Gartner’s planned acquisition* of AMR Research sparked some vibrant conversation this week. Alex Williams posting on it at ReadWriteWeb Enterprise asked my perspective. With his OK, I’m sharing our offline exchange, which focused on enterprise supply chain decision makers.

Enterprises have been putting up with quite a bit of churn and staffing reductions among their analyst firms during this recession, and AMR Research is no exception. Still, AMR Research merging into Gartner signals the loss of yet another independent voice in the enterprise tech marketplace.

Gartner is not simply buying AMR Research business contracts. Gartner is buying the attention and trust that enterprise decision makers invest in AMR Research. That’s what will determine the lifetime value of the AMR Research clients. Attention and trust are the stakes.

The difficulty supply chain decision makers face is that they can’t easily transfer their trust in AMR Research to another analyst firm. Their biggest obstacle is limited choice. Few analyst firms come close to AMR Research in terms of size, expertise, track record, culture and clientele. The choices are:

  • the giants — Gartner, Forrester, Informa/Ovum
  • a few companies with dedicated teams, such as ARC Advisory and IDC Insights
  • a sprinkling of qualified supply chain experts among the hundreds of small analyst firms and one-person shops

Companies comfortable with the AMR Research company culture will need to think about chemistry as much as content when considering Gartner, Forrester Research, ARC Advisory Group and IDC Insights.

The small and one-person consultancies already include several former AMR Research analysts. Decision makers comfortable with betting on the jockey, rather than the horse, will find familiar faces in this group.

What about replacing AMR Research with advisors who do not wear an analyst badge? Most decision makers already listen to several types of experts, at least in the early stages of their decision process. So in reality, this is a question of whether to direct more attention and trust to current advisors whether they be peers, consultants, etc.

My advice to AMR Research clients and partners: take a fresh look at your decision support ecosystem while you’re on honeymoon with Gartner. Assess everyone who has your ear, not just the analysts. It’s a good time to ask, “who are the smartest people on the kinds of supply chain issues we have, and do we confer with them?”

* Tekrati news coverage: joint Gartner financial release, AMR Research commentary, Gartner AR webcast

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Influencers often have a say in the purchase critieria used by decision-makers. Often their influence is direct, such as inputing to a request for bid. Indirect influence is an important factor as well. While the most widely known (or perhaps infamous) example in the tech market is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, most indirect influences are far from obvious. Influencer relations programs search out and track these influencers, for action or simple monitoring.

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Here’s the kind of thing you want to find: This week, Jon Peddie (JPA) proposes a change in the benchmark criteria for graphics-enabled motherboards. Jon makes the case that today’s consumer wants the most performance per dollar, with the lowest wattage. He’s put the 3 factors together into a simple-looking equation and calls it the PDW mark (performance-dollar-watts).

Will it be adopted overnight? Hard to say.

It’s this sort of low-flying advice that can ripple out across entire markets over time. If you run an influencer relations program, keep track of the shift in thinking as well as the drivers behind the shift. This is vital information for your sales and management teams.

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Barbara on April 5th, 2009

iabcworldconference2009Don’t miss Nick’s session at the upcoming IABC 2009 World Conference. This year, the IABC expects to host 1,600 communication practitioners from 40 countries for this event. Four days of learning, camaraderie and inspiration right here in San Francisco.

Details on Nick’s session:

T3 / Influencer marketing and the rise of decision maker ecosystems

Date: Tuesday, 9 June
Time: 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Track: Strategy & Counsel

The way large-scale business purchases are made has changed. Company structure, corporate governance, the Internet and numerous other factors have led to the rise of decision-maker ecosystems‚ networks of individuals whose opinions shape the eventual purchase decision. These ecosystems play a major role in the success of every sales force, thus marketers need to consider communication strategies that include them.

What you’ll learn:

  • How and why purchase decision making has changed
  • Types of influencers who make up most decision-maker ecosystems
  • How different influencers impact decision-makers

Register by 1 May to receive the lowest conference rate. Plus, you can discuss the event at the special IABC blog InSession and follow on Twitter using hash tag #IABC09.

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Barbara on January 12th, 2009

It’s going to be a tough year to stay current with influencers.

Under normal circumstances, Influencer50 research puts the attrition among a company’s top 50 influencers at about 20 percent per year. That means that in a 12-month period, 10 of the 50 will have changed jobs.

It doesn’t look as though 2009 will offer normal circumstances. I would expect that rate to climb. Large and mid-sized companies are reducing headcount, and consolidating through mergers and acquisitions. Small businesses and independent contractors may be forced to bridge lean sales by hooking up with larger companies.

It’s a good idea to keep a closer eye on the top 50 influencers in each of your markets. Watch for new voices rising up, established voices tuning out, changes in focus.

Remember too that influence is not necessarily a real-time activity. Decision-makers tend to remember an influencer’s opinion long after obtaining it.

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Barbara on January 8th, 2009

One of the new features on the Influencer50 website is a library of resources for building effective influencer programs. We’ve recently posted a pair of podcasts on decision-maker ecosystems. In part 1, Nick fleshes out the concept; in part 2, he digs a little deeper into how DMEs work. You can download the complete podcasts from the online library (register right on the home page, bottom right corner). Here’s a brief excerpt you can stream or download:

 
 Influencer50 Podcast Excerpt: Decision-maker ecosystems Part 2 [2:45m]: Play Now | Download

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Barbara on October 14th, 2008

Tom Smith’s guest post at Mashable makes the point that we now trust the opinions of strangers as much as we trust our close friends, thanks to social media. He’s highlighting findings from the Universal McCann study, “When did we start trusting strangers”. Don’t let yourself get lulled into thinking this phenomenon is taking place only in consumer markets. Social media is also changing the way that businesses source trusted opinions on products and services.

Social media is transforming B2B decision-maker ecosystems in two fundamental ways. The most notable, according to Influencer50 research, is that more categories of advisors are exerting more influence during B2B purchase decisions. Social media is helping make many types of “hidden” advisors more visible, more accessible, more informed.

Another change is the appearance of new types of influencers. Examples include niche consultants, procurement groups, and expert communities.

The bottomline is that social media is changing the way we slice the B2B influence pie, just as it is changing influence in consumer markets.

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