In conjunction with their new book, “Getting It Right the First Time: How Innovative Companies Anticipate Demand”, Internet Research Group principals Peter Christy and John Katsaros offer a one-page analyst perspective on do’s and don’ts for high tech vendors intent on briefing industry analysts. I suggest that analyst relations managers read the book and consider giving their spokespeople each a copy of the book, along with a print-out of the Do’s & Don’ts page. Here’s why.
1. For spokespeople: The Do’s and Don’ts are a minimalist list, and this is a good thing. If all else fails, don’t fail on the points explained by Christy and Katsaros. If your spokespeople have the attention span of a gnat or the ego of a shark, then these are the prep points to cover, cover, cover. Meanwhile, the book may help them rediscover the importance of accurate, well-informed forecasting.
2. For analyst relations professionals: The book can revitalize analyst relations managers, providing a launch pad for redefining the way that analyst relations and industry research contribute to high tech companies. Analyst relations managers are in a unique position to contribute to their organization’s success. The first challenge is envisioning such a role. This book can help:
In ‘Getting It Right the First Time’, we show that the most successful businesses will be those that accurately predict market conditions–especially the market changes that will occur within the crucial 18-to-36-month innovation window. Or, to paraphrase the advice hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky received from his father: ‘Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is.’ — Katsaros and Christy
Louis Columbus, LWC Research, recommends Tekrati Industry Analyst Reporter as a top resource for analyst relations professionals in “Best Practices in Industry Analyst Relations.” The book is available for online purchase in hardcopy and electronic formats.
Advisory Councils are one of the most effective venues for building strategic relationships between leading industry analysts and vendor executives. According to Rob Enderle, one factor that determines the effectiveness of analyst advisory councils is the degree of goal orientation and planning. Councils that are effective tend to have clear, concise goals that are collaboratively set with both the host company and the analysts.
The more effective councils also meet regularly.
By contrast, less effective councils usually lack goals or overlook the analyst expectation to participate in goal-setting as well as ongoing, stable dialogues and processes.
“In other words, beating analysts to death with foils on a whim seldom works,” says Mr. Enderle, who participates in several advisory councils for vendors such as AMD, Clear Cube, Dell Computer, HP, IBM and Toshiba. In his experience, the high tech vendor executives who achieve the most value from their industry analyst advisory councils are those who involve analysts upfront in goal setting and planning.
Mr. Enderle offered numerous candid insights on building executive advisory councils and their impacts on industry analyst influence and objectivity during a live interview with Sam Whitmore Media Survey and Tekrati on November 4, 2004.
Enderle Group white paper: Download the related Enderle Group white paper (PDF): Enderle Group Advisory Council Report, 2004-11-04
Reprinted from Tekrati
MarketingSherpa interviewed me on building analyst relationships and leveraging industry analysts in marketing programs.
Certain analyst relations “best practices” are living on borrowed time. They are out of sync with the structures of expertise within the analyst community. They are also out of sync with the dynamics of analyst influence among high tech users. Following is a simple exercise in creative thinking that can help you start breaking free of handed-down AR behaviors, practices and assumptions.
Step 1: Picture The Situation.
Picture yourself in a typical launch kick-off team meeting. Assign yourself the product/service that will be launched. The launch power brokers are gathered together. Each weighs in with his or her top suggestions and time/budget/workload issues. All attention turns to you for comments on an industry analyst relations plan.
Step 2: Walk through the normal response.
Now, most of your team players are expecting your usual discourse on Tier 1-2-3 analyst targets, message testing candidates, written research targets and press reference targets. They are so familiar with your template that most are counting the minutes until they can speak again. The rest are checking email, rejoining an IRC, or looking for proof that they know as much about analyst relations as you do. As for you? You have a strong sense of deja vu. Push through it again in this imaginary situation.
Step 3: Walk through an expertise-based response.
This time, replace your normal response with a response based on the actual roles of analysts both as researchers and as influencers. You do not simply append an AR proposal to the marketing/PR calendars. The game is to identify the analysts, timeline, budget and engineering/marketing inputs you need in order to build a viable AR plan involving three types of analysts:
- Oracles: These are the analysts that backfill or validate your existing market research that justifies this new initiative. These analysts look into the past, present and future to tell you whether this new product/service will fly, and if so, where it will take you. They tell you in general terms what your prospective market looks like, cares about, and wants to buy. They also tell you if your competitors are likely to push you off the runway. In short, these analysts inform your business strategy with macro-level, research-based intelligence. Six weeks ahead of press launch is more than a little late to consult the oracles.
- Wizards and Rainmakers: These analysts have earned credibility among one or more of your carefully segmented customer constituencies. Instead of looking out into the market, they look deep into your product/service. They point out your jewels, fillers and holes. They run your product through their labs, conceptual frameworks, focus groups and/or research panels. They tell you which features are hot and not. They give you a sanity check on your pricing and support plans. They reveal the dynamics of the decision making process–for your particular type of product/service–within your particular prospective customers and partners. They help you figure out how to communicate most effectively about your organization and your new initiative to the specific market segment in which they wield influence. In other words, these analysts inform your product/service and go-to-market strategies with micro-level, community-specific research- and contact-based intelligence. When do you bring them in? That depends on how serious you are about market success/resonance/obstacles and accommodating point-of-decision intelligence.
- Pirates: Sooner or later you want to play with the pirates. These are the analysts who basically derive their research agendas and positions from other sources, including other analysts. You can be agnostic about the existence of analyst pirates. If the pirate label bothers you, then think of them as merchant marines. Either way, your interest in them is their power to carry ideas and opinions to new audiences, or repeat ideas and opinions with fresh spin. Some have tremendous influence within key user or demographic groups. They are important assets in reinforcing and extending your organization’s reputation, anytime from long before your launch to long after.
Last Step: Populate and postulate.
Playful labels aside, the first challenge for you is to decide which analysts belong in each group. Your second challenge is estimating the timeline for your plan, plus costs and other resources. Your third challenge is in envisioning how you would manage the impact of this level and type of interaction, on your analyst relationships and internal relationships. Your final challenge is envisioning how this approach to AR would redefine your own role in your organization.
Do you know your customer targets and their decision processes well enough? Do you know which analysts would wear which hats?
The idea of this exercise is to begin examining your analysts and relations programs from new perspectives.
This exercise helps you think differently about analysts in terms of:
- Expertise: Which analysts have which type of expertise? Who performs primary and secondary research and towards what type of strategic or tactical discovery? How in tune is an analyst with purchase decisions?
- Services: When do you employ an analyst service, such as a research panel or test lab, to obtain the most benefit to your organization? Is it after the product/service has been defined, or upsteam in the lifecycle? What service deliverables are offered and what indicates accuracy?
- Outputs, Outtakes & Outcomes: Whose opinion carries the most weight with each link in your prospects’ purchase decision chain? How do you structure analyst relations so that a growing percentage of favorable outputs, outtakes and outcomes are natural by-products, rather than the sole focus, of your relationships?
Why do this type of exercise at all? Because breaking free of entrenched best practices is not easy. Yet, it is vital for analyst relations managers to begin the process of re-inventing their own professional best practices. Many analyst relations practices have been in place for more than a decade. Meanwhile, fundamental aspects of high tech markets have changed.
The 1990s-style analyst influence model–theTier 1-2-3 model and its derivatives–is based on generalities and assumptions that no longer hold true. For example, a Tier 1-2-3 model of influence does not take into account the current decision processes of high tech buyers. Changes are evident in how buyers evaluate products and services, who makes final recommendations and decisions, and who influences these people along the way. These changes are re-shaping media buyer practices. Why not AR practices?
In addition, the Tier 1-2-3 model and its requisite three-step outreach plan–message test, pre-announce brief, post-announce brief–undercut the value of analyst relations professionals. This approach forces intelligent, skilled relationship managers to be perceived as glorified logistics administrators.
Finally, this old approach is creating bottlenecks that increasingly frustrate and limit the analysts. It forces them to bypass analyst relations altogether in order to convey meaningful intelligence and advice to vendor organizations at the most critical junctures.
Simple, playful exercises such as this one can propel your AR strategy to the next level.
Now, in case you are wondering: I do not go about classifying analysts as oracles, wizards and pirates on a regular basis. That would be silly. Visualizing them in the hats–well, that’s another story.
Reprinted from Tekrati
A few industry analysts are experimenting with weblogs, or “blogging”, as an additional, more informal or more immediate vehicle for expression. For analyst relations managers, the greatest value of these first-generation analyst blogs is not in delivering influence or mentions for their employer. The value is in providing candid insights into analysts as normal, socially connected human beings.
AR Benefits Embedded in Weblogs
Thoughtfully reading analyst blogs can help you maintain a healthy attitude about initiating and building analyst relationships. After all, it’s easy to think of analysts only as gatekeepers of your firm’s reputation. Blogs can pull you out of this unhealthy state of mind.
Blogs reveal analysts as well-rounded individuals. You get a quick sense of their personal perspectives: who they think is or is not influential, what they read, what seems surreal and, how high tech touches their own human experience. Blogs tend to reveal all of this, and more.
Often, analyst weblogs reveal a reaction or opinion in its earliest stage of development. This is the kind of personal expression you don’t see in traditional industry research publications. For example, you can see what brought an incident or idea to their attention and their immediate reaction to it. Some analysts include references to other people inside the industry who share similar or condratictory reactions. Others point back to earlier research.
More AR Envy
It’s appropriate to note that analyst weblogs to date show no downsides for analyst relations managers. This is yet another cause for envy by public relations counterparts.
Blogs are complicating life for many public relations professionals. Some columnists and journalists are blogging in parallel to their traditional editorial presence. This mucks up PR effectiveness and ROI measurements, such as press clips weighted by publication. Do you rate the journalist’s importance in the same way, whether the clip is from a personal blog or the leading publication? Do you ignore the blog? How do you know who’s reading the blog?
Analyst relations program measurements are more focused on relationship factors, and therefore less subject to such dilemmas. In addition, blogging fits well in the complex landscape of industry research deliverables.
Analyst Weblogs and AR Best Practices
All AR program benefits — information exchange, trust, advice, fair analysis, media mentions, sales leads, short-listing — depend on healthy analyst/vendor relationships. Healthy relationships, in turn, depend on a good understanding of the analysts. It’s a good idea to embrace weblogs into AR best practices. Off the cuff, consider adopting five steps:
- Track down the blogs your analysts are writing. Don’t be afraid to simply ask if web searches do not produce results.
- Browse the analyst blogs periodically to get a better sense of their personalities, interests and rationale. This is most useful if practiced regularly, rather than when you are preparing a briefing book.
- Include weblog URLs in analyst profiles for your spokespeople and executives. In particular, ensure that executive relations and buddy program participants browse their analyst’s weblog.
- Keep an eye out for weblogs of employees within your company. You don’t necessarily want to find out about them from an analyst during a visit. Point the analyst to worthwhile weblogs of your official spokespeople, evangelists and executives.
- Keep a healthy perspective on your role as a relationship facilitator and primary support contact. What you bring to the relationship will have a bearing on the analyst’s attitude toward working with the vendor you represent. Remember that industry analysts are more than industry watchers, consultants or statisticians: they’re human beings.
Reprinted from Tekrati
Industry analyst relations consultants help vendors build, maintain and leverage industry analyst relationships.
This Tekrati FAQ introduces the basics of working with an industry analyst relations consultant. It focuses exclusively on high tech industry analysts.
Download this Tekrati Tip (PDF): Tekrati FAQ: Working with an Analyst Relations Consultant
Reprinted from Tekrati
Most industry analysts prefer to take vendor briefings by telephone. This places particular importance on face-to-face time, including why, when, and how well vendors use the in-person briefing venues. This Tekrati tip highlights six outbound briefing venues:
Trade show briefings and meetings
Corporate “analyst day” briefings
Drill-down or themed “analyst day” briefings
Download the 8-page Tekrati Tip (in PDF): Briefing Industry Analysts
Reprinted from Tekrati
A good starting place is setting objectives for length and simplicity. Use these four guidelines before thinking about specific words or content:
- Aim for a concise AR mission statement. Set a maximum limit before you start.
- Keep the mission statement buzzword-free. You are writing a statement reflecting your role in the company that every employee in the company can understand.
- Clearly express senior management expectations for the AR function within your mission statement. Be sure you have explicit buy-in from them. Schedule a short, candid discussion if you are unsure about management expectations or you are negotiating them. Size up your upper management expectations in the same way that you assess industry analyst opinions.
- Determine whether you plan to communicate the mission statement to the analysts as well as internal audiences.
A good approach is crafting one short sentence. In this sentence, state the role and primary value of the analyst relations function to the organization. A simple yet effective wordsmith technique is to craft the sentence in two parts:
- Primary action-oriented role
- Primary value delivered
This approach results in a simple mission statement that relates senior management expectations to the organization’s business objectives and culture.
Sample Mission Statements
“Build positive relationships with the industry watchers to enhance our market visibility and credibility and sharpen internal market insight.”
“Maintain a dynamic dialogue between senior management and the industry analyst community to keep an accurate pulse on our markets and reinforce our perceived market position.”
“Leverage industry analysts to shorten sales cycles and improve our win/loss ratio among Fortune 500 prospects.”
“Enhance media relations with positive industry analyst references on major company news, strategies and events.”
What If AR Is Decentralized?
Many vendors decentralize their analyst relations function. In this situation, each analyst relations team is tasked, budgeted and measured by a unique set of management expectations.
At the corporate level, the best practice in this situation is creating an umbrella mission statement encapsulating one common element of the separate mission statements. If a common thread simply does not exist – or if consensus seems unlikely — collaborate on a statement of top-level intent rather than mission. For example:
“Outrank our top competitors in industry analyst research about our top three markets.”
“Support business objectives and plans through regional analyst relations programs.”
“Promote our strategies, differentiators and success stories through division-specific, best-in-class industry analyst relations programs.”
Once you have drafted the mission statement, schedule private, one-on-one review discussions with key peers and upper management. Probe into how these people interpret the mission statement, whether it strikes them as realistic and whether it makes sense based on their own organization’s objectives and plans. Reviewers might include:
- Executive staff
- Media relations
- Investor relations
- Business development/Alliances
- Product development/marketing
Publishing & Use
Post your AR mission statement on your intranet homepage and include it in internal orientation presentations and documents.
Use it as the starting place and reality-check for budgeting, program planning, staffing, training and process development.
Reprinted from Tekrati
Industry analysts are not your typical audience. Take a quick tour of the body parts and vital signs of an effective analyst relations newsletter program.
DNA: Real Audience
Know your audience. An analyst newsletter is not a mass communications vehicle; it’s a newsletter for a finite, influential audience. Treat them like the staunch individualists they are.
Identify 3 to 5 real people who will receive the newsletter and use them as a decision model for designing it. Ideally, you can select audience members representing the typical, least and most receptive extremes of the analysts tracking your firm. As you design and execute the program, continually look at it from each of their perspectives to understand its impact and appeal. You can take this one step further and ask them to evaluate your newsletter.
Limit external readership to industry analysts. Query applicants on their jobs, needs and expectations at opt-in. Politely point other types of would-be subscribers to more appropriate communications vehicles. Only allow known, qualified industry analysts to view archived newsletters on your website.
More DNA: Actionable Objectives
Be clear about the reasons you’re publishing the newsletter. Articulate objectives in such a way that you can measure results. Because this is such a basic step, many firms overlook it altogether. Others neglect to revisit the premise for their program as their analyst relationships evolve.
Bones: Tailored News Content
This might be where content syndication got its start:”Let’s recap our press releases in a newsletter and send it to the industry analysts.” This is pre-McKenna, pre-Internet, pre-CRM, pre-personalization thinking. Press releases are not crafted for analysts. Why use them as a basis for a newsletter dedicated to analysts?
A more effective approach is to include one to two sentences positioning each news item along with links to detailed product information and press releases. Strip the fluff; focus on the “what”, “why” and “so what?” content. Understand that few analysts actually click-through to read a press release. Assume that what you send is what they read.
As warranted, create special issues dedicated to one news or strategy item. Include a series of links to related information on your website.
Muscle: Buzz Content
Ironically, few analyst relations newsletters include unique content - content to be found nowhere else. Yet, an email newsletter is the perfect medium for broadcasting internal and market buzz, and analysts are interested in buzz. Don’t even think about “filler” content. Include concrete indicators of market interest in your organization, its role as a mover in the market, its milestones and culture.
Need ideas? Think about customer wins and quotes, customer survey results, instant opinion polls on your site, products in development or beta, trends in your customer base, emerging hot topics among your customers, executive opinions on hot industry topics, results of tradeshow presence, speaker appearances, awards, media coverage, changes in sales or support strategy, upgrades to your own IT infrastructure, key new hires and partner news.
Do not include content that would damage your organization if viewed by a competitor or customer.
Instinct: Research Focus
Within the newsletter, organize news according to key topics based on analyst interests. If appropriate, offer a choice of newsletters, one for each research focus and one master edition rolling all content together. Include a bulleted list of “other” content at the bottom with links to find out more.
Motor Skills: Easy Interaction
Effective newsletters generate some level of response or interaction. Capture and evaluate it, including opt-in/out activity and inquiries resulting from the newsletter. No news is not good news. If no interaction is evident, follow-up a mailing with outreach calls asking select analysts if they are interested in a follow-up discussion on a specific topic in the newsletter.
Encourage feedback and suggestions. On the most basic level, make it easy to request or find detailed information by email, phone or web landing pages. For all email links, use auto-responders to acknowledge inquiries. Accurately state your average turn-around time on inquiries.
On a more advanced level, provide direct email links to content spokespeople such as product managers, engineers or executives. Find a way to set aside AR control issues, whether through analyst relations training for spokespeople or use of newer communication technologies, such as Internet Relay Chat over SSL connections.
Maintain a clean mailing list and monitor delivery failures. Subscribing analysts are demonstrating keen interest in your organization. Nurture and reward this interest. Incorporate the mailing list into overall analyst relations contact lists, databases and research purchase lists.
Conduct formal reader surveys once or twice a year, preferably at your opt-in renewal time. (You do require subcription renewals, don’t you?)
As always, include opt-in/out links.
Personality: Frequency and Tone
The frequency depends on your organization and objectives. Weekly, monthly or quarterly is the norm, depending on vendor activity and market volatility.
Give some thought to the tone, size and behavior of the newsletter. It must download quickly and correctly. If you use HTML, be sure it opens cleanly in plain text mode. Addressing should be personalized. The writing must be concise. While maintaining a fiercely economical word count, it should also reinforce your organization’s culture and the tone you want to achieve in your analyst relationships.
Into the Wild: Promotion
Include the opt-in URL or email address in the analyst relations staff email signatures. Include it on title or contacts slides in briefing prsentations. Also, send it to your account managers and watchers at the analyst firms. They are your allies.
For website promotion, include links to the newsletter description and opt-in on the pages of your site most likely to be visited by analysts. This typically includes top-level pages on the industry analyst, media, company information, products and services sections. If you are not sure where they land on your site, ask your webmaster to tailor reports identifying visitor traffic and patterns from the analyst firm domains.
Reprinted from Tekrati