Tiers before bedtime

An unfolding discussion on how to tier analyst firms has some AR professionals close to tears. Two directors at noted PR firms, Jonny and Dom, are of the opinion that one should tier analysts, and ignore the firm they work for. Jonny seems to feel that analysts should be placed in the top tier if they are taken seriously by part of the buyer, or media, communities.

However, very many analysts are important in one or both of these ways, since analysts with a high media profile tend not to be those with a high influence on sales. Such a broad definitionof the ‘top tier’ would be unworkable, since most of the analysts that firms currently have relationships with could, in this way, be seen as top tier. However, our feeling is that, for tiering to be workable, a small number of analysts need to be in the top tier.

In our opinion, influence is a function of both the analyst and the firm. One amplifies the other. Most importantly, the analyst firm is an important amplifier of individual analysts: Analysts at large firms do become less influential after they set up independently, for example. Furthermore, in B2B markets, analysts’ comments in the media may have little impact on buyers. As a result, it would be disorienting to not reassess analysts’ importance when they move between firms.

What would happen if tech vendors started to place analysts in the top tier on the basis of media profile alone? They would focus on analysts most frequently cited in media releases, i.e. those who are least independent and most tied to vendors’ viewpoints.

The opposite danger is one reflected by ARmadgeddon, a habitually contrary site with views generally opposite to our views — and everyone elses‘. ARmadgeddon proudly parades its ignorance of a leading niche firm. While we struggle to think that any niche firm can really be considered as part of the global top tier of all analyst firms, ARmadgeddon’s comment reflects the shallow pro-Gartnergroupthink‘ of those analyst relations professionals who try to simplify their lives with the convenient fiction that only Gartner and Forrester have real impact in the world’s varied national markets.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As the head of CCgroup's analyst relations team, Chapple directs programs that increase the value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.

There are 5 comments on this post
  1. Dom Pannell
    April 26, 2007, 11:26 am

    Thanks for the link Duncan.

    Actually, your position appears to be completely in line with mine.

    In my February post I wrote that ‘Inevitably any analyst gets more weight from being at one of the “big hits” than from being at a smaller firm, but there are other factors that need to go into tiering an analyst’

    I also agree with you that theARpro completely missed the point when it comes to the importance of Canalys, which is the gist of my comment on her post.

  2. Jonny Bentwood
    April 26, 2007, 1:46 pm

    It does feel as though we are pushing an open door with our arguments.

    Analysts need to be tiered to ensure that AR outreach is focused on those people that have the greatest influence.

    Admittedly you have a far greater chance of being in the elusive tier 1 group if you are working at Gartner as oppose to smaller firm.

    But I strongly agree with your comment that there should be a small number of tier 1 analysts – otherwise any programme will become unmanageable.

  3. Duncan Chapple
    April 26, 2007, 2:13 pm

    In practice, I am not sure we agree. The test is whether the top teir should include firms whose rapport with vendors and PR agencies greatly exceed their client relationships with buyers.

    This is an issue for many AR managers, of course. Jonny says “It is time to stop looking at the analyst house and instead look at the analyst.” Dom’s view is that comment by Jonny is “Spot on.” However, I don’t think you can, or should, stop looking at the analyst house. The impact of the analyst is the product of a number of key factors, and one of the most important is who they work for.

    Of course, it’s better to tier individuals than to simply think all analysts at one firm as equally important. Nevertheless, it would be quite mistaken for a business technology vendor to elevate micro-firms, with little influence on purchasing, in their clients’ top tier simply on the basis of a high media profile. High profile in the media does not equate with influence even on journalists, let alone buyers.

  4. Jonny Bentwood
    April 26, 2007, 4:43 pm

    Time for clarification here.

    Tiering is first and foremost about influence. Specifically, what influence does the analyst have within the procurement cycle.

    The analysts that have the greatest influence tend to be those that speak with buyers directly (hence Gartner has such a large number of Tier 1s). Nor is it purely the large analyst houses that have the monopoly on dealing direct with end users. Many niche companies that understand a local geography or vertical often have a better understanding and can provide more value than larger firms.

    However, it would be naive to think that the analysts who are frequently referenced as experts within the media (something that Gartner is increasingly shying away from) do not have an impact on the buying cycle.

    As AR professionals we need to move beyond looking at the big houses and instead consider the multitude of ways that a range of analysts influence a vendors sales function and create bespoke programmes for them. By all means keep the list small to just the ‘tier 1s’ but don’t only look at the usual suspects.

  5. Duncan Chapple
    April 26, 2007, 5:20 pm

    That’s useful. Firstly, vendors are concerned mainly with analysts who influence business-scale buyers. Not all end-users are business-scale buyers, or influence buying. Second, analysts influence business buying much more than they influence buying by consumers. Third, media influence is weak, and blog influence is very, very low — too small to measure — on business-scale buyers.

    To take your examples of RedMonk and Quocirca: are they really ‘top tier’ firms. if they have little direct or indirect views on buyers, and mainly get their revenues from vendors?