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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.