Focus on the “Relationships” in Analyst Relations

27 Nov Focus on the “Relationships” in Analyst Relations

We have several clients in the midst of engaging technology analysts: you know, the really smart folks who help determine who the players are, and aren’t in the industry, and often times, the ones who can make or break a sale of a technology product to the Global 1000.

We’ve seen the power and influence of analyst relations over the years, and believe that when bringing a product to market, migrating into a new industry, space or category, or even revitalizing a brand that has lingered..industry analysts are often times the best third-party validation you can find.

Nothing compares to a customer testimonial of a notable company using your product, but the chances of getting them to talk to your prospects become slimmer as you move up the food chain.

The one thing I see companies neglect, time and time again, is that analyst relations is about the relationship as much as it’s about the product.

screen_shot_2012-11-27_at_10.04.45_amI had the pleasure of reading Richard Stiennon‘s book, Up and To the Right: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence, and it was a great primer for how to maximize your program. Stiennon is a Chief Research Analyst at IT-Harvest and a former VP of Research at Gartner. He also spent time inside a company’s walls, so he can attest to what it’s like to be on the other side of an AR program at a technology company.

He covers so many great ideas that you’ll have to buy the book to get all the juicy stuff. But I’d like to focus on the few points he makes that build upon what we’ve seen ourselves about the art of building relationships with the folks that can have some of the highest influence on your success.

Stiennon’s book centers on building a relationship with Gartner and its analysts specifically, and strategies to make sure you are covered correctly in the almighty Magic Quadrant. But there are other key analyst players, ForresterIDCOvum, and a slew of other firms that each add their own value. Many of his guidelines can be applied to other firms as well.

Surprisingly, however, many people don’t realize that analyst relations should be just that…”relations with analysts” and should be considered as important as customer relations, reporter relations, board relations, employee relations…you name it. Analysts are part of your ecosystem, too often forgotten and treated as a sidenote. Especially for younger companies or startups who assume they won’t compete with the “big boys” in their space.

Too many times I’ll suggest to a company that they should engage with the analysts, and 9 times out of 10 I hear, “but we can’t spend the money right now,” assuming you have to pay-to-play. You don’t! Of course, you will receive value from a paid program, don’t get me wrong, and many companies should invest. But it doesn’t mean ignoring the analysts altogether.

While every analyst is different, we are still dealing with the human element: analysts are people, who want to be fair, smart and do a great job. They’re not the evil empire, and yet they also aren’t there to do your bidding. It’s a thoughtful dance that begins much like a dating ritual: getting to know one another, keeping a conversation going, helping one another out, and then hopefully reaching a point of understanding where you are properly represented in the analyst’s eyes and vice-versa.

Recently, the IIAR (Institute of Industry Analyst Relations) announced its winners of the Analyst of the Year, as voted upon by internal analyst relations specialists, and the common theme is accessibility, research capabilities, and influence. Based on what we’ve heard of these winners, and based on our experience, they are strong relationship builders that help make them successful.

Maybe it seems overly obvious, but there are ways you build relationships that are not always top-of-mind. Many of these are direct from Stiennon’s book, and some might seem obvious but are not always done (please note that i am grossly paraphrasing Stiennon’s suggestions):

– If you are planning a big analyst day, invite the analyst to dinner the night before! Given how often analysts travel, it’s a rare opportunity to relax in an informal setting and get to know one another better.

– Plan for a “drive by…” which includes suggesting to the analyst with whom you want to build a relationship that you will be in the area (because you will!) and would like to offer up a casual lunch, coffee, or dinner. Make your analyst a priority whenever you are in their back yard.

– Help your analyst out: if you are helping a reporter on a story, offer up the name of the analyst that covers your space to be called upon for a quote. Don’t do it to be self-serving, after all, you have no idea what he or she will say. But take that chance: part of an analyst’s job is to be quoted and seen in an influential light, so you’ll be doing them a favor. Favors have a way of working to your advantage.

– Take advantage of the social media tools that can be used to further engage. Most analysts are on Twitter and LinkedIn specifically, and most likely spend a fair amount of time blogging. Typically, they are always online. Forward their interesting tweets to your network. Engage in their blogs. Pass along their status updates on LinkedIn. Introduce them to others that might be of interest to them.

– End your briefing ten minutes early. Think about how you personally love to end up with a little extra time between meetings, it’s like a gift! With as many meetings as analysts are required to hold, consider ending a bit early…they will most likely thank you for it.

– Make sure to include touch points between briefings. Send a personalized note, make sure to forward any company news, press releases, etc. Keep the relationship moving so you aren’t a stranger every time you sit down with them. Especially if you do not have a paid relationship; it will help you stay top of mind!

– It is critical to have a strong relationship as an AR person, but the CTO and CEO should also be a big part of the equation, especially the CTO. Help facilitate relationship-building, and make sure the momentum builds over time.

–Elizabeth Shea

Elizabeth Shea
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