My former Gartner colleague, Carter Lusher (who now runs Analyst Relations at HP) and I have been bantering on the "influence" game on the ARmadgeddon blog (see the comments at bottom of the post). If you cut through the wordiness of us ex-analysts, there are two important themes:
a) Technology marketers generally think of influence management around the trilogy - PR (Public relations with print media), AR (Industry Analysts) and IR (investor relations, which is handled more by the CFO's team). To me, two other categories - one already established - Procurement Consultants and a newer one - Tech Blog sites - can be just as influential, but often do not get enough vendor marketing attention.
Bill Hopkins (also ex Gartner), who runs Knowledge Capital Group which coaches vendors on AR, shared with me an advance copy of an article he has written titled "Do Analysts Matter?" In that he acknowledges "...the majority of BPO and Outsourcing deals have a Procurement Consultant driving the decision making process". TP'I, one such firm, claims to have influenced $ 375 b in outsourcing contracts - numbers that are hard to ignore. Firms like Accenture continue to influence a number of software decisions. Working with such firms is not always easy since the influence is at the individual client team and transaction level, though some of these firms have small, centralized "intelligence" groups which conduct some of their market analysis.
As the WSJ reported this week, "elite tech blogs" are emerging as another influence category. If you type Microsoft or Sun in Google's search engine you are likely to find 5 out of 10 hits take you to a blog not to a Forrester research note on a magazine article. The Google and Yahoo channels are also growing exponentially faster than the Forrester or the CMP channel. The recent Sony rootkit issue was spotted by a blogger. Ditto for Dell's customer service issues earlier this year. Not to suggest all blogs are negative. Many bloggers provide very fair assessment of market categories. Vendors need to reach out and influence key bloggers as much as they do analysts or traditional media.
b) Many marketers believe their job is to bring in sales leads and qualify for evaluation short lists - then it is the job of sales to close the deal. Frankly, the tough steps begin after the short listing - the software scripted scenarios, the services due diligence, the site visits, the reference calls, the contract negotiations. There are other influencers at play in many of these steps. It could be Gartner Consulting (not the analyst group) or a small firm like mine. I do not see too many vendor marketing arms prepare their sales teams adequately for these steps.
When the Soviet Union broke up, it is said many diplomats did not know what to do with all the new countries that emerged. They wanted to keep dealing with Russia and saw the changed world from the old lens. The influence game is similarly changing. Deserves a fresher look.