Each January, Gartner analysts nominate vendors with innovations that have the potential to transform their markets. Only a handful are chosen for each report, and each vendor can only appear in one report. If you’re not large enough to be featured in a Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ), which I discuss here, Cool Vendors might be the right opportunity for your company. But there’s a catch. Just as you can’t apply to be cool in real life, you can’t apply for Cool Vendor status, either.
So how can your company join Gartner’s version of the cool kids crowd? To complement my own experience with this designation, I spoke with Alex Soejarto, head of strategy and analytics at Wipro Limited and a former Gartner Research VP. The theme of our chat was what’s considered cool — and not cool — by Gartner analysts.
Soejarto’s key piece of advice to vendors mirrors my own: “They’re not going to know who’s cool until the process has started. You might talk to an analyst, and they’ll say you’re cool, but by the end of the year they might have run into other companies that do similar things, and suddenly, you’re not as cool as you thought you were. It’s important to have that outreach, but it’s also important to do your own competitive assessment and see what’s popping up. Make sure that you continue to be relevant.”
How To Be Cool
Just as it is in real life, being Gartner cool isn’t easy. That said, it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help your company get there.
- Make sure you’re the right size.If you’re too small for MQ consideration, then you’re probably the right size to be a Cool Vendor because, while you’re developing something in the marketplace that you’re still testing, it’s within the context of today’s technology trends and you might even be disrupting the current marketplace.
- Follow the trends.A Cool Vendor is a company that has figured out a way to bring to light the technology trends that are happening today. It’s really about picking up a current trend in the market and turning it into a new way to do something — like a new product or service.
- Target the appropriate Gartner analyst(s):If, based on a technology trend, you are turning an existing market cool, be sure to identify the analysts who are covering that market and tell them why you’re turning an old market into a cool, new market. Find the analysts who understand what you’re doing and why you’re disrupting what they’re covering. And if you think you’re creating something entirely new, then do some legwork to reach out to analysts in adjacent markets. It is probably going to be two, three or even four different markets, which means the number of analysts you have to talk to has multiplied.
- Be different.Get the attention of analysts — even those who cover adjacent markets — by telling them how you are going to affect their market. Analysts always want to learn. You’re going to submit a form to talk to an analyst — make it pithy, brief and enticing. That’s probably the most marketing that analysts want to see. According to Soejarto, “Once you talk, they don’t want to hear the marketing; they want to hear the reality of your pitch and what you’re doing differently.”
- Communicate what your customers are saying. Words from your customers matter more than your own. That’s why customer quotes should be part of your communication with analysts and your PR or marketing message. I think that’s missed sometimes — it’s typically all about what the vendor wants the market to think as opposed to how clients are using your solution and thinking about your company.
- Never forget that timing is everything. You have to be able to prove what you’re saying, so you must have some clients and product demos to back up your words. Some vendors want to make sure that their products or services are really market tested, so they wait too long and move past the coolness factor; either the trends are well known in the market or they’re bigger than the maximum inclusion criteria, and they’ve lost the window. That’s the risk of trying to be a Cool Vendor — you’re probably revealing a little bit more about yourself before you’ve baked everything in.
How To Be Uncool
Before you start feeling too cool for school, let’s get something straight: Part of being cool requires knowing what is not cool. Specifically:
- If your company has been in the market for a long time (10-plus years) — even if it has been growing — don’t suddenly pitch Gartner on how cool you are. Analysts have probably heard about you and created an opinion. Now you have to change it.
- Don’t pitch an analyst on what you think is cool about your company without having some third-party feedback to balance your company’s own groupthink (trust me, this is more common than you think). It’s too easy to get tunnel vision if you don’t get genuine feedback from partners, customers and others.
Gartner is looking for Cool Vendor recruits. Are you cool enough? There’s no better time than the present to find out.
This article originally appeared in Forbes.