30 minute rule raises barriers to challengers & international brands

Gartner is asking vendors for feedback on its plan that standard vendor briefings become 30 minutes long from the end of this month. We will leave it to other to speculate on the firm’s conversations with its analysts on this topic.

One reason given for the curtailment is that briefings take a long time to schedule, although we can’t see the connection. Scheduling is not done principally by analysts. The amount of time take to get a 15, 30 or 45 minute call in the diary is very similar. Shorter briefings will mean either more briefings (which will take more time to schedule) or the same number of breifings (which will take the same time to organise). We think there will be more briefings requested, in fact.

Gartner understands that vendor briefings are a valuable and important part of analysts’ research process. However, shorter briefings favour large vendors with analyst relations resources large enough to also request frequent briefings. Indeed, the shorter briefing time will shift analyst relations strategies: vendors will restructure their briefings into smaller chunks, so as to request more briefings. This, of course, will take more time to schedule: so only more organisational resources will reduce the delay.

Furthermore, Gartner is increasing the pressure on individual analysts, by saying that vendors can request more time, but the analyst will need to approve the extension. We can imagine analysts’ managers guidance on whether and when analysts opt for longer breifings. Furthermore, larger vendors will be more confident in asking for more time [and smaller firms may not know they can request more time]. This simply transfers pressure off Gartner’s vendor relations team and onto the individual analyst. Smaller firms will say that analysts will elect to spend more time with Gartner clients than with non-clients: we do not doubt that they will be correct. This look like a further ethical risk for Gartner, although it will partly reflect the reality that firms that subscribe to Gartner generally have more to say and to discuss.

Gartner’s stated aim is to make briefings more effective and efficient. Analysts want shorter meetings so they can research more. However, shorter meetings clear favour organisations that brief the analyst frequently: they have less to say, already have rapport and understand critical items that analysts need to know.

Of course, the reality is that most vendors currently do not focus on these issues, or even know what they are, and only the analysts can tell them — so shorter meetings will lead some vendors to become less able, rather than more able, to meet analysts’ information needs. Analysts’ interests in supply-side issues like market dynamics, segmentation and go-to-market strategy — plus their demands for candor — make meeting analysts an altogether more stressful activity for many business leaders than selling to customers. Pitching to analysts is totally different to pitching to Wal*Mart. Wal*Mart’s interests are narrower, if deeper.

All of these work against challenger companies and international brands.

  • Challenger brands may have different business models. Analysts may be sceptical, or need to be convinced. Innovative firms may struggle to reduce their proposition meaningfuly: Five minutes to get the analyst into the room, pur coffee and get the introductions over; 12 minutes to review four slides at three slides each; three questions at three minutes each; four minutes to recap, agree next actions and set a time to meet again. Few, if any, new business ideas can be presented in such a short time that does not make them seem shallow and easily replicated.
  • Time orientation differs outside the US. International business people are rewarded for building rapport and understanding the other person’s needs. A CEO with an egg-timer on his table might seen as a hero in America, but as a bully and a brute in France. The US CEO trains for the VCs elevator pitch, but new venture financing is different elsewhere. To many, the process of reducing something down involves a series of abstractions in which the compressed for failed to describe the thing under discussion. It will be harder for non-US business people to express themselves, and harder for AR managers to convince executives that speaking to Gartner can overcome the firm’s perceived bias against non-US firms. One can no more expect them to ‘get over’ their training than one can expect US citizens to rapidly understand the differences in business cultures with a longer time-orientation.
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