Category Archives: Lead Generation

What is the Best Analyst Relations Strategy?

Analyst Relations is a term used to describe the practice of working with industry analysts to help with marketing awareness and sales acceleration programs. The best strategy depends upon your objective. Many analyst firms exist today. Gartner, IDC, and Forrester are three of the more well-known firms, however, many others exist. In terms of revenues, IHS Markit leads the pack with almost $4B and 13,000 employees. Gartner follows closely behind with $3.3B and 15,000 employees (source).

One can trace the origins of this industry to when technology solutions became difficult to understand and compare. In other words, when the technology purchase process became complex, which began back in the 1980s. Since that time, there has been quite a bit of specialization and fragmentation of the IT, technology and software markets. As new technologies continue to be introduced (cloud, AI, machine learning, etc.), systems and platform interoperability have only further added to the complexity!

 

The First Step: What is Your Objective?

There are several reasons why it makes sense to establish an analyst relations program. Depending upon resources and budget, some or all of the following goals can be part of your AR strategy.

  1. Brand Awareness – this objective makes sense if you are entering a new market or region and your brand is relatively unknown. Selling an unrecognized brand in a new market is a lengthy, difficult process. An analyst relations program, ideally part of a PR strategy, can effectively generate awareness. With this promotional activity, a sales team can then have better success in selling into new accounts to accelerate and compress lengthy sales cycles.
  2. Lead Generation – this objective might apply where enough brand awareness exists, but help is needed with new content that better resonates with your target audience, as part of a digital marketing campaign. Here, an analyst relations program might focus on a white paper sponsorship coupled with a webinar to reinforce a value proposition. These activities can then help educate what solutions exist to overcome an industry challenge. Third party content will be perceived as having greater authenticity, so is more effective in driving engagement and producing leads.
  3. Product Development / Launch Support – this objective is applicable when a company’s engineering/product development team wants to validate their future product road map is in alignment with the market’s overall direction. Given the length of time involved in launching new products, this type of AR program helps to minimize the risk of omitting a “must have” feature, or of potentially missing a key technology that is forecast to become the next industry standard. Speaking with the right industry analysts not only avoids risk but can offer insights on potential development challenges, helping to improve return on investment and accelerate product development cycles.

 

Once you have identified the right objective(s) that should be part of your analyst relations program, the next step is to pick which firms and analysts will be the focus of your efforts. This choice is predicated on what analysts can deliver the best value to you, and who are most capable of meeting your goals.

 

Choosing the Right Analysts (and Firms)

Most analyst firms differentiate themselves by covering different market segments, or by specializing in the services offered. For example, Gartner offers technology-related insights for businesses, so speaks in the language of Chief Information Officers. Forrester, however, tends to focus more on forward-thinking advice or predictions insights to business and technology customers. IDC has a broader perspective, with a vision of helping IT professionals, business executives and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy.

Regardless of your market sizing, technology assessment or research requirements, there is an analyst firm that can meet your needs. More importantly, however, is targeting the right analyst within each firm. Not all analysts are created equal. Each has his or her own strength, so acquiring the background of each is an important part of this selection process.

 

The Role of Influencer

It didn’t take long for the technology vendor community to understand the important role industry analysts play. Plagued by long sales cycles and closing complex sales, technology vendors were quick to see a benefit in anything that could accelerate this process.

Hence, the emergence of ratings and ranking reports that positioned some vendors as leaders in their respective markets. A good recommendation can go a long way to making it on the short list or completing a sale by edging out the competition. So too can a “top right” placement in a Forrester Wave, IDC MarketScape, Ovum Decision Matrix, or Gartner Magic Quadrant.

Clearly, the optimization of placement in these rankings reports is a critical component. Here is where the knowledge and understanding of how the industry analyst community operates is a critical component. Simply calling up an analyst firm and demanding a higher ranking is not an option. In fact, such an action will likely have exactly the opposite effect. Nor will simply paying more money guarantee better results.

There are several skills involved in managing these relationships, each which must be learned and refined over time. Those who have been in an analyst relations role understand these nuances and can help navigate through these situations in order to achieve the best overall results.

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How Much Content Should You Share?

free_downloadIn the world of content marketing, every marketer must make a decision on what information should be provided openly, and what should require registration to access. Traditionalists will argue that the concept is straightforward – information that is more valuable should be deemed “worthy” of registration to gain access. With registration, however, comes an expectation of future follow up, be it in the form of a call or email from the sponsoring party. This knowledge dissuades the reading of your material, working against your desired objective.

Today these lines are blurring, which is causing some angst for those of us involved in content marketing.

What is the right balance? The answer is “it depends” … who are you are targeting, and what is your objective?

Who is Your Audience?

If you are targeting the millennials or younger audiences, forget about trying to gate any content you want them to actually read. They simply won’t do it. And, if they do, it will be with a “bogus” email address and contact information you won’t be able to use anyway. Here your best strategy is to post good content often and provide an easy way to share it across social media. This will get your message out. Over time, it will generate interest worthy of further discussion.

The next question is about what you want to accomplish.

What is Your Objective?

My experience has taught me that the decision to pursue content marketing really comes down to two reasons: Lead Generation or Branding. Of course, these goals are not always mutually exclusive. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume one objective can be seen as a primary goal.

If Lead Generation is your goal, then the purpose is to gain contact information for your target audience. That means some sort of registration is needed. But, that doesn’t mean registration is required for all material. Obviously, website content is listed openly for search engine indexing and visitors to read. The next level of interaction might be to offer more detailed or valuable content seen as valuable to your audience. An example might be a sponsored analyst market research report with data that is not readily available for free.

Dedicated landing pages should be prepared for such documents so you can best measure how many visitors landed on the page, and then how many of those visitors actually completed the form to access the content. Response rates can then be measured to evaluate if your message and content is appropriate, if it matches your audience’s expectations, as well as if it was deemed worthy enough to register to access.

But what about if your objective really isn’t to just collect names and contact info? What if you are trying to position yourself as a subject matter expert, which would then lead to new business? For example, what if you are a non-profit association serving your particular industry or market? What if the value you provide the marketplace is more based on influence or authority? And, if you can demonstrate you are an active, relevant voice in that marketplace, might it then be in your best advantage to openly publish content that is valuable?

Drawing the Line of Thought Leadership

It is under these circumstances that the decision of what to share gets tricky. If you are a “young” of new company, perhaps one that is still establishing itself in the marketplace, then providing access is probably more in your best interest to build street “credentials” and demonstrate you are a thought leader. Once you have built your brand awareness, however, then the research you perform will be deemed as highly valuable, and in most cases, worthy of purchase – beyond a simple registration page, but at a level where money is exchanged for your content.

A great example of a later stage company is Gartner, a research firm with 1,000+ analysts. Their reports are highly relevant and insightful – clients pay thousands of dollars a year to access this information. Gartner should not give away their content.

On the other end of the spectrum might be an industry trade association, say operating in an environment where significant industry changes are occurring and new competitive threats are now emerging. This type of organization might be short-sighted in believing that none of their content should be shared with the general public. At the current time, potential membership firms that aren’t yet a member are not likely to pay to gain access, but might be influenced to join if they believe such membership will position themselves (by association) as being part of a “leading” thought leadership group.

Another potential strategy is to release some of the information for free, and to request a different type of “payment” for the full report. This could take the form of providing three references, or to agree to participate in a future market research study. LNS Research has adopted this content marketing strategy, and has achieved success so far.

What is your strategy? Are there other options to consider? My recommendation is to adopt a blended strategy – give something away for free to entice engagement as well as please your younger audience. At the same time, other content should be at a level of value that your prospective audience is willing to “pay” in some way to then continue the engagement. Are there other ways to gate content such that a reasonable ROI on your content marketing program can be achieved? It would be great to hear from you.

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Filed under Branding, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Marketing Strategy