Launching an industry analyst relations (AR) program takes elaborate research and planning. Unlike simpler functions that a technology or service provider can delegate or outsource with minimal involvement, AR requires the continuous participation of stakeholders from a broad cross-section of the business––from corporate strategy to business-unit marketing, through to delivery and finance. Simplifying the creation of a new AR program requires defining its anchor points––the guiding forces necessary to give a direction to it and keep it on track.
Let’s take a look at three essential anchor points, which can serve as the compass of your organization’s AR program:
1. A Clear AR Objective
Perhaps a little clichéd, the objective of your AR program is still the most relevant and definitive piece of guidance you can have. The objective defines ‘why’ the program came into existence in the first place. Some businesses invest in AR purely for influencer marketing purposes, while others see it primarily as a research and advisory service. Describing your company’s expectation from AR is important.
Follow the SMART guidelines––specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound––to articulate your AR program’s objective.
For instance, if your AR objective is to be recognized by analyst firms as a leader in a market segment, make sure to include the following details:
- The type of recognition your company is aiming for, congruent to its capabilities (e.g. inclusion in a Gartner Magic Quadrant or a Forrester Wave, placement in a top -10 vendors list, or analyst quotes in media)
- The nature of analyst firms you intend to target (e.g. relevance to business, areas of expertise, popularity, size, or geographical presence). It is sufficient to outline the basic criteria to target analyst firms if you can’t name them yet.
- The time frame within which you hope to gain the desired recognition
- How you intend to leverage analyst recognition (e.g. media release, and licensed marketing collateral)
Sample AR Objective:
To be rated among the top three global providers of self-service data analytics, by Analyst Firm A and Analyst Firm B, by 2017.
Sometimes, AR objectives may seem to merge with engagement themes, which are explained below. While the core objectives of an AR program may remain relatively unchanged for long periods of time, engagement themes may change frequently
2. A Definitive Engagement Theme
An engagement theme specifies why you want to interact with an analyst. Without a compelling engagement theme, it is virtually impossible for a technology/service provider to sustain a relationship with an analyst or a firm––it is like trying to have a conversation without an agenda.
Analysts are acutely aware that you need them for influencer marketing, but that does not qualify as a compelling engagement theme (analysts’ primary job is to provide research and advisory services).
Strong engagement themes are often centered on one or more of the following elements:
- Solving a Specific Business Problem – Does your organization require analyst input to solve a particular business problem? Some examples: validating strategy, introducing new products/services, testing positioning and messaging, targeting specific prospect profiles, entering a new geography, and evaluating go-to-market options.
- Understanding Market, Technology, and Buyer Dynamics – Analysts can help you to understand your business ecosystem better. Do you require insights into market sizing, growth forecasts, competitive analysis, technology trends, and buyer behavior?
- Exchanging Unique Insights – Exchanging unique industry insights with analysts is a strong engagement theme in itself. Part of how analysts build their expertise is interacting regularly with people from the industry.
- Unique, Well-differentiated Products and Services – If your organization’s offerings are truly unique and well differentiated, you are halfway there in attracting analysts’ attention and interest. Analysts want to be current on market developments, and if your organization is ‘that good’, analysts will want to talk to you and attend your briefings. While this gives you a good starting point for engagement, it is still up to you to sustain analysts’ interest.
You will notice that not all engagement themes require a commercial relationship with analyst firms!
(You may also want to read IIAR’s Best Practice Paper, Plan your analyst relations programme with the AR Compass, by Charmaine Chan and Ludovic Leforestier, about setting different objectives for your AR Program)
3. A Subject-Matter Expert & Spokesperson:
The success of your AR program depends heavily on the quality of interaction your organization has with industry analysts. It is important to nominate at least one senior leader––in addition to the AR manager––to drive rich interactions with industry analysts.
Ideally, the senior spokesperson should fulfill the following criteria:
- Formal authority to represent the company
- Strong expertise (often technical) relevant to analysts’ area of interest
- Alignment with a genuine theme of engagement (see Point 2) to drive purposeful conversations
Analysts value interactions with senior leadership teams, especially CXOs, heads of functions and strategy, and leaders of business units and delivery/technical teams. What is of utmost importance is to ensure that the selected spokesperson’s expertise and areas of interest are in sync with that of the analyst.
Anchor points play a vital role in keeping analyst relations programs uncluttered and aligned to business needs. Which unique anchor points are you using for your organization’s AR programs?