There is often confusion on what the difference is between AR and PR and how to best manage an AR programme. In the first part of this series, we looked at the do’s and don’ts of analyst briefings. In the second part, we are now going to share some best practices that can bring you some great results.
Have a strategic narrative
The story and message has to make sense and be relevant.
It is easy to fall into a tendency to provide the basic information, an architecture map and a cursory note on customers. But there needs to be an overarching theme and a strategic vision for the business. For the presentation to have any impact, the content must match the strategic vision. Without this approach, the client’s briefing will meld into the 20 other briefings that week with varying degrees of impact.
Foster a business relationship
Analysts are business people as well as industry researchers. They will have one eye on their existing client base, another on potential new work. The briefing is not just a (largely) one-way flow of information. It is also an opportunity for the analyst to help your client with potential consultative work or bespoke research in the future.
Budgets or plans may not allow this at the start, but it is worth remembering, the analyst is likely to contact you again for a regular update and suggest areas where your client may benefit from a strategy session, a custom report or speaking slot at one of your events.
Keep in regular contact
One of the regular gripes we hear about from analysts is the refrain that after the briefing, the analyst never heard from the client again. This results in an analyst being interested but unfulfilled. PR agencies have the bad habit, on occasions, of only organising analyst briefings around an industry event (Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a good example) and effectively by-passing analyst relations activity for the rest of the year. Until MWC comes round again.
That’s just one example of the damaging effect of not maintaining the analyst relationship. When a client is planning an analyst event, it’s chances of securing analyst attendance are increased if they have kept your target audience regularly informed. After all, why should they attend if they hardly know you? So, in short, have a structured analyst relations programme that values the analyst.
We are often asked by our clients what the dos and don’ts of analyst briefings are. So, here’s a two-part series on how to get the most value from your analyst relations programme.
These hints and tips will guide you in planning briefings, presenting to analysts and ensuring you service your analysts in the best way possible to maintain a positive relationship and achieve impressive results for your client.
Know your audience
Analyst are not journalists. A simple rule but easily forgotten. Analysts value open dialogue, discussion of long-term strategy and detailed insight beyond the headline. To get value out of the relationship it is worth remembering this rule, when planning a briefing or event.
Don’t ever think of inviting an analyst to an event where they will have multiple briefings, a week or three before it happens. They won’t attend. Analysts have multiple roles. One of the most important is handling client inquiries. That’s right – analysts have clients and earn money for their employers. They do this every day.
Taking time out to attend an event must be justified from a cost and time perspective. You’ll have a greater chance of analyst attendance if you give plenty of notice – two or even three months will do the trick. And try and pay their travel costs. It shows you really do value their time.
Do the basics. Know what your analyst researches, which companies and technologies they are interested in and what have they been writing about recently. Some analysts will also have written short articles, blogs and commentary pieces and will be on the analyst’s company website. Or they might have been asked to author an article for a trade publication. This is easily searchable and valuable background knowledge.
Get your content in order
An analyst presentation needs to be fit for purpose. For example, if you are briefing an analyst on a new suite of products, provide detail on how customers are using it. Analysts want to see proof of the pudding and match what the product strategy is with what it provides.
If you are briefing an analyst wholly unfamiliar with your clients’ business, except a cursory glance at the company website, provide background details in the presentation. This initial briefing is an introduction, enabling the analyst to get to know a little more about your client so, while the background details do not need to be extensive, they do need to provide an accurate summary of how the business was created and got to where it is today.
Too much content is bad. No analyst will thank you for sending them a presentation with 50 slides. Keep PowerPoint presentations to around 25 slides maximum, but less is more as the briefing call itself should offer them the insight that they will want - the slides are just a summary for their information both before and after the call. Briefings typically last one hour so that time needs to be apportioned and spent wisely – do not waffle, instead get straight to the point and be sure to ask the analyst whether they have any questions at regular points of the briefing.
What is the information most relevant for that analyst in the briefing? Remember rule number one? Know your audience. Find out what the analyst researches, what their planned reports are and which clients they talk to. This information is gold dust for your client.
Look out for the second part of this series which continues to look at how to manage an analyst relations programme that brings value to your clients as well as to the analysts.
Industry analysts are market experts who play a highly influential role in B2B technology purchasing decisions. If you work in technology communications, agency-side or client-side, showing value from your Analyst Relations (AR) programme will be one of the priorities. So, here are 9 top tips for managing analyst relationships and getting the best results from your AR budget.
1. Focus on the Relationship
At the top of any AR manager’s plan should be the aim of achieving long-term and positive relationships that benefit both clients and analysts. As with any business relationship, it’s important to keep in mind what the analyst’s needs ar and how to foster and nurture the relationship over time. Positive relationships with contacts who are initially negative can also be developed over time.
2. Know your Audience: Understand their Research Areas
Analysts are in the business of understanding technology markets, vendors and their customers. They are paid to do this and provide independent viewpoints. The most influential analysts are feted by technology companies and invited to strategy and messaging sessions and to speak at company events. So it pays to do your research and fully understand the practice areas key analysts are focused on and how their expertise, experience can positively influence and add-to your efforts to build credibility for your products and services.
3. Remember, Analysts aren't Journalists
Journalists are interested in stories for their readership and they have to produce new content each day, week or month. Analysts may want to see the same press releases and be invited for briefings at industry events such as Mobile World Congress. However, the information they focus on and how they use it is entirely different. Analysts are focused on long-term trends, technology strategy and product roadmaps. They may publish a report in which your company is included many months after your spokesperson has briefed them. A positive outcome is not reflected in column inches of media coverage but in the vendor recommendations that analysts provide in consulting engagements.
4. Plan Ahead: Very Far Ahead!
Analysts are business people as well as researchers. They need to plan their time carefully to fulfil client demands as well as meet new vendors. When planning a briefing event, give analysts plenty of notice. A media briefing can be organised a day before but an analyst will want to have the meeting in the diary many weeks in advance. It's not too early to start booking analyst briefings for a busy industry event two months in advance.
5. Be Open in Briefings
You can be more open with analysts than with journalists. Customer wins that haven’t been publicly announced can be referenced in one-on-one analyst meetings, so long as it’s made clear the information is confidential, even if included in a presentation. The analyst isn't interested in the headline news, but in the underlying reasons for technology purchases and how the technology implementation is progressing.
6. Paying Analysts doesn't Mean Better Coverage
This misconception is still out there and sometimes it’s worth reiterating this point to executives and salespeople who don't understand what analysts do. A commercial agreement with an analyst firm may get you easier access to your target analysts. But it won't get you better coverage—this will be determined, among other factors, by how successful your client’s strategy is, how many customers the client has won, how well the analyst understands the vendor’s business and so on.
7. Get Up to Speed on Process
IDC, Forrester and Ovum, among others, have clearly laid out processes for completing major research projects. If you don’t follow these rules, you run the risk of being omitted from an important Magic Quadrant, Decision Matrix or Wave. There are also rules to follow for getting media releases approved if your company has been mentioned in an analyst report, or for setting up briefings by completing specific vendor briefing forms.
8. Maintain Analyst Contact Databases
An analyst database is only as good as the contacts in it. Keep up to date on analyst moves and company acquisitions. Joining an organisation such as the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations will help you keep on top of the latest developments in the analyst world.
9. Quality, Not Quantity, is What Counts
Use targeted strategies, including segmenting your target analysts into tiers (top tier, second tier and so on), when drawing up target lists. If resources are tight, focusing on too many targets will inevitably mean that you'll end up not giving important analysts enough time or regular briefing opportunities. Focusing on fewer analysts helps create more detailed briefings and in-depth discussions about specific topics that are important to your client’s business.
Following these tips will help with building an analyst relations program that can have a positive impact on your communication efforts with your target audiences. Fostering relationships with key analysts can further refine and amplify your client’s business model strategy, product roadmap and overall approach to market. At TechComms, we help our clients maximise their analyst outreach programs. Contact us to find out how to make analyst relations work effectively for your business.
Industry analysts are market experts and influencers who play a crucial role in B2B technology purchasing decisions. There are a number of ways in which they influence these decisions including recommendations by creating vendor shortlists, producing influential reports, contribute to bespoke projects and vendor or customer engagements and are authoritative independent voices in industry events and in the media.
Let's tackle each of these areas in turn.
Analyst need to have a detailed understanding of the sectors they cover. Only in doing this can they regard themselves as independent and authoritative voices. Aside from their core function of understanding technology solutions and their benefits, analysts make recommendations in vendor shortlists for clients looking to invest in specific technologies. Vendors need to have robust and effective marketing plans including analyst relations strategies, to ensure analysts have a complete understanding of the value they provide with their solutions.
Although the role of analysts has changed in recent years, their major research published each year is still regarded as important. Reports such as the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Ovum Decision Matrix, generate media interest. They also becoming important promotional tools. Vendors in the much-vaunted upper righthand quadrant – an indication that they are market leaders, waste little time in promoting positive ratings in these reports.
Major reports are covered by interested industry watchers and trade media. For example, the profiles and company positions on the Gartner Integrated Revenue and Customer Management (IRCM) Magic Quadrant will be closely followed by all the telecoms software vendors covered, and by the service providers who purchase those IRCM solutions.
There are a number of other areas where analysts play an influential role in the technology market. Other research such as paid for commissioned reports, influences technology decisions by generating collateral used by in-house sales and marketing teams to target prospective customers.
The process of commissioning this research enables more analyst engagement. It ensures clients have direct access to established analysts who produce the vendor shortlists mentioned earlier. In some paid research projects and consulting engagements, the use of inbound inquiry calls is a powerful tool to engage with analyst.
Inquiry calls enable companies more time to speak directly with these analysts, produce detailed analysis of solutions, and of business strategy and product roadmaps. Crucially in some cases, it allows the analyst access to customer insight where a vendor's solution is deployed. This insight of product implementation and its benefits, is part of what the analyst needs to make an informed decision when creating the vendor shortlists for prospects.
The modern role of analyst influence in the technology sector also extends to speaking engagements at industry events and analyst conferences. These events, such as Gartner Symposium and TM Forum Live or Mobile World Congress are costly to participate and attend, but still attract significant numbers of C-level attendees and generate media coverage.
Sometimes overlooked but just as important is that industry analyst research is also used by equity analysts, as a basis for their recommendations to the financial community. When technology purchase decisions are made, industry analysts are very often one of the first groups of influencers who are consulted. In addition, they provide trade and business journalists with insight and media quotes in articles and news stories.
In conclusion, analysts play a significant role in the process of technology purchasing. From information gathering and vendor identification through to vendor assessment and selection, analysts play an influential role in the final decision made by customers. Those tasked with creating an effective marketing strategy place technology analysts as a priority audience. Those bypassing analyst influence do so at their peril, running the risk of handing an opportunity for thought leadership and greater brand awareness and business growth to competitors.
When it comes to creating Analyst Relations (AR) plans and implementing tactics, AR professionals need to understand how the analyst landscape has changed. This is crucial in order to navigate the modern era of AR. One needs to step back a little to understand how this sector has evolved in recent years. The two main changes to focus on are the changed role of the analyst and the way market research is produced and disseminated.
In the past, the role of analysts was mainly to write research and provide market insight in paid for engagements. Reports would be in-depth and sizeable. Research would be sold to clients in subscriptions or one-off purchases. The analyst influence would be felt in different spheres: with end-users, vendors and in the media.
Over the last couple of years, the role of analysts has gradually changed. Evolving business models has meant industry analysts now perform distinct and complimentary roles within their organisations: today, analyst work involves creating smaller pieces of research and sharing opinion. Gartner Predicts is a good example of this.
Decision makers and executives read shorter reports. Analysts don't tend to churn out as many large reports anymore. The milestone reports such as Forrester Waves and Gartner Magic Quadrants (MQs) are produced and still generate media interest. The Gartner MQ report may take months to complete after the initial research questionnaire is completed by vendors.
In some of the analyst companies, analysts also perform a sales function and are tasked with winning clients and generating new revenue for their firms. Many firms have also added a consulting and events arm to their businesses to grow revenues. Smaller and nimbler firms that have grown over the last 10 years have challenged the subscription-based model of traditional analyst firms.
It is also important to note that other influencers have gained traction in recent years. In the past, the power of the big three analyst firms (IDC, Gartner and Forrester) dominated the research landscape. These days the picture is murkier with influencers such as management consultants, bloggers and academics having the ability to shift opinion and brand perceptions.
You can read more about the evolving and emerging buy-side and market influencer models by industry analyst Ray Wang here: new influencers.
The key difference between analysts and new influencers such as bloggers, is that analysts have a research methodology and process used to provide useful competitive insight and analysis, and do not merely share opinions.
So not only has the role of analysts and the type of influencers changed, but the content produced and how it is shared has altered. Analysts now regularly write syndicated blogs or contribute articles to media titles. Social media is used to share links to research content and share opinion. Research content is shared in presentations at industry conferences and trade shows. In particular, at trade shows there is regular analyst activity to highlight sector developments, company news and announcements.
In brief, analysts now add value in different ways and deploy new techniques. They continue to have an influence in their sectors so long as they deliver real insight into end user and vendor behaviour to help industry decision makers.
What do AR professionals need to do to successfully navigate the new era?
All professionals working in this field, need to update their skills and continue to work on developing long-term relationships with targeted analysts. There also needs to be a more focused and creative approach with sharing content with analysts, as well as influencers. The core skills are still about knowing how analysts work and how research is produced and disseminated, relationship management and understanding markets and trends.
Added to this, AR staff need to understand how to deploy newer tools and know about trends that impact influence, such as social media. Finally, AR needs to focus on tailoring and differentiating content to hold the attention of targeted analysts.
In conclusion, AR professionals need to adopt new strategies alongside some traditional approaches. An AR plan should include both a focus on the major reports being planned as well as shorter opinions pieces, industry comments and events that analysts will be attending.
With an increased focus on end users and inquiry time to develop market knowledge, analysts will continue to be influential for technology clients they serve.
The role of PR is to understand not just client marketing strategies but it's audiences. This includes analysts who influence the technology purchasing process.
There are persistent misconceptions in the PR and technology sector about the role of an industry analysts. These include: thinking analysts operate as journalists, analyst only write research, that they are interested in large companies or write positively about companies that are playing clients.
These underlying misconceptions need to be addressed before a strategic analyst relations programme can be effective. The starting point is always understanding what analysts do, how they work and what their priorities are. Then one can start to focus on individual analysts, their research focus, upcoming reports and creating influencer strategies using a targeted approach.
Let's focus on these myths in turn.
Myth 1: Analysts are the same as journalists
Analysts tell us they are sometimes treated as journalists, by PR agencies who don't fully understand what an analyst does for a living. Journalists report the news and write features that will be of topical interest for their readership. Analyst focus on the long term. They research, write, forecast and consult on business strategies, technologies and trends that have implications for many years. They are also profit centres for their firms.
Myth 2: Analysts only write research reports
It may have been the case at one time, but these days analysts don't just churn out a mass of reports. They split their time between understanding the market sectors they specialise in, provide client advice and participating at industry conferences and producing scheduled research. They also team up for major research projects such as Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves.
Myth 3: Analysts only write about larger companies
Part of the role of analysts is to write about understand how technology markets grow, develop, and change business and society. That includes focusing attention on up and coming companies, start-ups as well as the so called 800-lb gorilla, whether they are paying clients or not. An analysts' research value can only be dictated by how well they understand the market they track. Only paying attention to blue chip companies would result in analysts not doing a thorough job for which they are employed.
Myth 4: Analysts write more positively about paying clients
All analysts worth their salt prize their independence. This myth belittles analyst neutrality.
The converse is also true - companies find out that being a paying client does not give them the best analyst coverage in research, as many a vendor on a Quadrant will testify.