When starting an industry analyst relations function one of the first and most crucial tasks is to understand who the most appropriate analysts to engage with are. This can seem like an obvious task but there is often a lot more to it, and targeting should not just be a case of speaking to anybody who covers your technology in some vague capacity, leaving you to hope for the best.
Firstly, it is important to understand your own business needs. Why are you starting an AR function? What is the business problem you’re trying to solve and what is the eventual future goal that you are working towards? Resources, whether budget, time, or otherwise, are finite, and a targeted approach is likely to yield better results than a spray-and-pray approach.
The interpretation of this business problem may differ depending on the department your AR function ultimately rolls up into. If marketing, then securing advocacy may be seen as the obvious challenge. If product development, then industry insights and knowledge into future competitor activity might be what is holding back your own strategy. Analyst relations can help here, but not every firm will necessarily provide you with both in equal measure. That is not to say that any one firm is lesser than another but understanding each firm’s specific strengths and core audiences will help save both your and the analysts’ time and will provide more value to your AR function.
So, how does one determine the analyst firm focus? Well, simply looking at the type of research being published is a good start. If it looks like the research focuses on overall market analysis, that’s probably a firm that can help you with bringing insights back into the business to inform strategy. If the research benchmarks various vendors and/or their products/solutions, chances are the audience for that is some kind of end user, making that firm influential to buyers … in theory. There is one major firm that is known for buyer influence and, depending on your particular technology niche, a few others who are also influential to buyers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single analyst firm producing a competitive evaluation is influential, so when determining how many of these evaluations to participate in, an AR team should have a good understanding of what is being sacrificed by going wide and whether it might not in fact be more influential to the bottom line to focus on a few key firm reports to ensure those result in the most accurate representation as possible. Participating in competitive evaluations is a time-consuming task and limits an AR team’s ability to conduct other activities, so the benefits of inclusion should be weighed against the costs. Exclusion is not the only cost.
While there are few firms with considerable influence over buyers, there are many who can be useful for brand amplification i.e. helping shape messaging and providing quotes for press releases, as well as acting as references for sales calls and so forth. However, with such activities, a vendor should never assume that an analyst, or their firm, can be bought for such a purpose. Analysts will always remain neutral and should only ever be expected to speak objectively. Your product either does what it says on the tin, or it doesn’t. An analyst can confirm or challenge that based on their experience with your product and their conversations with many other stakeholders, such as customers, partners, investors, regulators and more. If your product does do as it says, and the analyst can confirm this, the analyst, as a neutral third party that isn’t your sales or marketing team, could be extremely influential to end users seeking counsel for their decision.
As shown, analyst firms provide considerable value to end users and vendors alike, so one should avoid wasting their time. Build up a good working knowledge of the firms most relevant to you and leverage their considerable expertise appropriately. It’ll be worth it.