Technology solution providers transform their credibility, and their sales pipelines, when they are added to the grid-type diagrams used by major analyst firms to define markets. The best known of these are Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, IDC’s MarketScape and the Forrester Wave. The diagrams show the present and future strengths of leading vendors in a defined market. They are maps that show buyers, investors and channel partners the most valuable providers. Failure to get into these diagrams limits any company’s ability to grow. In a nutshell, these diagrams aim to highlight those firms whose capabilities are most conducive to success and are set to develop in a given field.
However, the strategies providers use to get into one of these devices won’t work for them all. Each firm reflects an analyst firms’ specific values about market success. There is a book-length answer (Up and the Right) by Richard Steinnon on how to get into the top right of the most famous chart, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. However, IDC has more analysts than Gartner, meaning it can cover more markets and issues more MarketScapes. As a result, many vendors’ only chance of getting on the map is with IDC. IDC’s approach emphasizes:
- Current and anticipated market adoption: worldwide adoption indicates a degree of flexibility and customer orientation, as well as market expertise. Leaders in MarketScapes tend to have revenues over $200m and major operating hubs in every region, not just delivery capacity.
- Capabilities: able to understand a clients’ needs and deliver a comprehensive solution. Leaders tend to show full-service delivery capabilities across the life cycle.
- Buyers’ perceptions: Providers use reference customers to try to convince analysts that their company is listening to its customers and anticipating their needs. Sadly, providers face two major barriers in convincing the analysts that they have happy customers. First, vendors will introduce analysts to reference customers that are not always very happy. Secondly, many customers don’t speak the analysts’ language when it comes to describing their needs and how the market is changing. For example, the last managed security services (MSS) MarketScape shows what IDC thinks buyers and vendors in that market need to be doing. Both reference customers and providers need to speak a common language with IDC if they want to be found to be up to speed with current developments.
- Some mature MarketScapes are highly concentrated, like procurement.
- Some markets are so crowded that the MarketScape is ‘cut off at the knees’: there are so many participants that the mid-size players cannot be shown without over-powering the chart. An example is the APac MSS.
Looking at typical initial responses by vendors to IDC, I don’t think that communications managers should set an expectation with their colleagues that any firm will enter a MarketScape as a Leader. That's only likely when it has already been top-right in a previous edition of the MarketScape. Placement can be unpredictable, especially in a new MarketScape. For example, there are often services that your clients are not asking for, or where the firm has not extended its capacity. That counts against you. Although firms are not only evaluated on revenue and breadth of their offer, specialized firms need to stand out (with their growth rate, strategy, unusual capabilities or highly positive clients) to be considered leaders.
Some firms would create a paper trail of MOUs to tweak the answers. For example, the managed detection and response (MDR) MarketScape asks providers if they offer marketing communications and crisis management support. Some will not, but they could make an agreement with one of their PR agencies to deliver that capacity through a partnership when it’s needed. However, those opportunities are few and their impact is modest if that doesn’t align with what customers say.
There’s no one model of what a great RFI response looks like, but they can be surprisingly concise. The analysts are short on time too, so clear and positive answers will be appreciated. The analysts will follow up if they need more detail.
In a nutshell: Responding to a MarketScape or a similar evaluation is always going to take time. If you have extra time, spend it reading similar evaluations, especially by the analysts and their co-authors, so that you can align your language to theirs.