Cracking the Quadrant – Confessions of a former Gartner Analyst

I attended a meetup recently that featured a speaker who had once been a Gartner analyst. 1118-CubeimageHe shared his insights about the inner workings of the firm, and how to get the most out of analyst relations programs. It was great info, and relevant for companies seeking to improve their standing and results with analysts and enterprise IT decision-makers.

Our clients often ask about how to get listed and/or favorably positioned in the vaunted Gartner Magic Quadrant. Of course, there are other analysts, and recipes for organizing and ranking the tech field (Forrester Wave reports come to mind). But Gartner warrants special attention, as they are the largest, and seem to be at the top of the heap.

So, I decided to write this post and share what I learned. I am not naming the speaker, or including everything that he covered. It summarizes key takeaways, in my own words (except for the quotes – those were indeed said at the session).

(Note: if you are interested in the back story, the former analyst replied very enthusiastically when I pitched him the idea for this post right after the talk. So I drafted and sent it to him… and was met with radio silence, despite several phone call and email follow-ups. Perhaps he was afraid of the reaction from his former employer and got cold feet. I am not sure why – nothing here is that earth shattering or outrageous.

While I would have much preferred to write this with his name and full cooperation, better to share the information as an anonymous confessional than not at all; it is just too important to hold onto, and was presented in a public forum, so it is fair game, in my opinion).

Read on for the tips from the session, and I hope that you find them useful.

Why care about analysts – and Gartner?

They are extremely influential. The speaker cited Hill and Knowlton annual surveys, which consistently show that analysts have the most impact when it comes to enterprise IT purchasing decisions, compared with other sources of influence/info.

Gartner is at the top of the analyst heap, with billings of about $1.6B / year. Forrester is a distant second.

Interestingly, Gartner also holds sway over SMBs – even though the firm chiefly covers tech used by large enterprises. They reap the benefits of buzz and PR, gained from all those who proudly shout their Gartner validation from the rooftops.

Why care about the Magic Quadrant?

It is one of Gartner’s flagship offerings, and the lens through which they view and rank the tech world. The quadrants map to technology segments and have grown in number, from 15 when the former analyst was there in the late 80s-90s to about 800 today (“their analysts know more and more about less and less”).

Getting favorably positioned (“lower left is for losers”) can mean good things.

If you somehow don’t qualify to be listed in a quadrant – e.g. due to insufficient revenue (“you need at least $10-15M/year”) you still can make a Cool Vendor report. These were developed specifically to help Gartner stay close to the startup space.

Engage, Don’t Brief Analysts

How can you influence these über-influencers?

First, don’t lump them in with the media – they hate being relegated to “press and analyst relations”. Analysts are not neutral, like the media are supposed to be – they have strong opinions (“and hence can make terrible dinner guests.”) They don’t like working with marketers.

According to the speaker, an “engaged analyst is an influenceable analyst.” They like to be consulted about product decisions. Analysts love talking to CEOs about their vision, and generally don’t like getting deep into the tech weeds.

Here are some other points:

  • They want to feel they have input on product design, and might point out the holes if you don’t seek their counsel
  • Make sure they honor an embargo or sign an NDA before you share confidential info
  • “You can’t say ‘you’re wrong’ to an analyst. If you bring proof and hard data, fine, otherwise they’ll go with their opinions.”

Is it Pay for play? Just Follow the Money

Analyst firms will typically grant vendors one free formal briefing (i.e., booked through their account team) per year. Take the briefing, but you will get pressure from their sales staff to sign up.

Also, you can meet with them at other times informally – e.g. at trade shows, based on personal relationships and direct contact.

The entry level cost for a major analyst like Gartner is about $15-20K. Add the cost of the A/R firm, which can rival the above fee. Someone once studied and estimated total costs associated with getting into the desired Magic Quadrant; it could be $500K, when you include executives’ time and resources.

Lest you think it sounds like one big protection racket, the speaker dismissed this and said, essentially, follow the money: the firms get most of their revenue – like 80% – from advising enterprises.

They have to shoot straight or they will jeopardize the cash cow. Also, it is a fact – I know this from our clients – that you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with Gartner or others and not get listed the way you want. Conversely, many who don’t pay get ranked very favorably.

Steal This Category

Finally, I had to know, and asked during the Q & A: how do new quadrants get minted?

We often have clients that don’t fit neatly into a segment. They might be disrupting an existing area, or inventing a new one. Is it wildly unrealistic to get Gartner or others to conform to your worldview? Perhaps even get behind your definition of the new area, and help you promote it?

The speaker said that new quadrants are generally spawned bottom up. Analysts toiling in the trenches may see the opportunity to launch one if they identify something like eight vendors that don’t fit neatly elsewhere.

They are the ones who invented the TLA, and are partial to their own inventions and definitions.

Vendors almost never successfully invent categories on their own; it would be a great outcome if the analyst stole their idea for a category, the ultimate tribute.


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Social Tools Summit Wrap

I attended and really enjoyed the Social Tools Summit in Boston earlier this week. Neal STSummitSchaffer and Brian Mahony produced a great event; kudos to both, and thanks again for inviting me to speak there.

The day was chock full of discussions and helpful information about the many aspects of social media marketing – it covered challenges, best practices, and yes – tools.  If you like social media and tech, as I do, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

An added bonus was that I got the chance to hang out with (and in some cases, meet for the first time) people I knew from my days writing for Maximize Social Business – like Joe Ruiz, Debbie Miller, and of course Neal.

I also met many very nice new people, including Frog’s Leap Winery social wiz Natalie Barnard, who was kind enough to share this photo of the session I moderated.

Although some complain that there are too many tools, and it is hard to understand and navigate all the options, that is exactly why I found the day to be so useful. I learned about new ones, and was able to kick the tires of some that I was curious about during the speed demo portion of the event.

I also jotted down notes of tools that were recommended by speakers.  I list below a few that struck my interest (a more complete list can be found in Alan Belniak’s post).

  • AhaBooks, AhaAmplifier – Mitchell Levy of THINKAha (and fellow MSB alum) was on my panel; they offer social-media enabled ebooks, and tools to amplify thought leadership.
  • TraackrKatie Paterson was on my panel too, their service is the go-to option when it comes to social influencer relationship management.
  • Oktopost – I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the founder and CEO, Daniel Kushner – Oktopost is a great option for comprehensive B2B social media marketing and management – many of our clients could benefit.
  • SimplyMeasured – Great system for cross-channel analytics; they took one of the top awards there.
  • Here’s a cool hack / feature someone mentioned; you can use with Buffer (which I use and love) to curate content and tweet to multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Other tools mentioned in the session:
    • Trendspottr Signal, platform for social listening and curation; I use and love Trendspottr
    • Cyfe – I use this social dashboard, one of the panelists mentioned that it can be used to create content calendars.
    • Meddle.IT enables each employee be a content creator
    • In a similar vein, EveryoneSocial gives your team social media advocacy tools
    • Ditto – Deep learning, discovery of image content
    • Visual content and design tools including Canva, PicMonkey and PostCreator
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Off to the Social Tools Summit

I am very much looking forward to attending the Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools15) in Boston next STSummitTuesday, where I will be moderating a session on content marketing.

Neal Schaffer invited me to participate awhile back, and I jumped at the opportunity as I new that he and his team would put together a great event.  There are some really informative sessions, an awesome list of sponsors, and excellent speakers on the agenda; it is a can’t miss conference, if you work with social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

The panel I will be moderating has experts that come from an interesting mix of tech vendors and the user side:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late.  I can offer readers of this blog a discount code; just send me a note or put in a request via comments below.

Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.



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Trick or Tweet? The Damage of TMI

So, does information really want to be free?ifItellYou

Yes, it does, according to technology activists (and Steward Brand, who coined the phrase; see Wikipedia).

It does if you are an insider trading apologist or fair disclosure objector.  As I wrote on this blog, research has shown that Regulation FD can be harmful.

But others may not agree.

It is an interesting area to study, the tensions that exist at the borders of information: what forces want to keep it bottled up, what is our right to know, how do you reconcile the two?

Journalists may be of two minds. On the one hand, they want to report news, whenever they want, period. But what has our sense of entitlement to free, immediate and ubiquitous information done to their business models?

PR people (I am one) and corporations like to manage and control the release of information. Of course, this is getting harder to do.

Twitter is perhaps the poster child for leaky information. You’d guess that their executives just love how the platform has become famous for scooping the media. Yet, the company ironically fell victim earlier this week when poor financial results got out early, via Twitter; their stock tanked.

And what about the Average Joe consumer? You’d think they love free access to information, right? Not necessarily. The NY Times reported that football fans don’t like spoilers when it comes to the NFL draft.

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Getting in with the New In Crowd: Developers

Many PR and marketing teams target the usual suspects. They launch campaigns to get InCrowdcustomers, recruit employees and channel partners, and cozy up to investors and local communities.

But if you are in tech, there is an increasingly important audience that may be getting short shrift.

The software developer is becoming the linchpin in more and more business plans. Once a minor influencer and cog in IT procurement, they have emerged as a major force that can hold the keys to your market, further adoption of new tech and products and even make or break companies.

Why is the developer suddenly so important? And how can you court this coveted group?

In this series I will try to answer these questions. This first post will discuss the developer imperative, describe some of the challenges, and set the stage for a discussion of the tactics that can help you achieve success.

The Rise of the Software Developer

Perhaps you want to foster adoption of your software and drive grassroots growth in the enterprise. Maybe you want ISVs to add compatible solutions and functionality; this makes yours more useful and the vaunted network effect can be the key to becoming a standard. Or, it could simply be that your product is geared to programmers, and you want to sell to them.

Of course, let’s not forget a primary motivator: recruitment. Many want to promote their companies and technologies as cool for programmers.

In any of these scenarios you will want to find a way to get through and win them over.

Their rising importance can be tied directly to the growing role of software for consumers and businesses. Our lives and work are increasingly organized by apps. The rise of software-driven architectures has played a role.

Open source is growing, lowering costs and promoting standards. Apps, SaaS and the cloud bring code within reach of everyone. SDKs and APIs make it easier to extend functionality and integrate solutions.

In a world in which every business is becoming a software company, software is increasingly the Lingua Franca, and the developer, a hero (see my post: There’s Gold in them Apps – and App Developers).

So What, Really, is New Here?

Of course, marketing to developers is not new. If you’ve worked in tech, you have no doubt heard about the trend – just check out the following headlines:

It is a fair bet that the major vendors have big war chests and teams dedicated to winning over this coveted group. But smaller companies and startups might not know where to start.

With the growing importance of this group, you do need a plan if you don’t have one already.

What Does the Developer Want?

If the rationale is clear, the path to winning their hearts, minds and commitment can be anything but.

Developers are not some monolithic group that you can influence with top down marketing. They can be fiercely independent, or belong to tribes. Many value their affiliations and credentials, and wear their certifications like military stripes and skills like battle scars. They can be mired in legacy tech or early adopters.

Having said that, there are some common threads, and ways to communicate that can help you achieve your goals.

Before you begin, ask the following questions:

  • What types of developers are important?
    • Where do they meet in person and online?
    • Where do they get information?
    • Are there similar adjacent communities?
  • What are their hot buttons? Relevant trends?
  • How can you interest /incentivize them?
    • Why should they care about your company/technology?
  • How can you work with developers to further your goals?

My next post will explore PR campaigns designed to build visibility and reputation with software developers.

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Belle of the Ball or Lead Balloon? Read this Before Launching at a Show

You have big news coming up, like a major company or product launch.  Should you tryanniversary-157248_1280 to make a splash at the next major show?

The answer depends on a number of factors.

The press swarm around the big tech events, and it seems you can’t escape the related din during show time.  It was hard to get attention for clients in mobile and telecom who were not at Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, much attention turned to South by Southwest (SxSW). The NY Times recounted the history of companies that launched big there:

In 2007, Twitter had its “South by” moment, a tipping point for the company in which many people began to use the service more actively.

The same thing happened to Foursquare… In 2009, Dennis Crowley, a co-founder, flipped the switch on Foursquare days before the conference began; it became the breakout app of the conference and was valued at nearly $100 million a little more than a year later.

Whether it is SxSW or another show, it is tempting to think that your company can become the belle of the ball and reach a wider stage. But precious few do so – the same NY Times article mentioned several SxSW darling wannabes that either never got the big buzz, or did, but failed to live up to the hype.

So, why not ditch the Go Big or Go Home bravado, and ask the following questions before betting big on a trade show Hail Mary?

Can your news really stand out? A popular trade show is like a busy news day. It is usually difficult or impossible to know which news might compete with or eclipse yours.

Twitter and FourSquare’s SxSW lofty debuts were not just about clever PR – they were perfect storms, the result of timing, momentum that had already been building, and great synergies with the event vibe and crowd.

Is it the right kind of news for the show? If you do have truly important news and it is a hallmark event for your space, it may still make sense to launch there. Key media and analysts typically attend, and watch closely for just this type of thing.

New product announcements can get attention at a show. Organizers often run award contests for products announced there.

Even if you don’t announce at a show, there are ways to get some PR mileage from the opportunity. It is great to be able to meet with the journalists and analysts who are attending, and take the time to introduce your company or share updates.

You could also share news under embargo (meaning that the journalist agrees to not jump the gun) that will be announced at a later date.

Just remember that reporters usually prefer to cover-show related news.  It is a PR feeding frenzy to get on their dance cards, and hard to spend quality time amidst the noise and chaos of a show.

If you are not investing in a booth, or announcing at a show, set your expectations accordingly.

For more information about considerations in timing your tech news, see my post on the topic.  Visit this page if you’d like to sign up for more information about how to maximize your tech PR launch.

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GigaOm Crash? Houston, We Have a Bigger Problem

GigaOm’s crash and burn this week really hit a nerve. The outpouring on the blogs and group-img-large-1280x720social media showed its key place in the hearts and minds of those in the B2B tech space. The speed of the flameout left many of us grasping for answers.

Over the next day, like a slowly developing Polaroid, tweets and articles from watchers and principals started to fill in the picture.

I share more of what I learned, and offer takeaways for B2B tech PR and marketers below.

Houston, we Have a Problem

I first heard the news Tuesday evening, when one of our AEs sent an email with the subject line:”GigaOm is shutting down!” and the following tweets.

I could not believe my eyes.


The next day, there were many tweets and articles that sought to explain what happened, such as these stories on Digiday and TNW. Colleagues and coworkers compared notes and shared info – my good friend Judy Gombita sent this exit interview of Matthew Ingram, from Columbia Journalism Review.

Some blamed GigaOm’s troubles on VC, and the pressures of trying to grow too quickly. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan wrote a great piece on Medium about the benefits of bootstrapping a tech media operation.  He described the success of Third Door Media,  and lamented the lack of attention they and others get compared to VC-backed high fliers.

A PR Week story, also shared by Judy, tried to gauge the reaction from the PR community.  The headline said it all: Tech Media Landscape Unruffled… Says PR Pros.  The reason? In essence, there are many other tech blogs where GigaOm came from, and many other places to get your tech news covered.

I disagree. First, GigaOm was not just another tech media operation. They had a unique talent for covering enterprise tech.

Noted SiliconValleyWatcher blogger Tom Foremski also took exception – he said, in the following tweet (also, please check out his take on the GigaOm shutdown):

“…The headline doesn’t match the story… Fewer news orgs is not good for PR pros”

Another issue with the PR Week story – it would seem to imply that PR is just about getting media coverage.  Aren’t our clients and employers expecting the investment (which increasingly also covers social media and content marketing) to deliver business results?

Houston, we Have a Bigger Problem

Let me try to further explain by sharing the details of a conversation I just had with a good friend Joe, an IT consultant.  He is a project manager, and has worked with some of the largest banks in the areas of fraud prevention and anti-money laundering tech.

I was trying to better understand where IT decision-makers get their info on behalf of a client that offers solutions in this area.  They were looking for ways to get through to buyers.

Through an email exchange, I asked my questions and Joe shot back “Gartner is what immediately jumps to mind.  Financial services firms worship them.  Then the 2nd tier analysts… Forrester, etc.”

I pressed him further, and he responded with the trade shows and industry associations.

Of course, I was fishing for the names of blogs and publications that the decision-makers frequent.  Not getting this, I responded in frustration: “I guess no one reads any more :(”

Joe replied: “People out of school now only know the word magazine in the context of playing Call of Duty.” Ba dum.

The explosion of tech media choices – and uncertainty about how many people actually go to news sites and blogs to read the full articles – poses existential questions for the fields of tech PR and marketing.

There are no easy answers.  I do say more on the topic in my series of posts – see Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers, and the follow-up story.

Also, IBM had a post yesterday about their research into how millennials are changing B2B tech marketing and buying.





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March NY Tech Meetup

People flocked to the March NY Tech Meetup on Tuesday, despite the snowy weather. Peloton-BikeSkirball Hall at NYU was packed to capacity, as it tends to be for these events.

All seemed excited and ready to see the evening’s demos.  The night had a real feel-good, do good vibe, as it showed off the diversity of NY tech, and the hack of the night was for a social cause.

The following is a recap of the demos:


Kids from Camp Interactive in the Bronx showed Know Your Neighbor (KYN, pronounced “kin”), which helps apartment dwellers do just that – and report problems.


A group from Coalition for Queens showed My Translator. It is an app that helps you  connect with translators.


This service for B2B marketers serves up personalized ads, to boost website conversions.


The best known of the night, Lyft helps you get (and offer) car rides.

Digital Natives

Their Whisper service solves the communication rift for K-12 schools. It is like the school paper come alive and online, and provides a Web destination and messaging hub for each school’s news and bulletins.


This was the hack of the night. Eric Schles showed his program, which uses semantic tech to mine online ads, and detect and report sex trafficking.


Like a StubHub for short term apartment rentals in NYC.


The presenters revealed the startling fact that many air travelers are entitled to monetary compensation for being inconvenienced when flights are delayed or canceled. Their program mines your email for such instances, handles the claim, and gets you your refunds.

They say that they are proud to be hated by the leading airlines.


This website helps you find affordable art that matches your tastes. It uses a network of art advisers, and provides recommendations.

Peloton Cycle (show above)

A real cool hardware-based startup. They invented an indoor exercise bike that is truly wired,  a miracle of cycle engineering and computer tech. It brings boutique fitness into the home, literally – live and recorded classes are streamed to the touchscreen to aid your workout. The display shows all kinds of data to help you track and meet your workout goals.

It is really tough to pick favorites, as so many cool and truly useful demos were shown. I think AirHelp is my top pick for “need to have and try this immediately.”  I would love to have the Peloton bike, even though my workout is usually running, not biking (my birthday is coming up in two weeks, hint hint).

ListenLoop was the outlier as it is about B2B marketing tech; but we do lots of work in the space, and I could readily appreciate its benefits.

My girlfriend, who is an art nut (hi Sine!), will want to check out Kollecto.

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3 Surefire Open Spaces Marketing Tactics

Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept.  Basically, it is background-21717_1280about getting your customer’s attention by avoiding noise and going where competitors aren’t.

I also shared a tip that should be especially effective for those who work in the tech sector.  It is about communicating clearly and powerfully.  Here is an excerpt:

“… impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.  How can you fill the space? Replace [jargon] with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences…

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.”

In this post, I list two additional tactics.  See below, and visit this page if you’d like to register to learn more about open spaces marketing.

Time your Communications

When considering the timing for a campaign, most seek to avoid bigger noise and find the times when people are more likely to tune in. For example, conventional wisdom says not to issue press releases on a Monday or Friday, unless you are trying to bury your news. Attention tends to trail off on days surrounding the weekend or holidays. Don’t announce your tech product when others (especially Apple) might be stealing thunder with their big news.

The latest technology and research opens the door to a more nuanced approach. Dan Zarrella, an authority on data-driven marketing, has written extensively on this topic. In his book Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he writes about “contra-competitive timing”, essentially an open spaces approach to social media. Zarrella’s research reveals non-intuitive findings such as:

  • Friday at 4pm is the most retweetable time
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Blog early for links, on the weekend for comments

There are also tools that claim to help identify the best time to tweet, e.g. see this features list for SocialBro.

Content types and Networks

Good marketers like to tap the latest methods for reaching customers. These days, this often involves using social media, and tempting buyers with informative and entertaining content.

But the most popular social networks can be crowded and noisy places. There’s a herd mentality in marketing, and if something works well, you can be sure that others will quickly jump in. Take visual content, which has become popular in the last few years. Infographics used to be a novel idea; now they are passé; there are so many, and most are not that impressive, making them easier to ignore.

Open spaces marketing means zigging when others zag. It also means keeping your eyes on emerging vehicles, getting good at picking the likely winners, jumping on board and mastering them before the competition does.

This works especially well for brands that want to be edgy, and are interested in early adopters (whether it’s the youth crowd in consumer or business buyers). Newer social networks and content types might not have the mass appeal or audience as the mainstream – but you will be among the first to stake a claim and build audience – one that can grow as the network grows.

What other networks and communications vehicles are emerging?  There’s been some buzz about Ello, an ad-free social network that has a minimalist design and promises not to sell personal data.  The New York Times recently wrote about the rise of messaging apps.

To read about great examples of innovation in content marketing, see the Moz blog.

There you have it – the same idea applied to disparate areas of timing, language and networks. Open spaces marketing can be a versatile and powerful approach – do you have thoughts on other applications?

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Better Call Saul the PR Hound

I really loved the AMC show Breaking Bad.  It seems like only yesterday that my girlfriend sauland I binged on it, getting through all the seasons in a couple of months.

This time I wanted to get an early start with the new spin off Better Call Saul and try something new – like watching it in real time, instead of having to go back and binge.

So far it is great.  The program has the same writing team as Breaking Bad, and some of the same actors.

Yesterday, in Episode 4, PR played a starring role.  But it was not the most flattering context.

In one scene, two lawyers were discussing their client, a couple who’d embezzled and were about to play a starring role in the news. the junior partner asked “should we get them a PR firm?”

The last act of yesterday’s episode (spoiler alert) included a publicity stunt that Jim McGill (who eventually became Saul Goodman – as in s’all good, man!) engineered to drum up business while defending his budding practice from a much larger law firm.

The stunt involved a large billboard and dangling worker.  It is explained further in the latest NY Times wrap:

His goal, we soon learn, is to create a highway billboard ad for his law practice… And here comes the payoff: Jimmy has arranged for the man taking down the ad to feign a near-death experience, by “accidentally” falling off a landing and dangling from a rope 65 feet in the air. With a hired film crew capturing every moment, Jimmy rushes to the rescue, ensuring TV and newspaper coverage for a great story: Solo practitioner bullied by big law firm saves workingman’s life.

Law and PR, not such strange bedfellows. You often see lawyers acting as spokespeople – yet, looking at it from the PR side, we instruct clients not to be too legalistic in how they approach the media and public.Glue

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