bad-assessment-reducedWhether you like it or not, inclusion and coverage within a Gartner Magic Quadrant (or, to a lesser extent, a Forrester Wave) can be hugely important to your business.

As one client told me recently “We ask every prospect what led them to us, and our showing in the Magic Quadrant is typically top of the list.” Or, as another client said, “The Magic Quadrant is our most important marketing program, bar none.”

So when an MQ is published and you’re omitted – or you’re there, but positioned way below the vendors you regularly beat in head-to-head competition – the impact is real and significant.

It’s often a time of frustration and anger, a time of recrimination and frequently a time of cruelly unsympathetic thoughts about the analysts involved.

But, as we discussed in our earlier post “If I drink poison, will the analyst die?”, the truth is that if you want a different result in future you need to start taking positive action now. It’s no good simply bemoaning the analysts’ ignorance about your market and your business. If you want it to be different next time, you’re going to have to do something about it.

When and where should you start?

When to start is the easiest question of all. The answer is right now – the moment you know that this year’s outcome is not what it should have been. Just waiting miserably and hoping for something better in the next assessment cycle is simply self-defeating. You are drinking the poison, and the only person dying is you.

What you need is a four-step program, beginning straight away, that will :

  1. Identify the issues
  2. Build an evidence plan
  3. Establish the key messages
  4. Create and implement a multi-channel communication plan

Don’t duck the key issues

Identifying the issues is often quite straightforward. If you’re honest, you probably know the answers already. And if you don’t, you’ll almost certainly find that they were expressed during the draft review meeting for the MQ or are there in the wording of the published assessment. But there is much more that can be done, especially if you are a Gartner client, to make sure you are absolutely clear about what lies behind an unflattering MQ.

When you examine the causes underlying a weak assessment, you’ll usually find they fall into one of three clear-cut categories.

  1. There could be issues requiring business action to change your product or service or rethink your go-to-market activities. You may recognise the points raised as valid, and hence useful feedback, or the analysts may be talking about issues you feel are of tangential importance and not materially relevant to your core business.
  2. There may be issues relating to lack of awareness and appreciation by the analysts – a failure on their part to understand your strengths and potential.
  3. Thirdly, there may be issues resulting from a marked difference between you and the analysts about the nature of the market and what it wants and needs.

Plan now, act soon and be ready for next year

Whatever core business actions you may or may not choose to implement in response to a disappointing assessment, you will still need to put the remaining three elements of the four-step program in place if you are going to improve your standing next time around.

That needs to start with a well-thought-out evidence plan. What is the evidence you have or could collate over the coming months to help you demonstrate a different reality from the perspective held by the analyst? Hard evidence is the key. The only way to change an analyst’s opinion is to provide proof.

The next essential is getting your key messages right. All too often, a company’s analyst messaging looks suspiciously like an afterthought bolted on to a general-purpose PR campaign. And where it is more specifically aimed at the analysts, it often takes the form of an endless stream of information about anything and everything. It’s as if the company thought it could win via a war of attrition, bombarding the analysts with materials in the hope that they will eventually come out of their foxholes waving a white flag and surrender to its demands.

Less is more. What does win analysts over is focus. What were the real issues? What is your evidence plan? What are the small handful of key messages that need reinforcing to create a change of perspective?

Lastly, you need to have an appropriate communication plan. Few companies ignore this completely, but, sad to say, it’s often the only element we see them working on. You need to establish the right touchpoints, using all the channels of communication that are available to you as a client or non-client of the analyst firm. This will include making full use of the various types of briefing, face-to-face meetings, email and social communications and, for analyst firm clients, the inquiry process. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s all about having these conversations. Content matters. Over and over again, we hear complacent comments like “We have a plan to touch the analyst in some way every two weeks” – as if it’s the sheer volume of communication that will deliver results.

If you’re smarting right now from a weak assessment, you should use that pain as motivation and get started straight away. It may be a full year before the next MQ is published, but remember it’s only another six months before the assessment cycle gets into gear again. If you need to bring about a major change in the analysts’ perception, that’s not going to be much time. You’ll have a lot to do, and there’s really not a moment to waste.