Influencer marketing is progressing from too much hype and trial-by-fire programs to sensible strategies and accepted best practices. There’s no better time than today to re-fresh your thinking about influence — what it is, who has it, what roles it can play in business. I’ll be discussing these topics at next week’s Bay Area Executives Meetup in Mountain View, CA, along with moderator R Ray Wang of Altimeter Group and my co-panelists Michael Brito of Edelman Digital, Ali McCourt of Intuit and Tony Welch of HP. Special thanks to Tatyana Kanzavel for organizing the event and panel!

Register for the Bay Area Executives Meetup: Super Panel on Influence

“The Many Facets Of Influence: How to Outreach, Engage, and Build Trust with Key Stakeholders”

An interactive panel with R Ray Wang, Michael Brito, Barbara French, Ali McCourt & Tony Welch

Tuesday, August 24th
Networking 6:30 - 7:00 PM
Panel 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Location: Samovar Conference Hall, Mountain View, Calif.
Event hashtag: #baexec

The panel will provide perspectives on these critical questions about influence:
1.  What is influence? and how do we align it with business value?
2.  The myths vs. realities of influence
3.  Key success factors of influence
4.  Identifying influencers: who and why?

Space is limited. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 at the door and include gourmet food and wine. Register now to get on the waiting list and (hopefully) get confirmed!

Bring your questions, join the conversation, and engage!

Popularity: 45%

By Barbara French and Gideon Gartner (@bfr3nch, www.barbarafrench.net, @gideongartner, www.gideongartner.com)

In the first part of this post, we challenged an urban myth that small analyst firms are threatening the Gartner and Forrester Research business models. We as yet see no compelling evidence. What we do see is many small advisory firms performing vital roles in the IT ecosystem, a few experimenting with business models, and many preferring their small businesses to the bureaucratic ways of large organizations. More than 25 analyst entrepreneurs shared insights on their businesses and philosophies, plus a handful of analyst clients shared their views — creating an unparalleled conversation! You can read the discussion here.

We’re picking up with the question, is it possible for small/new firms to shake up the Advisory industry? We think so. We’re not ready to concede the future of the advisory market to the current Gartner and Forrester business models. The question is, how?

In our view, firms wishing to disrupt the Gartner and Forrester models must have two particular attributes. First, they need a significant differentiator. It can be in specialization, the business model, service delivery or other areas. Equally importantly, they must be able to scale. That means substantial funding, an effective sales operation, well-honed M&A skills, or a combination of all three.

One of the potential differentiators getting attention lately is “open source research.” In theory, it follows the open source software model: research is developed openly and collaboratively with a marketplace and published under a Creative Commons license. Benefits include lowering research costs while driving consulting and other revenues. Challenges include quality control and the prerequisite of building a large and engaged community of collaborators that will be equally accessible to competing Advisory firms.

We see several other  possible examples of disruptive behavior. In a recent conversation with Louise Garnett from Outsell, we came up with a short list of firms, past and present, innovating at least one aspect of the Advisory business model. Highlights, in no particular order:

1. Springboard Research: It claims to have a low-cost/high-quality reputation using low-cost research from China and India. Plus, Springboard built leadership in Asia Pacific markets while U.S. firms were reducing international presence. It’s a good example of specialization.

2. Altimeter Group: This small but growing top-rated analyst group seems to some as more a consultancy than an Advisory firm. Its analysts retain personal branding and independence while obtaining generous splits from their loyal clients from past relationships. The tactics are paying off, generating momentum. Founder Charlene Li’s increasing number of innovative ideas have been well recognized but to become a true disruptor to G&F the firm must (and might well) find a way to scale, and to accelerate its introduction of deliverables.

3. GigaOM Pro: Disruptors can emerge from outside the Advisory industry. Om Malik is incubating this research startup within his media network. This means ongoing exposure to 5 million unique visitors each month — far outpacing any Advisory today. It achieves low-cost/high-quality by using a network of on-demand subject matter experts (38 currently, all in emerging tech) and enforcing quality standards, from vetting experts to producing research. The experts negotiate and retain all Advisory fees resulting from participation in GigaOM Pro.

4. Giga Information Group (background): Funded as it grew, Giga’s model included innovations such as a single service priced by the seat and an expert network backing up its strong staff of analysts. It also made significant ongoing investments in building a salesforce and creating a brand. As with Altimeter and GigaOM Pro, it benefited out of the gate from the strong reputation of its founder. All of this resulted in annual revenues of over $70 million in annual contract value in less than 5 years.

5. Spiceworks: Another disruptor from outside the Advisory industry, Spiceworks is a systems and network management software vendor with an active community of 1 million users, all in IT management jobs in small- and medium-sized businesses. Spiceworks gives away its software to qualified users in exchange for real-time insights into their product deployments and participation in the online community. Sponsoring vendors conduct research and communicate directly with the community. Currently, its equivalent of “Advisory” is a simple question/answer service leveraging peer-to-peer and vendor evangelist interactions.

Firms that want to catapult to the top need to use innovation to their best advantage. Say for example, a smaller Advisory wants to specialize and provide research advice which exceeds Forrester’s in quality. The firm needs to find a way to actually demonstrate that it has a higher ratio or a larger magnitude of knowledge/information in at least one very specific market segment  in order to improve its market share in the appropriate space. Invoking the idea that it exceeds Forrester in its specialty areas is one thing, but proving such specialization is something else again.

One example of a way to develop and demonstrate the above thesis qualitatively might be to assume the number of Forrester analysts (excluding consultants, juniors, management, etc.) and remind the reader of some claims that the old 80/20 rule still prevails (80% of analysts providing 20% of the value), perhaps reducing the ratio to 75/25. There’s no reason small competitors cannot focus on recruiting more senior and recently specialized people-power to build a claimable ratio of 70/30 or even 60/40.

Scale is perhaps the greatest challenge facing would-be disruptors. Sound growth strategies and financial management are vital. M&A can play a key role, as proven by Gartner and Forrester. Recent activity among smaller firms runs the gamut, from iSuppli acquiring Screen Digest to Datamonitor expanding its portfolio.

Bottom line however is that incremental change might be “too little too late”. What’s required to succeed (and arguably needed by the industry) is use of an old trick: taking a large clean sheet of paper, and imagining an Advisory model which will clearly represent a breakthrough that will attract investors (because significant capital will likely be required to realistically challenge the current status).

A conceivable alternative might be to consolidate a significant number of strong analysts and/or small firms, with a management team working together to implement what was suggested in the paragraph above. And then the outcome will still hang on the solidity of the financials.

Small firms and new entrants can disrupt the Advisory industry. Note that IBM once virtually controlled the entire computer hardware market, until innovative firms around the edges changed the ground rules, which challenged customer reliance upon Big Blue. But these outlying firms succeeded mainly via new functions and better price/performance ratios. So while there are various degrees of freedom in structuring a hypothetical Advisory firm such that an opportunity arises to emulate what once occurred in IT hardware, this would take imagination, time, and perhaps most important, money. It can be done: Giga Information Group showed that the industry leaders were in fact vulnerable and grew from $zero to $70M contract value (not including consulting and events) in less than 5 years.

Finally, more input from Louise (Outsell): Every segment of the information industry looks the same. In each segment, a few big players represent at least 50% of revenues. Smaller companies make up the rest, carving out various niches. The IT research market follows the norm: it covers many segments, with a few firms dominating each segment and holding those positions for years on end. Successful contenders will understand this market structure before attacking it.

Editor’s Note: This has been cross-posted at Gideon’s blog, www.gideongartner.com. We’ll cross-posts your comments to both blogs.

Popularity: 43%

If you missed today’s fast-paced webinar, here’s the audio replay. However our recorded conversation is just part of the discussion that took place. Check out the real-time reactions and side conversations at Twitter — hashtag #socialanalyst. Thanks to everyone who participated!

As Jeremiah said in his closing comments, we want to continue this conversation. Are you in? Please check back for links to the Twitter transcript. Also, trackback or comment here if you publish on the impact of social technologies on the industry analysts, their advisory clients and their analyst relations communities.

Special gratitude to our pilots at the Hangar – Christine Tan and Julie Viola — and to co-panelists Jeremiah Owyang, Carter Lusher and Jonny Bentwood.

The Impact of Social on the Analyst Industry: A Roundtable w/ Jonny Bentwood, Barbara French, Carter Lusher, and Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group on Vimeo

Related posts:

Popularity: 36%

Social technologies are disrupting traditional business models, and the tech industry analyst business is no exception. Or is it? How is social truly changing the day to day work of the tech watchers? their advisory clients? their relations with tech providers? Tune in tomorrow as I exchange views on this important topic with fellow thought leaders Jeremiah Owyang, Jonny Bentwood and Carter Lusher. You can ask questions and more during the live webinar using the Twitter hashtag #socialanalyst. This virtual event is free. Register now so you can listen and participate tomorrow!

What you need to know:

Special thanks to Jeremiah for organizing and producing this event!

Related posts:

The brainstorm behind this event at Jeremiah’s blog
Personal point of view at Jonny’s blog
More stage-setting at Carter’s blog and here at Sway

Popularity: 17%

By Gideon Gartner (@gideongartner, www.gideongartner.com) and Barbara French (@bfr3nch, www.barbarafrench.net)

There’s a good deal of speculation on whether the research and advisory business is entering a new phase — one in which small Advisory firms may be thriving at the expense of the large firms. David Hatch summed up this point of view in a comment to “Advisory Industry, a future redesign: the ‘Payment’ Model”:

“Independents are growing in number while research firm-employed analysts are shrinking… This shift is likely going to be the genesis of the new business model…”.

Is there in fact a groundswell favoring the smaller firms? Cutting to the chase, we beg to disagree, but we should be able to find hard evidence as well as qualitative assumptions and begin to see possible implications for the analyst business at large.

As David implies, counting heads is one way to measure sea change. But even when cutting its claimed analyst force down, Gartner generally has had a greater than 50:1 edge in research personnel vs. the any of the small Advisories. What is not clear is whether manpower size alone is more important than some combination of factors such as:

  • Depth of coverage in specific areas
  • Average analyst quality
  • Breadth of deliverables (content types, events, etc.)
  • Frequency, depth and and quality of personal interactions
  • Length of contract “lock-in” ( Gartner has been pushing 2- and 3-year contracts)
  • Reputation
  • Broad spread of client seats (difficult to displace)
  • Clients being change-averse to replacing Advisories of long standing
  • Selling to multiple constituencies rather than to vendors only (which improves an Advisory’s understanding of the overall territory)
  • Cornering the CIOs and other senior positions when selling to large non-vendor enterprises

Quantity does not equal quality. Yet, there is no realistic method to measure the average quality of different Advisory firms in their sphere of activity, and it must be acknowledged that G&F both score relatively high on most of the 10 points above.

What about the David vs. Goliath buzz? Private conversations with appropriate contacts follow the usual recessionary story-lines and seem to favor the small firms:

  • Vendors and their analyst relations (AR) departments are doing new advisory deals with small firms and even with individual analysts laid off by IDC, Forrester and Gartner. Those are generally recognized for unique skills and the stand-alone analysts are expected to continue in this role. Even as vendors allocate budget to smaller firms, they are invariably renewing Forrester and Gartner contracts, as usual.
  • Other analysts who have stayed put during the recession may be heard murmuring that they’re ready to jump to something new, indicating they see opportunity in the wings.
  • Several small firms and solo advisors are compensating for the poor economy by doing an excellent job of public relations, thus garnering disproportionate attention and hopefully monetizing their efforts through social media.

There may be some truth above, but insufficient to prove material penetration of the small firms’ client bases. Other initiatives exist, but none seem to offer evidence on the extent to which relative market shares might evolve during the next few years. Only the two large leaders provide solid financials and shareholder discussions, therefore we know that Gartner and Forrester enjoyed good quarters recently which were however influenced by both their publicly divulged future 5%-7% annual price increases (regardless of the economy) and with no more price negotiating going forward. If such reported pricing inflexibility by G&F can be maintained, that might help the strongest of the small competitors to slowly penetrate the fortresses. Then again, G&F’s CEOs are committed to win and if necessary may reverse field on their pricing strategies and hold their own.

Mathematically, even with accelerating business volumes, we’d bet that it would take small Advisories ages to make significant inroads on G&F. Outsell’s Louise Garnett estimates average growth in the overall information industry at around 10% per year. That means small firms need to grow faster than the industry average for 15 to 30 years to reach the size of an AMR Research or Burton Group! Do today’s young analyst companies have to face that long a runway before reaching what might be called “critical mass”? Or are these firms satisfied — even desirous — in remaining small and independent, without needing to worry about large staffs and investors? Either way, G&F likely do not have much to worry about.

That’s not to say that there will be zero competitive inroads against G&F. Opportunities exist to mount significant competitive inroads. We think the most important could emerge from meaningful innovations, preferably true game-changers requiring specific assets which the established competitors have been unable to muster thus far.

We’ll discuss some noteworthy innovators and our ideas on seizing the competitive opportunity in the Advisory Industry in Part 2.

Editor’s Note: This has been cross-posted at Gideon’s blog, www.gideongartner.com. Comments are welcome at both.

Popularity: 24%

Editor’s Note: Republishing this post I wrote today for Tekrati. It ties into several of my themes here, and to my July webinar with Jeremiah Owyang.

GigaOM today celebrates the first anniversary of its GigaOM Pro research division. GigaOM Pro is one of the more interesting of the recent entrants to high tech industry analyst business. Mike Wolf (@michaelwolf), vice president of research, sat down with Tekrati and spoke about the first year: the formative decisions early on, recent progress and a few immediate changes as the venture begins Year 2. Plus, a Cisco subscriber weighed in on her experience with this innovative industry research service.

First, let’s catch up with what’s new as announced yesterday by GigaOM founder Om Malik. GigaOM Pro officially emerges from beta today. The online retail price rises from $79 to $249 per year, with discounting down to $199. That’s a fraction of the cost of comparative services. Since its launch, the service has published more than 500 research items, including in-depth reports on the app economy, e-books and cloud computing and more than 100 company profiles. Plus, subscribers can contact analysts privately or discuss findings openly through the community features of the site.

Further sweetening the deal, the 6,000 beta subscribers can renew at the $99 beta price. According to Wolf, the 2010 renewal rate looks good. The subscriber base is large enough now to create its own momentum in new sales.

The company will now provide research buyers a corporate purchase option in addition to online sales. The new Corporate Edition makes it simple to buy a quantity of seats at a volume discount. Wolf said that the Corporate Edition builds on the innate appeal to GigaOM readership and is garnering interest from a broad base of small to large companies, market research buyers and intel centers. The first corporate clients to sign include Microsoft, Adobe, Rovi, Juniper Networks, Peer1, RRE Ventures, Norwest Ventures, Hill & Knowlton, LewisPR and Accenture.

The 1-year anniversary coincides with GigaOm’s third annual Structure conference, taking place today and tomorrow in San Francisco. Celebratory perks at the sold-out cloud computing event include:

  • Conference attendees receive a comp copy of the in-depth report, ”Defining Internal Cloud Options: From Appistry to VMware” by Derrick Harris
  • Attending GigaOM Pro subscribers (and those who buy a subscription onsite) can enter a drawing to win an iPad (Wi-Fi)
  • Wolf will lead a rapid-fire panel on where cloud computing is headed over the next 3 to 5 years. The questions were submitted by GigaOM Pro subscribers and Twitter fans. The panelists, selected from the virtual GigaOM Pro Analyst Network, are Derrick Harris with GigaOm PRO, Phil Hendrix with immr, and John du Pre Gauntt with Media Dojo.
  • Members of the GigaOM Pro Analyst Network are in attendance throughout the event.

In its first year, GigaOM Pro has proven that it can stand apart from the majority of industry research firms on price, coverage, quality, speed and customer experience. The affordable price is certainly an important part of the equation. However, that would mean nothing without the rest.

Early on, Malik, Wolf and CEO Paul Walborsky made several decisions that set GigaOM Pro on this unique path. “We knew we had to do something different,” said Wolf. “We didn’t want to do a Gartner or a Heavy Reading. We didn’t want to be consultants. We focused on innovating the research business model with price, community and a virtual network of domain expertise.”

Thus, they sidestepped the trappings of traditional research firms: high overhead, exclusionary pricing, long lead times and a finite pool of analyst experts on any given topic.

The GigaOM media network is able to subsidize its research start-up and provide immediate brand recognition. Further, GigaOM editorial standards and cradle-to-grave project support ensure that research coverage leads or closely tracks hot trending topics while adhering to quality standards. The strength of the brand — combined with the management team and editorial support — has enabled the research start-up to recruit close to 40 high caliber experts to its virtual Analyst Network and produce an impressive body of written and rich media research deliverables on 5 emerging tech domains, from green tech to Google and Apple to cloud:

  • Mobile
  • Infrastructure
  • Connected Consumer
  • NewNet
  • Green IT

GigaOM’s grounding in Web 2.0 also translates into differentiation in the customer experience: subscribers can network with each other and the experts, and discuss every piece of research published, no holds barred.

“Our subscribers like the style of service,” said Wolf. “They like the model — access to any research at any time.” He said the rapid turn-around on hot topics and ability to bring in deep-dive contributing experts from the industry at large make GigaOM Pro a great add-on to advisory services from the established analyst houses. “We’re not displacing other services. We’re complementary to traditional firms.”

Lisa Soto, an analyst relations manager with Cisco based in Irvine, Calif., who’s been using the service for about a year, concurs. She works in one of Cisco’s consumer divisions and said, “The PRO service is how we keep our ear to the ground about what is happening in the industry. We can always count on GigaOM PRO to give us an in-depth evaluation and realistic perspective of the impact many new technologies, key announcements have on the industry. As soon as we hear about a trend or a new movement, we know GigaOM PRO will provide a deep and rich perspective of what is happening and the value to the industry and most importantly the consumer.”

Two things she likes most about the service are its responsiveness to the market, and the social aspects of the research delivery. She finds GigaOM Pro is one of the first research resources to provide information on a new trend. “The timing is unbelievably fast.” She also likes the ability to interact with the experts and content — it’s designed from the ground up with community features of a full-fledged social network — and likes the option of being alerted to new research via “the most current social media tools.”

The GigaOM Pro social experience goes beyond written word. A series of “Bunker” events brings together select subscribers by invitation only at a physical location. The rest of the community shares the event via streaming. Looking ahead, these types of events will likely play a larger part in the corporate edition.

Finally, there is one more aspect to the GigaOM Pro social design: an Analyst Relations network within the Pro community. This professional network is open to any analyst relations practitioner actively working with clients — not just those affiliated with Pro subscribers. Members can network with each other and with the virtual GigaOM Pro Analyst Network. Soto said she has taken advantage of the network to expand her division’s relationships with influencers in adjacent markets.

In a busy year of beta — during one of the worst recessions in tech market history — GigaOM Pro succeeded in putting a fresh face on the high tech research business. Prospects for Year 2 look good. Research buyers, analysts and analyst relations teams should take note.

Popularity: 10%

Do you have some opinions on how social media is changing the analyst business? Or how it could be changing the analyst game? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Your points may well end up on my July roundtable, ”The Impact of Social on the Analyst Industry“,  with Jonny Bentwood of Edelman, Carter Lusher of SageCircle, and our roundtable producer and host, Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group. The Twitter hashtag is #socialanalyst.

We’ll be discussing — and debating — the impact of social on analysts and analyst firms, and resulting changes in the analyst experience for IT decision makers, tech providers and their analyst relations representatives.

Some changes are taking place behind the scenes, in business, research and sales operations. Some changes are clearly visible at events and online through blogs, communities, media sites and Twitter. Other changes are being forced on the analyst business by IT decision makers and tech providers, as social media redefines approaches to decision making and influencer relations.

Social is not just another hammer in the tech toolbox. It’s also a set of behaviors. We expect analysts to adopt these new behaviors. So far, some are, some are not.

As with all Altimeter Group webinars, this one is free to attend and space is limited! Register at your earliest if you’d like to participate in the live conversation.

  • What: The Impact of Social on the Analyst Industry: A Roundtable with Jonny Bentwood, Barbara French, Carter Lusher, and Jeremiah Owyang
  • When: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 from 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM PDT
  • Info, Register: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/823666435

Special thanks to Jeremiah for organizing this event!

Editor’s update, June 29th: Post your suggestions on topics & points of view you think we should cover during the roundtable at Jeremiah’s blog.

Popularity: 13%

Influencer marketing entails many aspects of public relations. Along these lines, CloudNine PR agency is sharing results of its bespoke study of how 300 IT chiefs in the UK prefer to access news and info about the IT industry. I’m quite surprised by 4 findings in particular: LinkedIn ties with vendor emails as a useful or very useful source for 31%; and Twitter and YouTube are on close to even footing as well for about 20%.

What methods do UK IT chiefs find ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’ for keeping up-to-date on IT industry developments, including general news from vendors? Here’s CloudNine PR’s take:

cloud9prinfluencersurvey2010

  1. Online publications 64%
  2. IT blogs 52%
  3. Trade shows 50%
  4. Printed publications 47%
  5. Vendor Events 44%
  6. IT Analyst blogs 40%
  7. IT analyst events 38%
  8. Vendor emails 31%, LinkedIn 31%
  9. Twitter 20%
  10. YouTube 19%
  11. Facebook 13%
  12. SlideShare 12%

About the study: CloudNine PR commissioned Vanson Bourne to conduct the survey. It consisted of a poll of IT decisionmakers, including CIOs, IT directors and IT managers in 300 UK companies. The sample included organisations with 50 to 250 employees, 251 to 1000 employees and over 1000 employees. There was an approximately equal split of companies operating in Financial services; Manufacturing; Retail, Transport and Distribution; and Business and Professional Services.

Popularity: 17%

Barbara on May 17th, 2010 | 9 Comments

Tekrati is getting a new logo as part of its 10th anniversary update. I’d appreciate your comments before we tear apart the existing Tekrati masthead.

Here’s my top pick (so far):

Tekrati Logo

It’s over in the right column here as well.

If you’re wondering where this came from: Michael Montoya Graphic Design created a fun logo and site design for the Tekrati debut in 2000. Around mid-decade, we skinnied the logo down to the typography. Coming full circle - bringing back the lightbulb and the original color palette - seems a good way of saying, “10 years - yes!”

Popularity: 6%

Barbara on May 12th, 2010 | 1 Comment

RedMonk’s James Governor offers the most intelligent view I’ve read in a very long time on blogging among the analysts. Here’s an excerpt from his excellent post:

We built RedMonk on social media. Its as simple as that. We had a good run on it through the late noughties. But honestly – the differentiator has been significantly eroded of late. One of our significant differentiators is now business as usual. Our competitors are just as fast to the news as us, if not faster, with solid analysis on either side of the firewall. Gartner and Forrester are both doing outstanding work in real time analysis. Seriously. And Gartner analysts are joining the conversation. - James Governor May 12, 2010

His observations are crucial for analysts, analyst relations and analyst watchers. Why? Gartner, Forrester Research and scores of analyst firms have successfully embedded blogging within their businesses. We’re long past the point where it makes sense to quantify analyst blogging as a discrete individual activity. Blogging is becoming integral to analyst business processes.

I’ve been actively monitoring analyst bloggers since 2003 and in 2005 launched the first directory and OPML of analyst-written blogs. The total number of blogs in early 2005: just over 50. I was committed to supporting those pioneering analyst bloggers. In those early days, the number of blogs — and the who’s who and how many — were factors in whether a given firm or analyst would jump into the fray. Not so today.

But even back then, the analyst community’s real focus was on how blogs fit with analyst business processes and policies. You can read a snapshot of their views in the original 2005 report. These are the topics that still deserve our attention. Even today.

Hats off to James for prodding us all take a fresh look at analyst blogs.

Popularity: 7%