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[GUEST POST] Building credibility to boost sales with IT Analyst Relations

This Guest Posting was first published on Influencer Relations and Marketing, author Sven Litke, Kea Company. Many thanks for allowing the IIAR to re-publish.

When talking to IT vendors eager to grow their business I usually come across a number of common challenges they face. One of the biggest issues which lies outside the companies (as opposed to e. g. finance requirements to fund the growth or adding enough skilled people to their workforce) is that once they are moving out of their comfort zone they are facing prospects that are much more skeptical than those in their home markets.

It seems to be a common pattern that vendors manage to grow to a certain size (depending on the size of their home market this is often somewhere between five and twenty million dollars) and then start thinking about ways to expand further. This often is when they are confronted with the ‘real outside world’ for the first time. Before this they managed to successfully leverage their network, or simply were the vendor with an office location closest to where the customer was. This kind of home advantage usually works up to a certain point. You might be able to successfully sell to new clients based on recommendations from your network to 2nd degree connections but that’s about where it stops. When you are dealing with prospects who have never heard of you and who don’t have any other obvious connection path (be it geographically or personal) to your company the selling gets much tougher. Obviously the first thing any vendor will do is to bring his USPs to the attention of the potential buyer. But be honest: How many competitors are out there who are making similar claims in regards to their or their solution’s capabilities? At this stage it doesn’t matter if their (or your) claims are true because at this stage the only thing that matters is the question of who is going to get the chance to proof their claims either by further demonstrations, POCs, trials or ideally by closing the deal.

A similar challenge vendors are facing is connected to the deal size. A lot of customers are willing to ‘risk’ a limited amount of money on a new vendor or a solution that is new to the market. With increasing deal size this inclination to take some risk quickly declines which is why smaller or new vendors often fail to win the larger deals in the market. This is also true in regards to the ‘business criticality’ of a solution. Buying something that is a nice to have from a new vendor is much easier than buying a solution that is business critical or security relevant from an unproven source.

Credibility wins business.

With markets where there are typically multiple vendors offering multiple solutions for a problem the buyer needs to significantly narrow down the field of potential suppliers. So being on the short list for further evaluation must be the primary goal in the early stage of the sales process. This is where the topic of credibility comes into play. When competing in their home markets a vendor is virtually guaranteed to get a place on the short list. Once competing outside: Not so much. Credibility means that a potential customer has enough trust in the claims you make about your company and your solution to give you the chance to prove yourself. Having credible sales people goes a long way towards that goal but obviously they are very hard to find. In addition some customers will never accept anything coming directly from a vendor at face value.  Also references help to generate trust, even though the effectiveness of a reference quickly declines when they are not meeting the criteria a specific customer is looking for. This can include the requirement for a reference from the same country, the same vertical or of similar size – or ideally all of this at the same time. And of course if you were not lucky enough to acquire the right mix of reference customers in your home market this only brings you back to the initial problem of getting new customers in the first place. So the question remains how to best handle the credibility issue.

Influencers create credibility

This is where influencer relations has its place in the marketing mix. People like journalist and industry analysts make their living from evaluating technologies, vendors and solutions. Industry analysts in particular are heavily involved in advising technology buyers in regards to their vendor selection and short list creation. With industry analyst groups such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC and Ovum influencing between 40% and 60% of commercial technology sales their market reach is much bigger than anything a midsize vendor can hope to achieve on its own. This means that being mentioned by analysts – either in written research or in 1:1 inquiries – will open up indirect access to many potential customers. Coverage in official research publications is the most powerful tool for your sales people and your marketing materials to demonstrate that your technology, company, products and service offerings and methods are highly recognized and credible.

Analysts are writing about your market, whether you like it or not. Being pro-active in reaching out to analysts gives you the strategic advantage of being able to influence their research by providing them with the insight they need, when they need it. Analyst Relations is not a billion dollar club. It is critical that analysts are well informed of your company strategy, products, and services. This needs to be an ongoing process to maintain a top-of-mind status, especially for a vendor that aims for higher name recognition and company growth. Early engagement with analysts is a great way to get analyst buy-in and top-of-mind presence to increase credibility and in turn to secure your place on the short list and to boost sales.

This Guest Posting was first published on Influencer Relations and Marketing.

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[GUEST POST] Gartner Updates: Notes from the AR regional briefing in the UK

Gartner has its ‘listening hat’ on at the UK AR Regional BriefingNew methodologies introduced by Gartner

Gartner recently opened its doors to AR professionals with a day of presentations and interactive workshops targeted at the influencer relations community. The idea was to build on the AR forums given at the Gartner Symposium conferences and spend more time on topics that we, as AR professionals, have said we wanted to know more about.

Overall, it was an excellent event with a good balance of presentations and interactive discussions. The first panel slot was rather over staged and an over-run at the start of the day left little time for what must have been one of the most useful sessions of the day by David Black on Gartner reports and methodologies (“Gartner Update: Magic Quadrant Contextualization and Critical Capabilities”). See below for a summary of the updates. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Key Requirements for Vendors When Briefing Software Analysts

DrNatalie%20Headshot%20color[1]By NataliePetouhoff from Constellation Research.

In any given week, analysts hear many pitches. What may not be apparent is “How engaged is the analyst?” So if you are a vendor, how do you engage an analyst? First, don’t be one of those people who is more interested in getting through all your slides in the short period of time you have with the analyst versus really having an engaging conversation with the analyst. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Can you build a meaningful relationship with analysts, even if you don’t pay them?

“We have a problem with analysts,” I hear you say. “You have to buy analyst services to have a good relationship with them,” has got to be the most common phrase any analyst relations professional hears from colleagues.

Cynicism reigns when it comes to judging analysts, which reflects the way many of us might feel about the role they, and other influencers, have when recommending IT products or services.

Admittedly some are harder to engage than others if you do not have a subscription, but is that true of all Analyst Houses or is there a middle ground?

Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] This Thursday, learn what the new Ovum is up to: webinar with CEO Steve Hotham

The new CEO at OvumSteve Hotham, is hosting a webinar on Thursday this week (May 22nd 2014) at 1600 UK time.

It’s open to all AR professionals and users of the current Ovum and Informa Telecoms & Media (ITM) research services.

According to Claire Booty, PR manager for Ovum, Steve will use the webinar to explain the rationale behind the merger of Ovum and ITM, highlight its new products, research agenda, and introduce key staff appointments.

If you want to attend, just email Claire with the names, job roles and contact details of those who wish to attend. She’ll send you all the details.

 

 

About the author

David Rossiter (LinkedIn@davidrossiter) runs Sunesis, a specialist AR agency, and writes the Analyst Insight blog.  He is a former board member of the IIAR and is now co-chair of the UK chapter.

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[GUEST POST] 451 hires ex Ovum, Gartner chief to lead global research

Brett AzumaIt was good to hear from Brett Azuma last week. He got in touch to let me know he’s just been appointed to lead the 60-strong analyst team at 451 Research.

If you don’t know him already, Brett’s an experienced and well-respected leader.  He’s previously held senior positions at Ovum, where he was managing director, and Gartner, where he was group vice president/chief analyst. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] “This position has now been filled” – IIAR and Job Postings

When the IIAR was first formed, one of its goals was to enable members to help each other achieve their goals. Primarily this has taken the form of sharing best practice, but we also recognised the value in publishing job postings – analyst relations is quite a specialist field, after all.

A logical place for IIAR member Logicalis to post an ad for a new Analyst Relations manager, therefore, was in the Jobs section of the IIAR web site. (http://analystrelations.org/member-resources/ar-jobs-shop/)

Less suspected, however, was just how successful – and quick – the exercise would be. Says Joanne Nelson, AR manager at Logicalis, “I received 14 applications for the role in a matter of 2 weeks, from the IIAR advert, both from freelance and agencies.”

The job was posted on 25th September, and in a matter of days enough good candidates were in the pot for interviewing to start. “On a first pass all the candidates were a suitable level with solid experience and a few came recommended by other well known IIAR members, which was helpful.”

In what is possibly a recruitment speed record, the job was filled by the 14th October. Not only did this save a great deal of time for Logicalis, but also the whole exercise was a great deal cheaper than using a head-hunter. “As it happens, my chosen candidate is a former IIAR Board member, which gave a further level of credibility,” says Joanne.

This does raise the question – what do recruitment consultants become? No doubt they will continue to have a role. In such a well-specified domain and close-knit community as Analyst Relations however, the most logical place to start is with who you know.

If you would like to know more about the IIAR, its membership and services, don’t hesitate to get in touch at by emailing secretary [at) analystrelations (dot) org. Thanks!

ad link: http://analystrelations.org/2013/09/25/job-posting-analyst-relations-manager-logicalis-group-uk/#more-7378

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[GUEST POST] Ode to the Analyst Firm Salesperson and Other Key Non-Analysts

I just survived Gartner Symposium in Orlando and as part of my regular post mortem, I analyze what went well and what I can do to improve the experience next year. A critical player for me this week is my Gartner salesperson, which got me thinking about how many AR managers neglect this key participant in their program.

Analyst firm salespeople are unsung heroes in the AR world because AR managers tend to overly focus on our analysts and overlook these useful resources. I remember one year when I was at Oracle OpenWorld, I took out my account execs for dinner one evening – no analysts, only my key salespeople from the major firms to a fun dinner as a thank you and hosted them, as usually it’s the salesperson hosting us. This was years ago so hopefully things have gotten better out there, but I was saddened when one of my account execs said it was the first time he saw an AR manager do something special for sales rather than for an analyst. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Quiz: How Mature is Your Analyst Relations Program?

  1. How often are you surprised by an important analyst report impacting your company?

    1. All the time, my life sucks.

    2. Every now and then my morning is ruined.

    3. Not often, sometimes a peripheral analyst will write something unexpected without checking in.

    4. It would be unusual, as my analysts know I’m a maniac about draft review and I’m pestering them all the time about coverage anyway.

    5. Seldom, as I have good visibility into their research agendas, and in fact I suggested the last two report topics for my key analysts. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] When Your Company Takes Out Your Favorite Analyst

By Peggy O’Neill, AR Director / Informatica (LinkedIn).

It happens to the best of us. Your analyst relations program is humming along nicely – your analysts are behaving, your internal constituents under control – when one day, wham! You get a call from one of your SVPs sharing some exciting news! Joe Analyst, one of your company’s key advocates, has now joined your company.

AR managers will inevitably grapple with this scenario as analysts migrate to vendors often. Informatica took out two high profile analysts last year and I’ve experienced this at previous employers too. AR managers can expect certain behaviors when an analyst who used to cover your company comes inside, so your best bet is to prepare for when that day hits and take full advantage of the opportunity. Continue Reading →

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