Archive | Guest Posts – Other

Guest posts by other professionals

[GUEST POST] Why Startups Need Analyst Relations More Than Growth Hacking

By Theo Pristley (@tprstly, LinkedIn), originally posted here on Forbes and republished with his express permission. Co-authored with Ian Gotts (@iangottsLinkedIn), tech advisor, investor, speaker and author.)

 

Industry and IT analyst firms collage (IIAR blog)

Analysts Or PR ?

You’re an innovative and growing startup, I get that. You’ve got a fab new product or service that’s going drive dramatic benefits for enterprise customers, I get that. You’ve even got a blog to push out great customer stories now and then, I get that too.

But how do you accelerate growth without piling on expensive sales guys? Or employing ninja growth hackers? And how do you make it easier for the large corporates to find you and get comfortable placing big orders with you?

ANSWER: You create relationships with the analyst community. And here’s why.



Analysts are important



Analysts have the ear of people with the purse strings. When they speak, the C-Suite listens. When a company goes out to tender for a third party product invariably an analyst will be involved in the decision making process, whether directly as a result of a consultation or indirectly through a research paper. They are able to influence not only potential customers, but they also coach and advise your potential acquirer on their product strategy including which vendors to buy.

Being included in an analyst research note is worth more than 100 blog posts, column inches in the FT/ WSJ or exhibiting at the next xyz conference. You need the analysts, whether you like it or not, to survive in both the short-term and thrive in the long term because their word carries weight. If a customer refers to an analyst for a product shortlist and you’ve never engaged with the analyst you can guarantee you’ll never make that list no matter how mind-blowingly awesome your product is.

Analyst Relations (AR) can deliver far greater short term and long term tangible benefits than any PR campaigns. Yet many startups start engaging PR before they even consider AR.

It’s never too early



It takes time to build a relationship with the right analysts that cover your product’s area. Let’s not confuse a relationship with meeting the analyst once or twice and fire-hosing them with your product pitch. You are aiming for a relationship of mutual respect, and that takes time to develop which is why engaging as early as possible is critical for survival for a startup. Done well it can position a vendor ahead of the short list in product selections and gain the attention of the leaders of industry, the media, and the competition. Poor (or no) analyst relations can result in your product being ignored by potential clients and it may limit your penetration in your existing clients

Being spotted by an analyst early on is major kudos for a small company but also for the analyst because they love to be the one who discovered a cool new vendors and write about them. And it’s also their opportunity to help you out and form part of your success. Analysts are no different from anyone else, they love being part of the action and have an ego to fuel. And again, it can’t be stressed enough, if they don’t know you neither will their clients when they ask about the market.

IIAR Blog: Box leader in the Magic Quadrant re-tweeted by Aaron Levie

Even the cool customer Levie knows the value of an analyst

But they are expensive and we don’t have the time!



Certainly, there are costs with engaging with analysts. Most charge an annual fee to be a client and have access to the analysts and research. But don’t think that you can buy your way to the top of a Magic Quadrant or Wave, or into the minds of the analysts. Or that paying for one or two consulting engagements with the analysts will do it. Think relationship, not prostitution.

Often it is the amount of money that vendors perceive they have to spend which stops them building a relationship with the analysts. The issue is most vendors spend too much money in the wrong places. It doesn’t have to be that way.

And apart from the hefty fees they ask you to sign up for there’s also the potential overhead of someone in an Analyst Relations role. Traditionally this is a new, fairly junior hire or it is outsourced to a PR/AR agency. Both of these lead to the wrong relationship being developed with the analysts, but it is a very common mistake.

Analysts need to be briefed on product functionality, but they are far more interested in customer stories. However, meeting or calls with analysts, understanding their needs and providing the information they need in the format that they want can be time consuming. They often feel like they are more difficult to deal with than clients. But they can afford to be as their influence and value is so much greater than even your best client.

What is required is a carefully crafted strategy and deep understanding of what drives analysts and how they operate. It also needs someone who has the ability and gravitas to engage them as peers and forge that professional relationship your company and product deserves. It’s not about booking appointments or groveling for time. It is the role of a senior exec or founder who inevitably has other priorities – company operation, client sales or product strategy.

So how do I make this work?

Few senior executives have engaged with analysts or developed an effective analyst strategy. And with conflicting priorities, they do not have the time or luxury to learn. But companies readily hire a Non-Exec Director to add an external perspective, exercising their ancient Rolodex and to sit on a board. Their brief is often financial or governance and theyoffer pithy advice like “if you sell more and spend less”.

A more cost effective approach is to hire a Non-Exec Director or Advisor who understands Analyst Relations and can help shape the analyst strategy, coach the senior team on the best way to engage with analysts, and act as a sounding board for decisions. They will add more value to the business as your go to market plans are meaningless without the visibility in the market that strong analyst relationships will bring.

For the price of a junior in a PR or AR firm, or hiring an intern growth hacker, you can bag a NED or Advisor who knows how to tango with the analysts.

And that’s when you can hook bigger fish.

 

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[GUEST POST] Why AR comes before PR. Just look in the dictionary.

By Ian Gotts / Founder and CEO, Elements.cloud (LinkedIn, @iangotts).

You’re an innovative and growing software vendor, I get that. You’ve got a fab new product that’s going drive dramatic benefits for enterprise customers, I get that.You’ve even got a blog to push out great customer stories now and then, I get that too.

But how do you accelerate growth without piling on expensive sales guys? And how do you make it easier for the large corporates to find you and get comfortable placing big orders with you?

ANSWER: You create relationships with the analyst community. And here’s why. Continue Reading →

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

By Peggy O’Neill (@pegoneill, LinkedIn) from Informatica.

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] A tale of two sales teams – an analysis of Gartner’s & Forrester’s 2012 financials

Dave Noble / Intelligen AR (‎@IntelligenAR, LinkedIn) recently posted a good insight on his blog at looking in to the financial results of Gartner and Forrester. To go directly to the article click this link.

If you ever wanted evidence that success in the analyst business is about more than good research, then the latest financial results from Gartner and Forrester tell the story – it’s as much

If you ever wanted evidence that success in the analyst business is about more than good research, then the latest financial results from Gartner and Forrester tell the story – it’s as much about sales performance as anything else.

In its earnings call on Wednesday (US time) Forrester chairman & CEO, George Colony, CFO Michael Doyle & recently-appointed chief sales officer, Mike Morhardt, all pinned the blame for weak 2012 results on a complex sales compensation plan implemented in early 2012, which subsequently accelerated salesforce attrition & impacted bookings growth. Continue Reading →

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[Guest Post] Why IT Vendors Should Take Industry Analysts (More) Seriously

By: Dr Neil Pollock, University of Edinburgh Business School

After several years’ research on industry analysts and IT Research firms there are some interesting conclusions to be reached on how industry analyst firms are exerting influence on IT vendors and their product markets. This is just a snapshot of some of Dr. Pollock’s findings.

1. Industry Analysts Stifle Novelty

The first point shows how industry analysts are one of the new ‘institutions of information technology’ with the cognitive authority to shape technological fields. One common way they do this is through proposing names and definitions for emerging technological trends, an activity with positive and negative consequences. We saw, for instance, how this could stifle innovation. IT vendors offering new kinds of products were penalised if their technologies did not conform to standard product definitions. We observed how one seemingly novel solution belonging to a newcomer received a critical review, which led to its rejection from a major procurement contest, effectively calling into question the robustness of its solution. The suggestion here is that industry analysts can help but also hinder innovation. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Big Dogs don’t yap: the secret ingredient for MQ success

Blog courtesy of: Simon Levin (IIAR Board Member)

What is it that makes the difference when it comes to making the step up into the Leaders section of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant? Ever wondered what companies who gain recognition as Leaders have in common? Having seen four of our MQ Tune-Up clients gain Leaders status for the first time last quarter, I thought it might be interesting to go looking for some common themes or attributes.

And as it turned out, the exercise was well worth the effort, because it highlighted one key factor I’d never consciously identified before.

We’re calling it the Big Dog syndrome, and it’s all about looking the part, acting like a Leader right from the start, and, above all, believing that that top right quadrant is your rightful home.

There’s more about this idea on The Skills Connection’s blog but the essence of it is blindingly simple. For a company to be perceived as a Leader, it has to have a leaderly air about it. It has to radiate conviction, as well as competence. It needs to put its case across well, but without the yapping, snapping desperation that marks out those that try too hard. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Timing is everything

There’s no penalty for jumping the gun

On your marks. Get Set. Go. When the starting gun goes off, there is always going to be a rush of adrenalin, a surge of excitement, and a striving to get up to speed and do your best.

But when the starting gun goes off in relation to a Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) assessment of your company, in many ways it is already too late.

Magic Quadrants generally appear once a year. For the companies who are on the receiving end, they can be make or break factors, with a huge influence on business prospects for the year ahead.

For the analysts involved, they are important pieces of work, but they have to be fitted in alongside research reports, client inquiries and meetings, events and presentations, custom engagements, webinars, blogs, and a host of other commitments. Leaving all the rest of an analyst’s annual workload aside, producing a Magic Quadrant means identifying and investigating multiple companies that will appear in the final diagram. On top of this, the analyst has to give due consideration to all the peripheral candidates that need to be evaluated before decisions can be taken about whether or not they should be included.

The wonder is not that so many MQ assessments leave so many vendors feeling disappointed, but that so many MQs win general acceptance as being pretty fair, diligent, and useful assessments of the state of play in particular markets.

To read the full article click here.

Extract courtesy of Simon Levin, MD (Europe) – The Skills Connection

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What’s happening at Yankee Group?

Yankee’s Group’s summer repositioning and restructuring has, more or less, completed the firm’s evolution from a full-service analyst and consulting firm into a data-driven research and advisory firm focussed on mobility (which the firm defines as advancements that enable fluid access to any content, applications or services from any device, by anyone, from anywhere at anytime). Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] 7 Insights to Great Analyst Relations

[This interview was originally by Andrea Edwards (@SAJEIdeas) from SAJE on their blog. This post contains a few learnings that are applicable to other geographies, in particular that personal relationships matter more than in the USA.]

A chat with Dane Anderson, CEO and Executive Vice President, Springboard Research, Singapore 

I had the pleasure of working with Dane Anderson when we were both at IDC. Dane is a terrific person and I have tremendous respect for him as an analyst, and his deep knowledge of the ITC industry, especially in Asia Pacific, is extremely impressive. But then he has been doing this for a long time. On another level, I have also found it extremely encouraging  watching Springboard Research grow into one of the most influential analyst firms in Asia Pacific in a very short time – not just because they deliver great research, but because they are motivated by passion, integrity and honesty. It’s a great story in its own right.

Always supportive of my ventures, I asked Dane if I could interview him for my blog, focusing on how ITC vendors could achieve greater results working with the industry analyst community.

Here’s what Dane had to say:

1.   How does Asia Pacific measure up with its analyst relations programs? Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Why Virtual Events Should Become Part of Your AR Strategy by Steve Loudermilk

Thanks to Steve Loudermilk, Global Head of Industry Analyst Relations  at Alcatel-Lucent Services Group (LinkedIn@LoudyOutLoud) for this post.

I’m fast becoming a big believer in virtual events as an essential part of a comprehensive AR strategy.  There are many reasons for my enthusiastic position on virtual events.

In today’s fast-paced world of analyst relations, we are under constant pressure from our clients and executives to interact with our analysts in many ways.  These interactions include face-to-face meetings, phone briefings, and “virtual” interactions through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. Continue Reading →

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[GUEST POST] Analyzing the Analysts: Comparison of Gartner and Forrester by James McGovern

James McGovern (@mcgoverntheory) has posted this on his blog (Enterprise Architecture: From Incite comes Insight) recently: Analyzing the Analysts: Comparison of Gartner and Forrester and I thought it was too good not to cross-post. So here you go, what do you think?

Analyzing the Analysts: Comparison of Gartner and Forrester

I have frequent interactions with industry analysts in my day job as an Enterprise Architect for a Fortune 100 enterprise. Likewise, during evening hours I can be found on Twitter under the handle of McGovernTheory engaging in virtualized short-form conversations where many analysts also hang out.

I currently follow the likes of Ray Wang of Altimeter, Nick Selby of Trident Risk Management, Brenda Michelson of Elemental Links, James Governor of Redmonk and others who periodically throw daggers. Their comparisons are usually cordial and tend to leave out certain relevant detail for us end-customer types to fully understand the real conversation. The challenge of the outsider looking in.

Industry Analyst Relations professionals such as Barbara French and Carter Lusher provide great insight for vendors on which analyst firms to work with, but otherwise leave a void in that they don’t address end customer considerations. Today’s blog entry starts with me attempting to emulate their style. Imitation is the best form of flattery…

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Relations Basics – part two

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.

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[GUEST POST] Analyst Relations Basics – part one

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.

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[GUEST POST] Measuring online influence

By Duncan Brown / Influencer50 (LinkedIn, @duncanwbrown).

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.

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[GUEST POST] What are My Secret AR Weapons?

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?

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[Guest Post] Have online channels changed the nature of influence?

By Duncan Brown / Influencer50 (LinkedIn, @duncanwbrown).

Determining the impact of the growth in online channels such as social media is one of the things that taxes most of us. I’m forever seeing new ‘influencer tracker’ services pop up, and in the world of analyst relations there’s continual discussion on whether and how to engage in online options like blogs, podcasts and social networking.

In response to the explosion of online influencer tracker services – there are over 100 nowadays, and counting – Nick Hayes and I wrote a paper* on how we think they are misleading marketers. The paper led to an invitation to post on the IIAR blog, to hopefully spark some discussion – thanks for the invite, Ludovic.

This first post focuses on whether influence as a concept has changed with the use of online channels. The second will look at how influence can be measured using online metrics. And the third will discuss the implications of online channels for AR and Influencer Relations professionals.

There’s an important context to any debate on influence, online or otherwise. It is that ecosystems of influencers are highly fragmented these days. Most decision makers are influenced by the traditional journalists and analysts, but also by consultants, academics, regulators, financiers, sourcing advisors, procurement professionals and other specialists, as well as peer end users.

Much of the influence exerted by this group has been enabled, in large part, by online channels. This has been an ongoing process for a decade. The web and search engines make it easier for anyone to reach the market, and easier for buyers to find what they’re looking for. Blogs and podcasts increase the reach of anyone inclined to use them. Social media is just the next step in this evolution – there’s no social media revolution going on.

But social media has provided a new channel for those people with the potential to influence, making communication between those people frictionless.  To reach a group of like-minded adopters of a technology you used to have to organise a meeting in a mutually inconvenient location. Nowadays, you organise an unconference or participate in an online forum. It used to take months to organise an event, now it can take hours.

But has the nature of influence changed? Are decision makers influenced in different ways through online channels? You’d think so, given the hype, but as Nate Elliott at Forrester observed, “the huge majority of users influence each other face to face rather than through social online channels.”

It makes sense to understand the attributes of influence – the ability to discuss and persuade, knowledge and experience, willingness to express an opinion, the authority and gravitas with which to communicate that opinion, the opportunity to convey that opinion to the right audience at the right time. And so on.

Some of these attributes are facilitated by online channels, for sure. Others are removed from online impact completely. There’s no doubt that some of the smaller analyst firms, for example, are benefitting from their online presence, in terms of reaching their potential audience through blogging and other social media technologies. But these channels are not creating expertise or authority – simply the means to communicate them.

Can social media create a new kind of influence, by collative the collective wisdom of a connected crowd? After all, there is safety in numbers in doing what the crowd does. We used to have a version of that in the IT industry – no-one ever got fired for buying IBM. Imagine the power of that kind of statement, communicated instantly over the blogosphere. Or would it be immediately challenged and rejected by real users’ experience?

So, are analysts influencing via online channels? How is influence really conveyed by analysts to decision makers? Has it moved mainly to online or is it still by telephone enquiries and face-to-face advice?

*Free registration required, or email me at duncan.brown(at)influencer50.com. Barbara French also contributed to the paper.

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[Guest post] Blogger relations at SAP by Michael Krigsman

By Michael Krigsman / ZDnet (LinkedIn, @mkrigsman).

 

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.

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Enterprise software vendors are an important part of the blogging dialog ecosystem, along with technology customers, analysts, system integrators, and public relations firms.

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:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zHrCZn0uFg]

Link to Youtube clip of Mike Prosceno / VP Social Media relations at SAP.

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.

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