PMMs and Industry Analysts

When you’re a PMM you want to differentiate your company’s position in the market and – often – create a new technology category. One of your most powerful allies is the industry analyst. Gartner, Forrester, G2, IDC, these firms exist to help your customers understand their options and how those are changing over time. This is a valuable service that helps markets grow faster. Good for all of us. So how do you engage with analysts for success?

Origin story: Margo Visitacion and me

In 1999, I was at a dot com startup called Evolve Software, which was in the new (then) professional service automation space. Necessarily, because Evolve’s products optimized work, we talked to the project management analysts. My first analyst interaction was with Margo Visitacion from Forrester. 

At our first meeting, after she shared her insights from her years of research and thousands of client conversations, I proceeded to tell her (from all 2 of my years of working in a startup) all the things her analysis was missing, and pitched her on how our product was so much more important and better than old-school project management tools. 

She sat patiently through my spiel, we wrapped up the meeting, and she did one of those generous things people will do only a few times in your career: she asked me if I could walk her downstairs to her cab. 

On the walk she professionally laid on me the grownup version of “listen you stuck-up, ignorant puppy. If you want to build a relationship and influence me, the last thing you want to do is pitch me and lecture me on how your 30 customer interactions trump my thousands.” It was an eye-opener. She got through to me (not easy back then), and she set me on the right course. Thank you, Margo.

Misunderstanding industry analysts

So what did I get wrong? I thought I was in product marketing, so therefore I should market my product to her. Instead of recognizing her as a powerful and savvy ally and advisor, I thought she was a target for my pitch. Analysts talk to more customers than you do. They see things you don’t. And most importantly they want their clients to be successful, so if you engage with them correctly, they will help you win.

In my early days at Salesforce, one of my go-to customer success managers (CSMs) was Tad Travis. Tad is a prince. Was always willing to spend time to share with my team what was really going on with customers and our products. A huge source of product and marketing ideas. I even called him in repeatedly to lead discussions of our customer stories when we met with our analysts. Tad is now the Director of the sales technology initiative at Gartner. Good on ya, Tad. 

Understanding the Analyst’s Business Model

When Tad was a Salesforce CSM, his job was to make customers successful. That’s still his job. 

You’ll work better with analysts if you understand their business model. While vendors pay analysts a little bit, the vast majority of their money (Gartner and Forrester at least) comes from advising their clients – your buyers – on technology selection. Analysts get promoted when they take more calls with clients, and when their clients say that their advice was helpful. 

Want to succeed with analysts? Help them be more successful by equipping them with real stories and details of how your customers are succeeding. Don’t pitch. Will you get them excited about your products? Sure. Will you tell them how you’re going to market to win? Of course. But it’s listening to their perspectives and equipping them to help their clients succeed that will lead to your success. 

Getting value from analysts

In 2010, when Mike Fauscette was at IDC, a mutual friend introduced me to him because I was thinking of joining Salesforce. Now he’s the capo at G2, one of the most innovative analyst firms. Mike was really helpful by giving me insight on the market, for my own career decision. He was great at it and spot-on, because giving advice is what he does all day. He’s a great resource.

When I joined Salesforce, our top Gartner analyst was Rob DeSisto, a passionate analyst, track coach, and Rocky & Bullwinkle fan. Now, part of my success as a PMM is the fact I insist on talking to customers all the time, but Rob was taking 600 client calls a year – making me look in comparison like someone who never talked to customers. Because of this, Rob knew tons of stuff I didn’t. Could see trends sooner. Could advise us on product and on marketing. 

A big part of Salesforce’s success in CRM was that we listened to Rob. Talked to him all the time. Had him set us straight on just about everything we were thinking. With analysts, that’s your goal. Create a relationship. Treat them with respect and be a sponge for their insights. 

Magic Quadrants, Waves, etc. 

Last year, I had a client who asked me how fast I could get them into the “Leaders” quadrant of their Gartner MQ. I had a tough conversation with the CEO about how analysts work, and that aiming directly at the quadrant was not the right way to succeed. 

Instead, we started doing analyst inquiries, to get their take on the market, on customers, and we asked for their feedback on our customers, our products, and our marketing. 

By going slow to go fast, that client got teed up as a Hot Vendor last year, the stepping stone to entering the Magic Quadrant this year. 

Working with Your In-house Analyst Team

If you’re a PMM at a mid-sized company or above, you probably have one or more people who own “analyst relations” (A/R). Working well with this team is another key to your success. While some PMMs think analyst relations is about signing analyst contracts and administering meetings, a good analyst relations person will instead spend most of her time talking to and emailing with the key analysts every week. She creates an ongoing conversation so that when you engage, she can set you up for, and coach you, to success. 

The analyst relations team at Salesforce is led by John Taschek. John coached me a ton not just on great conversations with analysts, but on my career as well. Talk to your analyst relations team often. Ask for their feedback. Ask for their help. They will make you more successful. 

Side-note: 3rd Party Contracted Analysts

Beyond Gartner and Forrester, there is another great type of analyst, the contract firms that interview your customers and write case studies for public consumption. Rebecca Wettemann at Valoir is the best example of this I know. At multiple companies, Rebecca has been a key ally for me in helping tell customer stories to illustrate technology ROI and how the market is changing, from the unique perspective of a 3rd party. Use these researchers to create great marketing assets to tell your customer stories, and yours, in a way you never could.

Have insights about working with analysts? The comments are open below.

The Front Porch
Moss Beach, California

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