How Analyst Relations Can Maximize Their Value to Companies

How Analyst Relations Can Maximize Their Value to Companies

Analyst Relations professionals, or those handling the function, play a significant role in supporting their company’s marketing, sales, communications and strategic functions. To the extent that they can successfully make the most of their analyst relationships, their companies can derive tremendous benefits.

AR people are either nodding their heads, standing up and saying “preach!” or shrugging their shoulders as if this is not news to them. However, the stated goals of AR do not always meet the realities of how companies practice it. And the disconnect makes the engagements with analysts that much less productive or worse.

To construct this article, I drew upon my lengthy history in the analyst space which has entailed engaging both from research and business development perspectives. I also conducted over a dozen telephone interviews with analysts, practice heads and senior salespeople across a full spectrum of firms in terms of size, scope and focus. The topics focused on the following:

What elements of Analyst Relations were effective and which ones were not? How vendors were missing opportunities to better leverage their offerings? Some of the commercial aspects and challenges of the relationship that arise between AR and analyst firms. The dominant themes that arose from the discussions are presented below.

Practices:

There seems to be an excessive vendor focus on Gartner’s MQ rankings and other metrics like Forrester’s Wave etc. Putting aside the segmentation games that analysts play and the pressured marketing and sales practices employed, waving the MQ about is a marketing play and is not what drives deals with customers despite what surveys conducted by these very same firms intimate. These metrics also do not necessarily impress other analysts that vendors want to impress. There are other sources for customers to collect insights and preferences from via peer reviews, user groups crowd actions and other research avenues.

Some companies properly treat AR as a strategic function and others place the role within corporate communications. Each area fulfills important roles for companies, but they have distinctly different objectives. Marcom is messaging, narrative and yes, spinning. Putting AR in the Marcom domain tends to lead to more friction between the vendors and the analysts. Marcom has a tendency to prefer having analysts act as part of the company’s marketing and messaging channel. Quality analysts are quite put off by this.

Analysts value having a relationship with AR people who get them the information they need and connect them with the right people inside the company. When AR plays gatekeeper too often and makes getting information difficult analysts are prone to bypassing the function altogether. Inevitable that analysts will create relationships they will leverage but AR does itself no favors by not being responsive or not providing access.

One additional point that was raised was in AR not necessarily having goal alignment with internal stakeholders. What problems exist from a strategic or tactical perspective that firms can support? If AR isn’t aligned with supporting the company fully or limits its focus to improper metrics, it isn’t maximizing its own value. (insert https://www.starsight.biz/2021/10/14/how-are-your-analyst-research-subscriptions-like-a-gym-membership/)

Good analysts are open to being influenced by vendors, but they want qualified data. Approaching them with unsubstantiated claims or with no means to verify leaves good analysts skeptical. Expecting analysts to accept the narrative turns them off and even more so when the business side of the equation is leveraged. This last action does damage to the relationship and whatever influence or mindshare they were hoping to gain.

Candor and professional respect play much better with them.

Regular engagements vs ad hoc or situational outreach would produce better results. When there is a certain cadence to interactions that the parties follow it makes the flow of information to analysts much smoother and potentially reduced the negative responses and surprises that a vendor may encounter. Analysts have multiple clients and companies that they follow. It becomes impossible for them to drop what they are doing and needing to suddenly get up to speed on a vendor’s initiative.

If a company operates within multiple verticals or segments with multiple analysts operating within them then it can become too challenging to engage everyone. Nonetheless, activity, strategy and considerations still need to be communicated to the market as the analyst community will still likely be writing about companies or making media comments. If AR is not going to engage personally then be sure to make it possible for analysts to follow along with what the vendor is doing. Find ways to provide information that analysts can use.

Opportunities:

Some AR programs and professionals are very heavily invested in influence and generating sales leads and give less attention to advisory, messaging and data that firms offer. They also forget, or ignore, that many analysts have real world experience in leading product groups, GTM efforts, have created technologies or sold them. Their insights can be useful if engaged properly, especially in the initial stages of a product, strategic initiative or launch plan.

It is understandable that companies have significant investments in products, strategies, and messaging. Founders have vision, leaders have targets to hit, and marketing needs to sell the story. Hearing that the strategy or implementation is a miss is hard to hear for some. But engaging analysts that tell leadership what it wants to hear is self-serving and destructive. Bringing internal stakeholders to the table to listen and consider what quality firms and the objective analysts have to say is how to best add value to a firm.

Question that arises is it the fault of the company’s AR program for shielding the company from criticism? Or is it a reflection of company culture where there is no value placed on outside thinking or constructive criticism?

Companies can be too myopic by focusing on a select few firms and missing other valuable thought leaders and potential influencers. Good people work outside the big 4 of Gartner, IDC, Forrester and Omdia. Talented people leave large firms and go to work in boutique firms, start their own or go independent. Start-ups may grow in both size and importance and wind up absorbed into larger firms. Or they may become leaders in their space. Some firms have their own events, media platforms or excel when it comes to promoting their own research and brands. Some have major presence in the trade media a company’s customers look to for news and trends.

Business:

Analysts are time constrained with the variety of tasks they are required to perform. They cannot take briefings from every company that reaches out and surprise, clients are generally going to be prioritized. Having a business relationship in place is wise in order to gain access and maximizing engagement opportunities available from the service agreements and programs works to further increase mindshare within firms.

If an analyst is important enough to reach out to for briefings, then they or their firm are likely to believe a vendor is a candidate for their programs. Briefings may very well be treated as a sales opportunity either during the time or after the fact. The P/L practices and accountabilities of the particular firm as well as the analysts themselves will vary. Professional firms do not sell opinions, but they are not acting as not for profit entities either.

Be honest and authentic about the interest in firm. Analysts understand that not everyone they talk to is going to be a client but still likely that their sales colleagues are going to call on a vendor or continue to look to grow the relationship. This should not be awkward or a surprise. It is unwise to tell an analyst there is interest then ignore the sales call from their colleague. It will not likely impact their assessment of a company, but it does not help a vendor either.

Holding a business relationship over the head of an analyst is a really bad practice. No one respects the firms that sell out their objectivity, but analysts and their firms generally take umbrage with being asked to change their opinions or beliefs based on who is buying or who won’t buy if they don’t.

The analyst business is highly nuanced with a broad ecosystem of providers and thinkers with a variety of skillsets. Companies should periodically consider if they are getting the full value available to them. There are numerous metrics that AR can apply to analyst relationships but how successful it is in challenging itself and being open to reexamining and considering new possibilities will go far in determining its ultimate value to a

company.

Successful Report Go To Market Planning and Processes

Successful Report Go To Market Planning and Processes

Build a consistent, repeatable process for creating, releasing, marketing and selling reports which allows for on-going analysis and adjustments to maximize results. Firms should strive to become an esteemed name within the industry sector they cover and achieve penetration into every company within their targeted space, supplier or end-user if possible.

Said awareness within the sector affords firm the means to build influence and grow revenues via product, services and consulting sales. Awareness also helps to insulate brand against new market entrants especially those willing to flood the market with significant volume of reports. Unstated but important element is quality of offerings since it can be possible to achieve a negative general awareness as well.

This process detailed below is designed to create as thorough and engaging approach to bringing research studies to market as possible. Points of emphasis include collaboration, integration, timelines, effective narrative, and ongoing process throughout.

Initiation:

Analysts should be involved with marketing from the outset. As they have largely defined the project, analysts or project leads should be in position to brief marketing and sales teams. Analysts provide universe of companies, segmentation for their value potential and help to minimize wasting time on non-covertable accounts. Also provide messaging support and key points of analysis to facilitate engagements.

Audience Targeting and List Building:

Obviously start with relationships with previous customers. Past buyers, firms that have been engaged for other projects or will be targeted for current research effort. Populate list with names within existing relationship companies as well as new names for broader reach within both this segment and expanded list provided by analyst. Ensure quality of leads, remove deadweight from the campaign and look to add new contacts with fresh database searches and direct outreach to target companies. New additions require your nurturing process to be applied here.

Scout newer companies with VC or high-quality private equity funding who could be looking for guidance.

Media:

Generate a proper industry media list to generate coverage. Media relationships are a tremendous resource for spreading knowledge and findings but these relationships take time to cultivate and should be done with care and authenticity. Second level of media are within tangential industries who may have possible interest in exploring new markets. Industry verticals and/or lower or upper levels of supply chain (mining, specialty chemical, distribution channels). Outlets that can present findings to end-users of technologies or applications are useful relationships as well. The more end-user visibility the more opportunities to build influence companies often consider when buying.

Project Kick-Off:

Announcement of upcoming research effort with messaging on tech and market coverage, companies addressed, sector talking points and intended deliverables. Inquiries made or offerings for potential engagement with companies to boost research and add to sales pipeline. Must be cautious not to overpromise on deliverability as research can take additional time and clients can become frustrated with delays and seek out another solution. Manage the expectations on deliverables and content throughout. Ongoing:

As research progresses and deeper insights become available these should be converted to content that can be utilized to create interest and move possible buyers further down the sales funnel. Engagement that is ongoing but authentic creates better results than canned marketing sequences. Narrative that matches current market activity even better as it becomes easy to tie research efforts and findings to other firm’s announcements or media coverage.

Release Timeline

Within 30 days of release of report, the provider should be able to nail down firm dates for submitting reports to editing, production and market. DTR refers to Days to Release

Sales Process:

Sales engagement should begin in earnest to all qualified leads starting at 30 DTR. The use of pre-publication discount incentives, if deemed appropriate, should begin at 30 DTR and end circa 7-10 DTR.

As Editing ideally initiates at 8-10 DTR, this is an opportune time to pre-brief clients or address other client inquiries direct with Analyst(s).

Once report is released Sales moves to handing follow ups or addressing leads generated via marketing and media campaigns.

Marketing:

Upon submission of report to the editing process (8 DTR) shift to GTM process and strategy. Research results are now available internally and can be applied to content for media, general marketing and sales messaging.

News release is drafted along with report talking points for media, social and general market activities. Suggest creation of 8-10 white board topics that can be delivered on a schedule over 13 weeks. Select forecast releases for infographics and messaging. Webinar or other marketing event planning begins here

Media outreach commences with direct contact with key media to assess interest in release and possible interviews and submitted stories by analysts. Send release to wires and cc’ your internal mailing lists. This process begins 3 DTR.

Release Day? Send out the report and go celebrate…..

Post Release:

Marketing events to present results via conference call, webinar or live interview Q&A should happen within 5-7 days of releasing the report. Analysts are at peak knowledge and messaging and the report has been marketed for several weeks. Plus, at some point the analyst is needing to move on to next project. Content drips with heavy concentrations over the first 3 weeks post release, going to one item per week the next 4 weeks and one item every 2 weeks for the next 6 weeks. This will generate both content spread and longevity to keep the report in front of its audience and stay active in marketing and messaging platforms.

Post-Release analysis:

Target list: how many companies did we get gain access to and convert in some way, i.e., sale, consult, lead for future, research, no results)? Who bought (new or returning?), Who showed interest but didn’t close? Who ignored the campaign?

What feedback from customers did we receive? Right product/wrong product? Did we surpass, match or come in under competition or alternatives. Do they want anything else?

What was the ROI for the campaign broken out by the mix employed? Which approaches produced greatest return and which ones provided the least? Which content generated best results, which angles least?

Thinking About a Career in Industry Analysis?

Thinking About a Career in Industry Analysis?

Considering a career or at least a stop in market research or industry analysis? There are several reasons why someone would want to enter the field. The job requires being able to call upon a diverse skill set to address problems that need solving or questions that need answering. The results produced, at times, can have a tremendous impact on business decisions, both tactical and strategic and with wide reaching impact. Or perhaps the contribution may be less earth shaking but nonetheless, still important to the clients you will serve. Here is a list of necessary attributes that I have observed. Can certainly add more but as a starting point:
  • Analytical (obviously)
  • Good writer
  • Able to craft narratives and communicate them in various channels and modalities
  • Can see context and provide it for others
  • Able to frame issues that actually matter vs hype or what some term, shiny objects
  • Know how to collect quality and useful data
  • Networking demon
  • Capable of grasping nuance
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Understands the revenue side of things for markets as well as your own firm
  • Can identify what is market ready vs vaporware or a science project
  • Willing to grind, because sometimes that is the job
  • Some aptitude for technology, more so in some sectors
  • Can identify the real value proposition (if it exists) in what is being presented them
  • Guards professional integrity like gold
  • Knows the appropriate things to say depending on the forum or medium
If this seems too long of a list or an impossible set of attributes for one person to possess then perhaps you may understand why analysis-based roles aren’t for just anyone. As stated earlier, good analysis is a foundational element for business and investment decisions. I have witnessed companies invest billions of dollars into bad technologies and/or companies because of bias, faulty logic and poor assumptions. Senior executives who will not be dissuaded from blindly charging up a hill, financial people who focus on pinching pennies versus attacking actual opportunities or good technologies left to waste because the leadership didn’t know how to best capitalize upon them. Failure is a great teacher for us all be they via observation or our own experiences. While one need not be excellent in all of these aspects listed above, the role isn’t just technical or about analytics. There are social, intuitive, finesse and perspective to go with the numbers and data. Being overly aggressive, negative or needing to tear down just about everything you see things will alienate a lot of people that you need to provide you with data and buy your outputs. On the other hand, one cannot really expect to get far by avoiding controversy and not having an opinion. The personal brand an analyst will have to build for themselves requires significant time and consideration. The business is amazing though. Depending on your sector you could witness the next evolution in science and technology that completely changes the world. You may track the latest in hot consumer tech, the newest video game, mobile app, medical break throughs or some other really cool geek stuff. People may follow you for your thoughts and opinions. Your influence will be a marketable asset. Or, you may find yourself covering a less dynamic space. These sectors may be more suitable for a person interested in delving down deep into data vs sorting through the flavor of the month. The analysis field is incredibly diverse in that regard and not every skill set is a fit for the sector one might cover. In other words, there are ways for a person to find their niche.  
What Does Your Brand Communicate to Your Market?

What Does Your Brand Communicate to Your Market?

I recall reading Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Blink” circa 2005 and have found myself revisiting its central themes time and time again with respect to the power of first impressions on individuals. Humans have largely come to understand the universal truism of first impressions and their impact on how a person will make decisions, establish connections, and relate to a situation in a favorable or unfavorable manner.

Personally, or professionally, we are constantly processing inputs and experiences and classifying them in host of ways. We can try to move past the impression that someone or something engenders within us but that seems a lot to ask for by a brand that didn’t present well.

Bias comes in many forms and it is a huge and likely impossible task to account for the entire spectrum given human diversity. Groups have norms, cultures have commonalities, professions have their own characteristics and individuals have their personal expectations, pressures, beliefs etc., that they apply to their experiences and interactions. Some brands can pull off widespread appeal across various markets and segments whereas other have to extensively target and drill into the characteristics of the audiences they want to market to.

High value concepts, such as analysis, expertise, or consulting, have to convey elements that allow people room to establish the connections necessary to choose to move forward in their journey that starts with discovery and ends with a purchase or signed contract.

Messages:

  • Our company provides highly credible, professional products and services
  • Companies can trust our research, analysis or expertise
  • We employ highly knowledgeable and valuable people to produce our output
  • We possess the relevant knowledge and expertise a client requires
  • Clients won’t get burned by choosing our firm and our reports, services etc.
  • Our offerings are worth what we are expecting people to pay for them

There are other themes that could be presented but the one I want to focus on is the last one, we are worth what we want them to pay us.

If you want people to buy your firm vs the other options and pay the prices you list then there are some important factors to address in how you may appear to them when they encounter you.

Is your branding current or are you still presenting what you did ten years ago? I ask this because I see companies trying to market high priced products and services with a look of a firm that has not kept pace with their markets. How can you claim you are able to look at the future when you seem dated and a bit of a relic from the past? How can you charge premium dollars when you will not invest in your look and presentation? Why should someone pay for data that shows no innovation in the way that it is presented? Putting out basic Excel tables or graphics done in low level programs is bad practice. You may have great analysis, but new customers won’t automatically assume it.

Does your brand look like everyone else out there? I understand that contemporary styling means certain looks, color schemes and design elements will appear across a segment. Being out of alignment can produce a negative impression with some possible buyers but when the branding becomes generic to the point that one firm is indistinguishable from another that is another problem. The commoditization effect inevitably leads customers to have to work harder to connect with a brand and also to an expectation that lower prices are in order.

Does the brand seem active in the customer’s market? The more a firm is engaged in a market means the more content it produces, the more findings it offers and this it likely projects as having more expertise. Can a part time player make a claim they are worth top dollar?

Does the brand have people? Analysts that front their firm and practice make for something more distinguishable than those that do not. The factories that do not have identifiable analysts do not score high on a perceptual basis. When firms present their people, the buyer can more easily connect with the producers and who is doing the work is a key element of research purchase decisions. No practice leads? Bios with no photos or professional background? People without proper experience or history in a sector? Editors who dabble in analysis on the side? Pass.

Do you have a content strategy that engages your possible buyers? When a customer encounters your brand what will they find? Will there be adequate information on products? Clearly expressed and well- articulated findings? Will they find content appropriate for where they are in the buyer journey be that introduction, industry background, archived materials, multi-format for their preference of consumption or something else? Does the firm project themselves as a relationship or a transaction?

Does the offering align with what you are asking people to pay? Aside from the look, image and presentation, the product must reflect the value you are placing on it. Market reports have become commoditized, what do you have that is unique or at least of sufficient quality? Is your process generic or does it reflect standards an excellence? Is your data granular, extensive, and accurate? Do you package appropriately to the segment or buyer? Do you provide too little for the price or try to charge more by adding in things that the buyer does not want or need?

In summation, the various ways in which a provider presents itself will go a long way towards generating revenues. Sure, once in the door a client can be maintained via their experience, how well they account is serviced etc., but acquiring them means establishing connection, trust and moving past their initial objections all in a very short amount of time in order to facilitate business. Someone may buy despite a bad website, old logo, SEO blogs or poorly presented product but how many will not be attracted and screen you out due to better presented choices or perceived value elsewhere?

The good news is that updating your brand and bringing it closer into alignment with your market could be a simple process or achievable based on consideration and some adjustments.

If this article connects with you in some manner, feel free to connect. Discussions always welcome.

Social Media and Analyst Marketing

Social Media and Analyst Marketing

Social media is an important element of modern marketing. But, for it to work properly and produce the intended results it requires time, investment, proper strategy and thought. There is a broad spectrum of approaches that show those who understand it, those that have training, those that have support structures and others that ought to delve deeper into leaning it. This article discusses some of the ways in which analysts and other expertise providers should consider best use of the medium for improved results.

Social media is an umbrella term that consists of multiple channels intended to display different types of content.  While the content per channel differs (video, infographics, text) the channels offer users the means to leverage each’s strengths to maximize reach.  The ease of repurposing content used for one channel to employ within the other channels is another benefit, one need not create multiple unique messages or inputs to engage in social media marketing.  I think this is likely well understood by most.

Social media can be a tool for announcement, awareness or engagement.  It affords users an opportunity to establish and grow a network of persons or entities with whom a person shares some common subject or business interests. The more someone feeds it with interesting, informative and well-considered content the better the chances are of reaping some benefit.

But, it is not a replacement for marketing and sales activities and nor is it a fast track to results.

I see providers posting content or announcements on social media and expecting sales of expensive reports and services to happen.  Social is an organic concept and that requires time and effort to develop. Most people and companies have to invest a fair amount of time and effort into cultivating channels that produce the results they crave.  Good brands and influencers get that.

The firms and providers that excel at leveraging social media share some common traits; frequency, quality, narrative, consideration for the brand, intention, offer, listening and care.  Also, a strategy. Their graphics are on point, their messages are consistent and there is some effort at providing value to their audience.  Good firms take pains to support their analysts’ efforts at social media by amping the posts via likes and reshares or talk them up with additional commentary.  It also doesn’t hurt that content marketing via social channels is handled via a dedicated person or group and or considered part of the marketing strategy for the firm.

Do it yourself or use an outsider?

Effective social media activity doesn’t require a dedicated marketing person or expensive agency.  In fact, I would strongly advise against using a 3rd party that offers to run the program but has no experience in analyst or expertise based marketing as the role is highly nuanced and industry or subject specific.  If you want to engage an outsider consider what experience they have and what results you expect them to produce.  Note that the results will depend on the extent to which you own it, are willing to collaborate and listen to their suggestions and strategic inputs.

But for DIY or even if you want to use an outsider, I find it wise for people to start with or revisit their intentions for using social media as a marketing channel.  Do you want to build awareness?  Spur some type of engagement? Are you looking to build the funnel or promote the brand?  Promote a product or event?  Are you thinking that posting a lot is going to drive traffic and convert into sales?  You can choose more than one pathway but each has unique requirements and considerations.

Aside from the intentions

Does your following have adequate scale and does the following represent the constituencies you are looking to engage?   You don’t need several thousands of followers if you have the right people you want to reach. Larger numbers don’t hurt but don’t confuse large following with an effective audience.

Does the audience respond to you when you push content?  Do they reshare, comment or engage what you post?   Good audience participation should get your content an extension into their networks but it should also promote discussion, debate or some other conversation.  If the postings aren’t generating then the content is ineffective and or your following is weak.

For content, what type? How often? Messaging within it? Quality? Appearance?  This is a really important consideration and really easy to trip over.  Posting infrequently is self-defeating as is broadcasting content vs promoting discussion, putting out cloudy graphics (or clown show stuff), hashtag SPAM, posting obvious items and being inauthentic.

Social can be a great enhancement to marketing plan but it should be treated as a unique and highly nuanced channel.