Ever wanted to make a startup founder curse?  Try saying these 2 magic words – Gartner Group.  In big companies the reaction is usually about the same (with more politically correct vocabulary).  Why?  I believe it’s a case of each side having their own (very different) priorities and each not understanding the other’s point of view.  I summarize the opposing views like this:

What Vendors Want

  • Analysts that can understand their products after 1 briefing
  • Analysts that will write positive things about their product and recommend them to customers
  • Analysts that do not criticize their product, their marketing, their business model, etc.

What Analysts Want

  • Vendors that will brief them regularly and often
  • Vendors that will pay them for advice, not coverage
  • Vendors that value their feedback on their product, marketing, business model, etc.

You can see how we might get into trouble here.  My personal experience has been that working with a few key analysts as you are in the design/development phases for a new product can be extremely valuable if you get it right.

Here’s April’s Handy Dandy Analyst Do’s (and 1 Don’t) list:

Do:

  • Pick a Couple of the Right Analysts – you don’t have time to build a relationship with more than a couple.  Pick ones that focus on your market obviously but don’t be shy about leaving someone off the list if you think he/she might be too hard to deal with (ask around, read their blogs, check them out on Twitter – jerky-ness is easy to spot).
  • Invest Time – schedule regular calls and don’t expect them to get what you do after the first one.
  • Listen and Ask Questions – When you stop worrying about making it into the next quadrant/wave/doo-dad report and start to see analysts as a source of advice about how customer think/make decisions, you’ll slow down and ask more questions.  This gets more natural the more meetings you have.
  • Talk About the Market, not Just your Product – Talk about customers if you have them and if you don’t yet, what you’ve heard from potential customers.  They’ll better understand the pain your product solves and it’s useful information for them as they consult to customers.

Don’t

  • Let your CEO/Project Executive do the Briefing if He/She is a Hothead – I worked with a startup CEO that told our key Gartner analyst to “F%ck off” during a briefing.  Luckily the analyst had a sense of humor and I did the briefings with the more charming head of Product Management from that point forward.

A couple of handy resources:
Carter Lusher’s blog, SageCircle is a treasure trove of good advice on dealing with analysts.  Read this post on “How to Manufacture a Problem Analyst”.
Carter also maintains a list of Analysts and a list of Analyst Relations professionals on Twitter.
Lighthouse publishes a blog, Analyst Equity that looks at what’s going on with with the analyst firms.

**Update!**

Tekrati offers a great overview of analyst-related news and announcements as well as an directory of analysts (for a fee) , analyst firms and a super-handy directory of analyst blogs (see the comments too).