Few people understand the full power and influence of industry analysts
in the technology solutions marketplace. The top analyst firms – such
as Gartner, Forrester Research and IDC – conduct thought-leading
research and provide valuable advice to both technology sellers and
buyers. Companies that hope to build credibility and drive growth in
the technology marketplace need to have a strong grasp on how these key
market influencers can strengthen their thought leadership marketing efforts
.

In his recent book, Influencing the Influencers: Best Practices for Building Valuable Relationships with Technology Industry Analysts,
Knowledge Capital Group founder and CEO William S. Hopkins discusses
the “vital interdependence” that links technology sellers, buyers and
analysts. In the coming years, they will “need each other more than
ever in order to capitalize on the opportunities coming down the pike”
and manage the attendant risks, he contends.

Over 50% of respondents in a study from the Analyst Strategy Group consider advisory analyst opinions when creating their short lists. And over 30% have excluded a vendor based on a negative opinion they have received from an analyst.


Indeed, industry analysts exist because business technology is complex
and fraught with risk. Prospective buyers look to the analysts for
third-party guidance to help them make smart decisions and avoid making
foolish ones
. Considering that companies spend millions (or hundreds of
millions) of dollars each year on information technology alone, it’s
not surprising that they would find value in the opinions and
perspectives of industry analysts. Gartner and Forrester are
particularly influential among technology buyers. Since they derive a
majority of their revenue from buyers instead of sellers, they are
considered the most objective providers of advice in the field.

Other firms, such as IDC and Gartner’s Dataquest unit, focus on
providing advice, market projections and market share numbers to
technology sellers. And still other specialist firms — such as Tower
Group, AMR and Ovum — have expertise in vertical markets such as
financial services, manufacturing and telecommunications. Hundreds of
other firms exist to address just about every niche in the business
technology marketplace.


In the case of thought leadership marketing, you need to consider issues such
as credibility with technology buyers, access to the media and domain
expertise when determining how and why to draw on the capabilities of
analysts
. Based on your objectives, there are several approaches you
can take:

  • Analysts as advisors in the development of your thought leadership.
    If you have a subscription to an analyst firm’s services, you can
    request an “inquiry” with an analyst or hire them out for a “strategy
    day.” These are opportunities to gain feedback on your positioning and
    market story – all of which can be incorporated into your positioning and content. Most analysts will review your positioning and provide
    specific guidance and advice. This is where analysts provide insight.
  • Analysts as sources in the content of your thought leadership.
    Analysts are commonly used in white papers or other thought leading content as independent, third-party
    sources. You can often draw analyst quotes or data points from research
    documents, articles in the press or public presentations. They lend
    credibility and weight to the case you are building – whether it is
    qualitative or quantitative analysis they provide.
  • Analysts as audience members for your thought leadership.
    When you meet with analysts or brief them on your market initiatives,
    it is useful to send white papers and other examples of your positioning ahead of time or leave them behind
    when you leave. This supports the analyst’s research process. It is one
    more tool to help analysts understand what you do and advise their
    clients – your prospects, in other words – on the value you provide.

This last point touches on the
influential nature of analysts. Market research suggests analysts are
second only to executive peers in terms of their influence on
technology buying decisions. You should manage them with care and
diligence – and keeping them well informed (through personal
interactions as well as documents such as white papers and customer
case studies) is critical to building an effective relationship.
Remember, they are whispering into the ears of your prospective clients.