Analyst relations seems straightforward enough – as a tech vendor, you relate key milestones and elements of strategy to those industry analysts who you think will have the greatest reach to your target market. Right? In my opinion though, the best analyst relations professionals also flip that model. With just as much vigour and interest, they ensure that the leaders in the company are not only aware of overall market trends and emerging technologies that could impact short term AND long term revenues, but they also consider how best to respond to market indicators. How do you do THAT? It’s like inserting yourself into the C-Suite, or as part of the Office of the CEO or Strategy team. How do you get senior executive leaders to listen? And more importantly, to take action based on the market trends you bring them?
Your company executives get a lot of emails – news briefings, competitor milestones, aggregated industry headlines, but I guarantee none of it comes with a specific, targeted recommendation to take a specific action. That’s where you as the analyst relations professional comes in. You have access to all kinds of expensive, peer reviewed, extremely relevant research that you can not only summarize but also use to impact your organization via a customized recommendation.
Make It Easy
The largest research investment at my company is with Gartner. Per the license agreement, I can summarize any research note and even include up to five sentences as an excerpt. I post ten of the most relevant research notes to the Gartner Business Associates (GBA) portal so that others at my company can stay up to date on emerging trends. The GBA is a Gartner product that enables anyone in my company’s domain to access limited research on Gartner’s site. Sending full research notes to executives is outside the bounds of the Agreement and honestly, most are too busy to actually read them anyway. And if even if they do read an entire research note (they don’t), so what? What are they going to do differently because of it? Unless they sit around and ruminate on all possibilities of the impact or implications of that research, nothing will change. Through working in enterprise technology sales for the better part of fifteen years, I realized that ‘buyers want to be led’ – – you gotta make taking the next step clear, and you MUST make it easy – thoughtless almost. But natural. The same can be said for Analyst Relations. Just go ahead and tell your executive what action he/she should take because of this latest research. To be more politically correct, consider doing it in the form of a question. For instance, if a new research note is extolling the miraculous impact that RPA or artificial intelligence is going to have on tech vendor offerings, you can summarize the key points of the note and then finish with ‘Action Needed’ and then the question “How are we planning for automation technologies in our offerings?” and “What impact will automation have on our customer pricing options over the term of the contract?” My senior leaders liked this so much that one of them recommended that all the executive team actually be required to answer these questions.
What to Focus On
Some of the research that Analyst Relations regularly summarizes are the following:
- Gartner IT Key Metric Data – Updated in Q4 every year, I ensure our pricing team is aware of any dollar/ metric data that is relevant to our line of business
- Gartner Cool Vendors series – There are 21 reports in this series already for 2018. While the company I work for doesn’t qualify as an emerging vendor, we do make targeted acquisitions and my review of this research helps us stay aware of possible acquisition targets
- Forrester WAVE, Gartner Magic Quadrants, ISG Provider Lens – This is the reason analyst relations exists at my company. So, like you I present the outcome and the action plan in place to move our positioning.
- Forecast Data – This summary of trends goes to the CFO and team for market sizing and planning purposes
- Any research note that corresponds to our market areas – best practices, market updates, competitive data are all mined for the most salient points and summarized
- Competitive research – unfortunately we do not have a formal competitive intelligence (CI) team, but it really is important to know how you are doing relative to your primary competitors. I plan to pick up this responsibility for my company in the coming months.
Once a quarter, I recommend asking for time with the executive teams and with the Sales teams to provide an industry update. It’s important for these teams to maintain some element of an ‘outside in’ perspective rather than the daily grind of dealing with what’s come up right in front of them. It’s difficult to make time to be strategic and I see it as our responsibility to help them carve out time to consider what effects the emerging trends will have on our business, and how we will prepare for it. It’s helpful too to understand how they “consume” research – would they prefer a nice long note to sink their teeth into via the Gartner Business Associates portal, maybe read in electronic format on their Kindle? Or do they prefer summaries printed on paper that they can tote around? There is also the option of a license that would allow them to create their own relationships with key analyst vendors as well. Many executives read the key findings and recommendations only, and others prefer to talk through their questions via the Inquiry service.
The payoff for all of this is that once they associate YOU with important things they should know, they’ll be more apt to support analyst relations in briefings, customer references, and any data requests you may be working on from an analyst firm. The better data you have for the analysts, the better you can do in a major competitive market analysis. Remember, you get delegated to the level you sound like, so step up and have those strategic, thought-leadership oriented conversations with your executive team. And let me know how it goes!!
This element of strategy is related to the discussion in the AR Compass; read more about that here.
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