The differing analyst relations choices made by technology solutions providers during the pandemic have created growing gaps in analysts' advocacy for leading B2B tech solution providers. That’s my main takeaway from reviewing several hundred responses to the Analyst Advocacy Study (AAS).
The AAS data are jointly collected by SageCircle and CCgroup from several hundred analysts each year with an innovative method that includes survey responses and qualitative data gathered through inquiry and interviews. The study focuses on fifty leading analyst relations teams at large B2B providers like Cisco, Dell, Intel, and Salesforce. These are the data that Ian Scott uses annually in his SageCircle Awards, which the Analyst Relations Forum in San Francisco will discuss on November 9th.
Taking a medium-term view, I see three significant differences between the leading AR programmes that have strengthened competitively during the pandemic and those that have not.
- More extensive communication signals leadership. The data suggest that several firms have created more extensive awareness during the pandemic (e.g. AWS, Google, Microsoft, Oracle) while others have intensive communications with a smaller pool of analysts. This choice, between more analysts versus fewer, is correlated with whether the provider is seen as an industry leader. Analysts generally see the firms communicating more extensively as industry leaders. On the other hand, those communicating more intensively to fewer analysts are generally likely to be seen as leaders. If analysts hear from you less often, they may assume things are not going well. That said, there are exceptions: some firms can focus more selectively on key influencers and create stronger leadership positioning with the influencers their customers rely on.
- Trust in winners is generally higher. Analysts’ trust in providers has risen, partly because of more available customer insights. In general, analysts are more likely to recommend the firms they follow now than in 2020. However, analysts were very concerned about the performance of some firms, especially IT services firms and traditional software providers, and get negative feedback about them more frequently from customers.
- The winners have widened the gap in the quality of their service to analysts, especially in terms of responsiveness and reactivity. Analysts told the survey that some providers substantially improved during the pandemic (e.g. AWS, Deloitte, Ericsson, Nokia), while others slipped. However, a common trade-off is that many providers became less proactive during the pandemic even if they became more responsive.
For many of these firms, the change in analyst advocacy reflected what was happening in these giant provider organizations more broadly during the pandemic. I’d argue that these three trends have long-term implications for other B2B tech providers.
- First, more extensive ‘one-to-many’ communications reinforce favourability even among the top-tier analysts who are already intensively focused on ‘one-to-one’. Water cannot get hotter than boiling point, but analyst advocacy can continue to grow even among the most aligned analysts. That’s certainly something we have learned at CCgroup. Led by our analyst relations director Chris Sedgwick, we’ve grown the reach and the impact of “one to many” campaigns. In doing so, we’ve learned from our marketing services practice’s use of HubSpot and the approach our measurement practice takes with Meltwater. Our experience is that one to many communications has a triple impact. It provides top analysts with additional opportunities to engage, develops awareness within the layer of analysts we do not brief and means that our clients’ names come up more in conversations between briefed and unbriefed.
- Second, analysts trust you more if they know your clients recommend you. That’s why CCgroup partners with clients to track customer reviews and online sentiment as part of our advanced analyst relations programs. We also encourage clients to bring clients and customer success stories into their communications. Analyst trust in a provider is increasingly aligned to customers’ accounts. Even if a firm slacks a little on analyst relations, analysts can feel trust towards it if their customers speak about it positively. For example, because customers of Apple, Samsung, Siemens, T-Systems and Vodafone speak about them positively to analysts: most analysts trust those brands even if their analyst relations efforts have been uneven.
- Third, analysts are sensitive to changes in communication volume. There are seasonal ups and downs throughout the year, but analysts can put two and two together (and sometimes make five). Oracle’s choice to lose ten analyst relations professionals was one of the strangest AR choices in years. That will impact some analysts’ experience of Oracle, and analysts might reasonably warn that customers might lose their key business partners at Oracle just as suddenly. Change is unavoidable, but analysts’ sensitivity to communication volumes is part of the reason that there’s been a massive growth in the availability of outsourced analyst relations services like CCgroup’s.
These are just three findings from the survey. To give more insight, CCgroup hosted an Analyst Relations Forum webinar in September 2022 with lead researcher Ian Scott to discuss the most effective AR programmes, as rated by analysts. All the AR Forum webinars are online at https://thearforum.com/schedule/