Tuesday, June 29, 2004

About that damned Magic Quadrant

Gartner Group's fabled, reviled, infamous, ever-popular Magic Quadrant reports have sucked up more time and created more angst in technology marketing circles than any single item I can recall.

When companies vault into the sweet-spot Leadership Quadrant ("The Upper Right"), alluvasudden the birds sing, the sun shines, all is right with the world; millions of dollars' worth of VC dollars and/or marketshare are expected. The CEO is now brilliant: assured a place in the history books. The VP Marketing takes on an incandescent glow. And you PR folks? - fer dang sure ya better get the press release out, pronto!

But what about "The Lower Left" - what happens if you are relegated to the slums of Quadrantville? All hell breaks loose. Forget about the wrath of a woman scorned - this placement is a plague of horror and dismay.

What do you do?

Typical advice from typical PR firm: chin up and brave the devils. You can't fight City Hall. This too shall pass.

My advice? Beg, borrow or steal your way OFF the grid.

It's not always possible to remove your company from the MQ. It's only done at the discretion of the analysts who authored the report...and of course you'll need to be in touch with them in advance of publication, so you have a head's-up on your placement.

The bright spot in the gloom may be that your spot in The Lower Left is the result of a misunderstanding, and by fighting to remove your company, in the process you just may convince the Gartner folks to revise their opinion and place you in the Visionary quadrant. But if not, ask again, nicely, to be removed all together.

Be ready to make a cogent case for WHY your company does not belong in the MQ. For example, you might try to persuade the analysts that your technology approach (e.g., hosted software vs. on-premise) or business model are so different than your so-called competitors that it doesn't make sense to be placed in their company (even though they are your fiercest enemies on the sales front).

Here's my core belief: being a Leader in the Magic Quadrant is swell, but is not likely to move the needle all that much in terms of PR or Sales. Likewise, being a "loser" on the MQ is not a big tragedy: once you are in the door, chatting up the CIO, your company is likely to assuage any concerns raised by the MQ report (assuming the CIO even read it)! But what IS bad is being the MQ loser, and having your competitors point it out again and again and again, in Sales situations. Better to be OFF the MQ than be its goat.

This perception is backed up by a recent survey conducted by SHIFT and our partner, Launch Pad. In the survey, Salespeople said it was much worse to get negative PR vis-a-vis a competitor than it was to simply not be mentioned at all.

So you may be "significant by your absence" on the MQ, but at least the only 'splaining you'll need to do will be about "why it didn't make sense to be included" vs. "why we lost."

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