Tuesday, 7 March 2006

AR 101 series: briefing analysts

James, Jon and Andy kindly provided quite a lot of (free) advice on how to brief IT Analysts.

Here are six simple steps to get your briefing right (tell us if we forget anything guys).

1. Synch briefings with research agendas
A good briefing should be prepared before to make sure that the information given to analysts match their research agendas and interests. This is of course easier done for one-on-one briefings (some simple filtering questions at the start help). For one-to-many briefings (not the preferred briefing for most analysts but often the most practical compromise to update analysts on announcements in a short timeframe) it is good practice to send 2-3 questions to key analysts before the call.

Read AR 101 series: the research process for more. Jon made the following remark:

  • Take the time to understand research programs and assignments of the analyst firms you have in your sights, and use this information to make the correct people available to support the analysts that you meet. For example, if a firm is conducting a market analysis study, there is little point in providing a technical expert at a briefing; similarly, a brand manager will be of only limited use if a product comparison is taking place. Either of these situations may lead to the worst-case scenario of not being mentioned at all.

2. Don't give analysts a dog's dinner
Bear in mind that you may be talking to a diverse audience. Analysts fall into four categories: RAS analysts, market watchers, consulting analysts and sell-side analysts.

So, as Jon says in this great post, you need to "Make Briefings Worth It":
  • "At the best of times, briefings can be dull for analysts as much as for vendors. This is often down to the fact that briefing sessions are inappropriate, badly planned or conducted."
He suggests that a good preparation is paramount:
  • Only use source information that is relevant to the briefing at hand. Don’t waste anyone’s time in briefings, by slogging through irrelevant presentations that have been picked off the shelf
  • Customize your message before the briefing
Analysts usually want to hear the following:
  • Corporate strategy
  • What are you announcing? (high-level messages AND product details)
  • How is that going to fit with the strategy and go-to-market model
  • How are you going to compete?
  • How does this fit with your announcement roadmap?
And be flexible to respond to analysts prompts during briefings, do not hesitate to skip the introduction and go directly to the point. A common mistake is to explain granny how to suck eggs, for instance by lecturing numbers analysts (say from IDC) on market stats (say from Gartner/Dataquest). Andy illustrates this graphically in his post:

  • "That mistake is mostly made by smaller companies, where some VP or Director of Marketing is doing his (or her) run-of-the-mill pitch that would be equally used in any sales opportunity. So they go on and on about stuff that we have heard a million times already, have zero value to an analyst, and simply waste time. It's particularly annoying if those briefings are conducted via WebEx, because the analyst cannot [...] tell the vendor to skip to slide 32 [...]"
  • Vendors that do it very well [...] spend two or three minutes on chit-chat [...], then run through a few figures [...] and not more than 10 minutes after the call starts jump right into the product update, demo, or discussion.
Read also the comments Vinnie, Dean and Jon have left here on the subject. We had the following bottom-line in the same post:
  • ARmadgeddon is against unnecessary analyst cruelty and agrees that vendors could do a better job at scoping briefings to better address analysts needs.
Finally, read also: AR 101 Series: Don't use a sales presentation with analysts

3. The best briefings are interactive
Do allow time for analyst feedback during briefings ; bearing in mind that there must be something in for the analyst -the analyst should not feel like she/he is giving out all his IP for free. Bear in mind that analysts need to make a living and allow budget for buying reprints or getting the analyst under retainer. When the interaction is good, your company will gain a lot.Do not let short-term tactics waste this potential by making sure that your briefings are win-wins.

As Jon writes:
  • If you are able to provide an analyst and his or her company with timely, tangible value, the analyst is more likely to have something to say about your company and your products.
James made similar comments in his post Redmonk: how to brief analysts):
  • So, an analyst briefing is (should) a two-way conversation (otherwise it's called a press conference).
4. Don't forget NDA's
Analysts are interested first and foremost by future strategies and roadmaps. Do balance this requirement with the need to keep your job (and those of your executives) by being careful to flag what is presented to analysts under a non-disclosure agreement. Always keep the required paperwork at hand.

Read also Ovum breaks the iPod cellphone embargo?

5. Do a dry run
As we've said before: NOBODY should be talking to analysts without going through a good AR training first. This should be a corporate policy. If you don't have the skills or the credibility to deliver it in house, get some professional help. For instance from Duncan or David (to name only some who linked to us), if you pick-up someone else, make sure that they know the European market (not like KGC).

Furthermore, AR professionals should rehearse unless they're fully confident in the speaker's capabilities. This will not make them look appear as PITA's but rather as pros who need to make sure they avoid un-necessary risks.

5. Follow-up
Finally, do make sure that AR does the follow-up and stays in the loop -possibly by recommending that executives don't give out business cards. This should not annoy the analyst if you're responsive and has the benefit of being in a position to schedule additional briefings when required and stay abreast of the analyst agenda. This brings us back to step 1!

Additional bedtime reading:

1 comment:

Jon Collins said...

That's pretty much on the nail - or at least, if all briefings could be half as well structured as this, we'd be one heck of a lot better off!

Incidentally, I think there is the converse set of principles for analysts to maximise the value of briefings for vendors. To an extent, I do sympathise with Gartner's 30-minute statement - in that an unfocused briefing can become an interesting chat, but it can also be of little value to either side. It is as much up to the anayst to keep on-topic as it is up to the vendor.