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Richard Stiennon On Analyst Influence, Strategy & Tactics

UP_BOOK-COVER3DEver since I worked at Forrester I've been interested in the topic of analyst relations and marketing, how companies approach analysts from a PR and marketing perspective, but also how analyst firms market themselves, especially with the changing nature of content marketing and open source research. Which is why an email about Richard Stiennon's new book, "UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence," really caught by eye, I hope to review the book in the future, but I thought I'd conduct an interview with Richard initially. Here's the result below:

John Cass: Tell me a little about yourself, background.

Richard Stiennon: I found my ideal career, as an industry analyst, when I joined Gartner in 2000. Up until then I was a failed serial entrepreneur. I had started over a dozen companies and had written over 50 business plans. The writing and presentations I had done for all those startup ventures gave me the toolset to be an analyst. Gartner exposed me to thousands of large enterprises and their security issues. I have tried to get into working at fast growth companies a couple of times but always gravitate back to writing and analysis. My firm, IT-Harvest, is successful and growing and it allows me to be a business owner and industry analyst at the same time. And writing books feeds the entrepreneurial leanings I still retain. Each book is a lot like starting a business. You have to identify a need and a target audience. You have to write a business plan. Then you have to craft a product, manufacture it, and sell it.

John Cass: Why did you write the book?

Richard Stiennon: The oft-repeated first rule of writing is “write what you know”. As someone who has seen first-hand the impact that a Magic Quadrant has on a market or individual vendors I wanted to write a book that shared what I had learned over the 12 years as an analyst. Based on initial reactions I have hit a nerve. The most common emotion expressed is violent frustration with Gartner’s Magic Quadrants. I hope to provide actionable tips and techniques to manage a situation that might not be ideal but is the reality of doing business in the tech sector.

John Cass: How can people use the book?

Richard Stiennon: People can either use the book strategically to lay out a complete plan for getting from Point A to Point B in the Magic Quadrant (literally), or they can use it tactically. Perhaps they are reaching out to Gartner for their first briefing and want to know what to expect and how to conduct the best briefing. Or maybe they are long time Gartner clients and can benefit from the whole-of-company approach I advocate.

John Cass: What’s the state of the analyst industry today? Maybe include some thoughts on how open research is affecting the industry. But also how the business model works today, and how firms generate clients today.

Richard Stiennon: The analyst industry has gone through a classic consolidation with Gartner grabbing most of the market share through acquisitions and organic growth. At the same time there is a new wave of innovation in the industry spawned in part by the new models that arose out of the demise of Wall Street analysis post-Enron. There are several successful research services that employ experts such as myself on an ad-hoc basis to write research and take inquiries from investors or technology buyers. GigaOm and GLG Research are two examples. There are also attempts to use crowd sourced research, which relies on end-users to provide feedback on products and services. These services also provide the curating of information. is a great example.

John Cass: How does a company find the right analysts to brief in a firm?

Richard Stiennon: Finding the analysts is easy. You just read what they write and what they say in the press. Judging which ones are the most influential, and therefore worth spending time with, is another matter. Often the top analyst in a field is well known to everyone. (Think Walt Mossberg for consumer electronics). Often you discover the most influential analysts from your people in the field as they encounter positive or negative analyst feedback about your product being used to influence a deal. You can use tools like Twitter Grader from Hubspot to identify analysts that influence through social media but some of the most well regarded analysts are old-school and do not Tweet much.

John Cass: What direct tactics can you use?

Richard Stiennon: The best tool is the briefing where you have a chance to lay it all on the line in an hour phone call with the analyst. I have sat through nightmare briefings that did more harm than good. The best briefings I have had were short, to the point, and demonstrated the vendor’s thought leadership and market momentum. In UP and to the RIGHT I introduce the concept of the drop-by briefing. This is when the CEO or CTO arranges to visit the analyst and brief him or her over coffee or dinner. I also cover guerrilla tactics such as ads that are targeted not at your customer but at the analyst!

John Cass: What indirect tactics will get you noticed by an analyst?

Richard Stiennon: By far the most influential connection you can establish is through the Gartner client base. If you can get CIOs to applaud your product to their analysts you have won.

John Cass: What’s the future of the analyst?

Richard Stiennon: Just as Gartner has been responsible for the maturing of the industry analyst business they have also had to commoditize the analysts themselves. Like any large organization they have to have a repeatable, measurable, accountable product. That means the analyst at Gartner is becoming weighed down with processes and procedures that are anathema to innovative, thought leading, guidance.  Gideon Gartner, the founder of Gartner Inc., saw the value in rockstar analysts and tried to institute processes that could accurately, or at least provocatively, predict trends in each industry segment. Today, the best analysts get frustrated with the controls of a behemoth and depart. Sadly, many of them go to vendors instead of continuing their analyst career. That said there are over 650 independent analyst firms and many more sole practitioners. As the tech industry resurges there will be too many products and choices for even Gartner to handle. Some combination of independent experts and web based market places that connects them with buyers will be the future.

 John Cass: Richard, thanks for giving your great insights into the industry, and the personal perspective!