Was there ever a day when the thought crossed your mind that your company could do without Gartner, IDC, Forrester, Ovum, and all the rest of them?

Was there ever a moment when you thought “We don’t need them”?

You wouldn’t be the first CEO or senior manager to feel like that. Sometimes it seems like all the research companies and their Magic Quadrants and Waves do is just get in the way. Many CEOs we talk to complain that the analysts don’t get it – that they misunderstand the subtleties of markets and geographies, undervalue new products, and believe too much of the hype they are fed by the big vendors and their specialist analyst relations teams.

So the idea of opting out and refusing to play the game is certainly tempting.

At the very least, you might be tempted to opt out of the drudgery of filling in that assessment survey questionnaire. Don’t they always misinterpret your answers anyway?

Maybe you see no value in doing it. Maybe you just don’t get round to doing it. Or maybe you’ve done it religiously for the past three years, got nothing out of it, and decided it doesn’t justify the effort and resource needed to complete the questionnaire.

But what would it mean in practice to opt out? Could you do it? Yes, of course. Should you do it? That’s a different question.

The giants have tried it, and they came back

At The Skills Connection, we know this industry from both sides. We know secrets we can’t share – sorry. And we know some big companies – not just big companies, but genuine household names around the world – that have dug their heels in and said they weren’t going to play.

They have ceased to engage with analysts, canceled hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of contracts for advisory services, and simply refused to play along.

But the logic of the market place has brought them back.

Like it or loathe it, the research companies’ assessments influence about 50 percent of all your buyers’ purchase decisions. In a world full of overblown reputations and exaggerated claims, the leading research firms are seen as highly trusted sources.

Like it or loathe it, the analysts are going to include you anyway. (See the Gartner policy at bit.ly/gartnermethodology, Forrester’s at bit.ly/forrestermethodology. Ovum’s policy states “Should a vendor choose not to participate, Ovum may still decide to evaluate the vendor’s relevant solution, based on what we know and publicly accessible information.”)

Make the system work for you

Like it or loathe it, opting out only serves to exclude your side of the story and ensure that you will not be able to influence your company’s dot placement when the next Garner MQ, Forrester Wave or Ovum Decision Matrix is published.

After all, are the research organizations going to position you more accurately because they have less information? Will they describe your capabilities more clearly? It’s hardly likely.

The fact is, disengaging is a losing strategy. Engaging actively, positively, and with your eyes wide open, is the only way to make the system work for you.

In the end, it’s worth the effort

It is true that the executive teams of many smaller vendors may well see the research organizations and their scrutiny as more of a curse than a blessing. Between them, strategy, sales and marketing, and new product development probably provide enough of a workload to keep a small management team running flat out, without the added burden of planning and preparing material for the ritual jousting with the research analysts.

All you can do, as a vendor, is make sure you are using your time efficiently. Make sure that you are choosing the right messages, telling a convincing story, backing it up with strong evidence, and then fighting your corner skillfully and effectively.

If you can manage this – alone, or with the help of a little bought-in expertise – the results should always be worth the effort and resources invested.

The alternative policy of telling the research organizations exactly where they can position their little dots and fat reports is always going to be mighty appealing. But, believe me, we’ve looked into it in detail and it really doesn’t pay off.

  Are we on target? The last thing we want is everyone agreeing with what goes into this blog. After all, if you don’t disagree with some of the points we’ve raised, we’ll be forced to be more and more provocative, and who knows where that will end? So let us have your thoughts. Have you tried grasping the nettle and telling the research organizations you don’t want to play their game? Or do you feel the MQ and the Wave are too important to ignore, whatever their imperfections? Shoot us down and have your say.