Every year Analyst Relations practitioners, technology product management and marketing experts plan how they’ll gather independent external validation for their business’ solutions. Endorsement by a respected third party can have such a significant impact on building the sales pipeline. Many clients tell us that a positive analyst report which ranks its product as being ‘industry leading’ can create the single biggest lead generation uptick across a year.
In my previous blog I wrote about the value of industry analyst reports as sales enablement collateral, and also covered the role Analyst Relations professionals play in managing report outcomes. Here I’ll shift focus to what happens when an analyst report publishes. Specifically, we’ll look at how marketing and sales leaders can maximise the revenue opportunity it presents.
I spoke to long-time technology marketing expert and writer, Su Kent, who has directly managed marketing and sales teams in the lead up to and following major analyst reports being published.
Her thoughts and ideas below shine a light on the operational obstacles marketing and sales teams face when reports like Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves create a surge in sales inquiries. She also covers how to prepare for inevitable product weaknesses being highlighted through analyst content.
My key takeaways from Su’s comments are:
- Engage sales teams as early as possible and lay out how they should proactively push the report to prospects and customers. Equip them to deal with questions about product weakness, and also competitor strengths, which are spotlighted in the content
- An excellent review of your product via an analyst report is brilliant, but if you don’t have the right infrastructure in place to deal with a surge of RFP requests, you will not maximise the revenue opportunity. Make sure RFP response templates are in place and up to date, and that you have a slick process for managing and quality checking final documents
- Engage with the publishing analyst firm early on to understand if and how you can reference the content across various platforms. Be respectful of the firm’s rules and approval cycles, and don’t underestimate the time this might take
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What do you consider to be best practice from a sales enablement perspective when preparing for a major analyst report to publish?
There are two parts to this. The first is content, and the second is internal comms to get your teams ready.
On the content side, if you choose to licence the report and therefore have the relevant rights in place you should create:
- Email marketing: announcement emails for partners, customers and prospects
- A press release: This should be drafted and internally approved in anticipation of the report publishing. It should be primed and ready for a quote from the analyst firm to be dropped in. Be aware that you must adhere to the analyst firm’s rules on what you can and can’t say. Gartner is very strict, while some boutique firms are more flexible. Either way, analyst independence is of paramount importance to their business, so always keep this in mind when thinking about your content
- A blog post
- Social images and posts
- Artwork for web banners
- PowerPoint slides for sales meetings
Factor in the necessary time (typically at least 48 hours) for the analyst firm to approve the quote(s) in every piece of collateral, website or social content you are looking to publish, including the press release. Although you may be delighted with the report and want to share the news immediately once the report goes live, you will have to factor in time – which could mean multiple days – before you’ll be able to issue a release.
From a training and internal comms perspective, I’d recommend going all-out. Run a sales enablement webinar for your entire sales and marketing team, covering how your company/product has fared in the report, what the position means for your company, and the T&Cs in using the content. For example, Gartner does not allow you to add a reference to the piece in your email signature and you cannot use the image of the Magic Quadrant, or include quotes, without approvals and disclaimers. As well as the webinar, other really effective tactics include:
- Internal communications to the company – via Chatter, Intranet, Slack, Teams etc., or just good old email!
- If you are licencing the report and creating a gated landing page for downloads, make sure you are communicating that throughout the sales organisation. Limit who has the report internally as you don’t want team members sharing it with prospects via email – you really want to capture everyone who wants to read it
- Sales training for your business development team on how to handle prospects that download the report from your site
- Internal posters to reinforce the messaging in corporate and regional offices
Is there a downside to being included in an analyst report?
Balance and objectivity is the hallmark of analyst content, so be warned that any limitations of your product or solution will be called-out as part of this. Don’t worry too much though as your solution isn’t going to be right for everyone anyway. But do competitive analysis on where in the report you stack up well against other players in the market, and where you don’t. Your sales teams should have answers to what the analyst firm cautions against in your product so they can guide prospects past these point and onto more positive areas of discussion.
To this point, be aware that any customers or prospects who are themselves Gartner customers, and who might therefore access the report via their Gartner research access vs. By any licenced content you might share, have the benefit of Gartner’s interactive tools. This means they can slice and dice MQ data based on their unique needs, and that may change your position on the MQ graphic they see. All customers are different, and this is the best way for an end user to shortlist vendors whose offerings truly meets their needs.
What other business changes need to be factored in to account for a potential uptick in sales enquiries?
You should expect more incoming calls and a greater number of RFPs to be completed once a major analyst report publishes. If you work in a large organisation, ensure your RFP database or software can deal with the increased number of requests. It will also save a lot of time and energy on behalf of your sales team if you have processes in place to ensure the content in RFPs is consistent; simple things like tone, spelling, fonts and text colours often vary when multiple people have contributed to an RFP response, which makes your business look disorganised. Have ready ‘vanilla’ RFP templates that you can tailor and then share with prospects.
For more informal leads, ensure your sales people are trained to bring up the reports in conversations at the right stage of the sale, and also have your pre-prepared slides ready to share on request.
Will inclusion in analyst content really make or break sales?
In my experience it’s not a deal breaker, but is particularly useful at the influencing stage, further up the sales and marketing funnel. For example, when an IT Manager is trying to introduce a new product or solution into the organization, the CIO will often ask for evidence the product is good. A premier analyst report can be useful at this point.
What is your top tip for vendors being covered in an analyst research report?
Analyst firms will independently ask some of your customers to review your product and company, so it’s a good idea for you to maintain a focus on reviews. Specifically, for a Magic Quadrant, Gartner will ask for at least three customer references, whom they’ll send a series of detailed questions to. Set those customers’ expectations that they will get a confidential questionnaire and sometimes also a call with the analysts leading the MQ research. Respondents are asked if they want to opt in to sharing their review on the Gartner Peer Insights site.
Gartner launched Peer Insights just over three years ago. This is where your customers can review your products anonymously; get more than 50 in a 12-month period with at an average of 4 stars and you could qualify for a Customer Choice distinction. Here, it’s worthwhile getting your customer success team involved to encourage customers to fill them in – and ideally only select those who are likely to give four- and five-star reviews – do make sure that there aren’t any outstanding support issues or problems with the product before they approaching them.
You can find out more about Su at https://www.technologywriter.co.uk/