Author: Jim Lundy Date: December 21, 2015
Topic: Digital Workplace Research Note Number: 2015-50
Issue: What are the key trends in the Digital Workplace?
Summary: Many enterprises take an ad hoc approach to managing analysts. Developing a consistent approach, however, is more strategic – this can result in better coverage of and ratings for the enterprise, its products, and its services. This Research Note overviews seven steps for a comprehensive Analyst Relations (AR) program.
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The challenge that all enterprises face when selling products and services to the enterprise (B2B) is that there are third parties that are often giving advice to buyers. Industry Analysts are charged with providing prospective buyers with information and advice about prospective products. This toolkit reviews the high level items that need to be part of an overall and successful analyst relations program.
Analyst Relations Manager vs. Public Relations Firm
For most enterprises that are selling in a competitive market, having an Analyst Relations Manager in place is important; hiring one should be a top priority. In some cases, this role is a fulltime job (large firm), while in other cases, this responsibility can be combined with other roles. In many cases, the PR Manager is also in charge of Analyst Relations. For firms that do revenues of over 15 million, AR should be a dedicated function.
For all firms, while there may be team that manages Analyst Relations, the entire management team needs to be committed to engaging with analysts. Large software firms such as Cisco, Dell/EMC, IBM, and Microsoft follow this best practice, because buyers often make purchasing decisions based on analyst reports or analyst recommendations.
This is often a critical point: are the analysts that cover your market recommending your firms product or service? Getting the answer to that question is something you need to know. Often, AR firms say that they do, but only later does the enterprise in question find out from a prospect that the AR firm, in fact, did not.
Public Relations Firm
In a large number of cases, an Analyst Relations team also uses a Public Relations (PR) firm for outreach. While this can be a strategic approach, often, it can become expensive. One way to leverage a PR firm is to have them in charge of scheduling briefings.
For example, for at least 15 years, Microsoft has augmented its full time AR Team with full time AR staffers from its PR firm, Waggener Edstrom. Recently, others have followed suit with this approach: Google just hired a PR Firm to augment its full time AR Team.
The Seven Critical Steps to Creating Your Winning Analyst Relations Program
Step 1: Identify analysts who cover your firm
In many cases, it is critical to understand the analysts who cover your firm, your products, and your services. This list can certainly be large, and for this reason, it is important to set-up a tiering of analysts. This will also help you to gain insights about the firms that these analysts work for (which is more important than focusing on just the analysts themselves).
Analyst firms fall into one of four tiers:
Step 2: Know what’s being said
The top tier research firms publish research on a regular basis, and it’s important to understand what is being said about your enterprise in each of these publications. The top tier research firms usually sell subscriptions, and it is a worthwhile investment to have access to the research and to be strategic about trying to influence that research.
Overall, it is more important to focus on having a holistic Analyst Relations program than it is to focus on how much money is being spent. That said, influencing the analyst firm itself is part of the broader Analyst Relations program. Many firms only deal at the tactical level, with the individual analyst.
Which brings us to Step 3:
Step 3: Develop regular touch points with analysts
Remember, analysts are people – today they often have a significant amount of tasks they need to accomplish. Keeping them informed and up-to-date with your enterprise is critical. Some strategic ways you might do this include:
- Sending them your company newsletter
- Schedule regular briefings
- Attending industry conferences that analysts are likely to attend, and meeting up with them at those conferences
- Holding an annual Analyst Day on-site
- Monthly ad hoc check-in by phone or messaging
Regular engagement is the most critical part of the Analyst Relations program. By having multiple touch points with an analyst and the analyst firm, you have a record of engagement, and you can then build rapport with the analyst and the analyst management team (see Note 1).
Step 4: Develop an account plan for the analyst firm, not just the analyst
Most enterprises take a basic view of analyst engagement. Others have refined their approach. Just as in Sales, understanding how an analyst firm works is important. Most analysts have a supervisor or manager and that often signs-off on their research.
Your engagement plan should also take the analyst’s manager(s) into account, as well as the other individuals who comprise the important roles in the analyst firm. Make sure you account for:
- The individual analyst
- Analyst Manager (Managing Vice President is often the title)
- Group Vice President
- EVP of Research
- CEO of Research Firm
Note for the above breakdown, these are the roles typically what found in firms such as Gartner and Forrester. Smaller firms will have fewer layers. Additionally, it is very common for large technology providers to be in active discussions at all levels.
The account plan should be a key part of the Analyst Relations plan, if the goal is to be as highly rated as possible. For any firm that has a full time AR team – a critical action to take is getting to know the Analyst Manager and the Group Vice President for that specific Research Area.
For an example of the Org Chart for Gartner Inc. see here.
Step 5: Present a case study for consideration
One of the easiest, and best ways, to get an analyst to think about your products and services is to see if they want to write a case study research note about your product or service. In many instances, the analyst may have an annual target to write at least one case study. And if their write-up is strong, then you may want to license that research for marketing purposes.
Note: a good case study should be balanced. It should clearly point out the before and after, and it may list some challenges that the firm faced. A great case study tells the story about transformation, and this transformation attracts clients. The reality is that most individuals who work in Analyst Relations do not pitch case studies to analysts.
Step 6: Measurement
Measuring how often your firm is mentioned in research is key, but ranking analysts based on their impression of you is important. Analysts that talk to a lot of end-users can have an impact on your results.
At the highest level, you need to track your interactions, the publications, and in many cases, the sentiment that is in each research note that your firm is mentioned in.
Many firms use sentiment analysis tools when reviewing draft research. Sentiment analysis is important to be able to gauge what is really being said and how it comes across. Tools such as Cymphony can be used to score a draft research note (see Note 2). If the sentiment is negative, you have to try to influence the research note for a better outcome. This should also serve as a warning sign that more time needs to be spent educating the analyst or analyst firm in question.
Step 7: Develop a Scorecard of Engagement
An annual and a monthly scorecard is the key to a successful analyst relations program. The scorecard should be a running matrix of activities and outcomes from the regular analyst engagement. Analysts that are kept up to date about your products and services should be able to articulate what your firm is about and how your products and services compare to others.
For a sample scorecard, see below:
Sample Analyst firm Scorecard of Engagement:
|Analyst Firm A
|Analyst Firm B
|Analyst Firm C
|Name of Analysts/Topic
|Sam Jones – Collaboration
Beth Piper – BI
Joe Smith – Content Mgmt.
|Primary usage of analyst
|1. End User Influence
3. Content Marketing
|Sentiment rating on reports generated
|Analyst Relations 12 month plan in place
|Firm A – Yes
|Current rating by analyst
|Number of pieces in which firm is mentioned
|10 different research notes
- Analyst Relations is a serious business. Develop an overall plan to influence analysts, so that your firm is portrayed in the best possible way.
- Put a 12 month plan into place that has monthly activities as suggested here.
- Develop a measurement program to show how your AR Program is making a difference.
For enterprises who offer products and services and who are covered by Industry Analyst firms, having a robust, well developed Analyst Relations plan is critical to getting positive coverage. Enterprises need to leverage this overview, as well as our Analyst Relations Toolkit, to ensure that they have developed a plan that can drive accelerated business results.
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