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Posts tagged ‘best practices’

Inside the black art of analyst targeting & tiering

In my last post, I concluded that analyst targeting isn’t evil, just necessary. So why continue with the necromancy theme?

Because targeting & tiering is a black art – it’s part knowledge, part experience, part intuition. It can be taught, but it’s certainly not a science. Targeting is a process, and like any process, it has a series of steps.

 Topic triage

This is the easy part. There are thousands of analysts worldwide, but you want to exclude those that have no relevance to you. The simplest way is to develop a short list of keywords which are relevant to your business. Say you sell CRM software that includes some business analytics capabilities, then you might choose “CRM”, “salesforce automation” and “business intelligence” as your keywords. If you have tailored solutions for specific industries, you might add “government” and “supply chain” into the mix. If you have a cloud-based delivery model, you might want to add “SaaS”, for example.

But don’t get carried away with too many because you’ll spread your net too wide. If a solution accounts for only a small percentage of your business and isn’t a growth or focus area, ignore it. Be careful not to get too specific with your keywords – unless you’re looking for deep insight in a narrow field – or you run the risk of screening out everyone.

AR program objectives

This is the definition part. What are you trying to achieve with your AR program? Are you trying to build market awareness, what my colleagues at KCG call exposure? Or are you trying to reach analysts who have direct influence over technology purchasing decisions? Do you want to engage with market or technical experts who can help you with your competitive positioning? Are you looking for firms who’ll produce sales collateral for you? Whichever way you plan to go, you need to understand your goals and align accordingly.

 Research, research, research

This is the time-consuming part. Whether you’ve got access to a commercial database such as ARInsights’ ARchitect or an internal analyst list, you’re going to need to add to your knowledge before tiering your analysts. Use your keywords to narrow your search. Most analyst firms publish analyst bios on their websites, and most allow you to search at least the titles of research they’ve written. The quality of this information – and its usefulness – varies considerably, but it’s stuff you need to know. Look more broadly – at LinkedIn profiles, social media usage, media articles they’re quoted in, conferences they’ve presented at and whatever else you can turn up. Learn from it, but don’t take it as gospel.

 Evaluate

This is the interesting part. As part of the process of defining your AR program objectives, you made some decisions – consciously or otherwise – about the type/s of analysts you want to engage with. This means that certain analyst behaviours and characteristics are more important to you than others, and you need to weight them accordingly. If you care about direct user influence, then analysts with large end-user enquiry loads will be more important; if you want to drive media exposure, you’re going to value media-hungry analysts higher; if you believe strongly in the power of social media, you’ll be looking more closely at the Twitter junkies.

Pick your criteria – usually five to six is enough – and evaluate your analysts accordingly. Rate them, rank them, throw darts at them – how you do it is up to you. Most AR pros use a spreadsheet or database to enable sorting & searching, but one of my clients has me mapping analysts onto a Boston Consulting Group chart (think Gartner’s Magic Quadrant framework) which is a remarkably powerful way of visualising analyst value, particularly when educating senior executives.

Some analysts will naturally float to the top, but most won’t.

Experience & intuition

This is the fun part. What you have so far is lots of information. What you don’t have is clear answers about which analysts are really the most important and influential.

Most of the information you have at this stage is flawed or incomplete. Boilerplate bios on analyst websites tell you what the analyst thought s/he covered when s/he started the job, not what s/he actually does now; LinkedIn profiles are bloated with self-serving achievements and vague references; published research titles give some insight into coverage, but not much about depth of domain knowledge.

There is no substitute for experience. And applying it to the information you’ve gathered is where the science turns to art.

Over the years, I’ve engaged with hundreds of analysts. Some have worked with me; a few were clients before they became analysts; many have attended briefings I’ve organised; others have participated in interviews for my AR measurement processes; with too many to count, I’ve shared meals, coffees & drinks in cafes, hotels, airport lounges, breakout rooms, and everywhere in between.

During those interactions, we’ve learned much about each other, and developed trust in many cases. It is the insights from those interactions that I’m able to apply to the tiering process – knowing the types of clients they really work with, what their workload looks like, the way they engage with senior executives, the types of questions they ask, the depth of their domain knowledge and so much more.

Quite simply, I’m more comfortable making a judgment call about an analyst I know well than one I don’t. But what if I don’t know the analyst? Well, experience & intuition still have a role.

You need to be able to read between the lines. Simple things like analyst titles, reporting lines, co-authors, media profiles all tell a story, but you need to know what you’re looking at. So all that information that I said was flawed or incomplete still has a value, if only you know how to interpret all the different pieces.

To target & tier effectively, you need to make judgment calls, and that only comes with experience. You can’t teach it, but you can learn it.

But what do you think?

Cheers,

Dave

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?

Cheers,

Dave

Analysts & social media – what should AR pros know?

In my last post, I discussed how APJ analysts are using social media to conduct research and promote their ideas and personal brands.

Understanding that is important, but for AR professionals, it’s more important to understand how to respond to that – how do you build social media into your analyst engagement process?

Analyst adoption of social media is enthusiastic, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s certainly not universal or consistent. Some of the most influential analysts in APJ are also the least interested in social media, so you shouldn’t assume that social media is a communication panacea.

So what should AR professionals be doing?

  • AR professionals need to assess the interests and needs of individual analysts in relation to their social media usage and preferences, just as you do when evaluating analyst influence – those analysts who are most active are also quite vocal about how they wish to engage.
  • Monitoring analyst commentary on social media platforms is an absolute minimum – knowing the types of questions analysts are asking and the types of comments they are making allows AR to intervene early to resolve issues or counter negative perspectives, which is a lot simpler than fighting fires after the fact.
  • Focus on the major platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. While it is tempting to try to monitor and manage conversations on other platforms, the investment of time probably outweighs the value. That said, there may be opportunities to use other platforms for selected interactions.
  • Make it easy for analysts to engage with you via social media. Open a Twitter account to push information out, if appropriate, which will also allow you to follow what analysts are saying, and allow them to DM you if they wish. Adding a Twitter hashtag to any analyst summit or event is now standard practice, which not only lets analysts comment in real-time, it also lets you react quickly to negative sentiment.
  • Don’t get mesmerised by social media to the detriment of other communication channels. While social media use is not exclusive to the younger members of the analyst community – many older analysts are active devotees – it should be noted that many senior, buy-side analysts are not interested in using social media on a regular basis, so they will still need to be engaged by email and telephone.
  • Be aware of regional differences in usage patterns, as a universal approach will automatically disenfranchise some parts of the analyst community. While Sina Weibo is used more for personal microblogging than for business, it is now standard practice to deploy a Weibo hashtag at vendor events in China, so this is a great opportunity to engage with analysts and other influencers.
  • Think carefully about how you measure social media. There is no silver bullet in this area, and it’s certainly not just about the volume of tweets or LinkedIn questions. As Forrester analyst John Brand noted in response to my last post, there is no volume of tweets which can accurately reflect the value (and influence) of the direct conversations he might have with 120 CIOs over a three-day event. David Fine from Influencer50 also makes some great points in this post. AR professionals should look at the substance of the social media outputs as well as the audience, so measurement is likely to be subjective rather than quantitative

No doubt there are other things you could be doing to more effectively manage social media engagement with analysts, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Social media is not new, but it’s still a learning experience.

Cheers,

How are APJ analysts using social media?

Analysts have been using social media for years – that’s no secret. But understanding how analysts are using social media, which platforms they prefer, what they are actually doing and so on – these things are a little trickier. It’s the classic onion – the more layers you peel off, the more you discover, but the more questions you have…

Late last year – as part of our annual Understanding the Influencers study of analyst preferences – we asked a couple of specific questions about how analysts are using social media. While some of the results pretty much confirmed what we already knew, other insights that came out of the study really changed our thinking on using social media to engage with analysts.

I’ve delivered many of the findings from this study to our clients already, and also discussed the issue on an IIAR webinar last month, but it’s an interesting topic with many elements and angles, so I think it’s worthy of a broader discussion.

What are analysts using social media for?

Essentially, analyst use of social media can be allocated into two fairly broad categories – research and promotion. Within those categories, though, are a number of activities and approaches.

From a research perspective, analysts are using LinkedIn to search for subject matter experts (both users & vendors) and raise questions about user experiences in the many discussion groups; posting questions and testing hypotheses on Twitter; reading vendor and commentator blogs to gain insight into product and technology directions; watching YouTube videos to update on products, technologies and strategies; and many other ways of gathering information.

From a promotion perspective, analysts are posting links to research and events on Twitter and LinkedIn; earnestly expanding their networks on LinkedIn; building their personal brands through ongoing “news” commentary on Twitter; writing blogs which detail their research and/or opinions; and many other ways of raising their profile and building awareness of their capabilities.

Which analysts are using social media?

We asked analysts whether they used a range of social media platforms “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes” or “often”, and categorised those who answered “sometimes” or “often” as “regular” users. The survey covered 136 analysts of various levels of seniority at 20 different firms in 12 countries across the Asia/Pacific & Japan (APJ) region.

Only seven per cent of analysts in APJ never use any social media platform for research, and only 14 per cent never use social media for promotion. This suggests fairly high adoption, but not all analysts are using social media regularly, and few of them are using more than a couple of different platforms on a regular basis.

Overall, we found that analysts in India are the most prolific users of social media, both from a frequency perspective and in terms of the range of platforms. Analysts in ANZ and ASEAN have also adopted social media fairly extensively, but preferences vary considerably depending on the activity and objectives.

Analysts in Greater China and Japan have been less enthusiastic to embrace social media, though this is in part due to the fact that many of the leading platforms are predominantly English-language. And this is changing.

Which platforms are analysts using?

Across APJ, LinkedIn and blogs are the preferred platforms for research, with 61 per cent of analysts using LinkedIn regularly, and 60 per cent using blogs. Twitter is further behind at 45 per cent, while use of Facebook and YouTube is significantly lower. LinkedIn ranked as the top platform for research in India, ANZ and ASEAN.

For promotion, Twitter is the preferred platform – used regularly by 49 per cent of analysts in APJ and 59 per cent in ASEAN – but only just ahead of LinkedIn. Some 46 per cent of analysts in APJ use LinkedIn regularly for promotion, and this platform ranked highest in India and ANZ.

Interestingly, analysts in Japan were most likely to use Facebook for research and promotion, while in Greater China, “other” platforms such as Sina Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – were seen as more relevant.

What does this mean from an AR perspective?

Lots.

But this post is already too long, so I’ll come back in the next couple of days to look at that in more detail. I’ll discuss some of the qualitative insights into why – and why not! – analysts are using social media, plus the key issues AR professionals should consider when developing a social media engagement strategy.

In the meantime, if you have other questions or comments, let me know – I look forward to your feedback.

Cheers,

Dave

Why do AR in APJ?

Anyone involved in the analyst relations business knows that it’s a tough concept to explain – even savvy marketers who’ve worked in the technology business for years find it difficult to believe or understand that there is actually a job which involves providing a bridge between industry analysts & technology vendors. Or a need…

So when I begin a conversation with an AR neophyte, there’s usually three questions in order:

  •  What is AR?
  • Why do AR?
  • Why do AR in Asia/Pacific?

I’m assuming that anyone who’s read this far is already across the first two questions, so I what I really want to discuss is the third – why is it important to do analyst relations in the Asia/Pacific & Japan region?

 Influence is local

Regardless of the greater level of technical/domain knowledge that might exist among analysts in the northern hemisphere, IT decision-makers ultimately rely on their peers. Those peers may be connected at a social, commercial or academic level, but they are primarily “local.” We trust people we know. Depending on the country, analysts will move up or down the scale, but they will always offer something “outsiders” can’t.

 Context is local

Technology may be global, but go-to-market is local. How well a vendor delivers can only be determined at a local level. “Ability to execute” is generally measured at a global level, but there can be a multitude of issues which impact in any given country – and a “local” analyst will be more aware of them than the domain knowledge expert sitting in corporate headquarters or his home office who spends much of his time doing enquiries in his own timezone.

 Information silos are universal

Analysts love to interact & exchange ideas with their peers, and most analyst firms are structured to enable that. But they’re not structured to simply disseminate information across their technology focus areas or geographically. When analysts get together, they exchange ideas, not the latest product briefing they received. Oh, and by the way, not all analysts work for global firms…

Global thought leaders live anywhere

Within the largest analyst firms, their global thought leaders might live anywhere in the world, and outside of those firms, others punch above their weight beyond their local markets. They don’t get out of bed at 2am for vendor briefings, so if you don’t engage with them locally, you miss the opportunity to inform, educate & update them.

 Insight is local

Not all analysts are good – that’s as true for our profession as any other. But most local analysts will be able to provide good insights into the behaviours & dynamics of their local markets. Dialogue & discussion is part of the analyst engagement “game.” Why not take advantage of that?

 This is where the growth is

China, India – two of the world’s largest & fastest growing economies. They are generally unsophisticated buyers of technology, but they’re getting sharper. They’re not historically comfortable with paying external advisors, but they’re starting to understand the value of that. Collectively, Gartner, Forrester & IDC have probably employed more analysts in these countries than anywhere else in the world in the past couple of years. Plus the local & regional firms are growing at similar rates. By they way, those same firms have spent a lot of time & money building up their local sales teams, and consequently their local customer bases. Do you want to ignore that?

 Bottom line

Some – not all – analysts in APJ have influence on how & why your customers make buying decisions, and that influence is growing. Increasingly, they are working with their global domain knowledge expert colleagues to provide detailed & insightful advice to their local customers. They are not in all of your deals, but they are in some of them – and generally they’re in the ones that you really want to win.

I know the AR game in APJ well, but I don’t pretend to have all the answers. What have I missed? What else do you need to know about why you should be doing AR in APJ? I look forward to your feedback & questions.

Cheers,

Dave