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10 things I’ve learned about AR & the analyst business – and that you should know too…

It’s that time of year when just about everyone in the analyst business and the broader technology industry comes up with their prognostications and predictions for the year ahead. Inevitably, many of those will prove wildly inaccurate, overly optimistic or simply embarrassing.

So rather than fall into that trap, I decided to cast my mind back and consider what I have learned about analyst relations and the analyst business in APJ over 10 years of running the only independent AR consultancy in the region (that milestone ticked over in November), working with dozens of vendor clients and engaging with hundreds of analysts.

Here’s my list. I’ve written about some of these issues before at length – you’ll find more detail on previous posts. And while I’ve thought a bit about the rankings, this is just my perspective. Don’t be afraid to give me your thoughts.

1.         It’s the relationship, stupid

AR is all about creating a two-way dialogue between a vendor and an analyst. Relationship builders take the time to understand the analyst’s interests & needs, and personalise the engagement accordingly, but they’re also pretty good at creating internal executive support for AR, which is when the magic happens. A good relationship builder with a weak story and/or content will mostly do better than an average engager with great content

2.         Most analysts are decent human beings

Yes, some are arrogant, anally-retentive or just downright difficult, but 99% of the time they’re trying to do the right thing for their clients. An engagement approach that recognises this can turn an adversary into an advocate. Analysts also need to have some relationship skills, and dickheads just don’t last.

3.         Vendors will continue to under-invest in APJ

I’ve written about this before, and sadly it’s just a reality of the technology business in this region – it applies as much to overall marketing & sales investment as it does specifically to AR. Vendors have a poor track record of making decisions at HQ which don’t take into account the growth & needs in emerging markets, and the current global economic situation isn’t going to change that. (But reading the goat entrails available to me, I feel cautiously optimistic that the needle is swinging back a little in 2013, after a very lacklustre 2012).

4.         Many vendors just don’t “get” AR – nor do some analysts

Some vendors will never “get” AR, simply because they don’t try to understand the value that analysts provide, or how they are differentiated from other influence communities. Their loss. On the flip side, some analysts fail to see that most AR professionals are advocates for analysts, not gatekeepers – despite all the evidence to contrary. It’s not a perfect world…

5.         Analyst targeting is the most important element of any AR program

Full stop. Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of any marketing or influence program, and AR is no different. Targeting is the first step, tiering is the second, engagement approach follows. All analysts have different needs & require different approaches, regardless of their prioritisation.

6.         Influence is global/regional, but engagement is local

Many analysts engage with clients right across the world, not just in their home countries or cities, and it’s important to understand where individual analysts have impact. But it’s much more important to engage with analysts in their own timezones. Regardless of how you manage that, you can’t assume that information will trickle down to an influential analyst who’s sleeping when you decide to run a briefing.

7.         Training spokespeople to engage with analysts is a no-brainer

Why wouldn’t you want to give your executives the best possible preparation for engaging with key influencers? Dealing with analysts is not that complex, but it is not innate, and spending a few hours upfront demystifying the analyst business yields immediate benefits and also avoids embarrassing outcomes.

8.         Measuring results is critical to AR success

You might consider this a bit self-serving, considering I provide a measurement program, but really – if you’re not measuring what you’re doing, then what are you doing? Don’t try to measure everything, and focus on measuring where you’ve actually influenced analyst perceptions – this is where you’ll demonstrate value to your internal stakeholders (and holders of the purse-strings).

9.         Some vendors will continue to confuse running analyst summits with an AR program

Sad, but true. An analyst summit is a one or two-day event which provides the opportunity to showcase your key messages, introduce some key customers, dig into some nitty-gritty around technology or go-to-market strategy, and develop relationships between key executives and analysts. An AR program is a day-to-day interaction process which ensures that analysts get the information they need, when they need it – and ensures those relationships prosper. To do the first without the second is a waste of time, effort & money.

10.       Change in the analyst landscape is a natural state

It is for every other business, so why not analysts? Firms will continue to grow & prosper. Some will be acquired because they offer something different, others because they have lost focus but retain analyst value and/or an interesting client base. Analysts will continue to become disgruntled with their employers, then quit to explore new markets, business approaches and delivery models. And so the cycle continues…

Just one more thing, which doesn’t require a number of its own…

In 2013, doing AR will continue to be fun/challenging/rewarding/ frustrating/boring/exciting/bloody hard work/just a breeze… Pick your adjective – it will be all of the above, and more, but the one thing I hope is that for AR pros and analysts alike : it will be worthwhile!! And fun, of course…

So tell me what you think. Have I missed anything? Would you rank these points differently?

Cheers,

Dave

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dave, thanks for the great blog to kickoff the year! Definitely the top 10 things we should remember as AR professional. Have a great 2013 for you and everyone who live and breathe analyst and analyst relations!

    January 8, 2013
  2. Dave Noble #

    Thanks Miin, nice to know I hit the mark with the first one! I’ll try to keep it up 🙂
    cheers,
    Dave

    January 8, 2013
  3. AGilmore #

    Well said, Dave. Perhaps worth mentioning that rarely will two relationships, analysts, spokespeople, engagements or results be alike. This greatly impacts most of the points you’ve mentioned and is the reason “cookie-cutter” anything in AR inevitably fails. Fortunately, that fascinating complexity is also what drives us to keep innovating AR.

    January 8, 2013
  4. Sounds about right to me, nice piece Dave. Not sure #7 is always a no-brainer, but often at least. As far as analysts being decent human beings, I would say they are no more or less decent than other human beings. In terms of #4, I guess if everybody “got” analysts there would be not much of a need for AR ;>

    January 8, 2013
    • Dave Noble #

      Thanks Evan, my point about analysts being decent human beings was that so often I’ve seen them painted as somehow different, so your point is absolutely valid. As for more vendors “getting” analysts reducing the need for AR, I’d like to think that it would have the opposite effect – there’s still a difference between understanding and doing!
      cheers/Dave

      January 9, 2013
  5. Nice Work and summary, glad to see a practical dialogue on AR and analysts! Keep up the great work! What I find most annoying is when you do not get any response to emails on key initiatives, it seems to be more of the path to not respond compared to the thanks for the update. I try to respond to every AR pro email to me and provide a fair opportunity for everyone to interact with our firm and team!

    January 9, 2013
    • Dave Noble #

      Thanks Mark. You’re right that not all AR pros are paragons of virtue in terms of maintaining good channels of communications. Indeed, as someone who sells to AR pros, I find that quite frustrating myself!
      cheers/Dave

      January 9, 2013
  6. Dave Noble #

    That’s a great point, Alyssa. AR is a craft, and that’s what makes it interesting.

    January 9, 2013
  7. Peter Sertori #

    Dave, spot on. A lot of what you said resonated, esp the fact that while influence is regional, engagement is local. I would add though that local means ‘in region’ not necessarily in country. Most analysts are more interested in speaking to regional solution or vertical subject matter experts, rather than local BDMs or even MDs.

    Another point worth noting: at the end of the day AR people are there to ensure that analysts have the most up-to-date understanding so that they can give informed – but unbiased – advice. For a better picture of ROI on AR, it would be useful for analysts to tell us – after the fact – when they were engaged in deals. This speaks to your points about measurement of outcome and prioritising.

    January 11, 2013
    • Dave Noble #

      Thanks for the feedback, Peter. I am, of course, a huge believer in local engagement, but I probably didn’t make that point strongly enough here. Your point about region vs country is also valid, but I would argue that country focus is sometimes important – we have some locally-influential firms here in Australia, as well as Japan, China etc, as well as those analysts who prefer to speak with regional subject matter experts.
      The ROI point is also extremely important. If I can ever figure out a way to convince analysts to share specific deal information with me, you’ll be among the first that I let know!
      cheers/Dave

      January 11, 2013

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