Do you need to pay Gartner to get into a Magic Quadrant?

David Rossiter

09 Mar 2016

It’s been interesting reading some of the recent posts and comments on LinkedIn about Gartner and its supposed lack of independence.

I’ve been an analyst relations professional for 15 years now and work for a variety of technology and telecoms companies (large and small). Some have Gartner contracts, some don’t. I have never seen or heard of any evidence that says you can buy your way on to a Magic Quadrant. Nor does the amount of money you spend influence where you appear on the MQ.

My personal experience supports that. I’ve had clients who spend a lot of money with Gartner fail to be included on an MQ (or be included but not where they wanted to be). I’ve had clients who spend no money with Gartner be included on an MQ – and in good positions.

You don’t need to spend any money to brief a Gartner analyst

Briefings are free. There’s a process to follow – it’s called Vendor Briefing – and most of the time, it works fine. It makes no difference whether you’re a big vendor or small vendor. You don’t need to be a client. What matters is making it clear to the analyst why they should be interested in you. Usually that’s as simple as making sure that you ask for a briefing with an analyst that’s relevant and covering your market sector.

If you’re not sure who the right analyst is, then the Vendor Briefings process allows you to pick broad coverage areas. You can also nominate the analyst you want to brief. Make it clear why your business is relevant in the request form, let the analyst choose the best date for them, and most times, your request will be accepted.

You can buy time with the analyst

Remember, you cannot buy the opinion of a Gartner analyst. Nor do you need to be a client to brief a Gartner analyst. But there is one big advantage to being a Gartner client. What you are buying isn’t just the research, it’s time with the analyst to get their insights and advice. And that is massively important.

As a vendor, I can brief an analyst perhaps four times a year. And analysts aren’t supposed to provide me with any feedback during a vendor call. Gartner advice is only available to its clients. As a client, I can talk to my target analysts every week or so. I can find out what they see happening in the market, what they think is important, what they like about my business and what they think I should do differently.

If I’m smart, I use this feedback to build a stronger, better business. I make sure the way I position my company to Gartner reflects back what I’ve been told is important. And just as importantly, I have many more opportunities to build a relationship and become better known. It’s impossible for an analyst to remember all the details of the hundreds of technology vendors that they follow. Our job as AR professionals is to make sure that the analyst remembers the companies we work for. Some of that might be to do with how often we talk to the analyst, a lot more of it is about what we say.

You don’t need to be a Gartner client to be included in a Magic Quadrant

The idea that you do is an urban myth. Gartner tries hard to make sure all potential vendors of interest are invited to take part in relevant MQs etc. You don’t need to be a client to be considered for inclusion on an MQ. You will need to meet certain inclusion criteria though, and if you don’t then you’re out – client or non-client. If you’re not sure whether Gartner knows about you, find the relevant MQ, identify the analyst writing it, request a briefing and get on their radar.

Rogue salespeople

Many of the stories of Gartner’s willingness to favour clients comes from companies who’ve met a rogue salesperson. There are some account managers out there who do claim that spend will influence analyst opinion. They’re not telling you the truth. If it happens, call them out and ask them to be explicit about what can be achieved. Ask them if they’ll refund you if that doesn’t come true. Truth is these guys just want to make the sale and play off the industry’s desire to believe that Gartner can be bought.

Should Gartner name its customers?

I’ve never really understood why Gartner insists it won’t disclose its vendor client base (I sometimes wonder if it’s because we will suddenly find out that some big vendors don’t use Gartner!) However, I don’t think it would make any difference. Just publishing a list of client names will then lead to people wanting to know how much each vendor is spending and what type of services they’re buying. That’s clearly confidential information and Gartner would be right not to provide it. The argument would continue.

Barring analysts from taking the vendor dollar?

To those who suggest that analysts shouldn’t be allowed to take the vendor dollar, be prepared to see a market even more dominated by Gartner. I estimate that over 90% of the analyst firms in the world would disappear overnight.

Vendor independence

There’s an irony in people criticising Gartner while praising the independence of smaller analysts firms. According to numbers from Knowledge Capital Group (KCG), Gartner does more business with enterprise buyers than technology vendors. It would still be a $1.5-billion-dollar business with no vendor revenue. If Gartner got caught compromising its advice to enterprises because it was paid by vendors, those end-user customers would disappear very quickly and so would Gartner’s business.

On the other hand, there are plenty of small firms (let’s be frank, almost every small firm) which make 100% of their revenue from vendors. With rare exceptions, these guys operate in an ethical and independent manner. But if business is tough and you have a roof to keep over your head and a family to feed, there must be a temptation sometimes to take the vendor dollar and sing the vendor tune.

Thankfully, in my experience, “pay to play” firms are not the norm. It happens sometimes but these guys usually get called out. And that’s the way it should be. Analysts are valuable and influential because they’re independent and objective. And thankfully, in my experience the vast majority, including Gartner, are – regardless of whether they vendors as clients or not.