Meta Group: Winning Hearts and Minds

By Joshua Weinberger Print this article Print

Dossier: To differentiate itself from research market monolith Gartner, Meta Group has chosen specialized customer service as its defining trait.

Looking to differentiate itself from market monolith Gartner, Meta Group has chosen specialized customer service as its defining trait. Meta calls this "cultivating client intimacy"—but it means sacrificing smaller accounts for deeper relationships, and it has yet to lead the firm back to profitability. PDF Download

While the company's had reorganization hiccups this year—cutting U.S. staff by 7% and juggling executives—clients seem to have weathered the disruption.

Agway's computer-services director Russ Feltus says Meta not only helped negotiate a three-year communications contract, but also "gave us guidance relative to contract terms and provisions we should expect." With Meta's advice, Agway saved $2 million. And where other clients—such as Connecticut Chief Technology Officer Mark Bannon—are swayed by Meta's niche offerings like Executive Directions, software vendors value Meta's reputation in the field.

Plumtree Software spokeswoman Laura Nusbaum points to Meta's qualitative approach: "After deployments, Meta talks to our customers and dispatches on-site analysts—a time-consuming process many analyst firms weren't willing to undertake." BEA Systems head of analyst relations Mike Hulme says when he's looking at potential analysts, he asks, " 'Does that firm speak to our customer base?' Meta does." Since, as James Thomas, head of analyst relations at information management firm Crystal Decisions (CD), notes, "customers use Meta to short-list vendors," CD wanted analysts influential in its business. One Meta analyst CD selected was high on that list. When that analyst left Meta, Thomas says, the firm "set up a call with us right away to reaffirm its commitment." That kind of special attention, and the presence of a local account rep, helped secure CD's loyalty.

Still, Thomas is "frustrated with Meta's inflexible pricing model." Where Gartner has more of a buffet, "all-you-can-eat" price structure, Meta's is essentially à la carte, and clients pay extra for additional material or services. Agway's Feltus, for one, is thrilled with that setup. "I designed the package I wanted based on the amount that fit my budget," he says. Catering to that singular need just might help Meta shine even from within Gartner's long, dark shadow.

Connecticut's Bannon says META's Executive directions provides "an analyst on the phone whenever I need one."

This article was originally published on 2002-12-01
Assistant Editor
After being on staff at The New Yorker for five years, Josh later traveled the world, hitting all seven continents in a single year. At Yale University, he majored in American Studies, English, and Theatre Studies.

eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.