Ovum, which has been the leading European-headquartered analyst firm for around twenty years, has been going through a lot of change. That seems to be confusing both the vendor community and analyst relations professionals, who grilled the firm’s management recently. Vendors are questioning Ovum’s relevance now in way we have not seen before. The changes at Ovum are causing these confusions unintentionally but, despite that, the firm remains a key influencer in Europe.
The confusion is also a reflection of Ovum’s sales tactics. Many of our clients primarily experience Ovum through the way that its account managers approach them. In a pretty typical interaction this week, one of our wisest clients asked: does Ovum really matter? We meet them, and then they call back to sell us reprint rights on what we told them.
We think Ovum still does matter, but given that experience our client can’t be blamed for reaching that conclusion. But despite Ovum’s sales tactics, it’s one of the few analyst firms with several thousands of end-user seat holders in the UK, US and Australia. That’s a positive channel to influence, and one that’s growing: the firm’s end-user base has risen 8% and is tightly focussed in a few verticals: public sector, financial services, utilities/oil and gas, and media. Ovum is one of the few analyst firms that almost every vendor’s influencer marketing outreach has prioritised in Europe.
I think a lot of people on the vendor side are asking similar questions about Ovum, and for understandable reasons. Reprints are easy money for analyst firms and, regardless of what else an analyst house does, it’s straightforward to conclude that the value proposition it presents to vendors is the value it has to the market as a whole.
You don’t have to be rocket scientist to understand where this came from. The Ovum brand now combines vendor-centric teams from Butler Group, Datamonitor’s technology practice and RHK into Ovum, which generated more of its revenue from end users. Reprint rights and sponsorships were key tools at those other businesses, and that means that they come easily to hand as a business development approach.
Coincidentally, in one of the conversations I’ve had with folk at Ovum recently, they were uncomfortable with how Ovum is promoting reprint rights. If that carries on, even the sales reps will get uncomfortable about it.
While reprints are easy money, the major downside for Ovum is shown by our sagacious client. Ovum speak to some vendors, certainly a few of the ones we work with most closely, as if the value of Ovum’s work is primarily the lead generation potential of the reports when distributed by the vendors. That ‘de-positions’ Ovum as an end-user influencer, and conceals Ovum’s increasing base of subscribers and consulting clients from the vendor community (unusually, Ovum doesn’t name any of its clients). There’s a second down-side as well: many people in the industry feel that the range and quality of the research has been falling at Ovum (and at some other firms) partly because the reprint business is, in the short term, less sensitive to quality.
So, lots of people with that experience of Ovum are asking similar questions. I think that’s quite understandable.
That said, Ovum’s sales tactics conceal the reality that 90% of the world’s largest 30 firms subscribe to Ovum (and to Gartner and Forrester but probably to no other firm). It has over 4,000 end-user seat holders in Europe alone, spanning business, non-profits and the public sector.
Reprints certainly can be useful: I’ve seen a lot of great campaigns that use them. But that’s not why vendors should be building relationships with. Ovum’s influence on buyers is the main reason why, followed by its impact on regulators, the media and the IT channel.