Anyone can get a great Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave result. Well, no. Not anyone. But any company with good products, good prospects and a decent working relationship with the analysts should be able to put its story across well enough to win a strong, positive assessment.
The big question – after that first euphoric half hour of delight and relief – is what happens now? Because all the evidence shows that getting the praise and the dot position you were hoping for is only half the battle.
It’s what you do now, in the next few days and weeks, that will determine whether this is a red letter day or just a missed opportunity.
Your first instinct will always be to shout it from the rooftops. Or, as we say in business, update the website, put out press releases, splash your success across social media, share the good news with your investors, shoot new videos, print new sales brochures and call every customer and prospect you can think of.
All sensible moves. You don’t need me to tell you how to do those things, though it’s also important to take care of internal communications, briefing the board about what to expect, getting budgets for follow-up activities approved and ensuring that every single member of staff understands the new opportunities on offer.
But what exactly are you going to say? How are you going to focus people’s attention, internally and externally, on what really matters?
Take control and put your message across
The first thing to understand is that no one is going to read the whole Gartner or Forrester report. And if people did, they’d be reading lots of information about all your competitors, alongside the comments about your company.
It’s not all about you. In fact, with maybe 10 to 20 companies featured in the report, there’ll probably be no more than a couple of paragraphs about you, and perhaps a few bullet points.
People will certainly look at the main graphic, the MQ diagram or the Wave, and note where you are positioned. But that alone is not going to be enough to get new customers knocking at your door.
You have a message that’s more detailed and specific – and it’s up to you to make sure you can put it across, loud and clear, to each of your key audiences.
Even if you’ve done really well and been rated a Leader, that will not guarantee you the hoped-for surge of buyers lining up to place their orders.
It will probably win you a place on the shortlist when big companies ask for RFPs, which may be a huge step forward. But you’ll never be the only dot in the grid. Your main competitors will be showing up there, too, right alongside you, so you’ll still need to differentiate your products, emphasise their specific capabilities and explain their relevance to potential purchasers’ business goals and unsolved problems.
Don’t rely on the report to tell your story
The key element you gain off the back of a good MQ or Wave is topical credibility.
The report won’t say enough about you to directly influence buying decisions. But it does reassure the market that you are a serious player, with serious products and every prospect of a successful future.
It is up to you to capitalize on this, quickly and effectively. You will need to focus attention on the strengths that have won you your good dot position and positive comments.
Simply ordering a lot of expensive reprints of the whole report, as many companies do, is not likely to be enough. Even if you do decide to share licensed reprints, you must make sure they are always accompanied by compelling, targeted and informative marketing materials and case studies.
It’s your job to shape and control the narrative around your products and services. A strong showing in the MQ or Wave merely provides third-party reassurance that you’re likely to be telling the truth.
Stick to the rules and watch your language
You will obviously want to showcase the most flattering parts of the assessment. But there are strict rules about how you do this, and Gartner, especially, is very hot on policing the way you use and refer to its copyright material.
With an MQ, for example, there is an absolute ban on using the word “Gartner” as the first word of a press release or newsletter headline, or even as the first word in the subject line of a promotional email.
And you are not allowed to quote more than 10 per cent of the report’s text. So be selective. Pick out the key points and use short, punchy quotes – which will have more impact, anyway – rather than lifting whole paragraphs of text.
Gartner even stipulates the precise wording you can and can’t use when talking about your MQ dot position. You can say you were “placed”, “evaluated” or “recognized” as a Leader, a Challenger or a Visionary, but you mustn’t use other words such as “featured” or “highlighted”.
Your working relationships with the analysts don’t end with this year’s MQ or Wave. Indeed, you’ll soon be back preparing for next year’s assessments. So, quite apart from any formal rules, it makes no sense at all to alienate the people who may be influencing your future for years to come. Far better to set up a call, thank the analysts for their efforts and discuss with them how your positioning statements will reflect their assessments. It’s polite, it’s diplomatic, and it lays the foundation for a constructive relationship next time around.
Cautions – handle with care
The other less obvious factor that you should be aware of, even while you are still celebrating, is the risk involved in any “cautions” raised in the analysts’ report.
The better your assessment is, the more anxious your competitors will be to undermine your success.
They will latch onto any cautions with glee. They’ll do everything they can to influence their customers and prospects and the market in general to focus on these cautions rather than the positive findings that have led to your strong overall rating.
You can’t blame them. You’d do the same. So it is vital to recognize this threat and prepare your people to counter it.
If your new technologies have been identified as “novel and unusual”, for example, you need to marshal whatever technical evidence and customer case studies are available to demonstrate that this means “better”, rather than “unproven”.
When the issues raised by the analysts’ cautions are trivial, it may be best to ignore them, unless they crop up in conversation with a particular customer.
But if they are potentially more damaging, you must be ready to meet the challenge head on. This may involve talking to the media about the cautions and even referring to them directly and explaining them as part of your sales pitch. In either case, make sure your supporting evidence is solid and persuasive.
Technical evidence and test bench results may be important in this context, but being able to offer a range of real-world case studies from enthusiastic users is likely to be especially convincing. Check out the comments about your products and services in Gartner’s Peer Insights, too. You may well find there’s useful ammunition there, including positive customer reviews that emphatically contradict any cautionary notes the analyst has raised.
Get ahead of the wave (or the MQ)
You won’t know exactly how positive your final assessment will be until the Magic Quadrant or Wave is actually published. But you will be able to make a good guess on the basis of your discussions with the analysts at the draft review stage.
This provides you with the opportunity to begin your preparations in advance, so that you’re not starting from scratch on publication day. This extra time is valuable, and you should make the most of it. Your website can be updated overnight, but there may be a much longer lead time for activities like identifying case studies and printing sales brochures.
The earlier you start, the better prepared you will be. And the more prepared you are, the more you are likely to be able to enjoy the celebrations when you win the write-up and the dot position you deserve.
If you would like to hear more, or ask any questions, please do join us for a free webinar on this very topic on Tuesday April 27th at 11am ET (for 30 minutes). You can find further details here.