It’s been a lively discussion. The third German chapter IIAR Stammtisch end of October, in Munich gathered AR professionals and analysts speaking about the strategic role that analyst relations play in companies of different sizes and countries.
In a group of 9 we kicked off the AR discussion with an intro round at 7pm and didn’t stop until we realised it has gotten late. As a topic we had chosen “how is AR for medium-sized companies different to AR for large companies” and while it is clear that smaller companies can learn from the big players, we raised the questions, whether there is anything to learn as well the other way around.
In the large companies, analyst relations has matured to a unique discipline, sitting next to PR, or marketing, or business development. Many have established AR teams with several people, similar to PR teams. Analyst relations is a much less popular activity in smaller and medium-sized companies. This is true at least for German companies. Most of the medium-sized companies don’t talk to analysts or if so, it is more by occasion or accident.
The US, once again, is where the AR discipline grew first. AR is a relatively young discipline in Europe, and while it is more common in the UK, a country that is naturally close to the US, it is still in its infancy in Germany, I dare to say.
In the US, also smaller firms use to work with analysts at an early stage. Mostly financed by venture capital, they know about the importance to connect with analysts. On the other hand, as an industry analyst it is far from being easy to find start-ups and SMBs in Europe, they seem to hide successfully. There is a reason why we speak about the “hidden champions”. Should we content ourselves, as a smaller firm in Germany to be proud of being a hidden champion, or isn’t it worth to leave the own playground and invest in analyst relations?
There is a different culture coming into play as well, we learned from Donna Tylor (LinkedIn, @DonnaTaylor_exp), analyst at Neuralytix. In the US, people love to try out new things, and they stay open to feedback, advice and recommendations from others. In Germany, we are famous for an engineering mentality. The company leaders oftentimes are the engineers that have build the products they sell. Many have the firm belief that they know better than an analyst, or if there is a problem, they will find the solution. In any case they have the attitude that they want to convince the analyst, and if the analyst expresses a concern, they make the arguments even stronger to convince her or him.
Things change with growth and global expansion. Earlier or later the hidden champions feel the need to talk more to the influencers and the topic matter experts. Earlier or later customers ask why you are not positioned in a Gartner quadrant. Earlier or later companies want to understand market dynamics abroad.
Reporting lines differ from company to company. In some cases AR is bundled with the PR responsibility or it is reporting to PR which means that the focus of the work and metrics are PR driven. The objective is more about getting a mention in reports and articles with a positive tone rather than anything else. Other companies established the reporting line to marketing. Then we speak sales and supporting sales objectives. AR measurement will be around getting ranked high in the Gartner MQ and other benchmark reports.
Reporting lines that go directly to the board is probably less common. The smaller the company, the more likey AR is reporting directly to the highest levels in the company and earning a strategic relevance and huge visiblity.
While we at the table had different reporting lines we all agreed that it is highly important as an AR professional to get interlaced with many different internal departments incl MI, sales, product development, IT architects, delivery, marketing and PR.
The bigger the company, the bigger the task of making strong internal relations. Small companies allow for easier and more flexible cooperation internally and an analyst relations unit that is interlinked with the different departments and supporting greatly the company and its business objectives.
Thank you to Retarus (www.retarus.com) who sponsored the AR Stammtisch.