As an analyst your personal brand matters as much as the firm you work for, in some cases even more so. Analysts sell influence, expertise and connections. Good ones provide context, insights, solutions and confidence. The client’s certainty in what you provide them makes the decision to follow and ultimately invest in you simple ones.
Being the recognized thought leader is currency that you can trade on. It means people will talk to you, ask you for your feedback and share details here and there. There is background information to be gleaned and filed away. It helps deal with the often asked ridiculous question by uninformed people, “why should we work with you vs someone else?” It means that if companies are spending then you become a necessary portion of the budget.
A side note here for the firms. Your clients buy the people who work for you. Build their brand, pay them well and let the good ones run with what they are good at. Stifling them to protect yourself from loss of control and accounts is backward thinking.
How do you build it?
Mastery: Industry analysts have to be known and reliable for providing something almost indispensable to the market and the people that follow you (which leads to buying you). Be steady, consistent, willing to keep turning over new territory and owning your space in the market where you function. Mastering a market with its technology, supply chain, innovations, drivers, demand factors and nuances makes it easy for people to justify buying you but it also helps to repel the generic offshore firms or other poachers.
Visibility: You have to be seen in all the right places and with all the right people. That means you and your trade sector press should be on a very friendly basis and you are consistently engaged with them to share your thoughts and allowing them to help extend your brand. You support them with columns, you give them insights and share gossip (labeled as such) while being available on short notice and deadline friendly. They will know you and drop your name when they come in contact with companies that need you.
The second aspect is to be at every major trade show and event you can make it to, you secure speaking spots on panels with important industry types, you go to the after-hours parties (yeah, free food and booze is never bad) but always with the thought that you are there to connect and be someone people enjoy seeing. You walk the floor, you set up analyst briefings in advance and you have a plan to follow up with everyone you met with and provide your feedback on the show, what you thought was interesting, what you heard and any additional value add.
Content: This is an area that should be obvious but surprisingly isn’t. Content should be second nature to anyone in the analyst space. Articles, slide decks, podcasts, webinars, white papers and Q&as are part of the job. If you don’t do some variation of these as a firm, you have to. If you believe in it but the firm won’t do it, leave because they don’t get it and yet somehow feel compelled to charge people for their services. The purpose in putting this out is to show your wares, give people reason to know you, follow you and engage you. If you are smart then you track your traffic and how people interact with what you offer.
Social: The next element is to have a strategy that you are willing to develop and stick to so that you build following (that term again) and expand your footprint. If you are going to use Twitter, share your content, show up for chats, engage people in useful conversation and talk to companies. LinkedIn has certainly declined in value and user friendliness and its groups are wastelands of market research spam. That said investing even 20 minutes a day in researching and connecting with people will help. Ask people to cross follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Digital Presentation: What do people see when they view you on the web? Do they see a contemporary image and content display or do you seem dated? Do you project a brand that fits with the sectors you cover and is consistent with what you charge? Do you provide them the means to pull your slide decks and papers (surely you are asking them to connect with you, yes?) and are you depicted in a way that shows you to be connected to the right groups, alliances, shows and events? Do you or your firm put the effort in to showcasing you properly?
There are other factors that have to be addressed as well.
- How much visibility can you create for yourself where your target market’s customers are? Can you prove out that you have influence or at least some recognition within firms where they want to sell?
- Where are you sourcing your data from? Does it stand up under scrutiny? Can you defend it and can your clients believe it?
- And how long will it take for your market to move on thus forcing you to reinvent yourself? Do you have a plan in place that will allow you to remain as an industry standard no matter where you are?
You and your firm have to accept marketing as part of the process. If all that you are focused on is churning pages each day then you are way off base. The analyst business has been overrun with generic market research firms from offshore flooding the market with any and every imaginable report topic possible. An analyst’s personal brand helps protect them and limits the damage the firms do. Trying to cut costs and spin out more product simply won’t work.
One last point, pick up the phone and start dialing. Your willingness to start engagements will be noticed.