Report from Orlando

25 October 2009

The technology influencers landscape changes rapidly, and it’s an increasing challenge to know where to prioritize your time — what trends do you follow, which ones do you use to test the waters, and which ones have the most impact on actual revenue? I just finished up at the Gartner Analyst Relations Forum in Orlando where we discussed these very topics, and I am headed next to Gartner’s Symposium in Cannes Nov 2-3 where they will host a European Analyst Relations Forum meeting. I’ve been presenting H&K’s data and insights into how social media, industry analysts and other communications channels are merging, and the impact on B2B sales.

In the four years we’ve published the study, word of mouth and analyst recommendations have always ranked as two of the top tech sales drivers. Rapidly emerging digital channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the ever-growing blog presence are the modern-day word-of-mouth network. We find that the boundaries between digital channels and traditional spheres of influence are getting harder to delineate. H&K recently conducted a study that measured the impact of social media and third-party influencers on B2B tech sales, and explored how the two channels of influence are merging. Among other findings, 44 percent of US tech decision-makers said that analyst commentary on a blog rated an average of 4.5 out of 5 for influencing their purchase decisions.

This continued collision between traditional and digital channels creates new challenges for tech marketers, PR strategists and AR professionals. The universal take-away from my conversations at the Forum are: everyone is focused on learning how to integrate digital channels into their plans. What I find is that some people (or companies) are in early experimental phases with social media, but very few have defined the roles, processes and metrics to make it work.

The other big takeaway at the Forum: Mark McDonald rocks, but he needs new shoes. Mark heads up Gartner’s CIO Council and presented a sneak peak at very preliminary results from Gartner’s much anticipated CIO Agenda report. An hour with him is like a day with 50 of the world’s most informative CIOs. If you want insights into the psychology and politics of B2B buyer’s mindset heading into 2010, nothing beats an inquiry with Mark or a member of his team. But if you do wind up talking with Mark, be sure to offer any advice you have for a less painful way of breaking in a stylish pair of black Italian dress shoes than hiking the grounds at Disney’s Swan resort.

Up next: H&K shares more insights into digital analyst relations on an upcoming Forrester AR Council call on October 29.

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