Market research is not about you

I have relationships with a lot of industry analysts and, like journalists, their existence is hanging by a thread because very few people understand what they are for.


Take the redoubtable Gary Smith, a long time analyst for the EDA industry.  Gary worked most of his career for Gartner until that organization decided to stop covering the industry because... well... no one in the industry was supporting the effort, just like they weren't advertising.  Gary struck off on his own after the layoff and founded Gary Smith EDA and continued the good work.  He's making a decent living but people still don't understand what he is doing.

Long before the layoff, Gary started putting out a wall chart on the industry; what companies were in it and where they fit.  Over the years, as the industry grew, Gary started making more wall charts for different segments.  I think there are three now.  You need an magnifying glass and a comfortable seat to read them, but they are pretty comprehensive.

And most people in the industry complain about them.  "That company doesn't belong in that category!"  "That's not what we do!" "I thought he was an industry expert!"  All those complainers have no clue what the purpose of those charts are and what Gary does.

See, analysts don't report what the companies in a given industry tell them.  They listen to the customers of the industry.  They listen to current customers, past customer and potential customers, then they report what those people say.  Of course, Gary takes lots of meetings with vendors, listens politely, takes a few notes and nods sagely.  Then he goes back to his data from the customers and sees if it lines up with what they say.  Then he puts out his reports (available for a fee) and his free wall charts.  Personally, I think he way undercharges for the charts.

In today's world, getting a reality check about your messages and image in the market for free is INCREDIBLY valuable.  It doesn't matter if Gary or any other analyst can parrot back your corporate dreck, it matters what the market is hearing you say, hearing what others are saying, and that information getting back to you.  If what the analyst says what the market sees agrees with you, then you need to give your marketing team a pat on the back.  If it doesn't agree, you need to ask the team why.

I've had several clients get upset about analyst positioning and end up abandoning working with the analyst (like Gary), but on the rare occasion that I get them to cool down and reconsider their positioning statements, wonderful things happen.  New customers start calling them, sales people have their calls returned, and business looks good.

So I take my hat off the Gary and all his compatriots in the analyst field.  And it's time the rest of you went to him hat in hand and find out what your customers are really saying.