What can we do if there's no Wave or MQ for our category?
This is the situation we're in right now. Our AR program is three years old and it's an ongoing initiative to identify and vet the right analysts, build relationships, and education/inform/influence their research roadmap. Here are a few tactics I'm using:
- Identify the analysts who (will) write the vendor guides that are relevant to your category. These usually precede a Wave or MQ.
- Write out your Wave or MQ criteria. Plot out your company and your competitors. Keeping those close to your chest :) Having this formulated and vetted internally can keep you and your executive team aligned on the goal and how to get there.
- Over time, analysts will churn so you have to keep continuing to build a pipeline of analysts where it makes sense.
- Keep communicating the other measures of outbound success (see Q&A on metrics). Those are absolutely important too and great milestones on your way to the bigger goal.
Honestly, this is a GREAT problem to have. If there’s no Wave or MQ for your category, then all the more reason for you to be in the top right quadrant once one comes out :)
The first thing I would recommend is identifying which analysts are covering your space generally. Whether or not it’s specific to your category matters less, but having a mapping of who the 2-5 analysts are who might care about your space, and ultimately who might be the ones to create a Wave or MQ is what matters. Next, understand their research. Get your hands on whatever material you can, sign up for a license, attend webinars, and start to think like that analyst. See the market like they’re seeing it, but then also start to work with the analyst, brief them on what you’re building, on how you see the market, ask for feedback on positioning, and especially on competitive positioning. Make their job easier by bringing them customer stories or insights, or even by introducing them to your customers if appropriate.
Ultimately, the relationship you build will hopefully help inform the analysts about your viewpoints on the space and help them understand the market from your perspective, but also their insight will help you build more compelling positioning for the market.
As I mentioned in the other answer, even if your market does not have a comparative report such as a Wave, Quadrant, Marketscape, etc. it doesn't mean you should not engage with an analyst firm. These reports typically come out for markets at a certain maturity stage and by engaging with analysts early, you can ensure they have your company in their radar as they start thinking about such a report.
Especially important for companies in emerging markets are the early days of forming analysts' opinions about the market itself. By giving them information about your product, the challenges you are solving for your customers, and how other players are performing, you can establish credibility with the analysts which will be very helpful down the road.
I am actually dealing with this right now! And there is quite a bit you can do to continue building analyst relations despite not fitting into a current Wave or MQ.
Take advantage of (free) analyst briefings:
Proactively reach out to Forrester and Gartner to set up briefings to let the analysts know what you product does, what major challenges you are solving, why you dont fit into a category, and what you might suggest to be considered as a new category. While they may not have a dedicated report, they might include your solution in relevant research.
Conduct Custom Research Reports:
Consider commissioning custom research reports from reputable market research firms. This could be analyst based and/or an organization you value the audience of (or host a conference you find value in attending)
Share the results and insights with your audience to establish authority
Seek Out and Submit Industry Awards and Certifications:
Obtain relevant industry certifications to validate the quality and compliance of your product.
Showcase these certifications prominently on your website and marketing materials.
Third Party Reviews
I would also recommend leaning into customer reviews on platforms like G2 and TrustRadius. Because these are actual customer reviews, they can be INCREDIBLY valuable for various uses including website quotes and testimonial videos. Not to mention, G2 also provides amazing marketing materials if/when you rank in your category, which tend to be more expansive than the Waves and MQs.
Partners can be your best advocates, and are invaluable when used appropriately. They can be an awesome extension to your sales team as they know their customers and want to help them find solutions to challenges other solutions are unable to solve.
Treat it as a category creation opportunity! Analyst firms have their place, but they can also hamstring your creativity when it comes to positioning your offering and differentiating from competitors. You don't currently have that anchor to carry. Enjoy your extra flexibility! I’ve even seen some companies effectively create their own market landscape framework to create commanding buyer’s guides and compelling ad creative.