If the technology industry had an Olympic Games, would your company want to compete? Almost certainly!
Cast your mind back to summer 2021: the Tokyo Olympics were in full swing and sports stars were consistently breaking records to win gold. There has to be a link between the Olympians and the aspirational technology vendors participating to be a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrants (MQ), right?
Maybe not. The odds of coming out on top in a Magic Quadrant are higher than winning gold at the Olympics. For one thing, there are multiple ‘winners’ in an MQ, several vendors can make it into the leader’s quadrant and in the Gartner Critical Capabilities, other vendors may come out on top. In the Olympics you’re either first over the line, the one who jumped the highest or the team with the most points. Whilst MQ’s certainly have a scorecard, the means of placing in the leader’s quadrant is, for the most part, based on subjective viewpoint rather than precise measurement.
Whether you like it or not, Gartner has a significant impact in your market. It reportedly has over 14,000 client enterprises in more than 100 countries, yet its influence is many times wider. Gartner analysts may not be experts in your region, but regardless, their research paints a global picture and your customers and prospects are likely to see it.
I estimate that as much as 40% of Gartner research can be accessed online for free, particularly the signature methodology, Magic Quadrants. Many vendors purchase reprint rights and offer reports for viewing on their website as a lead generation engine. What that means is: it doesn’t matter if your customers have a Gartner subscription or not, they can likely see Gartner’s research.
So how do you tap into this and become a leader in a Gartner Magic Quadrant? Well, this is where the Olympic link is. Just as with winning gold, being named a leader in an MQ takes a lot of time and effort. Where do you think this year’s Olympians are now? Relaxing and indulging on fast food? No! They’re hard at work preparing for the next one.
Your training starts now! I’m going to act as your MQ Coach and share a few tips that you need to understand to inch yourself closer to being ranked, and then being ranked highly.
Activate your fanbase through Gartner Peer Insights.
Gartner Peer Insights is of key significance to Magic Quadrant recognition. This year, Gartner announced that the 90 or so MQ’s on its 2021 publication calendar would no longer require customer references as Gartner Peer Insights (GPI) would be the primary vehicle for reference information – the possible exception being for a new Magic Quadrant report. There are a few reasons for the move – most simply relate to cost and revenue.
GPI is now one of Gartner’s flagship activities and, in my opinion, rivals Gartner events and even some primary research in its future market importance. That’s why you need to have your biggest fans cheering from the sidelines –or at least from the reviews section. Create a GPI strategy that puts your best customer references in front of the analysts, whether you’re working on an MQ or not.
Tip #1: Maximise and drive the impact of Gartner Peer Insights references. Vendors that are yet to be included in an MQ, or even those which are, can gain high visibility against peers by excelling in their comparative number and quality of GPI references.
Train to get fit and to fit in.
Although Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is its landmark methodology, it is not set in stone. Each year, the method evolves as the principles are reviewed and reset. Just as the benchmarks for Olympic teams rise each year without the rules of the games changing.
With the overall principles set, analysts vary how their rules are applied, with the addition of key assessment criteria and updating category weightings, for example, values related to the inclusion of automation and the maturity of AI-driven inclusions. Category weightings provide guidance to vendors as to where Gartner is expecting to find vendor differentiation. Gartner publishes this information at the end of each MQ. Yet few vendors analyse this guidance effectively.
Tip #2: Vendors seeking to rank well among MQ participants, can use Gartner’s measurement criteria to identify where they should focus their efforts. Use it to shape product strategy, improve key capabilities and publicise your successes to raise your profile.
Start training your team early.
An Olympic team does not start training a week before the event, it is a constant process to ensure peak ability at the time of the games.The most important thing you can do to prepare for a Magic Quadrant evaluation is to start at the end of the previous one with a fighting fit team. The continued evolution of the Magic Quadrant methodology is why vendors cannot simply designate 2 employees to handle the report 1 month before the invite drops. If you start then, the 450 hours it will take need to be crammed into 2 months, remembering that you only get 3 weeks to enter your submission. If you start when the previous MQ is finished, you have the full year.
Most importantly, as the diagram represents, a vendor’s ability to influence its MQ scores diminishes disproportionately over the twelve months prior to the MQ invitation arriving. It takes time to develop solid references and customer case studies that will prove that recent differentiating capabilities perform well ahead of assessment in a magic quadrant. Whilst a company’s vision can be bolstered and nuanced through the year, the chances of influencing your customer’s perspectives on your ability to execute decay almost entirely up-to six months before the MQ begins.
Tip #3: Start early with a diverse team. Have at least one person from the following business areas: R&D, product management, customer advocacy (or sales if the former doesn’t exist) and AR to liaise with Gartner and track demonstrable improvements in market visibility. Plus, drive support for the team’s authority from the top of the business.
Dazzle the crowd with your 5 seconds in the spotlight.
Vendors need to maximise every analyst engagement opportunity to prove their capabilities to a market-covering analyst. A personal touch counts, but the chances to engage personally are decreasing as analysts narrow their time to their own gruelling research priorities.
In more than half of the MQ’s I have supported this year, Gartner has further reduced the time-impact on analysts by removing the live presentation opportunity. Best case: they request a pre-recorded demo instead. The live presentation was a critical vehicle for vendors to reinforce the meaning behind their market messaging and to specifically highlight differentiated criteria-related successes and skills.
Pre-recorded demos now tie-up 2-4 person-days of costly senior pre-sales or product management resources. To produce demo material which is only viewed after-the-fact is a complicated task, not least because each demo (and there may be anything up to 12 individual videos) must fit within a certain time-limit (often 7 minutes). So be prepared if you are invited to participate. Make sure you have the resources to produce a final execution set to win you gold.
Tip #4: Make your moment count. Treat analysts as investors and show them how you stand taller than the last time you spoke. As time spent directly with analysts becomes more and more limited, you need to prepare and deliver during every engagement opportunity.
Set the record.
Analyst brains are programmed to pay attention to the unusual – something different. By all means talk about how the market will alter over the next 2-5 years, but present it from the perspective of what you are innovatively doing ‘now’ to help your customers take advantage of this eventual outcome.
When taking inquiries, analysts often refer to vendor-supplied presentation material to clarify or pick-up key comparative data. So make sure they have the data available to them! Unfortunately, corporate numbers make boring viewing, so confine them to a side-presentation as they waste valuable time during your big moment.
Put together a set of presentation materials – in the style which you might have presented for an MQ. Store these succinct facts and defendable results in a shared folder (OneDrive or other online services) and have it available to the analyst. Edit these regularly so that the folder consistently contains up-to-date, differentiating information (i.e. not marketing blurb as this infuriates all analysts). Create that point of reference for the analyst and your MQ efforts will have endurance beyond the report. While you may not have a world record like an Olympian, you can have a record of achievement for analysts to refer back to.
Tip #5: Analysts want vendors to tell them something they don’t already know. Keep it fresh, interesting and easy for the analyst to access. And ban marketing-speak!
You have to be in it to win it.
Not being on an analyst’s radar can have you excluded from a Magic Quadrant you would otherwise be eligible for. You can’t suddenly be on the list if you have never spoken to the analyst, and they don’t know what you have to offer. This is akin to an otherwise noteworthy sports-person that lives in a cabin in the woods. If nobody knows who they are, they won’t be scouted for the Olympic team. This is where AR differs from PR and engaging early and often is key.
But what about vendors which still find themselves excluded from an MQ? Normally it’s due to size or geographic cover and it can seem like an MQ is a million miles away. This impact is diminished – as long as you’re doing everything else needed to build strong analyst relationships. If you are then it is a simple task to refer prospects and customers to Gartner for comment. The mere fact that you are confident in doing so is often enough to placate concerned parties. If you do not have that confidence right now, you probably need to review your AR strategy.
Tip #6: What few vendors recognise is that even if you are not invited to participate in an MQ, it does not mean that you cannot get an honorary mention. Most MQ’s include a section covering interesting and innovative vendors which, in Gartner’s eyes, are vendors to watch. To get on the list means engaging the analyst by presenting something that stands out.
Remember: Not being included in an MQ is not a disaster.
Do not listen to industry myths and try to ‘pay to play’. After 20+ years as a Gartner analyst I can tell you that it does not work, at least with Gartner. Truly valued analysts treat each organisation the same. The only coin operation is the frequency of engagement.
The bottom line is that you need to be ready to compete at an Olympic level. Knowing these tips will not guarantee a leader spot on a Magic Quadrant. However, incorporating the suggested practices into your organisation will help build better analyst relations, which is the second step towards inclusion in a Magic Quadrant (right after having a great product/service to be evaluated).
Thanks to Nigel Montgomery for authoring this guest blog on our website.