Neil Pollock, through his research at the University of Edinburgh, has unearthed the many different ways through which analysts shape technological fields they cover. For instance, proposing names and definitions for emerging technological trends is, according to Pollock, one of many ways analysts exert influence.
Both clients (in B2B) and investors care about what analyst firms report on the industries in which they have a stake. Reports from the large analyst firms are also often picked up by the media, which greatly amplifies their reach and influence.
In short, analyst relations merit a place in any holistic PR outreach strategy for B2B technology companies.
One of the secrets to analyst relations? The relationship you build and maintain with them will deliver increasing value over time, much like the relationships you develop with traditional media.
Here are five parts of a successful analyst relations program your B2B tech company should immediately consider pursuing:
What is the business story you will be telling the analysts? It’s essentially the same story you will tell a business or trade journalist, with the exception that the analyst will often ask much more granular questions.
Be ready to explain what segment(s) your are targeting with your products and services, through which positioning, what differentiates you, what you are trying to accomplish over the next few years, and what strategy you are pursuing to accomplish that goal. Keep in mind that the analysts are keeping a close eye on your competition. Any claims you make better come with convincing proof points that credibly support your arguments.
If you prefer to not connect all the dots and keep some parts of the business story confidential, then that is completely fine. But know that going into an analyst interview rather than blindly stumbling into it. Finally, just as is the case with media relations, it’s completely acceptable to disclose information under embargo, that is as long as you come to a very clear agreement about that up front.
Before you reach out to analyst firms you will need to understand which firms can influence the clients that are important for your business. Some basic online research will help you learn which analyst firms cover your industry. It also makes sense to triangulate these findings with a search on analyst reports that cover your direct competitors just to make sure you have the key influencers on core business topics. Take a deep dive in the reports of the analyst firms so you know exactly which analyst(s) you need to keep updated.
It’s possible that you are eligible to be of interest to analysts that work from two or more different angles. Take PSL, a Colombian nearshore software development company interested in expanding its reach into the enterprise market. When we took them on as a client, they had no analyst relations program in place so we started from scratch. We immediately set about to research and catalog the AR firms covering nearshore software development and also a separate set of firms that follow the DevOps industry. While there may be some overlap between the two sets it provided us with a more precise angle around which we could develop separate narratives.
A professional presentation deck for AR firms is an absolute must-have for all briefings. Analysts will often appreciate you sharing it in advance so they can use the deck to take notes during your briefing session. Quality trumps quantity in both what you tell the analysts and how information is condensed in your slides. More often than not a deck of 10 slides will do the job. About two of the 10 slides may contain “boilerplate” information on your company that you won’t need to update frequently.
The larger analyst firms (Gartner and Forrester Research to name just two) have templatized procedures in place to initiate both a first contact and a request for an update. Following those procedures allows for a smooth engagement and efficient exchange of information.
It’s generally recommended that you ask an analyst explicitly about the ways in which he or she would appreciate being kept abreast of any updates. Even if there are formal processes in place, the analyst might still appreciate receiving your press releases (or at least those releases that cover certain topics of their interest).
While there is a place and need for paid analyst relationships, if you can provide value and vision as you meet and brief new firms, you will establish additional reasons for an analyst firm to follow you. Think about it this way: how could analysts provide value to their customers if they only covered the companies that pay them? When dealing with smaller AR firms with no formal intake procedures in place, be sure you come to an agreement in advance about what you are trying to accomplish and what the analyst hopes to gain before a call is set up. Otherwise, the exchange could turn into a disappointment for both parties.
5. Maintaining Relationships
Analyst relationships are always a give and take. Once a relationship has been established, you may find that analysts reach out to you at a time that is less than convenient to you. Since you were the one who wanted to build this relationship, then you should do your best to make yourself available and provide value to them.
Make no mistake, online networking is also an indispensable part of relationship building and nurturing. Are you following analysts you engaged on LinkedIn and Twitter? By keeping track of what they share online you will have a good feel for their needs and priorities, which will allow you to make your briefings to them even more targeted and valuable.