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Analyst targeting isn’t evil – it’s just segmentation

Many times over the years – usually over beers – my conversations with analysts have turned to how and why AR professionals choose to work with some analysts, but not others.

Most of them take it personally if they’re not considered “Tier 1” by all and sundry, but the fact is that most of them don’t understand the rigorous processes that many AR pros use to assess the influence and importance of analysts. Many analysts don’t understand their own value propositions either, but that’s the topic for a discussion on another day.

Analyst targeting & tiering is the foundation stone of any AR program. If you don’t understand who your audience is & why you’re talking to them, then frankly, you’re just wasting your time.

Of course, lots of other issues come into play – like resourcing & budgeting & reach & content & more. But when you’re building an AR program, you always have to start with the who & the why.

Why target?

Vendors sell products, solutions & services. Some sell a wider range than others, but at the end of the day, they’re only of interest to some people, not everybody. If you sell soft drink, you can take out ads on television & the web and pretty much reach your target market (backed up with some clever social media campaigns that enhance the impact of your key influencers).

If you sell technology, your market is more limited. And if you sell a specific type of technology, then your market narrows even more. So does the number of observers, analysts & commentators who care about your product/solution/service.

Targeting is first and foremost about identifying analysts who are interested in what you sell. Why engage with people who don’t care about what you do?

 Why tier?

All analysts are not equal, nor do they all do the same thing. Neither are journalists, or indeed customers. Marketing is all about segmentation, so it constantly amazes me that vendors dump analysts into a single bucket, when they’d never do the same with journalists or even media outlets. (It also constantly amazes me that some vendors dump analysts and journalists into the same bucket – and expect the same outcomes – but if they’re doing that, they don’t understand PR or AR!)

Would you treat the senior technology writer from a national business daily read by A & B demographics the same as the editor of a monthly publication that focuses on a particular technology segment? Of course not! Would you tell them the same stories? Probably not. Would you expect different outcomes? I hope so.

So if targeting is all about defining your audience, tiering is simply about evaluating the importance of the various members of that audience.

 How do you go about targeting & tiering?

Like many things, that depends on who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. I’ll save a detailed discussion about targeting & tiering approaches for another post, but in short, it all comes down to what you want to achieve.

If you want to use analysts to help build your credibility with end-users who purchase your solutions, then you’re going to target one group of analysts, some of whom will share similar characteristics, many of whom won’t. If you want to use analysts to help improve your positioning in signature “market landscape” research, then you’re going to target another group; and if you want to use analysts to help build market awareness by writing about your solutions or talking to the media or conference audiences about you, then you’re looking at another group again.

If you want to do all of these things – and many vendors do – targeting & tiering becomes even more important, because you simply won’t have the resources and bandwidth to achieve all of these objectives equally, or even effectively.

So targeting & tiering is all about compromise, but in a positive way. It’s about focusing on which analysts are going to give you the best outcomes, depending on how your objectives are prioritised.

I’ll get into the detail of the tiering & targeting process in another post, but I’d love to hear your views in the meantime. Is analyst targeting evil, or just common sense?



7 Comments Post a comment
  1. As a regular user in the past of your segmentation services Dave, it would be surprising if I didnt agree with your post! I think segmentation is the single most important part of any AR plan. Not only does it help us under-resourced AR professionals be very specific about what outcome we want from which analyst, it also acts as a sometimes very necessary argument to executives who want to work with one analyst firm – or sometimes, 1 particular analyst. Mainly because they “like” that analyst or that analyst is the least critical about their company! Being able to provide 3rd party segmentation from the likes of Intelligen really does help educate executives that not all analysts are equal (not in an Orwellian sense, but in an influence/exposure way) and helps prove that any AR program worth its salt should be structured accordingly. Frequently, I get told “we got to work with this analyst”! When I ask them what their business objective is, I usually get a blank face. By helping sales understand that there are different AR approaches depending on whether they want to get to an end user vs wanting a particular analyst to quote us in the press, we continue to not only raise the credibility of AR within our organisations, but also focus on what is truly important for the business. As a FIrst Aid instructor once told me : “It’s the quite ones you’ve got to worry about; the ones that are making the noise are breathing!”

    May 28, 2012
  2. Dave Noble #

    Hi Ellie,

    Thanks for the comments. You make some great points – which hopefully I’ll expand on in an a new post tomorrow. Maintaining & enhancing the credibility of AR within your company is absolutely critical (particularly if you want to continue to get budget, get support for engagement, get paid etc), and if you can’t justify to an executive why you’re working with a particular analyst, then you’ve usually lost management attention straight away…

    Focusing on what’s important for the business is also important – and it does vary depending on the business you’re in, which I know you’re very well aware of. Unfortunately, not everyone in the AR space is – which comes back to the whole issue of segmentation.

    As to your final point, I prefer all of my analysts breathing 🙂 But I get your point – the noisiest analysts aren’t necessarily the ones who need the good oil.



    May 28, 2012
  3. Hi David
    As an analyst I often get asked what my focus is and I would say anything that involves I.C.T.
    Therefore I would suggest that the segmentation should consider if the analyst in question actually considers themselves as a single focused and specialist analyst or a more broader professional ‘student of the industry’.
    This is a fine discussion on segmentation and I agree that it is important but I am sure that it also carries some risks of putting analysts into buckets and assuming that they ‘don’t care’ about what some vendors are doing.
    I agree that if you are an analyst that is focused on ‘servers and storage’ then you will be less interested in BI or HCM solutions. Maybe this means that segmentation is more suited to those large multi-national analyst firms who have analysts focused on such granular things as ‘routers and switches’?
    Perhaps then for smaller firms then the segmentation needs to be much more flexible to avoid pigeon-holing the analyst? How will segmentation work with an analyst who is the trusted advisor to the CIO and influencing procurement decisions across the broader spectrum of ICT?
    Perhaps the segmentation should not only consider what projects or reports that the analyst has been known for in the past, but what projects are in the pipeline – assuming that you can get some idea of this. For example an analyst who has worked recently in the cloud infrastructure space may well be tasked with a new project in the ERP,CRM or CMS space but has been put into the wrong bucket by AR.
    Regardless of what segmentation you decide on, perhaps there needs to be some initial engagement that is open to all segments and designed to orientate new analysts and update those other analysts that do in fact actually ‘care’ about what the vendors are doing.

    Well done on starting this blog, great idea.

    Scott Stewart

    May 30, 2012
    • Dave Noble #

      Hi Scott,

      You make some great points – some analysts are narrow in focus, others are broad. Any segmentation exercise should include both types – at least initially – but either type might be screened out (or in) for various reasons as the process continues. You posted this comment just before I posted my latest blog, which explores targeting in more detail, so you might not have seen that at the time of commenting.

      The starting process of any targeting process focuses on what segments the vendor is interested in, and then mapping those against the segments that the analyst is interested in. Tiering is then determined on how the analyst rates on various criteria that the vendor defines. Some vendors will value broader focus & coverage, others will say “unless you spend more than 50% of your time thinking, talking & writing about X, then I’m not interested in talking to you – or at least, not very often.” Very few analysts will be considered equally important by lots of vendors, simply because the vendor portfolios and AR objectives vary so considerably. So it’s not personal, it’s about the perceived value you deliver to the vendor.

      I’d also argue that it’s impossible for an analyst to focus on “anything that involves ICT” because no analyst can be an expert in everything. The value that an analyst brings to a client, whether that is a vendor or a user, is deep insight & knowledge, and delivering that requires focus on a few things, not a lot. For example, I know from discussions we’ve had that you’re not as technical as other analysts, preferring to focus on business issues. That doesn’t mean you’re excluded from engagement, just that the types of engagements and discussions you’re offered will be different to those your more technical peers are offered. And I wouldn’t expect that you’d be providing deeply technical advice to your clients.

      At the end of the day, the broader-focused analyst may be put in several buckets, but not all buckets. The relative importance of the analyst in each of those buckets will vary, depending on the focus and priorities of the vendor.

      Targeting has many layers and complexities, and it’s never-ending. Analyst focus areas change constantly – as do the analysts themselves – so most vendors review their targeting on a regular basis. Recent engagement with the analyst will flavour moves up & down the scale of importance.

      Changes in market structure also add complexity. Historically, it was much easier to be “black & white” about market topologies, but today’s market has lots of blurry edges. The issue of addressing adjacent markets has become more important for many vendors, and as a result for analysts as well – I’ll be taking a look at that in my next post.



      May 30, 2012
      • John Brand #

        Actually, analysts can be experts at everything. Well, at least in terms of being an expert analyst. This is where I think analysts themselves get it wrong. Good analysts aren’t – and shouldn’t be – subject matter experts. Their value is in being good analysts. In the financial services firms, analysts can be assigned companies and industries but can have those changed at a whim. The content may change but the fundamentals of being a good analyst don’t really change.

        If you want a subject matter expert, don’t talk to an analyst, talk to a consultant. A subject matter expert will have all of the biases of the subject area influencing their area of interest. An analyst simply looks at the raw facts and data.

        May 30, 2012
  4. Thanks Dave
    Was not suggesting that we analysts are experts in everything. The CIO isnt always looking for an array of experts to talk to in the first instance, often they want a trusted advisor as the first point of contact to be able to retrieve the information, do the briefings, construct the RFI, gather the research to assist them in the procurement process on a project focussed basis.
    I am frequently asked “who are the vendors in this space that we should consider”.
    Agree that there is no need for frequent briefings with a server vendor if I am not the ‘server guy’ but then again if I am put in a bucket of ‘not interested’ and there is no engagement at all then the segmentation will ultimately fail both sides.

    May 30, 2012

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