If only we could get a briefing with an analyst! How can we get the attention of the latest super-cool and socially savvy boutique research firm? What’s so-and-so saying on Twitter and how can we get him to talk about us?
If you’re sitting in your conference room bemoaning your company’s lack of engagement with industry analysts and influencers or dodging your boss every morning when she calls attention to the latest tweet or MQ mentioning your competition, buck up. Standing up a solid industry analyst relations program is one of the easier strategic communications initiatives you’ll undertake. Why? Simply put, they need you as much as you need them. They need to be knowledgeable about new products, new companies, and new ways of doing business for that’s what informs their research.
Before you prematurely declare success, you need to understand who – in the context of what’s important to your business – is actually an analyst and who is not. There’s a significant difference in business models, aptitude and attitude. Please consider these definitions:
Industry Analyst: Industry Analysts works for a firm such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC and others that sells industry research. While titles are similar, this role is not to be confused with a business analyst working within a corporation that is not engaged in the sale of industry research. Industry analysts come into their jobs with considerable expertise in a business application such as talent acquisition software or a sector such as healthcare or financial services. They forecast new business models and industry trends, conduct primary and secondary research and publish benchmarking reports regularly. While the industry analyst interacts with the vendor community, their primary sources of revenue are research subscriptions and advising end-user companies regarding buying decisions.
Influencer: An influencer is usually an individual practitioner or working for a small firm. They have earned their followings through thought leadership campaigns expressed via blogging, social media and speaking engagements. While an influencer might have a “bully pulpit” they rarely have the robust financial backing of a traditional industry analyst firm; additionally, they cannot scale to accommodate a robust advisory services practice. Output tends to be more ad hoc or akin to content marketing, i.e. research or white papers produced for specific clients.
Equity Research Analyst: Often this term conjures up analysts analyzing financial trends, reviewing stocks, bonds, performance, and outcomes. Many privately held organizations neglect the opportunity to brief these firms who are covering emerging trends in their industry. While not for the faint-hearted and certainly not the first place to launch your industry analyst program, once your industry analyst program is well-established consider firms such as William Blair, Raymond James, and First Analysis.
Next step is to survey your category’s key analysts and influencers. If you’ve never interacted with the analysts previously, the best place to start is by ascertaining who is covering your competition. Research the backgrounds of those individuals who are publishing research and thought leadership relevant to your business. For example, when your line of business is HR software, your list will include Gartner’s Ron Hanscome, IDC’s Lisa Rowan and Forrester’s Claire Schooley; influencers such as John Sumser of HRExaminer; and you’ll round out your list with Chip Kelso of Raymond James and others.
Bear in mind that it’s simply not possible to pick up the phone and chat with these folks. Getting on their calendar takes time and often includes a formal briefing request process (more on that later) so allow a minimum of three weeks lead-time. Plus, you have more work to do before your first briefing. Consider two important questions:
Who is on our Analyst Relations Team?
- Put your best foot forward – a cross-functional team should be assembled to help you prep for your briefings. We recommend representatives from product marketing, product management, and PR.
- Selecting a spokesperson from the team isn’t as intuitive as having your CMO do the briefings. Demonstrating bench strength can be the most effective approach, i.e. a moderator, a member of the leadership team and a product specialist.
- You’ll be building critical relationships for your company so select a spokesperson with a strong understanding of the organization. Plus, analysts always have follow-up questions so make sure they can readily re-connect with the person who briefed them.
What Preparation should our Team Conduct Before we Schedule Briefings?
- Resist it as you might, a proper analyst presentation is a must. As a starting place, take your best corporate or sales presentation and work from there. No more than 20-25 slides, please, and be sure to include an opening slide with names, photos, and titles of the individuals presenting.
- This deck should not be put together the night before the big briefing. Creating an analyst deck is an iterative process, and, you’ll want to practice several times in advance of the presentation.
Concurrent to your in-house preparation, commence outreach to the analyst firms to request briefings. This is usually done online by completing the “brief our analysts” form. After doing so, you might be asked to complete a questionnaire as well or have a preliminary conversation with a sales representative. Don’t let these extra steps deter your progress – they are not unusual requests. Also, don’t get frustrated if you’re only offered 30 minutes for the first briefing; after all, the analyst is a billable resource who needs to gain an understanding of your company before committing more unbillable time.
When your briefing date and time arrive, make sure your team’s engagement is a well-choreographed production. This isn’t the time to use a new web conferencing app for the first time or lose precious time with awkward handoffs during your preso. An analyst briefing is never the time to express frustration about your competition or be shy about your company’s accomplishments. It’s your moment to shine: Be positive, be enthusiastic and leave them wanting more.
When it comes to wanting more, it’s time to understand what might come next.
You might hear from their Sales Representative…
Analyst firms earn a percentage of their revenue from the vendor community. You can subscribe to research, contract for advisory services, or hire them to write white papers. Nothing is mandatory, so listen to what the opportunities might be – they might be worth considering as part of next year’s budget.
You might be asked to…
If the analyst found merit in your presentation, you might be tapped to participate in a research report. Read the criteria for inclusion carefully to make sure your company qualifies; it’s fine to decline if this isn’t the right possibility for you.
Over the years, we’ve had a number of clients receive business referrals following an analyst briefing; in some cases, invitations to participate in RFPs that they weren’t even aware of previously.
Influencers might ask you to join them in a podcast interview or a Q&A for their blog. That’s a great way to show support and deepen what can be a powerful relationship for your organization.
You might be disappointed…
Sometimes, the chemistry doesn’t click. The message didn’t resonate. Or the timing wasn’t right. That’s why scoring each briefing is a good idea – your ideal scenario is to create a “top ten” and knowing where to place further efforts can be valuable guidance.
Having jumpstarted your industry analyst program, make sure to keep track of with whom you spoke, what their feedback was and when they said they’d like to hear from you again. Further support your analyst relations program through a quarterly analyst newsletter or personal email updates from your analyst relations team. Unless you’ve opted to become a client, limit your briefing requests to twice a year. As their confidence builds in your company’s ability to execute and overall market momentum, they will reach out to you, possibly even more than you’re reaching out to them.
This article was originally published in the March 2017 Sales and Service issue of Excellence Essentials.