The Fox and the Hound: Forrester’s AR advisory service

30 August 2007

Much has already been said about Forrester’s recently launched Analyst Relations advisory service.  Even so, it appears to have generated more buzz internally with Forrester analysts than with tech buyers, as a few analysts have privately expressed concern that such a service “muddies the waters” of client service. (This suggests that perhaps a little more internal communication re: this program is warranted at Forrester.)

Hill & Knowlton’s US and European teams were first briefed on this service and the thinking behind back in May 2007.  It appears to be a well-intentioned service offering primarily designed to help tech vendors increase the ROI from their Forrester research subscriptions.  Services such as best practices for analysts’ preferred communications mediums and protocols are useful, as is the ability to brainstorm some creative ways of collaborating with analysts or getting a glimpse into some common best practices.

But beware: learning AR from an analyst is a little like taking lessons in fox-hunting from a fox.  An analyst firm would be self-interested, certainly, in helping a tech vendor see more value in their subscription.  And the analyst firm would also be self-interested in making sure the vendor engages in AR in a way that’s most beneficial to the analyst firm.

In other words, you probably aren’t going to learn top tips for evangelizing an analyst who’s not in your corner, minimizing the market impact of an analyst who appears to be intractably biased towards your competition, or cost-saving alternatives to an expensive consulting day.  You’re not going to get tips for minimizing your research spend, nor will you get an unbiased view as to which analysts impact your business most (especially when it comes to comparing analysts from other firms).

This is not to pick on Forrester. Other firms have tried similar approaches in the past, with mixed success.  And the logic here applies equally to Gartner and IDC as it does to Forrester.

But to the young, inexperienced AR practitioner, this offer from Forrester might look at first blush like a wonderful tutorial in all things in AR. But it’s more like the first half of the Fox & the Hound story where the two critters play together as youngsters, learn from each other, but eventually have to grow up.  Eventually, an experienced AR practitioner has to learn a few tricks that the fox doesn’t know, or else that hound will never be able to hunt properly.

Last observation: Forrester sales reps should be careful not to position this AR advisory program as a upsell channel or a way for Forrester to make more money.  H&K knows Forrester management does not see this as an additional revenue stream, but some of the marketing material and sales commentary might suggest otherwise.  As any tech marketer worth their salt knows, the minute you start charging extra to teach your customers how to use your product, customers get skeptical–and rightfully so.  And with Forrester’s credibility doing so well these days, it would be a shame to set it back with over-aggressive sales and marketing.

2 Responses to “The Fox and the Hound: Forrester’s AR advisory service”

  1. Carter Lusher

    Hi Josh, Great post and I completely agree with you.

    There is another issue with analyst firms doing this sort of AR role research — creating best practice recommenations using surveys of analysts where most of the respondents are from the same analyst firm. For instance, Forrester in "AR Should Use The Main Web Site To Convey Information To Analysts" (www.forrester.com/Role/Research/Document/0,8564,42641,00.html) heavily relied on a survey of 77 analysts, 89% of which were from Forrester. Can we say statistical skew?

  2. Duncan Chapple

    Both excellent points. I’m on this riff too, but in a different direction:

    <a>http://analystrelations.blogspot.com/2007/08/forrester-ar-guidance-may-illustrate.html&lt;/a&gt;

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