If you read part 1 of my blog post ’20 mistakes analyst relations teams are making’ you will hopefully have learnt a few things. Including the fact that I am not shy when it comes to sharing my thoughts! So here we go with part 2 of my list of don’ts, pitfalls, and worst practices when it comes to working with industry analysts.
11. Following on from my tip not to focus on just one or two analyst firms, don’t treat the analyst community as a homogeneous ecosystem. Our differences abound. Some firms tend to employ very dry, almost academically analytical people. Others are less analytical, more engaging. So, don’t ignore the importance of defining what you want from a particular analyst interaction. For example, are you looking for an objective, outside critic to give you unvarnished, ugly truth? Are you looking for a reassuring partner? Lots of analysts can play both roles, but you have to help them understand what you need. Once in a while, your most curmudgeonly and cynical critic can also be your most inspiring partner.
12. On a related note, don’t assume we all do the same things the same way (in terms of either free advice or paid projects). Even within one firm, each analyst will have his or her own style when collaborating with you.
13. Don’t forget to double check whom from the analyst side and whom from your side will be on a given call. Calls that take place with the wrong people are a waste of everyone’s time. If you plan to have a very technical product-development engineer representing your end, then you’ll probably want a more technical person on the analyst’s end (at ESG, our lab analysts are known for keeping pace with even the nerdiest infrastructure architects and technology evangelists.) But if your goal is to figure out how to translate extremely technical value statements into compelling, plain-English marketing messages, then request an analyst that’s focused in that manner.
14. It is a really bad idea for you to conduct briefings with us at the last minute. Your lack of prep work sends a poor message to us. But more importantly, if you wait until three weeks before a product launch to get in touch with us, then there will be no time left for us to help you make your launch better! Every message will already be baked on your side, warts and all. That’s not a situation conducive to making us feel engaged with your company and its goals. I recall many occasions when it’s happened to me, and afterward, I found it harder to feel invested in helping those clients craft their launch strategies the next time around—because I knew, yet again, there’d be no time left for them to act on any of my suggestions. Basically, if you don’t want to consider the analyst’s feedback, you might as well just send a deck.
15. Don’t assume we have set opinions on everything, even on matters involving a single company. We are always morphing and expanding our knowledge of the markets we cover and the clients we serve. Don’t assume influencers cannot be influenced! You have more power of persuasion over us than you might know. We’ll have no issues becoming avid fans of you and your company if it’s warranted.
16. Which brings me to this point: don’t ignore us. You aren’t the only ones having calls with us. Members of the IT press call us for commentary, too. When journalists are asking us for a quote, your ongoing efforts to ensure your company remains “front-of-mind” in our consciousness will pay off. Basically, just keep in mind that we talk to a lot more people affiliated with your industry than you do—reporters, end-users, channel partners, your direct competitors, major investors, other analysts, and beyond.
17. On a day-to-day basis in your own role, don’t be just a gatekeeper. In other words, don’t limit yourself to being the forwarder of emails between outside analysts and your company’s in-house subject matter experts. Over the years, I’ve seen AR people overly indulge in “bottlenecking” behavior, presumably because it gave them a feeling of control over the company’s analyst relationships. If you do that, you are not adding value you are actually reducing value for all parties. We are a catalyst for your company’s success. Keeping the relevant analysts “locked in an AR drawer”, away from your marketing and engineering colleagues, isn’t helpful.
18. Don’t let your company’s marketing-campaign people pitch anyone (i.e., juicy prospects and lucrative customers whose continued business is important) without doing a dry run with an analyst first. We are your brutally honest friend who will tell you about your halitosis and thus save you from embarrassment when it really counts!
19. It works the other way, too. Don’t forget that people across your industry, not to mention your biggest customers, are regularly telling us far more then they’d ever dare reveal to you directly.
20. Here we could have something about not using a slide deck with you that features market stats from competing analyst houses… Is that an issue? I’d have thought so but I’m not an analyst…
We have entered a time in which the classic “annual big launch” is fading away. More often, IT vendors—including the company you may represent—are releasing steady drip-drips of enhanced product features and functions throughout the year. This IT industry-wide shift is making it harder for product marketing teams to garner traction and attention for their new and improved solutions.
In such a climate, if you treat your analyst community as a check-box item, then you’ll do nothing more than check a box. You can do better than that. We are not all the same—learn that, and work optimally within that reality.
These days, it’s more important than ever for you to refine and optimize your analyst interactions. As with any relationship, honesty is the best policy. Candor leads to trust, and trust leads ultimately to success — for you and us.
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.