In the daily life of any reseller or integrator, there's nothing more important than cultivating relationships - whether with current or prospective customers, alliance partners, vendors or employees.
These relationships alone demand tremendous amounts of time, particularly when combined with the copious day-to-day travel and paperwork inherent in our profession. Yet we'd be sorely remiss if we didn't take the time to cultivate relationships with yet another influential audience: IT-market analysts.
While many readers are undoubtedly familiar with the Aberdeens and IDCs of the market-research community, it's worthwhile to quickly review who they are and what they do.
As the number of high-tech companies and markets has increased annually, so too has the number of research firms monitoring them. There are more than a dozen major players in the IT-research field and dozens more niche players. The common thread connecting all of them is a dedication to providing industry research and analysis, market and trend forecasting, and technology/vendor recommendations for clients. Where they differ radically is with forecasting methodologies, market and technology focus, scope of operations, target audience and supplemental services.
To cite a few examples, GartnerGroup, with more than 1000 analysts and consultants in 80 locations worldwide, provides consulting and research services across the IT spectrum. GartnerGroup is easily one of the largest and most well-known firms, and it is consistently given stellar ratings by clients for its breadth and depth of knowledge.
Jupiter Communications, on the other hand, is a "new media" research firm that focuses exclusively on "how the Internet and other technologies are changing traditional consumer industries". With offices in New York and London, Jupiter has been on a meteoric rise since its beginnings as a three-man operation in the late '80s. Its focus is more narrow in scope and its operation somewhat smaller than those of other leading research firms, but Jupiter has garnered impressive praise.
Although many clients of research firms are CIOs seeking information and recommendations before making critical technology decisions, resellers and integrators, too, can greatly benefit from developing relationships with IT analysts. In fact, there are at least three key reasons to cultivate analyst relations.
1) Analysts provide an excellent sounding board for new ideas and technology/service launches. My company, for example, recently conducted an "analyst road show" to obtain feedback on an investment partnership we'd launched to market a sophisticated e-commerce solution. We received helpful comments from the analysts regarding market readiness, potential vertical markets to explore, and technology value-adds that we might want to consider.
2) Analysts often write assessments and reports of integrator offerings for distribution to their customer base. Thus it pays to keep analysts on your press-release distribution list or schedule regular conference calls with them to brief them on your company's latest news.
3) Analysts will, in many cases, refer clients to specific integrators. My company has gained several customers based on analysts' recommendations. Needless to say, paying the subscription fee for a research firm's services greatly increases the chances of being recommended for RFPs.
Certainly research firms aren't perfect in their forecasting capabilities, and many of their services come with a hefty price tag. However, they're an increasingly valuable resource in an increasingly technology-driven marketplace.