NB This is a cross-post from the Buzz Method blog, where it was originally posted in November 2009 as the second in a series of articles on Analyst Relations basics. Please note that the views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of the IIAR – they are the opinion of Dominic Pannell, founder of Buzz Method Ltd.
NB This is a cross-post from the Buzz Method blog, where it was originally posted in November 2009 as the first in a series of articles on Analyst Relations basics. Please note that the views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of the IIAR – they are the opinion of Dominic Pannell, founder of Buzz Method Ltd.
This is the third and final post in a series of thought pieces on the role of online channels in influence. The first two articles are here and here. [For more discussion on the role and nature of influence see my blog, Infuse.]
There’s little doubt that online channels are important. I don’t believe that they are the whole story in measuring influence, but they are essential in reaching influencers.
There are two primary uses of online channels in an influencer relations programme:
- Tracking what influencers do: online media don’t help identify influencers (I assert), but they are useful in post-identification analysis. What are influencers blogging on, are they Twittering, what webcasts and podcasts are they involved in, and so on. You can use online tools to track what influencers are doing and saying, even what they’re saying about you.
- Engaging with influencers. If influencers are blogging and Tweeting, then that’s where you need to be too. If they’re on Facebook and LinkedIn then connect to them there. Comment on their blogs, request guest blog posts, follow them on Twitter. Be where they are.
Of course, if influencers are not online, then there’s no point in you trying to find them and interact with them there. Some influencers eschew online channels for communication, because of the time it diverts from other activities. (Seth Godin claims that he’d lose 6 hours per day if he Tweeted.)
I know some markets (web development, for example) where 100% of the influencer community blogs and uses discussion forums. I also know of tech markets where nearly 0% of influencers use online channels: they live in a face-to-face world. Most tech markets, but not all, have a spread of online- and offline-oriented influencers (and many influencers, of course, are both).
Make sure you know where your influencers are.
Our next monthly discussion group teleconference is next Monday, February 22nd, on the topic of linking AR with sales.
The call will be lead by Ed Gyurko, who is currently authoring a Best Practice white paper on this topic for the IIAR. Ed will be joined by Allen Valahu from Accenture.
IIAR members who would like to join the call, please contact Hannah Kirkman for dial in details.
Interesting comment from Carter in his post about Gartner’s earnings Gartner Q4 and full year 2009 earnings – implications for analyst relations and research clients » SageCircle Blog:
AR teams should use Gartner’s growth in enterprise clients as an education tool with stakeholders and executive sponsors. Rather than experiencing shrinking influence in this recession, Gartner has increased its influence because of the business value it offers to enterprise clients and its ability to leverage the largest sales force in the analyst industry.
This second post on online influence looks at how one might measure influence using online metrics. It follows on from last week’s post which posed a lot of questions, but few answers. Fair cop.
But first, I think there are a couple of principles of influence to consider:
1. People buy people. Therefore influence measures need to identify individuals. It’s not sufficient to conclude that Gartner (for example) is influential – duh. Vendors need to know (a) who within Gartner is influential, (b) what’s their influence relative to other analyst influencers, and (c) what’s their influence relative to other non-analyst influencers. Influence isn’t distributed equally, either within organisations or throughout the market.
2. Influence is multi-dimensional. Some influencers are subject gurus, some command statutory authority, some are thought leaders and idea planters, some structure the financial elements of procurement, and so on. It’s important to understand why someone is influential, as much as the fact that they are influential.
So. Let’s look at some of the ways influence claims to be measured online:
– Citations – this measures the number of times a source refers back to an originating source. Google PageRank works this way: it rates pages highly if other people link back to it. It’s also how academic research works: a recent paper will refer to previous papers, and the more references a paper gets the more influential it is considered to be. Its strength is its weakness – it will persist in referring back to previously cited sources, even if they become superceded. It also build in something called the Matthew effect, where longevity is favoured over originality.
– Connections – how many outbound links a source has. LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter (following) and other social networks work this way. Count the connections to determine how well connected the person is. It’s also easy to fake, by link swaps, indiscriminate “friending” and so on.
– Subscriptions and readership – Technorati works this way, measuring the number of readers a blog has, and Twitter also publishes this information as followers.
– Noise – references to subjects and/or individual firms. Radian 6, Techrigy, and a bunch of other providers do this, measuring the number of times your firm is mentioned. Some also claim to measure the sentiment of the mention, usually using natural language processing tech.
All of these measures are indicators of online activity, and you can see the usefulness of them, as far as they go. They are, in my view, the equivalent of PR clippings services.
However, none of them measure whether the critical community, decision makers, are remotely influenced by online channels. It’s always necessary to ask: Influence on whom? Do any of these measures accurately assess the impact on real decision makers? In other words, do they measure the likely impact on behaviour of a buyer? Because if they don’t, if they measure a vague notion of industry activity or sentiment, then do they really reflect the ecosystem of influencers that impacts decisions?
More critically, can vendors construct marketing programmes around these measures to improve knowledge, lead generation and useful sales collateral? Because if they can’t, what are these measures useful for?
Tssk – more questions.That last one was rhetorical.
Next week’s post will probably pose more questions about how AR can use online channels to increase influence on their firms’ prospective customers.
I, like others am driven to compete, produce the best results….or in other words, Win!
I know that I am not alone in this, and am competing for analysts time and attention, not to mention doing everything I can for the highest rating possible. So I instinctively know that others are sucking up the remaining analyst time with a message that favors them once my time is up. So I have to get the time, and make it as meaningful as possible.
I rely on a few tactics that have morphed over the years, but are still true today.
NUMBER 1, IT’S ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP
This takes time, but it is important to know the other person. I take the time to talk about their children, pets, or at least read their social media which tells me about them as a person. This can set the tone for a relationship, and you also can find the common ground to have more than just a perfunctory relationship.
What do you get out of it? Many things like trust (which matters in good or bad times), an answered email, tweet, or any other form of communication. I talk to analysts and they frankly have email overload and/or avoidance. That means if they see it from you, there is a decision on whether to look at it (or take the call) or brush it off to the dustpile.
My advice is to take the time to build a relationship by knowing them, then helping them by going out of your way to make the transaction more meaningful. You will see results from it, like the answer you were looking for. It’s almost like real estate but instead of location, it’s relationship, relationship, relationship.
NUMBER 2, WHAT IS THEIR BACK CHANNEL
Further on the issue of communicating with the analyst is how to avoid their overload. There is some method they choose that they rank as the one to answer. It could be twitter, email (a personal account could be an option here), a text….whatever. Once you build the relationship, ask them in a crunch, how can I reach you. Murphy’ law will come into play at some point. The analyst will be unavailable when you need them (right now) and the back channel is the way.
A word of advice. If you abuse this, it negates the purpose of having a back channel.
NUMBER 3, IS MY EXECUTIVE THE BEST HE/SHE CAN BE?
At some point, it’s the executive and the analyst and it’s out of your hands. The can make or break it for you. Pick the right one for the right briefing. Tell them how to answer to the analyst base on the relationship you have built and their nuances.
Another issue is how and what you tell. Sometimes you can state the obvious. Other times you need to absolutely not answer a question that will sink your ship. Having the executive ready to know where the landmines are. One in A/R must realize that not all are called out to be an effective spokesperson. Here is a discourse on executives.
If they fall down and you know it, you have to get back to the analyst and sweep up the damage. Get another executive or knowlegable person to fix the mess.
The best of all worlds is when you get the relationship (here’s that word again) with and executive, and they know how to tell the right story and they build a relationship with analyst also.
Point of interest: You must also make sure that they know the difference between a press briefing and an analyst briefing. What is off limits and how far can you push the information limits (NDA may be needed). I want my execs to tell almost everything including some warts. This makes the story believable, especially when you are early in the announcement cycle. This gets you buy in, or if you know a certain analyst is anti-your-message, you’ll know not to go there at announcement time.
Is this a comprehensive list, by no means, mostly because you are dealing with people so outcomes are not predictable. Will it work? Most times as long as you stick to the rules. Will you have issues or times when everything falls apart? Yes, and you have to pick yourself up and begin again, it could even lead you to a better relationship.
I graduated from the school of hard knocks, with a PH.D. If I’d have known this earlier on in my career, it would have avoided many troubling times. Perhaps that’s how I learned to use these tactics?
Late last week I resurrected a common meme around Hitler’s downfall video but this time applied it to analyst relations.
In the original post, I simply let the parody of the video speak for itself but after reviewing the many comments on the blog and on twitter, I have noticed that quite a few people are commenting about what they can learn from this.
Needless to say, when AR is done well the scenario that this video portrays should never happen. Here are some of the key points:
There is some argument as to whether we need to do any EMEA outreach or whether it is sufficient to just speak to those in the US
Being an EMEA AR pro, this one really irks me. Even though the US analysts may sometimes be the lead for a specific topic area, this is not always the case. What’s more when end users wish to buy a solution they often ask the local analysts in their region for guidance. If you haven’t spoken to them, how can you hope for positive commentary. Finally the EMEA analysts can often give valuable advice regarding how to refine the messaging to make it more relevant for their geography as well as give advice on local issues that may not be important in other regions.
We are only positioned as a challenger. They scored us down because we didn’t provide enough customer evidence
There should never be any surprises when it comes to the MQ being published. Make sure you run plenty of inquiries and SAS days to fully understand where the analysts are positioning you and why and what you need to do to change their perception. Do the process and document everything and obviously you should make sure that your executive team are prepared for the eventual placement and understand why you are positioned where you are.
We were positioned well in the Forrester Wave… a well-respected alternative
Always investigate alternatives. Despite many execs and sales people often being incapably of looking beyond the MQ, there are many tools and analysts out there. It all depends on your objectives and defining which solution is right for you.
There are many more things you can take from this video as I have tried to include as many clichés as possible. Most importantly remember that this is created in jest as a parody for our wonderful AR industry. I hope you like it.
Carol Rozwell from Gartner (blog, twitter, bio) kindly allowed us to reproduce here her post on Vendors: suggestions to maximize briefing value. It neatly complement her peer Linda Rowan from IDC’s Briefing tips and best practices.
Last week, I was treated to a number of interesting vendor briefings, the most engaging of which was conducted in Second Life. But despite having the opportunity to view some innovative product offerings, I also had to contend with some frustrating vendor practices. In the spirit of helping vendors maximize the short time they have for a briefing with an analyst, I offer my list of five worst practices I wish vendors would curtail:
1. Don’t tell me about the market I cover. It’s important to understand how a vendor positions their product in a market, but taking 10 minutes of a 30 minute briefing to tell me about a market segment I’ve covered for years is a waste of precious time. It takes time away from what I really need to see – the product.
2. When I ask a question, please answer it – there and then! If I ask a question about sales revenue or product design, I do so because I want to hear the answer – right then. It’s incredibly frustrating to have the vendor say “we’ll get to that later in the presentation.” You should know that analysts have short attention spans. So if you gave me a slide deck, I’ll go off looking for the answer myself and ignore what you are saying about what you thought was more important than answering my query.
3. If you are going to make me log into a web meeting, use the interactive nature of the tool – don’t just present PowerPoint slides. We try our best to keep the briefing appointment once it’s been confirmed. But is sometimes means that I will have to take the call from a location other than my well-appointed office. Logging into a web conference may be inconvenient and it always wastes time. So if you are only going to show slides, save us both the headache.
4. Don’t read slides to me – do the demo. I’ve done lots of briefings; I can figure the rest out. Factual information about location, personal, revenue, etc is important. Unfortunately, too many vendors feel compelled to read every line on every slide before progressing to what I really want to see – the demo. Provide the info, but make the demo the centerpiece of the briefing.
5. If you ask me what I want to hear about, don’t ignore me and talk about something else. It is refreshing to have a vendor ask what information would be of most interest to me in my research. But once I’ve told you, don’t ignore me! If I told you I know enough about strategy and would prefer to hear about recent wins, cover that topic.
There, I feel better now. And if you are a vendor who will be briefing me in the future, I hope you appreciate these constructive suggestions.
Analyst relations professionals are dealing with more types of analysts and analyst-like influencers every day. How do you know who’s important among these new faces? Some insights from a pharma influencer relations study can give you fresh perspectives on identifying, differentiating and prioritizing your AR targets.
This post is reprinted from my personal blog Sway, where I discuss analyst relations and broad-based influencer relations. You may know me best as founder and managing editor of Tekrati, Inc.
Solid research is the only way to cut through the chatter about identifying and prioritizing influencers for word-of-mouth marketing and other forms of influencer marketing. Mike Gotta (Burton Group / Gartner ) yesterday pointed out a just such a study, from the pharma industry. I like this study because it focuses on finding the hidden opinion leaders who drive the first wave of word-of-mouth product referrals.
The study identifies two distinct types of opinion leaders among the target physicians:
- those who are trusted and respected by peers (called sociometric leaders)
- those physicians who think of themselves as well connected and influential (called self-reported opinion leaders)
The opinion leaders identified by their peers are not the traditional targets pursued by marketers. If anything, they contradict current marketing wisdom about influencers and influentials. They are not overtly well connected, outgoing or high profile in terms of being published or public speakers.
Three nuggets to think about:
The study finds little overlap between the two types of influencers. Physicians fell into one group or the other.
The under-the-radar opinion leaders are quicker to use new product and more likely to influencer others to try it. This finding is based on matching network data with perscription records.
The under-the-radar sociometric opinion leaders are more interested in what their peers are doing, and are more open to word-of-mouth or social influence, than the self-reported opinion leaders.
Both types of opinion leaders play important roles in robust influencer marketing programs. One group is not better than the other; they’re just different kinds of people. The best course of action is to identify and address both types of opinion leaders. That means doing more research and more segmentation.
Hat tip: Mike Gotta
Study: Opinion Leadership and Social Contagion in New Product Diffusion – by Raghuram Iyengar, Christophe Van den Bulte, and Thomas Valente, 2008
Summary of Study: [email protected]
Our next monthly discussion group teleconference is next Wednesday, January 20th, on the topic of AR measurement and evaluation.
The call will be lead by Ellie Warner, who recently authored a Best Practice white paper on this topic for the IIAR.
IIAR members who would like to join the call, please contact Hannah Kirkman for dial in details.
Yesterday the IIAR had a great turn-out for its teleconference on best practice analyst relations at the Mobile World Congress this February in Barcelona.
The discussion was exceptional and the featured panelists included:
• AMDOCS, Brian McManus
• CCS Insight, Ben Wood
• Ericsson, Peter Olofsson
• Vodafone, Janine Aitken-Young.
Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:
• Every analyst attending gets hundreds of requests for meet ups. Resources don’t exist for every analyst to meet with every vendor
• MWC is for analyst meetings not analyst briefings. Pre-brief analysts about news and then arrange 15 minute catch up meetings at the MWC
• Logistics are extremely challenging at the MWC. Pre-planning and spokesperson preparation is essential; allow time in between meetings
• Check the time you are allowed into the conference before scheduling breakfast meetings
• Use multiple ways to evaluate AR success at the event
• Be ready to fact check as analysts are writing blogs and reports on tight deadlines
• Don’t plan meet ups with analysts at social events and don’t plan on analysts attending social events unless there’s a big ‘hook’
• 80% of what’s discussed with an analyst at the MWC is forgotten
All in all a very useful discussion and thanks again to the panelists for their participation.
Analyst relations is a world of shifting territory, with convergence arising among blogs, traditional analysts, and even the media. I wrote this post to discuss how one software vendor navigates the blogging aspect of these difficult waters.
This post is reprinted from my blog at ZDNet, which is called IT Project Failures.
Among enterprise vendors, SAP is an industry leader in working with bloggers, so I thought it would be helpful to start the new year with a post that highlights the company’s Blogger Relations program.
SAP’s blogging outreach efforts are successful for three reasons, which other enterprise vendors should consider when creating their own blogging outreach strategy:
1. Ongoing relationship
SAP runs a formal blogging program that includes regular contact by phone, email, and Twitter; invitations to conferences and special events; and other opportunities to interact with SAP senior management, employees, and customers.
There are two primary contacts for bloggers at SAP, each of whom maintains an open-door policy. When I am working on a post and need a source, this means “one-click” access to virtually any employee in the company.
This convenience and accessibility simplifies gaining detailed information about SAP’s activities and products. The clarity of SAP’s message depends on the particular interviewee, but at least the opportunity for dialog is present.
2. Customized programming
SAP is attentive to the professional interests of bloggers in their program. As a result, each participant receives individual attention regarding his or her specific area of focus. In my case, for example, emphasis tends toward discussion around issues pertaining to projects and the intersection of business and IT. Other bloggers engage SAP in areas such as sustainability or enterprise technology.
This customized programming is especially significant when SAP holds events and arranges meetings with senior executives. Matching bloggers and executives who share specific interests helps keep the discussion relevant to all parties.
3. Mutual expectations
The relationship between SAP and bloggers requires substantial investment of time and effort for both sides. My “covenant” with any vendor is simple and fair: I seek straightforward access to information while the vendor has a right to balanced analysis.
Of course, SAP advances its perspective and I write about IT failures, so natural tensions are present. These tensions are healthy and help ensure that blog posts do not devolve into a glorified press release or a one-sided attack.
To learn more about the history and goals of SAP’s blogging program, I recorded this video with Mike Prosceno, the company’s Vice President of Social Media Relations:
THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS
By demonstrating serious commitment to open up and engage, SAP now participates in conversations that previously eluded the company. This kind of personalization is difficult to achieve, especially for such a large company.
The blogging program actually represents an investment in the rapidly evolving future of corporate communications, which has seen barriers drop in traditional boundaries around media and analyst relations. Blogging offers a particular challenge to corporate communications because it does not fit easily into existing media or analyst definitions.
Serious enterprise bloggers are typically professional experts in some aspect of enterprise software, raising strong parallels with industry analysts. Unlike analysts affiliated with established firms, however, most bloggers are independent and have no contractual relationship with the vendor. At the same time, some industry analysts also write excellent blogs, which further blurs traditional distinctions.
To place these distinctions into broader context, I spoke with Jason Busch, Managing Director of analyst firm, Azul Partners. Jason is also a top enterprise blogger on procurement issues, writing at Spend Matters.
Here’s what Jason told me:
I’ve often found the transparency of bloggers to be a breath of fresh air relative to traditional industry analyst firms.
In general, the better tech bloggers in the enterprise space fully disclose clients, affiliations, advertisers/sponsors, etc. In contrast, traditional analyst revenue waters are often murky; you don’t know who is paying them or how much.
SAP was way ahead of the curve in recognizing the rising role of bloggers and the blurring of analyst/blogger distinctions. It’s probably the most prescient thing they’ve done from a marketing perspective.
My take. SAP understood early on that traditional corporate communications has shifted from a message-based orientation to identifying, building, and nurturing relationships with influencers.
Despite the maturity and excellence of its program, however, SAP now faces competition in blogging relations from other enterprise vendors, some of whom are catching up quickly. To maintain its lead, SAP must continue to innovate and invest in this area.
The growth of enterprise blogging as a recognized form is great news for technology buyers, who rely on independent sources of information when making important technology and business decisions.
Mobile World Congress 2010 (MWC) is now less than two months away and the clock is ticking. In past years up to 50,000 attendees showed up in Barcelona, all hoping to make the most out of the event. What’s the best strategy for successful AR in this kind of environment?
To answer that question and many more about the show, the IIAR has organised a teleconference panel of experts to discuss best AR practices for MWC and to share personal anecdotes.
Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
3.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. GMT/10.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. ET
- Amdocs, Brian McManus, Analyst Relations Director
- CCS Insight, Ben Wood, Director of Research
- Ericsson (panellist TBD)
- Vodafone, Janine Aitken-Young, Senior Industry Analyst Relations Manager
If you would like to join the discussion, please email me for dial-in details at hkirkman (at) analystrelations (dot) org.
Are there any rules of thumb or recommended staffing levels for dedicated AR people in companies?
Robert Eastman chipped in:
One of the better resources that I have seen on this is the book by William Hopkins (of the Knowledge Capital Group), Influencing the Influencers. You should really read this book to get the full color and context of their model. In short, however, the rule of thumb that this book proposes is one AR person for every 2-3 major business initiatives. It would not surprise me if the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations, Sagecircle, Lighthouse Analyst Relations also had some advice or insight here. I would enjoy hearing what you find out. Could you share?
AR guru Efrem Mallach added some good insight:
Firms tend to get a full-time AR professional when they reach annual revenue of about US$100 million. This is an average. Individual situations vary widely on both sides of this figure depending on the specific company situation. From there up the number grows, again very approximately, as the square root of revenue. A company would have about two FT people in AR at an annual revenue of $400 million or thereabouts, three at $1 billion and so on. This is a straight line on a semi-log graph.
These figures come from looking at a lot of companies in many areas of high-tech, plotting the two figures (annual revenue and analyst relations FT equivalent headcount) on a graph, and fitting a curve to where they cluster. T
hese are broad averages. You have to look at the breadth of a firm’s product line, how it breaks down vis-à-vis typical analyst practices, its geographic scope, who it sells to, its typical price points (they affect how much analysts influence its sales), etc., etc…, to come up with an appropriate number for a given firm. There is usually good business justification for spending more on AR than most firms do.
I agreed with Efrem:
It’s a decreasing curve that tends to flatten out at 1/$b revenue.
This said, the product mix is important: you need more AR managers for companies having a diverse s/w portfolio with a wide footprint, less for h/w typically.
So the best way to go is actually starting from the goals and the audience:
- if the goal is to support sales directly, then 1 AR manager cannot follow more than 15 Tier I analysts (and that’s a big task).
- if the job is more marketing oriented (producing white papers, doing more 1:many events) then this ratio can increase.
Tim O’Sullivan (EMEA AR for Deloitte) added:
I agree with Robert – all depends on what is important to the company. I would be loathe to make a recommendation based on revenue in anything except an affordability discussion (can we afford 1 more AR). The thing with revenue if you hire a new AR pro (even if you are a $1BN Revenue company) and they close 10 analyst related deals in a year worth $50M then you can afford it. Ludovic is correct about the product mix but services appears missing from the list – a diverse services based organisation would need a substantial team imo. Map the AR team objectives back to the strategic goals of the company – that shoudl give you a fair idea of what is important and allow you to structure a set of programs to support the corporate goals. Once you have these programs (either topic, geographic or some other structure) then you will have a fair idea through an AR Audit how many analysts you have to cater for and what your tactics are and therefore what the team size should be. Given the imoportance of AR and the different approaches in different companies I would be careful following rules of thumb and reccommend due dilignece and planning as the most prudent way to proceed.
If the average analyst impacts $2.3 million in revenue per year, with customer facing analysts more and vendor facing analysts less, then analyst relations’ staffing decisions can be disconnected from the company’s current revenues. An opportunity cost analysis helps management understand what they miss out on by not staffing AR rather than trying to figure out how to afford AR. Although AR has a statistically greater influence on customer decision making than PR does, companies still pour money into PR visability rather than AR effectiveness.
Our guest post today is from Lisa Rowan (Twitter handle: @lisarowan), IDC’s Program Director for HR, Learning and Talent Strategies. Read on for Lisa’s tips for briefing analysts from the analyst perspective.
There are excellent resources available to assist the AR profession including IIAR but on this side of the briefing table, it seems like that advice is not universally followed. As analysts we get a steady stream of requests for our time and often for a first introduction. I’d say that for the most part this goes well but there are some tips I thought might be worth underscoring to make the briefings effective for you and the analyst. For a lot of you, these might seem obvious but trust me that I wouldn’t write these tips if there weren’t situations where these things occur.
Meeting an analyst for the first time.- give them the details at a glance
If an analyst hasn’t met you before, it’s wise to put all of your company’s essential details on one slide of your briefing deck as the first thing you cover. Include number of employees, headquarters location, when you were founded, who were the founders, your revenue (say it’s NDA but provide it anyway), and the names of a few of your marquis accounts. If you don’t do this, the analyst will ask anyway or sit there waiting for you to tell them.
Whether the first time or an update briefing – send your deck early
Send your briefing deck (and by all means have one, not doing so is awkward for all) at a minimum the day prior to the briefing. Often sadly, decks come in an hour or so before the call and then once on the call the company representatives ask the analyst if they’ve had a chance to review it. The answer is usually ‘no’ as there just hasn’t been time. Sending it a day prior ups the probability of them actually getting to know your company a bit before the call which is a great thing.
The one hour rule and being on time
Most briefings are one hour in length and analysts often book back-to-back so there will be a hard stop. You should verify this and honor it and make sure you aren’t breathlessly wrapping up with no time for feedback at xx:59. You generally want feedback or you should so leave time for it. One way to ensure you get the most time and make a good impression is to be on time and that means for everyone that is joining the call. Nothing is worse than in the first few minutes the teleconference bridge service keeps beeping with people late to join. As a corollary, try not to have folks on the call that are not introduced, lurking is just kind of unsettling.
Try to know something about the analyst ahead of time
Do some homework and make sure everyone that is going to be on your end is at least passably familiar with the analyst’s bio, coverage area, and body of work. Most analysts have an on-line bio and list of research so this shouldn’t be tough. You wouldn’t make a client call without doing some background and so the same holds true with analysts. It doesn’t hurt to interject something about the analyst into conversation — something you read about them, or a thought around a piece of their recent research. It’s all about relationship.
Tread carefully on the competition
Unfortunately, analysts occasionally hear vendors slamming the competition. I can’t speak for every analyst but this is not music to my ears. I have competition myself but I think of other analysts in a similar coverage area as colleagues, we see each other and greet each other warmly at events where we are together. Yes, it’s important to differentiate but do so on strengths and not on demeaning the rest of the market.
Originally posted here: Contentious conversations in analyst relations
As a side note, shooting on the referee rarely helps -the IIAR now has a best practice paper on how to deal with the Gartner Magic quadrants available to our member on our extranet.
Contentious conversation 1 – integrity of analysts and the future of AR
Blog my Tom Bittman from Gartner – A Rant – My Integrity as an Analyst
Summary: Gartner analyst angry that he has to justify his integrity
My view: Edelman trust barometer consistently shows that over the past few years analysts are the most trusted
Key comments: Vinnie Mirchandani questioning whether Gartner’s reliance on large vendor subscriptions means that their reports are truly representative
What this means:
There is an ongoing fight regarding how independent an analyst can be if they receive money from vendors. Whereas some firms in the past have been ‘White Paper for hire’ houses, they tend to lose industry respect very quickly and go bust. What can not be in doubt is that in subscribing to an analyst house, you have the ability to pay for more time in front of the analysts leading to a greater chance to educate them – often this will result in a more favourable position. I am not saying that to be successful in AR you need to have subs, it is more a case of – it helps.
The secondary argument (and possibly more important) is by having a look at who the key participants in this debate are. On one side we have the analyst and the other we have the IT advisor. The latter group frequently comes from an analyst background (see Vinnie Mirchandani, ex-Gartner; Ray Wang, ex-Forrester) but in their current role do not have a research agenda. By default this does not make them (in their mind) an analyst.
However, I believe we are playing semantics. Our view in AR needs to be simple: if they affect IT buying then they are an influencer and need to be dealt with accordingly. AR most closely deals with these individuals – we may need to adapt a different name so that they don’t get upset by being labelled analysts but they will remain a key audience for us to engage with and should continue to enjoy the same disclosure benefits that traditional analysts enjoy. With the growth of firms like Altimeter Group, this fundamental shift towards a larger influencer group will become more important than ever over the next few years.
Contentious conversation 2 – analysts liable for ‘incorrect’ positioning
Article in IT Knowledge Exchange – Email archiving vendor sues Gartner over Magic Quadrant
Summary: Claiming that Gartner’s MQ constitute “disparaging, false/misleading, and unfair statements” about its email archiving product that have done damage to its sales prospects, ZL filed suit for damages of $132 million to account for lost sales.
My view: This fight has caused great PR for ZL but someone’s position in an MQ should not be a surprise. If a vendor believes they are unfairly positioned the time to argue this point is before the quadrant is published.
The power of a positive ranking in Gartner is immense because it is often the case that large purchases of technology are based exclusively on the MQ Reports…For instance, the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently conducted an investigation into the use of the Gartner’s MQ reports in connection with the VA’s $16,000,0000 purchase of certain leases and services from Dell. The Office of Inspector General reported that the VA made this large purchase based solely on the leadership rankings in the relevant Gartner MQ report. (source: initial complaint)
In Mark Logic’s excellent analysis of this case, he makes the following comment about whether having the best technology means that someone should be positioned superior to another company who simply has better sales and marketing.
While Ingres arguably had the best database technology in the 1980s, Oracle’s sales and marketing prowess caused it to win the market and any analyst who — focused solely on the technology — would have recommended Ingres at that time would have done his customers a disservice.”
What this means:
Like it or not, Gartner are the original 800lb gorilla. Whether it is right or wrong, the fact remains that their MQ inherently has an influence in IT buying behaviour. What AR pros need to do is work with the analyst ideally six months prior to any publication to fully understand what success criteria are to be better positioned as a leader and work towards those goals. A great way to understand how to work with an MQ can be seen in the great IIAR White Paper.
We have to accept that the firm with the best technology does not always win (see Betamax vs. VHS) – for a company to be successful, they will need to have a great product that is complemented by a sound go-to-market strategy. Luckily for us this is where AR can help.
Last week IIAR hosted a call with AR professionals about sharing best practices for managing the Forrester Wave. The IIAR last month published a paper about the Wave, which outlined common best practices in dealing with this high profile research report. Forrester is also in the middle of reviewing changes to the methodology, although it has signaled it doesn’t expect major changes this go around.
Curious to get other AR managers’ thoughts on the Wave. What has been your experience, and do you have any best practices you want to share?
For IIAR members, the paper is available on our extranet > Managing the Forrester Wave
It’s all too easy to assume that by briefing the lead analyst on a vendor or on a coverage area, your job as AR professional is done.
While some firms have robust sharing practices, such as repositories for presentations and vendor briefing teams that check which other analysts may be interested in a briefing, you can’t rely on those for the following reasons.
- You know best what you’re trying to say.
Vendor briefings follow the firms’ coverage model, and it usually works. However, you might want to brief some analysts in a “new” area, as you’re about to launch a new product or respond to new trends. Think for instance of Cisco entering the servers market, Oracle launching apps for the iPhone, etc…
- Politics hinder the information flow Some topics breach the usual silos within analyst firms and as a result you need to brief several analysts. In an ideal world, we would all be working in happy-family-like-companies and all work together towards achieving the highest customer satisfaction. However, some analysts may not view positively others stepping on their coverage area while others may not spontaneously and proactively share the information. It’s not only job protection, it’s also the fact that they tend to have incredibly busy schedules, with some targeted to produce over 15 notes per year, in addition to the briefings, the sales calls, the events and the customer engagements.
- Metrics can prevent analysts from collaborating
The way people are incented can also play a role. In some firms analysts get more brownie points for notes they write solo (which is IMHO as perverse as incentives for long notes). So, do make sure you tell everyone what you’re up to to facilitate collaboration (but don’t force it).
- The coverage model may not work for what you’re trying to say
For instance, if your are doing AR for some products that are not part of a firm’s coverage map but may impact the edges of some analysts’ interest areas. There are also firms that have decided to cover “roles”, which can mean that they won’t effectively cover industries. In those cases, try to find a theme that’s of interest to some analysts or propose vertical case studies to horizontal analysts.
Key learning point: look further than the “obvious” analysts, remember your job is to sell ideas and not everyone’s buying off plans!
(Our thanks go to Steve Keifer for writing this appreciation of Larry De’Ath, who died this time last year. Steve outlines Larry’s views on analyst relations, which were always notable. I first came across Larry in 1999, when he was at Merant, but really got to know him in 2004 after he joined GXS. It’s a pleasure to bring his insight to a wider audience.)
Last April, Larry De’Ath, a good friend and colleague of mine passed away. I had the opportunity to work with Larry for a little over four years during his time at GXS. Larry had a number of things he was extremely passionate about – the RIM Blackberry device; drinking Diet Coke; golf trips to Thailand; Chinese history and culture; and most importantly, his two daughters. But at work his passion was concentrated on analyst relations. Before I met Larry I had never really given much thought to the function of Analyst Relations (AR). To me, it was just one of those things that the Public Relations(PR) team did in addition to their core purposes of issuing news releases, seeking media coverage and shaping public opinions about the firm. But to Larry, AR was the most important aspect of corporate communications.
It is amazing how when you meet someone who is very passionate about a particular hobby, subject or career, how that person’s enthusiasm can shape your opinions as well. Such was the case with AR and Larry. Through my work with Larry, I gained a newfound appreciation for the complexities of AR. And I learned how someone who is highly skilled in the AR trade can generate significantly higher ROI from analyst firms and broader market influence. AR is really about building relationships with people and attempting to influence their thinking on topics relevant to your company. I think one of the keys to Larry’s effectiveness with AR was the fact that he held sales roles earlier in his career. As a result, he had strong relationship building skills and he knew how to sell ideas.
Having had one year to reflect on the lessons I learned from Larry, I decided to put together a Top 10 list of the Best Practices in AR he advocated. My list is below, but I would encourage those of you who knew Larry personally to add your own comments as well.
#1 – Separate the research function from the relationship function
There are two primary functions related to analysts within technology vendors. One function is primarily inbound and research-oriented, focused on reviewing secondary market research for the purposes of competitive analysis, market sizing and SWOT analysis. The other is primarily outbound and relationship-oriented, focused on briefing analysts on new product releases; corporate strategy and customer case studies. Larry believed that although the two functions were closely related and interdependent, there was also a logical segmentation between the two. The process of analyzing the research and supporting inquiries from within the organization can be quite time-consuming, handicapping the ability to perform important outreach activities. Consequently, Larry always recommended a clear division between the responsibilities so as to avoid any competing priorities.
#2 – Centralized management of corporate communications programs
Larry believed in centralized management of AR out of global headquarters. Even regional activities local to Europe, Asia and Latin America, he thought should be coordinated centrally. In fact, Larry advocated that not only PR and AR, but also Investor Relations (IR) should be owned by one group. However, for public companies, Larry recognized that IR functions require a direct reporting relationship to the CFO to be credible. The benefit of centralization was to ensure consistency and mitigate the risk of mistakes. Larry also believed that maintaining relationships with analysts was a key function that should not delegated to an outside firm. Consequently, he frowned upon the use of specialized, external agencies.
#3 – You can never have too many people at an analyst briefing
Larry viewed the role of the AR manager as a facilitator. His job was not to be the expert on every aspect of the company’s products, customers, financials and strategy. Instead, he viewed his role as providing analysts with access to the most knowledgeable subject matter experts for various disciplines. He was not afraid to ask for time commitments from executives to ensure that each and every question an analyst had during a formal briefing could be adequately addressed. Consequently, it was not uncommon for Larry to gather ten or more people in the room for an important briefing with a single Gartner, Forrester or AMR analyst.
#4- Invest strategically in Tier 2 research firms
Many marketing executives are tempted to concentrate all analyst focus on the top 4 firms (Gartner, Forrester, IDC and AMR). However, Larry always sought to diversify his spend. He would reserve a healthy percentage of his budget to fund other analysts he viewed as strategic, even if they did not have the brand name, reputation or reach of the Tier 1s. For example, Larry was a strong advocate of firms such as Yankee Group and Current Analysis. One of the key benefits Larry advocated in working with Tier 2-3 firms was the flexibility they could offer for custom market research, joint public relations and contracted marketing services.
#5 – Demand high-performance from the analyst account teams
Larry took his role very seriously and expected those supporting him to have an equivalent level of commitment. If he believed he was not receiving adequate service Larry would not hesitate to escalate his concerns until the issues were resolved or a new point of contact was assigned. Many vendors are reluctant to complain about poor service from the client managers at the analyst firms for fear of negatively impacting vendor reviews. However, Larry understood the analyst firms well enough to know that their primary concern was client satisfaction.
#6 – Understand what is important to the analyst both professionally and personally
Larry would make a point to understand how analysts were measured and what flexibility they had to work with vendors. He would then focus on ways he could help the analyst meet their targets for research publications or end-user client inquiries. Not only did Larry understand the professional motivations of the analysts he worked with, but he understood their personal ambitions as well. For example, he could tell you whether the analyst was planning to have any kids; whether they were planning to have surgery; or whether they were planning to buy a second home on the beach. Sometimes he would call analysts with no particular reason other than just to say hello.
#7 – Shape the marketing programs budget to benefit AR
Most executives recognize the importance of maintaining good-relationships with a group of key influencers in the purchasing process is known. However, they are also cautious about committing too much budget to AR functions. Larry was always creative in finding ways to supplement the core spend levels he maintained for research and advisory services. One of the strategies I always admired was how he was able to leverage other marketing programs budget to effectively increase the total spend he committed to key firms. For example, Larry would use analysts to judge customer awards programs; facilitate customer advisory councils; and present at executive planning sessions.
#8 – Advocate for the analysts internally within your organization
Larry recognized that the AR professional’s job was not only to advocate for his company with the analysts, but also to advocate for the analysts within his company. Larry would hunt down customer references to ensure that his analysts had adequate end-user engagement. He would proactively engage product managers to obtain pre-briefings for analysts on new product launches. If an analyst was visiting headquarters for an on-site briefing, he would schedule a 1-hour briefing that anyone on the management team could attend. All of these activities helped to increase the visibility of analysts within the company and supported efforts to justify continued investments in the AR programs.
#9 – Get executive face time
Larry believed strongly in providing one-on-one interactions between analysts and the CEO, CFO, CTO and other key executives. This practice was a win-win scenario for the AR group. The analyst valued the privileged access they were being provided to top level management. And the executives enjoyed hearing both positive and negative feedback from the analyst firm. The C-level sponsorship often resulted in much greater level of attention being applied to the issues, risks and challenges identified by the analyst. As a result, Larry could then follow up with the analyst to demonstrate how their feedback was taken seriously.
#10 – Treat vendor evaluations like a multi-million dollar RFP response
Larry placed an incredible amount of energy and focus towards vendor evaluations such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant and the Forrester Wave. He understood clearly the link between strong performance in analyst rankings and the competitiveness of the sales team in major accounts. Poor placement on the Magic Quadrant or Wave could result in being excluded from RFPs from major clients. Conversely, strong placement in the Leaders category along with advocacy from the leading analyst covering a technology segment, could be a key factor in winning large deals with multi-national customers.