Analyst Briefings: The Delicate Business of Client References

By Vicki Jenkins/ Nelson Hall (LinkedIn@VickiJ_NH) 
This is the fourth in a series of blogs for AR professionals containing tips and pointers on how to optimize the relationship Vicki Jenkins / NelsonHallbetween AR and industry analysts. Here I take a look at using client references and case studies in the briefing process.

Quite often, participating in an analyst report requires providing client references as part of the briefing process, and in the area of outsourcing these can be rather difficult to secure. It is important to develop relationships with your sales and client services teams and to let them know about upcoming analyst reports that will require references so they can assist you without it being a fire drill. Knowing that references are required well in advance also enables your colleagues to select references appropriately, and avoid overusing certain clients where they are handling multiple requests for the client’s time.Make sure that the client is consulted and that they are happy to participate. Then, be sure to get all of the preparation details from the analyst: how much time the interview will take, what type of questions will be asked, is the interview confidential, will the analyst or someone else from the firm be contacting them, when will they be contacted, will they need to complete a survey or will it be a phone call?

Remember, client references provide the opportunity to have a third party vouch for your organization’s products and services, and it’s important to thank clients for serving as a reference – a hand-written note from one of your executives can go a long way. Some firms ask for a large amount of references for a single report, but you can usually negotiate down to a reasonable number. Ideally, the client reference should be the person who works closest with your company on a daily basis. Often times, AR pros think it’s important to share the highest-ranking contact in your client organization as a reference, but that only tends to work if they really are working closely with you. Above all, be sure to talk to the client to get a strong understanding of what the client will say about the work your company is providing for them. I have seen situations where the client takes the opportunity to complain about issues with their vendor in the hope that the industry analyst can help resolve the issues.

If sharing client case studies (verbally or in a slide deck as part of the briefing), they should be recent, and show how your company delivered measurable results to benefit the client, especially in areas that drove them to outsource. Try to include the measurable benefits as part of the main briefing rather than promising them as a follow-on; this is the best way to highlight the work done by your organization. It’s important to work with your operations colleagues to ensure that the benefits are appropriately tracked, so you have a story to tell that is measurable.

Finally, most industry analysts will understand that publishing client names is not always possible and will be willing to describe the client by reference to their industry sector only. However, if you can obtain approval from your client to include their name in the report, it does make the story more powerful. We all love a great reference!

Next up in this AR blog series… why media training isn’t necessarily advantageous when dealing with industry analysts.

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