The starting point: Best practice AR
Analyst relations (AR) managers focus a lot on "outbound" logistics. So, when people think of the benefits created by analyst relations (see our webinar here), they often think of AR people taking information from inside our vendor organization and then moving it into the ears and hands of analysts so that they can inform their customers better. A few analyst relations programmes can take this a little bit further. They harness the "inbound" insights that come into the analyst relations programme from our interactions with analysts and package that information up so that it can be useful to different functions inside our company.
Newer developments: Transformational AR
However, in 20 years of running the Analyst Attitude Survey, I've seen two further dimensions of highly effective analyst relations programmes, which are undergoing quite a transformation.
- Insights. The first of these is to generate our own insights by combining data and information that we are collecting from analysts and producing comparative analyses using our unique ability to integrate what we hear from conversations with analysts from different firms.
- Relationships. The second is the ability to use all of the resources our organization has access to, and our resources that can enhance analysts' influence, to increase the power of the analyst relations function.
There are more modest, best practice, approaches to those dimensions. Now we also have more transformational approaches, from the leading analyst relations teams like Ericsson and AWS.
Analyst Relations Approaches
‘Best practice’ AR - The majority of AR people do this
Transformational AR - Leading, innovative AR teams do this
Analyst success as the relationship stance of transformational AR
In earlier posts, we have discussed some of the benefits of AR and why it's a a win-win relationship. In this post I want to explain how analyst relations is transforming by enabling analyst success. Analyst success means helping analysts to meet their goals and, in particular, to develop positive thought leadership.
Key to analyst success is understanding how to help the analysts more confidently understand the market and to create analyst value. By analyst value, we mean the value created by analysts as their users experience it. The influence of analysts and the power of vendors can be combined as a means for the exercise of thought leadership.
Thinking differently, and thinking ahead of the market, in itself, is not thought leadership. There is only thought leadership if there is followership. Vendors might not have a larger client base than analyst firms, but undoubtedly they have a different audience and different resources. Vendors can play a key role in helping analysts to find an audience and to test out their ideas with a group of readers who might be unfamiliar with the individual analyst firm's vocabulary and beliefs.
Ten tactics that build analyst success
Here are ten ideas that analyst firms and vendors can work together on to better develop thought leadership. I’ve grouped them into three areas, on understanding synergy, understanding analysts’ research needs, and understanding their professionals needs.
A] Start with Synergy
1. Build synergy
One initial, overarching, comment is the about ways of consolidating different types of influence. It's easiest to think about this in a very focused way initially. Marketing communications programmes speak to analyst firms in various ways:
- Our content marketing for example could use quotations from analysts.
- Our media relations releases could also refer to analysts, boosting the SEO relevance of both the analyst and the release.
- Our investor communications could also use information from analyst firms.
- Our social media marketing could amplify and engage with analysts.
- Our events can involve them.
In many organizations these activities are not connected. And in some organizations they are only connected initiatives when the analyst relations team makes it happen. So, for example, that means that analysts benefit from a providers' social media or events only when the analyst relations team or its immediate stakeholders go out of their way to make it happen.
2. Consider the implications of analyst firm size, and vendor scale.
A further introductory point is to better analyse company situations and reflect on how influence can be used in an appropriate way for that company. This involves an analysis from two sides, firstly thinking of the vendor's scale and secondly thinking of the analyst firm's scale. For example, Gartner shows little flexibility in the services that it offers to vendors, but it does have a range of tools that are used in optimal ways for vendors of different sizes.
- At one end the complex Vendor Rating assessment is designed only for a small number, a few dozen, of the largest vendors in the world.
- At the other end the Cool Vendor designation is aimed at firms that are in segments that are so new that Gartner cannot commit itself to an ongoing research programme.
- In between there are a range of Gartner tools: organizations can do a better job of thinking about which of these are most appropriate for them.
Not everybody can be on a Magic Quadrant. Don't set the goal of getting your firm on a Magic Quadrant, if there isn't one for your market or if you don't meet its criteria. Instead try to understand what the mostly likely benefit is of shifting a particular analyst firm in your direction.
B] Build synergy with analysts’ research needs
3. Talk more about critical incidentsThere is a lot that can be said about storytelling, but one element can be foregrounded: talk more about critical incidents. We are often providing analysts with customer references or case studies that provide a narrative account of the clients' use of our technology in the context of the long-term growth of its development or the solution of a specific pain point. These can represent extremes.
- Either at one end, we're talking about the long term transformation of a client organization, such as its journey to the cloud.
- At the other extreme, we're talking about the short term: a granular, molecular, concrete expression of a particular solution.
Analysts have often seen that humans struggled to allow technologies to play their most positive roles without specific initiatives and the appropriate use of skills. By talking about critical incidents, vendors can show their understanding of the relationships and struggles that vendors helping their clients to solve and show the capacities of their companies not just to offer technical solutions but to offer business solutions.
4. Stop shouting 'squirrel'
The fourth point stresses recapitulation. Organizations very often gear communications around what is new and topical. They inform analysts of changes, innovations, new releases, new customers and other things which tend to be novel.
However when analysts speak to your customers they typically are not asking about innovations from your company they are asking about familiar and mundane business challenges that needs more effective solutions. Too many organizations address analysts with information about the bleeding edge capacities that they are experimenting with. That distracts analysts from understanding your core capabilities and your sweet spot.
It can be very hard sometimes for spokespeople and their companies to admit that their firm isn't excellent at everything. It's so important for companies to understand their key messages - the core values and most important value propositions - and to use every interaction with analysts to recapitulate those strengths.
One danger is that organizations can spend a lot of time addressing themselves to concerns that analysts might have about gaps or relative weaknesses in the portfolio of solutions offered by a vendor. While addressing oneself to concerns that really temper the analyst's ability to understand our core value proposition, it's really important to focus on making sure the analyst can hold in their minds the most important facts about the organization and its capacities.
5. Have flexibility, variance and texture in your interactions
The fifth approach that is often underused is to show flexibility in power and influence tactics.
So these are two very awkward words. Nobody likes to talk about power in the context of our analysts, specifically the power that vendors have.
Influence can also be a challenging word to play with. Globally, influence makes many think of how business-to-consumer influencer relations programmes that are helping people to monetize their audience. In other countries the notion of influence can be negative: we see that in the German-speaking region.
When we talk about using a range of power and influence tactics, we are problematizing how analyst relations programmes often use a very limited number of tools and there's very little texture or variance in how those relationships are built. With smaller programmes organized by smaller vendors necessarily the range of tactics available can be very modest. However, larger and mid size vendors have people who can think more creatively about the way that they are using power and influence.
C] Analyst success: Understand the analyst as an individual
6. Understand the many different motivations of analysts
Our sixth aspect is understanding the motivational differences of each analyst. I encourage organizations to try to map analysts individually by thinking about their personality types. Of course, you cannot administer psychometric tests to every analyst in an unobtrusive way. However different analysts behave in different ways and, when viewed repeatedly, we can uncover the motivations, personalities, energies, and preferences of individual analysts.
Understanding motivation is a kind of influence. Analysts might have very different responses to different opportunities: to criticise; to help; to celebrate; to become better known and so on. The more we understand an analyst’s motivations the more we are able to activate the behaviour that we want to see, and to facilitate the contribution of this person.
7. Design “motivation cases” for your key analysts.
Our seventh point flows from the 6th. Once we know the different motivators of analysts, we can build motivation cases. By motivation cases I mean, having built an inventory of the different motivators that are present inside our pool of analysts, developing an individual understanding of each of our key analysts and which of these different motivation scenarios they are most sensitive to.
That allows us quickly and easily to respond to specific opportunities and to easily understand which analyst will be most responsive to the opportunity that we have in front of us. More broadly, understanding motivations and personality allows spokespeople and analyst relations professionals to better moderate and modulate the way in which they communicate with each analyst.
8. Align incentives to individual motivators
The eighth point is about incentives. The intrinsic and extrinsic incentives that analyst relations programmes have available to them are very limited. Some analysts will be offended if you send them a tee shirt. Other analysts would love that $200 bottle of wine when you meet them for lunch. There's a lot of personal knowledge and insight into corporate policies that will help you. However, even aside from material incentives, it's clear that many analysts will benefit from being challenged, from being engaged, from being celebrated, even from being criticized. You need to know what the analyst appreciates. That could even involve something as trivial as small gifts or passing mentions on social media.
9. Respond to your analyst's job satisfaction.
The ninth point is to understand job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Analysts have really unusual roles in which they have to balance a lot of ambiguity. They work in very isolated settings in which they are managed by more senior analysts rather than by professional managers. This means that the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of analysts can vary greatly and paying specific attention to this can give you an extra set of levers to help analysts to be more successful.
A classic example of that is providing analysts with career guidance and industry context about the way that the market is growing. If you are able to help the analyst to redress their dissatisfactions or to fill gaps in their skills and capacities then you will have a friend for life.
If you see analysts are extremely dissatisfied then you might want to think about other analysts in this organization who might be likely to fill the gap if they move on to employment elsewhere.
10. Know the analysts' character, so you can spot when they are out of character
The final comment is about the analysis of experiences. One of the simplest and most powerful things that we at CCgroup encourage our analyst relations specialists to do is to track the occasions on which the analyst has, whether metaphorically speaking or physically, "leant forward" in an interaction or has "lent back". What we mean by this is how often the analyst is more than averagely active in a conversation, showing their greater engagement.
Contrastingly, it is useful to see when the analyst is less engaged, is more observant, or is simply keeping their thoughts to themselves in an interaction. There can be many causes of these different behaviours: some analysts, after all, are simply more ebullient or more reserved.