21 June 2013

Bandwidth Triage: Deciding Which Analysts To Engage

In these economically stringent times, hard choices have to be made by communications teams about resource allocation – and Analyst Relations (AR) is no exception. Doing stuff just because you’re asked to is not a smart strategy.
Operational Realities = Tough AR Choices

There is always an opportunity vs. cost ratio involved in the allocation of AR activities. Are there more pressing analyst requests? Is engaging with a given analyst the most productive use of time? Your exec might love this particular analyst, but how much do they really impact market perceptions?

Analyst Relations pros depend heavily on long-term relationship-building and the ongoing exchange of information, so this is an especially delicate matter. There is a trade-off between executive time, organizational resources, and political capital with stakeholders (analysts speaking to vendors and their customers) and influence in the market (analysts advising tech buyers, media, investors). The analysts, of course, pride themselves on their independence, and the best analyst business models are built on it. Nevertheless, they require access to vendors to properly do their job. It is not unreasonable to expect a mutually rewarding - and honest - dialog in exchange.

Industry Influence Impacts Relationship Longevity

AR teams must assess the level of influence an analyst, or analyst firm, has on their company’s market (and thus, how engaging can benefit both parties) before entering into a conversation. It is a considerable time investment for both parties – both analyst and vendor side. Some communications practitioners wrongly assume that bigger or best-known is always best. It’s certainly fair to say that ForresterGartner and IDC  (carefully presented in alphabetical order, dear readers) have a massive influence in many markets. But to automatically put them at the top of the list for every offering, in every vertical market, is a mistake. There are A-list players beyond ‘The Big Three’ in verticals ranging from financial services to clean technology – firms like CEB TowerGroup and Navigant being salient examples. The same applies to horizontal technologies, where experts like Enterprise Application Consulting’s Josh Greenbaum (who runs a small but agile firm)have a profound influence on industry perceptions in particular markets. Another example, the offshoring/outsourcing industry is heavily influenced by a very distinct ecosystem of sourcing advisors – some of whom wouldn’t sit in the traditional ‘analyst’ bracket. One could go on…

Prioritize, Set Boundaries, Move The Needle

Analysts are smart, interesting, busy people, and many have been pioneers in their industries. The flip side is that analyst conversations and consultations can require sustained discussions around both high level strategy and a technology’s particular intricacies. While this promotes frank and useful dialogue it can be difficult for many AR teams to sustain this level of depth at large scales. Serious investment in dialog with an analyst (whether they are an advocate or skeptic), should be allocated towards those that are most clearly impacting your markets.  Engaging every possible analyst out there is a disservice to the wider organization and (even worse) reduces the bandwidth available for interacting with key analysts who do move the needle. A smart AR team never says “we don’t have time for you,” but there are several ways to politely decline a request that are lesser priorities. Similarly, if an analyst’s coverage area changes, the principal analyst is often happy to ensure there is a smooth handover to their chosen successor, or recommended peer who is stepping in to fill their shoes. How this is done depends on an analyst’s personality and on the posture/style of the firm they work for.

Making Smart AR Bets That Support The Long Game

Over the years H+K’s Global AR team has worked with both start up and blue chip company AR teams, so we take a broad look at the ever evolving analyst landscape – drawing insight from many different directions. We offer clients a fresh pair of eyes - and counsel - on how their analyst target lists and broader AR programs can best serve their executives business goals. We also conduct regular analyst audits to dig deep on which analysts are key for specific segments, but to also gauge how those markets are evolving. In addition, our Research + Data Insights team can formally and scientifically survey buyers directly to determine which analysts or firms are influencing deals.

We can help you prioritize your in-box. To get back on top of your resourcing challenges just write to mathew.small@hkstrategies.com andtris.clark@hkstrategies.com.