Perspectives on a new AR blog

09 February 2007

Last
week, the ineffable ARmadgeddon
flagged that Jim Zimmerman had started a new blog called ’AnalystPerspectives
covering the IT and telecoms analyst firm markets. I’ve been thoroughly
enjoying it so far.
 
Jim’s approach of describing smaller analyst firms is both interesting and
useful – and essential reading if you’re trying to make sense of what can seem
a dauntingly saturated market. He’s right of course: the Long Tail does apply
to the industry analyst marketplace, with what he refers to as a few “big
hits” ruling the roost and a large number of more specialised niche
players.

Jim’s latest post on ‘tiering’
analyst firms
is likely to ruffle a few feathers, not least because it
annoys the hell out of some very distinguished analysts. Notwithstanding a few
crumpled egos, however, categorising analyst firms into tiers is a logical
approach for AR pros and I don’t know any practitioners that don’t do this. As
Jim says, “there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for what constitutes each
tier”
and everyone does it slightly differently.

Jim has stated a wish to see opinions on the commentary that appears on
AnalystPerspective, so here’s my two cents-worth:


Personally, I don’t think it is useful to drop a firm into tier one, two or
three and just leave it there.

Firstly, the relevance of an analyst house depends very much on what you are
selling. Working as I do in an agency, I regularly sit down with my
various clients to evaluate the industry analyst arena and develop our understanding of
who makes an impact in their given marketplace. Just because the analyst firm
has close to a billion dollar revenue, that shouldn’t guarantee that it gets
special attention. It would be daft to underestimate the clout of a firm like
Ovum in Enterprise Mobility (especially in Europe) simply because its
revenues are a fraction of certain competitors.

Furthermore, measuring a firm purely on size and market presence suggests a
focus on getting one’s message out. Analyst Relations isn’t only about trying
to convince analysts that a company’s strategies are winning ones (which is
hardly likely to be a successful approach) it’s also about listening to what
the analysts have to say and incorporating this valuable feedback into the
organisation. Successful analyst interactions are intelligent conversations
wherein both sides give and take counsel. IT vendors that benefit the most from
their relationships with analysts have mechanisms in place to channel feedback to
the right places within their organisations.

That brings me to my third point, which is that any classification should not
be considered permanent. Just like in sporting leagues, there are climbers and
fallers. Some firms develop a competence and an influence that belies their
size, but for various reasons firms can also lose influence. As I shall try to
explain, a categorical tiering of analysts not only does a disservice to
analysts, it is potentially counterproductive to the business interests of the
vendor engaged in the tiering.

In fact, tiering analyst firms should only be considered a first step in
planning a strategy for engaging with analysts. Jim maintains an excellent directory
of analyst firms
, so I appreciate where he’s coming from, but when advising
clients I am always on the lookout for individual analysts who are
knowledgeable and insightful in my client’s space. This may result in my
counselling that an analyst in what Jim ranks as a “tier 3″ house be
prioritised as “tier 1″ and vice-versa. In other words, what might be
a “tier 1″ firm for one client may qualify as “tier 2″ or
even “tier 3″ for another.


Tiering analysts is a meaningless activity unless you tier them relative to a
specific PURPOSE.
Some analysts, for example, may have extremely high
visibility with buyers via private consultation, but may not publish or be
quoted in media as often. They would be “tier 1″ for sales
acceleration and competitive depositioning. Others are prolific authors but
can’t make time for reporters. They would be “tier 1″ for lead
generation.  And others may only have a subscription base of 1000 or less,
but are frequently quoted in high-profile publications. They would be
“tier 1″ for media references and PR purposes.

As you can probably tell by now, at H&K we prefer to tier the analyst
rather than the firm. Inevitably any analyst gets more weight from being at one
of the “big hits” than from being at a smaller firm, but there are
other factors that need to go into tiering an analyst; consider things like
customer access, customer impact, thought leadership, media visibility, key
relationships and so on (I can see another blog entry coming…) In certain
cases, the most appropriate person to engage with may not even be an analyst,
let alone one who works for a “big hit”.

4 Responses to “Perspectives on a new AR blog”

  1. John

    Dominic,

    Very well said. Tiering to your specific purpose is critical. You hit on another potential blog topic in your concluding sentence as there are certain “influencers” who are not even analysts.

    Two that come to mind just happen to be former analysts – ex-Gartner Vinnie Mirchandani at Deal Archtiect (http://dealarchitect.typepad.com/deal_architect/) and ex-Aberdeen Daniel Taylor at Mobile Enterprise Weblog (http://mobileenterprise.typepad.com/weblog/). However being an ex-analyst isn’t a pre-requisite as there are many people (i.e. consultants, etc) out there, and in may cases in the blogosphere, with deep domain knowledge and industry insight.

    Working with these folks is potentially a grey area for the AR practictioner.  Who should they fall under? AR? PR? Blogger Relations? Other?

    John

  2. Heidi Schall

    Yes, good question. What do we call them? In the age of Web2.0 potentially every person who has expert knowledge and is willing to share and communicate this knowledge can become an important influencer. Maybe even more important than an analyst.

    And it seems that becoming an analyst has become quite easy as well. At least in Germany we are seeing former journalists, authors or other industry experts who obviuosly see becoming an analyst as a business opportunity. The quality of some of these new “analyst firms” I would at least rate as questionable though.

  3. David Rossiter

    Hey Dom

    Out of the all numerous blogs I’ve seen written on this subject, yours in the one closest to my heart.  I’m not going to agree with everything you say but I’m with over 75 / 80% of the way.  We can argue about the rest over a beer ;-)

  4. ARcade

    Sally W* over at the Getting Ink blog has some advice for technology PRs who are pitching stories to

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