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The Startup’s Guide to Working With RedMonk

At RedMonk, we’ve been fortunate to work with a wide variety of companies over the past seven years, ranging from two person startups to some of the largest businesses in the world. Given this diversity in our clientbase – which, it’s worth noting, we strive for both in our model and otherwise – it’s to be expected that some of our potential clients are less than clear on what it’s like to work with analyst firms in general, and RedMonk specifically. The big firms, after all, have entire teams dedicated to working with analysts. Smaller firms and startups, on the other hand, tend to be understandably fuzzy on what analysts do, let alone how to work with them effectively.

The past few weeks, all of us at RedMonk have been answering most or all of these questions as a bunch of new folks come in the door, so I thought it would be worth taking a minute to put it down in writing. We’re happy to answer any other questions you might have, of course, but these should give you a fair idea of what it’s like to work with us. Herewith, then, the Startup’s Guide to Working with RedMonk, or Everything You Wanted to Know About Working With RedMonk, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Q: What is an analyst?
A: There are lots of different definitions, and lots of different models. At the most basic level at RedMonk, we take in a wealth of data from blogs to research papers to conferences to conversations to Twitter to quantitative research to application testing, process it all extracting conclusions that we call analysis. Some of that makes its way on to the blogs where anyone can read it, some of it is used tactically and strategically on behalf of clients and some of it just rattles around in our brains waiting for the right outlet.

Q: Couldn’t I do that work myself?
A: Possibly, depending on your training and contacts. But it’s a full time job. Would you rather spend your time on your products or doing hours and hours of research? You could probably also learn to do your own accounting, but do you want to?

Q: Who do analysts work with, typically?
A: There are many different markets, but three of the biggest are a.) end users (enterprises, governments, etc), b.) vendors, and c.) financial analysts.

Q: Why should we work with an analyst?
A: Ask ten startups and you’ll get ten different answers. Ultimately, whether you decide to work with an analyst or not will depend on whether you think you’ll benefit from an informed set of eyes that’s external to your organization. What we find is that most organizations large and small have trouble, at times, seeing the forest for the trees. It’s difficult to retain an industry-wide perspective when you’re working all day, every day on your product. A big part of our job is providing that perspective: telling you where you’re good, where you’re bad, the same for your competitors, and where there are unleveraged opportunities. We’re your radar, your devil’s advocate, your conscience and your network in one convenient package.

Q: How is RedMonk different from other analyst firms?
A: Well, from what we hear some of the other firms have differing opinions on this subject ;) But here are just a few of the ways that I think are important:

  1. Bottom Up:
    At RedMonk, each of us has – in some way – lived Billy Marshall’s dictum,”The CIO is the Last to Know.” That’s not to say the role’s not important: as the one writing the checks, CIOs remain a key stakeholder. But they are no longer, in our view, the primary decision makers when it comes to technology adoption. Technologies like Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Eclipse, and Firefox didn’t reach mainstream acceptance because of CIOs; they are where they are because they’re good technology and lots of people used them. When adoption hits a certain critical mass, CIO approval becomes a fait accompli.

    So we at RedMonk tend to spend more time focusing on the adopters than the CIO, because we think that in this day and age, they’re the make or break audience.

  2. Coverage:
    At RedMonk, we are generalists rather than specialists. If you’re looking for someone to build you a product scorecard comparing every last feature between products A and B, then, we’ll happily direct you elsewhere. If you’re looking for analysts that have an understanding of all of the pieces that might go into, say, cloud platforms, from the virtualization technologies to the operating system to the database to the programming language to the development framework to the tooling, you’ve come to the right place. As the hard boundaries between technologies – be they individual software products, or how same interact with storage, hardware, and networking – it’s our view that analysts need to have a broad skillset to provide good coverage. Sure, we have areas of specialty: Cote spends the most time on IT Management for example, and I tend to be the point person for free and open source software questions, but we all have the wide beats necessary to answer complicated questions.
  3. Independence:
    Simply put, as James said this morning, you can buy our thinking but not our opinion. What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that you can’t pay us to say nice things about you. There are analyst firms that do that, and we’re happy to point you in their direction. We’re a small firm, and our integrity is a big part of who we are. So that means no RedMonk-branded, commissioned whitepapers, period. If folks want to buy them after we’ve written them, great. But we won’t write complimentary whitepapers for cash. Not just because it’s – in our view – a dishonest practice; we also don’t think they’re high value for readers.
  4. Open Source:
    As the home page advertises, we are built on and for open source. We believe in open source. We’ve covered it all along. We practice it ourselves, by publishing our content free of paywalls under Creative Commons licenses. We give back, by doing what we can in going to bat for various open source communities both publicly and behind the scenes, writing up open source HowTo‘s, commissioning plugins like Progressive License and building out sites like FOSS FAQ.
  5. No Barriers to Entry:
    Because we at RedMonk preach heavily about lowering barriers to entry, we’ve tried to make them as low as possible for startups. Want to work with us? We have a standard $5K proposal available in PDF form that everyone signs: saves time on negotiations. Want to schedule a consulting session, purchase a screencast, or setup a speaking engagement? We’ll give you an hourly figure you can choose to debit from your bank of hours, a link to book our time and we’re done: no hassling over “seats”, or “web rights” or “lifespan.” Want to know what we’ve been researching lately but don’t have the time to follow our blogs? We have a bi-weekly newsletter that will keep you up to speed.

    We try to be easy to work with, and we think we are. If you think we’re not, just let us know how to fix it and we’ll do our best.

Q: Aren’t analysts the ones predicting things that have been obvious for years?
A: Well, we’ve tended to be a bit ahead of the curve. And some folks that we respect have seemed to agree. We were out front with our coverage (not to mention adoption) of open source, but let’s take something less inevitable. Five years ago, we were arguing for REST, four years ago we were talking about dynamic languages, non-relational datastores (think NoSQL), MySQL’s ubiquity, and the promise of SaaS, and three years ago we called Amazon’s EC2 a Big Deal. Seems like those have all been pretty decent guesses, and not obvious at the time. Our timing can be off, which is why we say “we can tell you what will happen, we just can’t tell you when,” but overall I think our radar is pretty reliable.

As it should be, because it’s all about listening to the makers.

Q: Who works with RedMonk? What’s your client list look like?
A: Check that out at any time here.

Q: How does RedMonk make money? Don’t you give everything away?
A: We give away content on our blogs, yes, because we believe giving back is the right thing to do and because the resulting commentary improves our analysis. But this in no way precludes our commercial opportunities; if anything, it dramatically expands them. Think of it this way: when we put out a piece on a new product or technology, we’ve only got a thousand words – three or four thousand, max – to explore the implications. Many of our clients engage us on subjects we’ve already written up to understand how what we’ve written about affects their respective businesses.

Q: Does RedMonk keep secrets?
A: Yes. As we’ve said before, many times, if you can’t keep secrets, you can’t do this job. We’re trusted with secrets every week; from the trivial to the financially material. As far as I’m aware, we’ve had zero complaints on our ability to protect the information we’re entrusted with.

That said, customers need to understand that secrecy is a tradeoff. If you give us a presentation of twenty NDA slides and four that are public, we’re likely to consider the whole thing confidential just to be safe. As long as you’re comfortable knowing that excessive confidentiality will negatively impact our ability to tell your story, we’re happy to keep your secrets.

Q: Even if you keep our information confidential, should I be concerned that you work with our competitor?
A: We get this question a lot from folks new to working with analysts, and the best answer I can provide is this: just about every one of our customers competes, in some form or fashion, with another customer of ours. If we didn’t protect their private information and strategies, we wouldn’t be in business today. It’s that simple.

Q: How do we manage the analyst relationships: can we pick who we work with?
A: Absolutely. Again, we want to be easy to work with. The only caveat here is scheduling; because we’re all busy, if you have an urgent need and the analyst you want is travelling, you’ll probably have to either wait or work with whoever’s available.

Q: What do we get for our money?
A: A number of services:

  • Press Services: media handling and supporting quotes for releases
  • Investor Relations: market and product education for angel/VC/etc
  • Newsletter Subscription: access to client only bi-weekly research digests
  • Network Services: identification and introduction to prospects, community or partner contacts
  • Consulting Hours: may be used for strategy, messaging/marketing testing, screencasting, podcasting, speaking engagements, etc.
  • Preferred Pricing: for rich/multimedia content, including audio and video (demos, executive and developer, interviews, etc)
  • Interactive Briefings: briefings are always free of charge with RedMonk, but customers get real-time feedback and insight
  • Recruiting Assistance: wherever possible, we are happy to broker connections from clients to available talent in our network

Apart from the consulting hours, which are preset at 10, you get 12 months of service for the contract. So if we end up talking to the press for 20 hours over the year – don’t laugh, that’s happened – it’s all included.

Q: I just need you for one specific project – can you work on an a la carte basis?
A: We can. It usually ends up being pricier to bill by the hour, but if that’s what’s easiest for you, we can figure something out.

Q: Does it cost me anything to brief you?
A: Never has, never will. Pay for play is a model that frankly should have died years ago. We can take a higher volume of briefings from clients, but everyone has the right to talk to us – provided it’s a relevant product – irrespective of whether they are a customer or not.

Q: What’s the first thing you do with new clients?
A: A kickoff call, generally. We’ll all get on the phone, do introductions to people and technology, and talk about what we see as opportunities and what you need. This doesn’t count against your time, of course.

Q: How do we best work with you?
A: Keep in touch. The more you talk to us, the more service you get.

Q: What kinds of things can you do for us?
A: Varies widely, of course, and depends on what you need. Is your organization engineering focused? We might discuss market segmentation, community outreach, and consider doing a screen or podcast to help educate about your product. Have the business and sales sides under control? We might talk about technical trends that are or will affect your product direction and strategy. Early to market? We’ll help you match your featureset to business problems and reduce the barriers to entry for potential customers. Have a product widely adopted, but problems in customer conversion and revenue? We’ll look at your business model and compare it to what we’ve seen be successful, as well as trying to help you identify unleveraged assets.

And so on. There are a lot of ways we can help be your eyes and ears, your checkpoint, and a broker for conversations you’d like to have.

Q: Where are you all located?
A: I’m based out of Portland, Maine, James is in London, and Cote‘s in Austin, Texas. We also have a GreenMonk line of business covering all things green, and that’s led by Tom Raftery who works out of Seville. Marcia, who handles all of our operations, is also based in Maine.

Q: If I want to engage, how do I go about it?
A: Drop a note to sales at redmonk.com or marcia at redmonk.com and we’ll get you set up. It’s that easy ;)

Categories: Ask RedMonk.

  • http://stage.vambenepe.com/ William Vambenepe

    Looks very nice overall, though one thing gave me a pause:

    “Press Services: media handling and supporting quotes for releases”

    So am I to assume that all Redmonk PR endorsements are bought and paid for? How’s that different from a sponsored white paper? Just shorter?

    Call me naive but I truly didn’t expect that.

    Doesn’t change the fact that I think you guys are very smart and well-informed and I am sure you provide huge cost/benefit returns to your clients. But one more illusion shattered.

  • http://redmonk.com/sogrady sogrady

    @William Vambenepe: that’s an excellent question, and one that i should have put in the Q&A. the short version is that, yes, we will supply quotes for releases for customers.

    the longer version is that we while we contractually agree to provide quotes for releases, we are not contractually obligated to provide complimentary quotes. customers typically ask us what we think of a product, and they have a sense for whether we like it or not. in cases where we don’t, and there are many, we are frank in that any quotes supplied are likely to be negative. at which point the customers look elsewhere.

    in other words, you are unlikely to find us giving glowing endorsements to any product, but you will never find such for products that we actively don’t believe in.

    make sense?

  • http://stage.vambenepe.com/ William Vambenepe

    Hi Stephen. OK, understood. It’s somewhat of a fine line for course. But the fact that you’re upfront about all this is what matter most.

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  • http://www.redmonk.com/jgovernor james governor

    also worth pointing out to william vanbeneepe *why* we decided we couldn’t offer press services to everyone. its surprisingly time-consuming, for one, so we made it a client advantage. after all time is money.

    also we will of course always take calls from reporters about issues or vendors in our spaces whether they are clients are not. just as long as these are not actually direct requests from PRs at non-clients.