Like the team at The Skills Connection, the author of Up and to the Right, Richard Stiennon, is a Gartner refugee. He worked for Gartner as an analyst, tracking security technologies, and his day job now is as an independent security analyst.
The years Richard spent at Gartner lend the book an intriguing feeling of peeking behind the curtain to see the Great Wizard of Stamford at work. But the big question, of course, is whether reading his book will really help you move up and to the right.
Sadly, unless you have a budget of $1m-plus, the answer is no.
Richard lays out a good spread, covering the many aspects of engaging with Gartner, and similar analyst firms. But his prescription includes everything possible, both in terms of Gartner client engagement and general market engagement. With no selective guidance about what works best and what is most cost-effective, this falls well short of being a practical how-to guide to set hopeful companies on the path to the Promised Land.
Richard’s core idea is that you should aim to influence all the influencers who impact your buyers, directly and indirectly, by themselves influencing the ever-present Gartner analysts. That includes the press, other vendors and a whole list of less obvious influencers.
He looks at all levels of the influencer community and highlights a ‘pyramid of influence’ that provides a useful checklist to help AR/PR specialists see who may need to be showing up on their radar. But much of his advice is no more than tangential to the theme of helping improve the assessment rating and write-up. Giving hints on getting your Wikipedia write-up right is like advising your sales team that having a business card is good practice. It may be true, but it’s not directly relevant to optimizing your sales process.
Gartner newcomers start here
Where the book does truly excel, though, is in lifting the covers for those newcomers who are engaging with Gartner for the first time.
For many that’s a daunting prospect. Richard makes it all the more human by explaining the different elements of engagement – briefing, inquiry, SAS days, and Gartner Events – and providing some really useful tips and tricks that demonstrate his insider insight. The section on SAS days, for example, is a pearl.
Approaching the Magic Quadrant, for Richard, is a crusade, involving many battles and a long, sustained campaign.
He’s certainly right that the assessment cycle is best viewed as a year-round exercise, rather than a three-week scramble. But practicality and budgets dictate that, in reality, many firms need to be a little more pragmatic. The book would benefit immensely from a sense of the time sequence involved, to help organizations consider in detail how they will deal with the maelstrom of activity around the assessment response cycle and then plan their campaigns separately for the pre- and post-assessment seasons.
Disappointingly, only three pages out of 167 are devoted to the make-or-break topic of the assessment response itself.
Even then, there is only generic, high-level guidance, such as ‘Be honest in your responses’ – though that, to be fair, is certainly sound advice for all those who are tempted to try some creative accounting in their survey answers.
Must you spend so much to catch the eye?
When it comes to Gartner engagement, specifically, Richard’s book will have made him many friends back at the old firm – and, at the same time, added fuel to the conspiracy fire that burns so brightly in so many CEOs’ minds.
As well as advocating becoming a Gartner client, he recommends purchasing multiple custom consulting (SAS) days per year and attending and exhibiting at relevant Gartner Summits and Symposia. All this is seen as important in helping to build up the necessary relationships and influence (see our Skills Connection blog ‘Can You Spend Your Way to the Top Right Corner?’). In addition, he outlines the benefits of hiring analysts to speak at roadshows, co-host webinars, and appear on promotional videos. All in all, a nice potential haul for the Gartner sales teams. Indeed, Richard even suggests encouraging your own customers to buy Gartner contracts, too, in the (improbable) hope that this will earn you a discount. This is unlikely, of course, not least because the sales person involved will usually be someone totally different.
The point at issue is not whether all these activities might benefit your business. Many of them probably would. But as a strategy for influencing the analysts who track your space, this approach is neither cost-effective nor practical. It’s not even good advice.
This is where I would be most critical of Richard’s book. From recommending spending massively with Gartner, he progresses into a world that seems increasingly detached from reality. Under the heading ‘Guerrilla Tactics’, he suggests putting up billboards and airport signage in your analyst’s home town, and buying ads on the local radio stations that he or she listens to – all to get that one analyst’s attention! You can’t fault the theory, but how many companies have budget to burn on such expensive hit-and-miss exercises?
More glimpses than guidance
The extravagant advice on where to spend your money is the main flaw in Richard’s guidance, but not the only one. Some of the suggestions he make could lead a newcomer into real and potentially significant mistakes.
‘Be verbose’ in your survey responses is one very unfortunate example. He presumably means that you should be complete – clear about what you do, why you do it, and how it is different or better.
But ‘Be verbose’? Definitely not.
When it comes to his advice on event investment, I am again at odds with Richard. Even if the events are right in your sweet spot – and, for many vendors, Gartner Summit and Symposium topic coverage is only marginally relevant – this is still a very expensive and ineffective way of engaging analysts. Surely those activities should be considered solely on their merits as lead generators and not mixed up with the job of analyst relationship building. Either they offer a good ROI for leads or they are not worth doing. No analyst will move you up into the Leaders quadrant because you sponsored an event.
So don’t expect this book to be a handy how-to guide. But do treat it as providing many useful insights, especially if you are new to this space, and a tick list of all the things you could possibly think of doing. Use it as an interesting means of seeing the other side of the table, in terms of what it’s really like to be an analyst. What you should really do to get the best results and move up and right is up to you. The ingredients are all here, but Richard Stiennon leaves you with much less useful guidance than many readers would like as to how you should employ them.
Bottom line scores
Will this book get you up and to the right? Only if you have limitless budgets 3/10
Is the advice practical? Certainly some good tips, but overall it’s a listing of everything and not a guide to how to make the best of your potential 3/10
Does it provide an insider’s glimpse into the analyst’s world? Most definitely, and often in a fun and engaging way 8/10
Are we on target? Have you read the book? If so, what did you think? Great guide? or smorgasbord of potential activities?