Andrew Hsu‘s (LinkedIn) views on AR prioritization are handy. In a recent presentation, he stressed the role of prioritisation in helping us to think about AR, be more refined than our instincts can allow and to help us justify the choices we made when we allocated limited Analyst Relations resources.
Andrew’s starting point is the need to make smart, big bets. Rather than randomly allocating effort without focussing on influence, we want to focus our energy on a smaller number of analysts and, I think it’s implied, to boost the impact of the analysts we prioritize.
The common-sense of AR is problematic. We focus on the people we know, the ones who are cynical about our brand and the ones with whom we do the most business. Instead, Andrew says that we need to focus on both our business goals and the attributes of the analysts. He hits the nail on the head when he says that AR people are often ‘doing God’s work’ – merely serving the analysts. Instead, we need to focus on the timely needs of the business.
AR programs often have a handful of different goals, from lead generation and sales support through to shaping opinion and helping the firm to improve its offer. The IIAR has integrated these very powerfully with the IIAR AR Compass, which are outlined in this blog post and a useful SlideShare presentation.
Analysts, similarly, have different attributes and goals: they might focus on our audience, they might we well-ranked, be famous, be at an appropriate point in their career cycle, vary significantly in their in-depth knowledge of the market, or very unusual amplification for their views in the market, especially since each firm’s organic distribution is so different. It seems to be that using the AR Compass will greatly help firms to structure their goals in a way that makes them easier to evaluate.
Like-mindedness matters. It makes it enjoyable for speakers, especially for new representatives: that is is important.
Often, in Hsu’s opinion, the top wish of firms is to differentiate itself in the market. Sometimes there are specific challenges where the market is sceptical about your firm. In that case, firms might be looking for prominent opinion-shapers who are highly ranked and whose ideas are well distributed: they might not need to be hugely knowledgeable.
That sort of consideration has to be the starting point: we discover the analysts and our goals, we tier them using our key priorities; then we allocate them to action plans.
The outcome is a strong advocacy of service-level approaches. Top tier analysts have to be the most impactful on our business objective: Hsu suggests that around half of the AR team’s time should go on those people, and both client access and budget can be heavily-weighted. On the other hand, as close to nothing as possible should be spent on the lowest tier. This heavy weighting is, as Hsu admits, a big bet.
Hsu’s application strategy is deeply entwined with its advantages: it forces AR people to elicit goals; it allows people to check their current work; it will enable you to sell the focussed approach.
The advantages of this approach are clear: it gives AR people more job security and produces more business value if we are using analyst insight better, and we are ensuring that buyers are getting the best insight from the crucial analysts we have prioritized.
Of course, there are real challenges: if a tier two analyst has an unreasonably large request, then we have to say no. That is especially tricky, I would say, for those AR people who are ‘going God’s work’. And, of course, this still requires using intelligence from our salespeople and the account director at the analyst firm.
What does money buy? AR has a discretionary budget that is often used too much to purchase services that allow short inquiry calls, however often we need to spend differently to get deep, time. That means not only budgeting for strategic advisory sessions, but planning to make the most of them as a way to shape the analysts’ approaches to markets. Similarly, market intelligence budgets have to be valuable both ways: let’s get the insight, but let’s also allocate that on the insightful analysts who influence our business goals.
IIAR Best Practice Paper on tiering