build products for - the other functions in a vendor organization (Product
Marketing/Management, Sales, CI, etc.) but would like to minimize the role and power of AR
in the buying of these products and go directly to each role. We see this as natural and
eventually it may become the way vendors buy things from Gartner. However, we think that
this is too much, too soon. Right now, we estimate that as many as 70% of all vendors
centralize analyst purchasing through AR. Trying to marginalize the role that AR has in
managing and optimizing the value that a vendor gets from their relationships with analysts,
let alone the research buying process, is futile and can permanently damage these
relationships. Maybe someday things will change, but not anytime soon.
Gartner needs to treat their vendor AR clients as allies, not enemies. If they want to sell
stuff costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the rest of the organization they must
respect the wishes of the AR group too. Not only can they not dictate business terms to
them in the contracting process, they cannot dictate engagement terms to them in the
engagement process. To me, this sounds like a simple economic argument. Until Gartner
learns to engage AR in selling to the rest of the organization, they won't realize anywhere
near the potential for success from these new products in the marketplace
Because of their influence over technology buyers, technology vendors treat the
relationships that they have with analysts as carefully managed corporate assets. This
extends to not just how they engage, but to how they buy as well. For most vendors this
has meant giving the responsibility for managing this asset, in its totality and regardless of
which department or role is actually using it, to the AR Group. Gartner must understand that
if a vendor AR person tells them they need to go through them, then they must respect their
wishes and figure out how to do so. A huge majority of vendor clients are going to centralize
their buying through AR and will get ANGRY AND ACT NEGATIVELY when anybody tries to go
around or over them.

Communicate effectively about these new products internally and externally

Here is where things get a little rough. In our opinion, this is the single biggest issue facing
Gartner, and their new products. We hear it time and again. New products are launched,
new policies put in place and the sales reps or analysts have never heard of them, don't
understand the policies around them or choose not to follow them. Back in the day, when
there were not really any vendor products to worry about, this was comical and maybe even
ironic. Today, when Gartner is asking you for hundreds of thousands of dollars in
incremental spend on new products it is downright dangerous.
This is particularly the case with Gartner's vendor sales force. For years we have seen them
use a variety of tactics to instill fear in the vendor client base. It doesn't take a sales rep or
manager very long to figure out that there is a great deal of fear that they can wield in the
buying process. Not just fear of the analysts saying something bad about them, but an even
deeper fear that somehow, if they don't buy enough stuff, or play the game the way their
rep wants them to, they'll be cut off from access to the analysts. I saw it 12 years ago when
I was an analyst and we still see it now. We believe that for Gartner's vendor products to
ultimately be successful, this has to stop. They need to start selling on value, not fear.
Gartner's sales reps need to understand their products, the value propositions and policies
that go with them and the options that the vendors have in buying them. Then they need to
develop consistency in what they are telling the vendor community… No more telling AR
people that they MUST buy Gartner for AR product. No more inventing derivative products
and policies on the fly. No more telling their clients what they are going to buy and how
much they are going to pay for them, no more refusing to replace sales reps at the
CUSTOMER'S request and no more telling vendors they can't buy just what they bought last
year. With some restrictions, they can.
Though this is the biggest issue, it is also the one I am least optimistic about seeing being
fixed. This one is different. It is inculcated in the company culture and is not likely to be
fixed very easily. For over 25 years, Gartner has honed a corporate sales culture (and to be
honest, an analysts culture too) that directly or indirectly endorses an anti-vendor bias.
I do believe these problems can be fixed, but in order to fix this problem, Gartner
management must be prepared to make some serious adjustments to the what and how of
the vendor sales process. If they don't they run the risk of launching a whole new business
line that fails to reach its potential due to an inability or lack of desire to fix problems that
should have been addressed years ago.

The Bottom Line

Our guidance is to be cautious when considering Gartner's new offerings. They are complex,
Gartner's sales and marketing organization isn't doing a good job of explaining them and for
most vendors they are incrementally very expensive. We are seeing good progress in the
conception and bundling of the GBL roles offerings and there is value in these new products,
but there are still nagging issues with execution. Make sure that there is a very clearly
demonstrated value proposition, which furthers your reaching your AR goals, before you
buy. Also, it goes without saying, don't ever buy half-baked or incomplete products. Wait
until such a time that Gartner can articulate exactly what they do, show them to you,
explain how they work, demonstrate real business value, and offer you references. Then is
the time to buy.
In the end, remember that most all of the basic products (with the exception of library
seats) still exist and you can still buy them a-la-carte (at least for now). Sometimes, buying
just a simple core research seat, with inquiry, is just what you need to do your job.
For the time being, we also recommend (and have always recommended) to our vendor
clients that AR be involved in all research purchases and that AR remains the single point of
entry into the organization for analyst firm sales reps. However, this cuts both ways. If you
want to be involved in this process, take the time to learn what these new products do and
how they might bring value to your organization. Don't ever tie the act of helping a Gartner
rep. sell in to your organization to getting favorable coverage or changing an analyst's
position (which HAS happened). Not only is this dumb and usually backfires, it ruins it for
everybody else.
Finally, and most importantly, we recommend that all of our vendor clients let Gartner know
just exactly what they think of their new products, policies, etc. This is especially important
when you are being told one thing by the product side and another thing by sales. Without a
strong, united, universal feedback mechanism from vendors, especially AR professionals, it
is our belief that Gartner will continue to dictate the terms.

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