Sunday, 5 November 2006

AR Classics Series: Seven Ingredients for a Winning Analyst Relations Program

Well-known analyst Laurie McCabe was kind enough to write down for Kensington Group her suggestions for how she'd like vendors to treat her. As she points out toward the end, she's probably pretty typical in most of these respects. Laurie was at Summit Strategies back then, and is now VP at AMI-Partner. We thank her for taking the time to write this and urge vendors to heed her words carefully.

Industry analysts' opinions can influence how the press, customers, prospects, partners, financial analysts and competitors perceive a vendor and its standing in the market. Particularly in an age of information overload, many of these constituents turn to analysts to get an inside "take" on vendors' products and services.

In the three and a half years since I transitioned from the vendor to the analyst side of the business, I've responded to many surveys about what it takes to run a successful analyst-relations (AR) program. Lately, vendors seem to be putting more energy than ever into creating effective conduits to the analyst community. Judging by the increase in surveys conducted on behalf of larger companies with existing AR programs, many appear focused on making their programs more effective. More interesting, smaller companies, which may not have bothered with AR programs before, also are launching them and trying to determine what it takes to build a successful program.

Responding to this flurry of surveys has given me ample opportunity to think about the necessary ingredients for vendors to create successful AR programs. In the interest of sparing at least some Summit Strategies subscribers the aggravation and cost of broad surveys, I'll share my perspectives on this topic.

First, let me state that the views expressed in this article are purely my own--and do not necessarily reflect those of this firm or the analyst community as a whole. So, without further ado, here are my top seven suggestions for creating a win/win analyst relationship:

  • 1. Call us early. Give analysts a heads up before calling the press about an announcement. The press expects vendors to brief analysts first--and expects us to have knowledgeable commentary ready for their articles. Leaving analysts in the dark about announcements that are within their areas of expertise, at best leaves the analyst with nothing to say, and at worst leads the analyst to think you don't have your act together.
  • 2. Don't "spam" analysts. This, of course, is the other end of the spectrum--and you don't want to go here either. Unless analysts specifically request them, most of us don't want to be bombarded with daily releases about every new customer you get or every new person you hire--unless of course it's someone we know. Don't get me wrong, we're happy for you, but e-mail overload is at an all-time high. Try aggregating all this wonderful news on a monthly basis instead.
  • 3. Schedule early, send briefing materials in advance, and, if a file is big, "zip it." Believe it or not, we are not just sitting around watching Oprah and soaps, waiting for a call to get a briefing scheduled in 24 hours! Try to schedule briefings a couple of weeks in advance--and get your materials to us at least 24 hours prior to the briefing. And, please, zip large files so that they don't take excessive time to download.
  • 4. Know your analysts, and use their time wisely. Companies that profile analysts' areas of interest and target meetings and mailings based on their specific interests score big points. Big vendors need to send analysts information relevant to their areas of interest, but they shouldn't overload us with press releases about everything going on in their companies. Similarly, briefings are much more productive when the vendor's representatives align with the analysts' areas of expertise. Use marketing personnel to brief strategic and market-oriented analysts and technical staff when briefing product-centric analysts.
  • 5. Use what you pay for. Take advantage of any paid analyst-consulting time. We are going to tell you what we think anyway, so why not test your message with selected analysts that you respect before making a broader announcement?
  • 6. Use technology effectively! Everyone's time is getting spread too thin, and many analysts work remotely. Conference calls are adequate for contacting them, but I'm surprised at how few vendors utilize some of the easy-to-use Web-cast solutions available (such as PlaceWare, which requires no software downloads beforehand) to provide more interactive calls. On the flip side, please avoid using solutions that require us to download something beforehand--the odds are good that we won't have time to.
  • 7. And schedule free time earlier in those events! If you are going to fly us all to a posh, tropical resort for an event, build recreational time into the beginning or middle of the schedule. Many vendors tack on all kinds of amenities--golf, tennis, spa, road races, sailing tours, etc.--at the end of events. Many analysts end up skipping these to leave early, and vendors miss a key opportunity to bond a bit more personally with their event attendees.

Despite my disclaimer above, I think that most analysts share my opinions. These tips seem pretty straightforward to me, but I keep getting surveyed about them--so maybe they're not. The bottom line is that, as with any other target audience, it's about building relationships. Vendors that design their AR plans to foster timely communications, open dialogue and mutual productivity are on track to create a winning AR program.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you just post these boring "classics" to draw attention away from the juicy stuff being kicked around under the dataschmonitor piece