By Caroline Dennington / Dennington AR (@CDennington, LinkedIn).
Summer is upon us and though that means wet weather for Caroline Dennington in the UK and heatwaves and wildfires for Caroline’s writing partner Phil Nash, analyst relations (AR) professionals around the globe are getting ready for another busy event season with the industry influencers.
InfoSec and Forrester Forum have already taken place in London and once again, Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit in Washington, exceeded all expectations attracting a huge delegate audience and of course, hundreds of analysts!
With Symposium, IDC Directions, Catalyst, BlabkHat and numerous other major events such as Sibos and ACAMS on the calendar, how can AR Managers ensure they secure relevant analyst time at these events and importantly, engage their executives and sales personnel in meaningful conversations?
Below, Caroline and Phil offer seven key techniques that illustrate how AR Pros can maximize analyst face time and advance strategic program goals. Use these techniques to not only strengthen your company’s relationships with key enterprise influencers but to drive improved ROI for your company’s often significant investment of time, budget and resources into these events. One recommendation by an analyst to the right customer can ultimately, pay for the entire show.
- Internal Engagement Across the Company – Every AR Manager should have a say in which analyst events the company they work for participates in or sponsors (See also Technique #2). For non analyst-led events where you expect the influencers to be present, i.e. RSA, a plan of action to engage effectively should always be drawn up. Early planning is imperative and AR should not be afraid to take the lead when it comes to analyst-led events such as Gartner Symposium. AR should work to promote itself as a trusted advisor to the internal events and marketing teams and participate actively in all planning sessions and promotional aspects. This is also the time to promote the importance of the event to your executives to secure their attendance. Outline why they should participate to spend times with key analysts, customers and prospects. Speaking of customers and prospects, rally the sales teams by forwarding them the customer lists often provided by the event organizers. Yes, these lists only contain the company name and attendee role but many smart sales people will use these lists to determine who the attendee is and then decide whether they should be present themselves. Many events take place in hotels with plenty of lobby space so your sales team does not necessarily need to buy an event pass to leverage the event – they can come along for a few hours and organize meetings as required, securing that all important and valuable face to face time with customers and prospects. And if you can get your sales team engaged with minimal budget and time investment, chances are they’ll become a more actively involved advocate for next year’s show!
- Profiling the Events with Good Data – This is an important part of the process and probably should even be #1. The experienced AR manager will have proactively looked in detail at the annual events calendar and profiled each event prior to engaging with marketing. With so many events each year, where to place those all important marketing dollars, pounds or even euros is always a challenge, so an AR manager who provides demographics and statistically-detailed guidance will earn respect and validate their role in the event selection process.
- External Support from the Analyst Event Team – To gather the knowledge you require for an accurate profile of an event, engage your account rep and events manager at the relevant analyst house. Over the years, we have found that events reps tend to sell you packages that sound good on paper but when it actually comes to implementing, are another story. A good rep should be there for you before, during and after the event and work hard to ensure the investment you make is of true value. Often, going above the event sales rep and speaking with the global head of events is a more productive route. Having the head of global events at Gartner, for example, speak with your marketing leads will ensure they are truly invested in your goals and encourages them to work with their team to meet your objectives.
- Securing Analyst Time – Once you have decided with marketing which events you will attend, the process of securing analyst time can start. Again, early engagement is vitally important and this should even start prior to the 1:1 schedules opening up. Contact your key analysts and make your intentions clear. If your company is exhibiting, tell them. Yes, some analyst firms say they are not swayed by whether you sponsor or not but in reality, when analyst event time is a precious commodity, we know this can make a difference. Find out if analysts are open to breakfasts, lunches or dinners and whether you need to book this with them directly or via the account rep. Most analysts are happy to share there likes / dislikes when it comes to event engagements so take the time to know your analyst and meet their needs.
- At the Event – The important thing to remember whilst engaging with analysts during an event is that they are heavily in demand and get little time to take a breather! I know this sounds obvious but if you expect to have a 20 or 30 minute conversation that is going to dive deeply in to every statistic or report they have ever published, you will most likely come away disappointed. Time with analysts at events can help with building a relationship as well as picking up snippets of important information. It is always great to ask what analysts are discussing with other clients and what they see as a key topics/areas during the event. Another aspect of analyst engagement is to make sure that if you are meeting with an analyst at an event, also go to any presentation that they are giving at this event. This may seem obvious, but we are repeatedly told by analysts that they notice when an AR pro or exec does not attend their session. Analysts are human and appreciate when you show interest and support in these sessions. Not to mention that the analyst session can educate you about their opinions and expertise, and provide the savvy AR pro with good conversation pieces when you do meet directly. Also take in to consideration the analysts schedule. If it is “day three” of an event, chances are the analyst may actually like to get out of the room they have been stuck in for the last two days so going for a walk is often a great option.
- After the Event – It is important to follow up. So many AR programs focus on activities leading up to and at the event and then completely forget that “post event” is just as important. If you have promised information, make sure you deliver. Analysts only ask for content if they want it – not for fun! This is also the time to promote the value of AR internally and deliver a concise summary of the key takeaways from the event including presentations where possible. Don’t forget, even if you are not a sponsor at a Gartner Summit for example, you can still download up to three presentations. You can also get highlights from many events and Gartner has started to share additional content on the Smarter with Gartner blog: http://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner
- Groundhog Day – Finally, once the event is over, for AR, just like major research notes, it is never over! Planning for the next event will likely be well underway so stick to the process, engage early and above all, know your analysts to ensure a successful outcome!
Caroline Dennington and Phil Nash worked together for nearly ten years in analyst relations for a multi-billion dollar software enterprise, helping the company gain leadership recognition and build strong relationships among key influencers, while enabling sales and marketing activities served by positive analyst opinions. Today they operate as independent analyst relations consultants who occasionally collaborate to serve mutual clients or to brainstorm AR best practices.
Please feel free to add your insights to the discussion. If you have questions for Caroline Dennington or Phil Nash, please reach out via LinkedIn.
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