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How measurement of analyst relations programs has evolved to provide clarity in an uncertain world

The business of influencing the influencers has never been straightforward. Just getting agreement in the analyst relations community about what we mean by “influence” has always been the subject of lengthy & sometimes heated debate, but the evolution of new analyst business models, research methodologies and information delivery processes have added further layers of complexity.

AR professionals continue to be challenged by tightened budgets at the same time that the scope of their target audience is growing. Even the most disciplined AR pros who focus tightly on their key influencers sometimes find themselves distracted by their stakeholders pushing new players into the mix, and the deafening noise of others promoting their opinions via social media.

A well-structured targeting & tiering process is a key element in ensuring that you’re focusing on the analysts that matter to your company, however you define influence and however broad or narrow the scope of your AR program. I’ve written previously about why targeting is important and how to go about tiering analysts.

But then you still need to determine whether you’re getting cut-through with these analysts. And that’s a bit harder.

There are a bunch of things that come into play when you’re trying to measure an AR program. Some of them are subjective, some of them are a little more concrete. As I wrote a couple of years ago, there is no single metric which will define success in AR – and counting the number of briefings conducted is certainly not that! – but smart AR pros will use a range of measures to build an overall dashboard.

A big piece of the puzzle is some sort of objective measure of how well your AR program is working, and what it is actually achieving. How better to do this than asking the analysts themselves?

So here comes the self-serving bit. Intelligen has been running AR effectiveness studies since 2003, annually surveying analysts right across the Asia/Pacific & Japan region. Not surprisingly, we think that this is a really important tool for keeping track of the impact of vendor AR vendor programs, and so do many of our clients, who subscribe year after year.

Our study is called Understanding the Influencers, and it has constantly evolved to reflect the changing nature of the analyst business in APJ, plus the changing requirements of our vendor AR clients.

Over the past few months, we have undertaken a complete review & revision of Understanding the Influencers. We have sat down with analysts to understand what’s important to them, and how to make this study more relevant for them. We have talked with AR and marketing pros across the region to understand the sorts of insights they need, and how to deliver them.

So here are the big changes (and what hasn’t changed):

A new survey platform, optimised for today’s web

Although Understanding the Influencers started as a phone survey, we took all the quantitative aspects online fairly early – in 2005 – and since 2006, the study has been hosted by Novagenus. Over the past few months, the outstanding team at Novagenus have built a complete new survey platform for us in HTML5, optimised for modern browsers and tablets. The new layout is clean and simple to use, minimising the amount of time it takes busy analysts to respond. For the first time, analysts will be able to write in the names of vendors not included in our standard segment lists.

A new survey questionnaire which reflects today’s AR world

We’ve tweaked the survey questions many times over the years to expand coverage and address new influences such as social media, but this year we put everything on the table and analysed the value of every question. The core attributes we use to measure AR effectiveness remain (plus one new one), but other questions have been removed, updated, simplified and/or clarified. We believe that this will not only make it easier for analysts to respond, but will also enhance the quality of the results.

Native language support

For the first time, we are effectively running three separate versions of Understanding the Influencers this year – in English, Chinese and Japanese. While analysts in China and Japan generally read & write English fairly well, particularly in the large global firms, we know that it will be easier and less time-consuming for them to be able to engage in their native languages. We’re hopeful that this will also increase responsiveness from local research firms where English skills are not so strong.

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Qualitative insights remain important

A significant differentiator for Understanding the Influencers has always been the fact that we overlaid the quantitative survey with qualitative depth interviews with more than 20 senior analysts across the region. This approach has allowed us to provide deeper insight into why specific AR programs are working (or not) and what other issues are important to analysts. We will continue to conduct these interviews with leading analysts who really understand AR, plus capture comments in the online survey in English, Chinese and Japanese.

More tailored analysis for vendors

One of the challenges of this type of study is that every vendor segments its target markets differently, and drives its AR program differently as a result. What’s important to one vendor will be less so to another, and the tools used will vary depending on size, resources and geographic focus. At the end of the day, we have to categorise both vendors and analysts according to their technology & business focus, what we call capture segments. It is impossible to get that 100% right, but we think we’ve improved our ability to map vendors with their target analysts by revising and expanding the capture segments. While we’ve always provided our vendor clients with customised analysis, we’ll be able to add a great deal more precision to that this year.

Earlier timescale for research & deliverables

We got a lot of feedback from analysts that our November/December schedule for fieldwork often conflicted with their need to finish research projects by the end of the year, so we’ve moved the start date to early October. This means that not only can we leave the analysts to finish their research in peace, but we can also deliver results for our vendor clients a month earlier. This ties in more neatly with typical planning stages which often take place in January.

Understanding the Influencers 2014 goes live next Tuesday October 7. We’re confident that all the changes we’ve made will drive up response rates and provide our vendor clients with deeper & more detailed insights on how to engage more effectively with the growing group of influential analysts in the APJ region.

If you’d like to know more, send me an email.

Cheers,

Dave

 

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