Archive | AR Best practices

Is shooting on the referee productive?

Contentious conversation 1 – integrity of analysts and the future of AR

Bribery illustration in a blog post by Jonny Bentwood for the IIAR website

Blog by 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 Continue Reading →

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IIAR Best Practices Paper: managing the Forrester Wave

The Forrester Wave™: Global Delivery Infrastructure Management, Q4 2005 By Robert McNeill with Robert Whiteley III, , Olivia Ester

The Forrester Wave™: Global Delivery Infrastructure Management, Q4 2005 By Robert McNeill with Robert Whiteley III, , Olivia Ester

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 IIAR Best Practice Paper is available on our extranet > Managing the Forrester Wave

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AR professionals should canvass inside firms

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.

Don’t…

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!

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Larry De’Ath’s Top 10 Best Practices for Analyst Relations

(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.

larry-death1

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.

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Softcopy formats

I first need to start this post with an apology to Merv, as I’ve kept calling him Adrian -it’s probably that it sounded more like a first name than Merv to my little French brain. So, apologies Adrian Merv!

Anyway, Merv started a poll on should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content? and asked me to relay this. I thought the question is interesting.

I always send the decks in PDF, because it’s a more open format than .ppt or .pptx -an old habit I got at IBM since no one could read Freelance decks. It’s also much smaller, which avoids getting flame mails from analysts on the move -I know this shows my age by I remember a conversation with an analyst stuck in Italy and trying to download 1 meg email (it was a lot of bytes a the time) over a 32 bauds connection. Even if the ubiquity of WiFi changed quite a lot of things (including removing the need to travel with screwdrivers to connect to telephone socket in Italian hotels…), sending an 8 MB deck isn’t well received by analysts who travel a lot. Oh, and I always send them in advance to let the analyst prepare, ask him/her if she/he has specific questions and suggest my spokespersons to frame the briefing and plan for 20-40 mn of content per 60 mn slot to avoid death-by-Powerpoint. Obviously, some spokespersons don’t comply and that’s the life of an AR manager 🙁

Merv also mentions that AR like the fact PDF can’t be changed, that’s also a point: it’s easier to send the PDF and then if the analyst needs a graphic, let him/her request it and then make sure that it’s employed correctly. Briefing decks aren’t always checked by Legal, etc, and AR needs to make sure anything can be reused. PDF’ing a deck also removes the speaker notes, which are often not in synch or updated with new decks and my contain unwanted information.

This leaves the problem of making notes on a deck, in electronic format that is. Annotating a PDF using the full-Acrobat is a good solution but some comments on Merv’s post point that analysts like to past a deck structure into a word processor and start draft a research note this way.

But what about webcasts?

Turning the problem the other way around, why don’t the analyst provide their research as a Wiki that can be updated, where you could see different contributions including vendor reviews? There would be many issues associated with this idea but I thought it’s worth a debate?

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IIAR publishes Best Practice Paper on Managing the Gartner MQ

Today the IIAR published my Best Practice Paper titled: “Managing the Gartner Magic Quadrant: a tool for analyst relations managers.”  The paper is free for all IIAR members and can be found in the Library section of the IIAR extranet.  In it, I discuss and give recommendations on the key stages of the Magic Quadrant and how to ensure you and your team are as prepared as you can be when the process begins; how to build internal support and manage expectations with your stakeholders; building the relationship with the relevant Gartner analyst; and providing customer references.

After I agreed to write an IIAR whitepaper about managing the Gartner MQ process I soon discovered that everyone has an opinion, in many cases an emotional one. In addition, I realised that the paper needed a focus or otherwise it could have easily been turned into a book. I will admit that I was selfish, that what guided me through the research and writing process was the question: what would have helped me in past situations working with the senior management at vendors? In the end, I aimed to create a pragmatic and useable document with sections that can be cut and pasted.

There’s so many people to thank for providing their insights and time. Moving forward I would like to keep writing about topics related to the MQs. I would welcome your comments, suggestions and stories (even under NDA).

IIAR members can read the full paper here > http://my.hdle.it/7601816

Related post: Gartner engages in debates on their blog

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IIAR research highlights importance of International AR

As a result of doing some research on International AR practices and gaining input during the January IIAR forum in London, the following paper onWhy do International Analyst Relations matter? (subscribers only) is now available to all IIAR members.

As AR professionals, we all are familiar with the value and sales influence of industry analysts. It can sometimes be a hard sell internally, because for ethical reasons analysts do not speak about their end-user client engagements. But anecdotal evidence shows that IT analysts influence most, if not all, large deals

But can you articulate the value and business drivers of International AR?

How many of us can rattle off the main business benefits for complementing corporate AR with an International AR program? Do we know the most important business drivers for regional and country level AR? Do we all have visibility on the multiple ways in which analysts in Germany, India, Singapore, Brazil, and China are impacting vendor sales, marketing and strategy daily, not to mention the ways in which they influencing end user procurement decisions?

And most importantly, are our stakeholders aware of the potential negative impact on the sales pipeline by not having any global AR outreach?

Why do International Analyst Relations matter? aims to provide a balanced set of answers for all these questions, and more.

What do you think?

Tell us what your experience of international AR is if you’re analyst or an AR professional. Would this fit into your company model and culture? Have you similar ideas you would like to share?

For comments and input, please contact ewarner -at- analystrelations -dot- org.

Methodology and industry best practices for International AR is covered in a separate white paper, I’ll blog about this soon.

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Analysts: When you’re looking for a briefing – help me to help you

As much as Analyst Relations professionals spend time pitching briefings to analysts, we also spend alot of time fielding briefing requests from analysts with specific needs whodon’t always appreciate how much work is required to set up a briefing. Before we actually get everyone in the same room or on the phone, we AR professionals need to:

  • Understand the depth and scope of the information requested by the analyst: is it strategic, forward-looking and under NDA or is it available in existing content such as publicly delivered decks, collateral or online content
  • Identify the right spokesperson(s): is she/he authorised? AR trained? Does he/she have all the knowledge or do we need multiple spokespeople?
  • Select the best delivery method for this content and how long will it take: are we talking about an all-day live demo or will a series of shorter phone-based conversations do the trick?
  • Make sure the content is right: Does the spokesperson knows how does this fit into the overall corporate messages? If based locally, is the spokesperson familiar enough with the Corporate content and possible future releases and other upcoming stuff?
  • Do we need to include customer or partner evidence and, if so, what form does that need to take: a case study or a phone call w/ an actual customer?

We then need to steal time from those people’s day. For instance, if it’s a local briefing using pre-sales, how can we justify spending one full day of on screen demo with a local analyst when that resource could be working on a RFI for an important deal?

All that is not always easy, even if good AR folks are like swans: maintaining serene appearances while paddling frantically.

How can analysts help then? By being specific and actionable. For instance, if you just write a show email asking for a meeting like the one below, it doesn’t contain enough information to be truly actionable:

Good morning dear X,
How are you? Very well I hope. I have learnt that you had taken over responsibility for topic X at Vendor A.
I just wanted to make sure you knew that our firm had invested in the space and we now have a full time analyst covering topic X. His name is Y.
Could we schedule some time to meet, and we could perhaps meet some people on your team?

The easiest is to send us a professional (rather than personal), corporate-sounding email, that we can easily forward stating the following:

  • Who you are and what your firm does?
  • Your areas of coverage?
  • How the briefing you’re asking fits into your research schedule?
  • What is the research process you’re using?
  • What’s the end deliverable? A report? How long? Does it mention other vendors? Who’s the intended audience?
    Etc….

It doesn’t need to be War and Peace but it does need to contain enough information to help the AR professional fulfil your request as quickly and completely as possible.

Thanks to Naomi Higgins for her contribution to this post.

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Gartner improves the vendor briefing process

In the most recent Gartner Analyst Relations Newsletter, Peter Kalinowski explains how the Vendor
Briefings
process has been simplified based on feedback received from AR professionals.

Amongst other things, all analysts now have access to the materials and the scheduling is easier. Also, vendors are getting a single point of contact -a welcome return to the client relationship model that META Group used.

This is a great improvement however some other questions like materials under NDA and access by Gartner’s consultants have been raised at the last IIAR Forum and would merit being clarified.

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