Good news: With improvements, everyone will see better results
I’m going to make an assertion that will seem unnecessarily provocative. After working for a decade as an IT industry analyst—including interacting regularly with analysts from other firms — I am confident in saying that many, indeed perhaps most, analyst relations teams are sub-optimizing their relationships and, by extension, their companies’ relationships with the analysts covering them.
I mainly work with teams that manage industry analyst relations specifically—that is, AR teams. But good chunks of the advice I’m about to share could apply (with some tweaking) to anyone managing relationships between their company and outside influencers such as journalists, investment analysts, or other third-party pundits who need information about features, roadmaps, or strategies.
Big companies have full-time AR, PR, and IR teams, but even small startups usually have someone on staff doing similar work, even if it’s just one part of their role. There are a lot of you out there. So here we go.
THE PITFALLS — SOME OBVIOUS, SOME NOT
Articles and blogs filled with tips on working with analysts are commonplace. A3 Communications asked me to examine the topic from a different angle. Rather than concentrating on best practices, I’ve been asked to share what I feel are the don’ts, pitfalls, and worst practices.
It boils down to how we jointly communicate—particularly in briefings where you and your colleagues tell us stuff, and in inquiries where you and your colleagues ask us stuff. (I’m not focusing on the subsequent tactical interactions related to developing papers, videos, etc.)
Here are the “no-nos,” in no particular order:
1. Don’t concentrate all your energy on discussing your written materials and PowerPoint slides. What matters most to us is the conversation that we have with you. To put it another way, present heaps of content to us only if you want to avoid a real discussion with us!
2. Don’t waste time teaching us about well-known realities of IT today. We are well aware that data is growing….IT budgets are constrained….virtualization is efficient….and the cloud is popular!
3. Don’t give us the customer-pitch version of your message. We want a more richly textured, comprehensive, in-depth elucidation of your company’s essence, differentiation, business plan, and vision for the future. Your five-minute elevator pitch to prospects has its raison d’etre, but that pitch is not meant primarily for an analyst audience.
4. In a similar vein, don’t make and present just one deck! You wouldn’t present one generic slide deck to all of your company’s own widely varied customers and prospects (would you!?), so why have just one for all analysts and analyst firms?
5. This is an obvious point, but don’t be boring. We see countless slide decks … so, so many, many slide decks. You want your message to stand out from the crowd.
6. Here’s a not-so-secret secret. Nearly all analysts love to talk. But, they also love to help. It’s good for business all around! So, don’t just talk at us instead, ask us lots of questions. Use our loquacious tendencies to your advantage. You’ll get some level of insight during practically any analyst conversation—even when no formal subscriber relationship is in place between your organization and ours, and we’re just informally chatting. A good analyst, even one “coming in blind” to an introductory meeting with an unknown startup, will have a few interesting, helpful words of wisdom. And I guarantee you, he or she will be eager to share (or, minimally, unable to stop themselves from so doing!).
7. In general, don’t assume we exist solely to provide feedback on your new strategy, or that we live to write briefs about your great new product. We have more to offer. We know what other vendors in your market are doing and can, therefore, play devil’s advocate. Additionally, once we feel safe placing our trust in you, we can give you candid feedback about the individuals in your own organization whom we believe are taking/optimizing/benefitting from our advice (and, conversely, who’s ignoring it).
8. Don’t assume we need to be treated as precious VIPs. You don’t have to wine and dine us. Remember, if your company has a subscription with our firm, we’ll be happy to get on the phone with you any time. Don’t wait until your big show in Vegas, Frankfurt, or Singapore is just around the corner. To be honest, we’d rather have a truly good phone call with you than be shipped off every three weeks to one city or another’s expo center, stuck inside conference rooms for three days. We certainly don’t mind free food and nice hotels, but we (mostly!) like helping you even more.
9. Don’t forget: No one can remember everything they hear, or review huge PPT decks while absorbing everything. So, don’t take a “full-strength-firehose” approach with us. Put thought into what you want our top two or three discussions and/or takeaways to be.
10. You can pick and choose what questions to ask of the different analysts you engage, but don’t neglect to get a smorgasbord of input. There’s more than one analyst firm out there. Talk to a range of us. Leverage our variety.
This is it for part 1. Yes, there are more don’ts I’m planning to share. Watch this space for part 2….
Mark Peters is a Practice Director & Senior Analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), with three decades of IT industry experience – the first two spent in myriad commercial management roles for vendors on each side of the Atlantic the last decade looking in on the vendors and at the market for ESG. ESG is an IT analyst, research, validation, and strategy firm that provides market intelligence and actionable insight to the global IT community. ESG helps clients achieve business results through a comprehensive portfolio of research and advisory services, consulting, and custom content solutions.