AS IF: the blog

Categories

Archives

What’s the value of engaging with Industry Analysts?

13/12/2015

Courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of the team and our resident analyst relations guru – is it about what you know or who you know?

Eria OdhubaWhen engaging with industry analysts, tech vendors and end users ALWAYS want to know what value they add and whether they can actually provide guidance to help them make crucial strategic decisions.

For some people, the fundamental reason they engage with analysts is to get advice about how to position themselves better (vendors) or which vendor technologies to consider (end users) because they genuinely can’t do so themselves and feel that analysts know more about certain aspects of the industry than they do.

When everything matches – i.e. connection with the right analyst, finding the best time to engage with them during the product life cycle or decision-making process, execution as advised, and progress reviews – we’re all happy and feel the whole process was worth it.

All this depends on:

1. The analyst adding to the knowledge that didn’t exist within the organisation, or did exist but no-one had a good idea how best to utilise it strategically;

2. The analyst using their extensive knowledge of various technologies, implementations and case studies to provide impartial advice and pro-actively guide their clients.

Now, occasionally, we hear “I definitely know more about this industry than XYZ analyst, what value will they really provide? I will be the one educating them!”

Time is precious and it is understandable if someone doesn’t want to waste time talking to analyst they don’t feel are relevant to them. What people should always remember is that it works the other way round as well. Analysts don’t want to talk to people that are not relevant to their research areas or can’t provide valuable information they can use to help advise their own clients.

So if an analyst wants to speak to you, they may not necessarily know more about the industry than you do but they do want to know more about your company, technology, services, GTM strategy, etc.

Fundamentally, you need to see this as an education process. Though you may know what you are doing, you need to get the message out. So, educate the analysts and let them educate the market / tell people about the value you provide.

For a normal briefing, the question to ask is “what gaps in the analyst’s knowledge exist that I need to fill in?” instead of “does this analyst know more than me?”

For consulting / inquiry-type engagements, you can think differently. You want to make sure the analyst you talk to is providing you with the necessary advice related to messaging, market positioning, technology development, etc. What you are looking for is an independent opinion which, given the opportunities analysts have to talk to end users (about deployments) and vendors (about technology solutions), allows them to give actionable advice that you can use.

Sometimes, all they can do is validate what you already know or do. But it is important to have that validation so you don’t get caught up navel gazing. A reality check is always good.

So, do analysts always know more about an industry than you do? No they don’t! But by carefully identifying and approaching the right analysts, you can engage with those (paid or not) that are driving conversations or have an impact on end user technology selection because someone somewhere finds their output valuable enough to engage with them.

Their independence, means people will be more open to them than to you, is something to take advantage of. So don’t ignore the newer / younger analysts – they could be your biggest advocates in years to come.


Why and how to engage with industry analyists on social channels

28/07/2015

Courtesy of Eria, our resident analyst relations guru, we look at engaging with the industry analysts via social media channels:Peter Springett

In the ‘good old days’ of analyst relations, things were easy. If you wanted to know what analysts thought about technology, markets or vendors, all you had to do was read their reports or, occasionally, get it direct when they spoke at events.With so many channels for information exchange now, AR teams have their work cut out tracking analyst opinions. This is even more difficult (though I should really say exciting) when you consider all the ‘disruptive’ analyst firms that have sprung up over the past five years.

Many analysts don’t just rely on reports, inquiries and speaking engagements to engage with their audiences. They use social media and, more importantly, use it so naturally that there are significant opportunities to interact with them in meaningful ways. Analysts that use social media successfully don’t see it as a separate project / strategy to what they do. It is simply part of a multi-faceted approach to engagement which fits in naturally with everything else they do, including paid engagements / products.So the big question for many vendors isn’t, “Should we spend valuable time and resources tracking relevant analysts on social media, and engage with them / their community?”

But, “How do we continue to engage with our important analysts using all the channels available so there is a seamless relationship experience?”

  • First of all, we all need to understand that we have moved on to a time where social media is seen as part of normal day-to-day activity. It is, for many people, now simply a channel to engage with followers and/or communities where information sharing, recommendations and online reviews are fundamental parts of decision-making processes. If you still need to have a meeting to decide whether to have a social media strategy, you’ve missed the boat! So, in answering the key question, you have got to make sure you have the right reasons for doing so and realise that it can’t simply be a case of following analysts on twitter. A well-executed and comprehensive AR program will include many traditional elements (i.e. briefings, inquiries, speaking engagements, white papers etc.) but will also have adequate resources to track analyst conversations on social media. More importantly, there will be a willingness to engage with analysts via social channels by sharing useful information or providing comments that add value to conversations taking place (without the hard sell).
  • Secondly, it means getting a better understanding of how end users or key decision makers use social media to help them engage with analysts and make purchase decisions. This is hard, really hard! Though the actual decision to select a particular IT vendor may never be known, engagement within relevant communities can sometimes give an indication of the views that end users have regarding particular technologies (though you have to look beyond the beliefs of die hard fans for specific ones such as the Apple fanzine), and analysts’ reactions to these views is important to understand what they think needs to be addressed.
  • Thirdly, you have to accept that social media engagement with analysts will not necessarily result in their endorsement of your products / solutions. More often than not, you open yourself up for scrutiny and possible criticism which means being prepared to address community concerns in ‘real time’ just to maintain any credibility. Think crisis management on speed!
  • Finally, the social media experience should give companies more information on the analyst they engage with, and form part of the wider intelligence they gather about analysts, including their views on the market and trends they see in the market.

We shouldn’t really be talking about social media for AR any more. We should think of it as seamless, multi-channel AR where we curate information from multiple sources to build better pictures of analysts and develop mutually-beneficial relationships with them.


When it comes to AR – does size matter?

18/05/2015

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead asks, when it comes to conducting an analyst relations programme, does company size matter?

large or small everyone can make themselves heard

I’ve worked with every size of technology company – from mighty household names, to hungry start-ups. While many may differ, the goal is still the same for their AR programmes – they want to make sure they are on the radars of relevant analysts that cover their technologies and, hopefully, fall into conversations analysts have with their clients.

The key perception that vendors need to overcome is that they must have large budgets to be on the analyst radar. Well – that is just not true. Here is why:

For super large vendors – AR programmes are normally
multi-faceted (especially if there are different business groups that need to
build a story that shows they are fully integrated with each other, and where
the vendor needs to show growth in multiple markets). More often than not,
there are opportunities for numerous engagements with analysts as there is a
lot to update them on. Occasionally, analysts are writing reports looking at
key vendors and they need to keep in touch to make sure they represent the
vendor properly. Basically, there are more opportunities to build comprehensive
AR programmes that have an impact on the bottom line.

At the other end of the scale are the start-ups…. yikes,
where do you start? Actually, you start by first finding out what you’re
passionate about and what problems you are looking to solve. You may not have
the budgets larger vendors have, but you’re doing something interesting
(hopefully) and touching people they probably don’t want to or can’t, and
making your clients’ lives better. Crucially, you can be mavericks as you don’t
have to defend vested interests or fight internal political battles that
sometimes happen at larger vendors.

Working it

Whether you have large or small resources certain basic principles apply for an AR programme to succeed. These include:

  • Doing some homework on your messaging to make sure you are
    absolutely clear on what problems you are actually solving and what solutions
    you have to help clients. You really need to make sure there actually is a
    problem you are solving;
  • Identifying who actually needs your solutions and ideally,
    or if you’re lucky, finding out more about their decision-making process to see
    how they use analyst research to select technology solutions;
  • Finding out which analysts are covering the technology
    solutions you provide, and tracking their research plans and speaking
    engagements;
  • Using multiple communication channels, including social
    media, to amplify your message and get people to follow what you say as you
    drive or contribute to relevant discussions. If you’re a start-up – be
    provocative. You have no time for timidity;
  • Taking the plunge and speaking to the analysts you’ve
    identified;
  • Takeing on board their feedback and make sure they see you
    addressing any concerns they have raised.

So, those are the basics. You really can’t do much more if you’re a smaller vendor simply looking to start engaging with analysts. That is a good start! You just need to be realistic about the frequency of interactions you have and depth of programmes possible. If you are a start up with 15-50 employees, you will not have the frequency and depth of engagements a mega vendor has, but you can still make waves. And analysts will speak to you if you’re willing to accept that they will not promise quarterly updates or publish a report four weeks after meeting you.

As you get bigger and perhaps have larger budgets, your challenges as an organisation will change. There are more opportunities for competitors to hit back at you and you have to show you can continue to grow and defend yourself from all the FUD competitors will throw at your clients or prospects.

Now you can start thinking about more commercial relationships with the analysts – white papers, subscriptions, speaking gigs or event support. And be sure any feedback is integrated into your internal market intelligence, and that sales / marketing teams benefit from the enhanced relationships.

If you’re careful, you will have made sure you’ve used the interactions with analysts to identify who actually impacts your target market and can actually help you (without compromising their independence). While respecting the analysts and how they work, you can make better decisions about which paid engagements to plan for and how these help your wider marketing and sales teams to do their jobs more effectively.


Hot Fintech trends – analyst industry round up part two

03/03/2015

Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead ollates industry analysts predictions for fintech for insurance, China and the cryptocurrency eco-system.

it’s gonna be a scorcher

Before we get too far into March, I thought I’d follow up my previous predictions by continuing to look at what analysts think is in store for the rest of 2015. I’ve also given myself a bit more time to get information from calls, reports or announcements made during February.

One topic that is hot right now – insurance. If you’re like me, insurance rates seem to shoot up every year. But if technology is being used to make the insurance industry more cost effective (and, hopefully, pass the lower costs on to us), what are the key things to look out for in 2015.Focused on the US insurance market, Aite Group predicts a new trend which will inevitably be widespread elsewhere – personal risk management. Key things to look out for include:

  1. Smartphones enable next-generation risk management capabilities
  2. The Internet of Things and sensor fusion technology contextualize risk
  3. A personal data backlash creates monitoring opportunity
  4. Insurance learns to share
  5. Digital marketing platforms socialize
  6. Core applications cloud compute
  7. Risk-scoring models sell life insurance
  8. Health insurance transparency reaches ubiquity
  9. Health insurance payments go mobile
  10. Docs demand denial-management data

Here in the UK, the key trends are 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 (my take!) – we’ve not reached the health insurance penetration rates you get in the US, but there is a lot that vendors and clients will learn from the US experience.

For those interested in China, Kapronasia has looked at the top 10 China banking and capital market trends, plus the top 10 Asia digital currency trends. Key ones that jumped out for me include:

1. Wealth management will continue to be a key product area – with a growing elite class, this is inevitable especially as a growing band of rich Chinese look to pass their global wealth to heirs while minimising tax.

2. Chinese financial institutions move away from foreign vendors. Now this is big news. Over the past few years, the strategy for vendors looking to get into China has been to partner with local firms / individuals who can help navigate the bureaucracy that existed. It looks like Chinese firms are starting to build up the expertise needed to deliver many of the services that local financial services need, so foreigners will struggle to make in-roads. Value-add will be a premium for winning new business.

3. Overall digital currency regulation in Asia will not be positive. Trust is a hard thing to win, and digital currencies in Asia will be something the regulators look on with suspicion until they know more about them – and their potential for fraud. Basically, more money for analysts, consultants and lawyers that can help vendors and firms navigate what could potentially turn out to be a big, fat mess!

For more capital markets predictions, Greenwich Associates doesn’t just have 10 trends to watch, it has 15! Where do I start with these predictions, you just have to read them. The one I think will result in big structural changes (though all of them will) is number 7 – the unbundling debate in European equities will rage on. ESMA and the FCA have proposed a complete unbundling of all research advisory services including corporate access. Blood will be shed getting this sorted – and the buy-side firms will seriously have to think about how they access and use research to deliver value to clients.

Finally, what about Bitcoin? There are two sources I’d like to draw on regarding this.

First of all, let us look at Aite Group’s report in December 2014. This, controversially for some, came up with an interesting hypothesis. Bitcoin, as we know it now, might not exist in the future but could evolve and provide the platform for new laws and forms for cryptofinance within the financial services industry. The ‘Napster-came-before-Apple-and-Amazon-and-Google’ comparison might be something we look back on in a few years time.

Secondly, Juniper Research has published a report on The Future of Cryptocurrency. Whether bitcoin or other current forms of cryptocurrencies exist in 5 to 10 years time, Juniper predicts that although crypto-transaction volume is likely to increase in 2015, value should decrease 58% throughout this year to approximately $30 billion. It believes that despite the drop in bitcoin values, it is a great tool that can be used to improve the payments ecosystem.

Taking the Aite Group and Juniper Research reports / predictions together, it all makes sense. Crypto-currency transactions are in their infancy. With sensible regulation, sound storage and custodian services of cryptocurrencies, enhanced fraud protection and education, 2015 might just be the start of something really exciting.

Both the predictions above and those covered in my last post will drive the need for advice from the industry analyst community. There is so much change happening in fintech and a huge need to incorporate new things with old, creaking legacy systems, CIOs will have to prioritise with care.


Hot Fintech trends for 2015 – analyst round up part one

14/01/2015

What’s on the horizon for retail banking, risk and FX? Our man Eria Odhuba, analyst relations lead puts together a digest of analyst insight on fintech trends in 2015.

Part one of two posts as there is much to cover, this one looks at retail banking, risk and FX. I’ve decided to start by pointing to a number of articles that I feel provide a really good overview of the predictions within specific sectors of financial services for 2015, to which industry analysts have wholly or partially contributed.Traditionally, this time of year means predictions – when wise industry analysts predict the key IT trends for the next 12 months or so. Kudos to analysts willing to stick their heads out! So, at the CommsCrowd we thought it might be helpful to summarise analyst predictions for 2015, specifically, the financial services technology industry – one of our sweet spots.

Caveat – some analyst firms still have predictions webinars coming up so maybe I jumped the gun a bit (e.g. Celent). However, if you know of other predictions that should be read, please feel free to share these. I definitely don’t claim to have scanned all the key predictions out there – so share away.

The digitisation and disruption of retail bankingThe first article, if you have not seen it already, is a whopper! Top 10 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions for 2015, The Financial Brand:

  1. Using Customer Analytics to Drive Contextual Experiences
  2. Expedited Deployment of Digital Delivery
  3. Mobile-First Design
  4. Increasing Digital and Social Selling
  5. Mass Market Acceptance of Mobile Payments
  6. Focus on Security and Authentication
  7. Industry Consolidation
  8. Enhanced Customer Incentivization
  9. Investment in Innovation, Incubation and Uncommon Alliances
  10. Increased Impact of Digital Disruptors

So what caught my eye? Apart from specific analyst comments, it is the massive interest in, and inter-linking of, digital, personalisation and mobile. I imagine we’ll see lots of waves being made as banks fight to win/keep customers and look to make their multi-channel experiences seamless, enjoyable and secure.

Oh, and Apple Pay. Trust them to put a spanner in the works!! Ovum is just one of many analyst firms that have a view on how this will change the payments landscape.

Align that spine
But, every now and then someone highlights the ‘old world’ stuff that needs to be sorted out. Check out Four big bank tech trends for 2015 by Chris Skinner. Good old core banking systems renewal is, reluctantly, hanging in there as a major target for investment against ‘newer world’ entries like cloud, analytics and incubators. Banks have to get their spines in order and renewing core systems is a nasty job (probably why CEOs don’t like doing it).

Invest in risk or risk failed investments If you like going deep, deep, deep undercover in the risk world, IDC Financial Insights’s Worldwide Risk Management 2015 Predictions is a good bet. What do they say?1. Risk data aggregation, analytics and reporting consumes 75% the CRO agenda in 2015.
2. Led in part by big data solutions, fraud and financial crimes analytics will set global financial institutions back US$2.8 billion for software and services by 2016.
3. 30% of top compliance functions introduce a technological means, business processes, and metrics to manage and minimize conduct failures.
4. Institutions increase investments in risk culture through enterprise education by more than 15% in 2015
5. Industry clouds disrupt legacy risk operations and contribute to 10% reduction in KYC and other compliance costs by 2016.
6. Virtually all CROs will be engaged in credit risk modernization initiatives through 2016
7. By 2016, threat intelligence security services market will growth at 20% CAGR, with consulting services leading the growth.
8. To meet the demand for convenience, by 2016, 10% of mobile-initiated commerce will be biometrically secured, and password usage begins to show signs of decay.
9. By 2017, with workable boundaries of regulation at state and federal levels, financial institutions find their role in crypto-currency clearing.
10.Through 2016, operational risk spending will grow at 8% CAGR, almost 2 times the average growth rate for all IT industry spending.

What got me, first, is the eye-watering $1/2 trillion (really) IT budget for risk across all financial services and, second, the fact that this is still increasing. Risk management, with all the accompanying regulatory, human, technological and political pressures will be a big issue in 2015. Industry analysts that focus on this area will be VERY busy as the need for advice to navigate this really complex area continues.

Cloud, big data and analytics are entrenched topics for discussion now – and in 2015, the vendors that catch analysts’ eyes will be the ones that actually deliver solutions to mitigate risk across these three areas and not simply have aspirational messages.

FX – up your game plan
What about some capital markets-specific predictions? I’ll stick to FX. We all know regulations and FX-fixing seemed to dominate headlines as 2014 closed.

FX-MM magazine has a brilliant overview of what Aite Group thinks will be happening in the global FX market in 2015. There is a lot to digest but I’ll highlight a couple of things. First, tier 2 – regional and national – banks will need to up their game in various areas to compete effectively with tier 1s. Second, as pointed out by Javier Paz, banks looking to broaden their capabilities will need to carefully manage crucial relationships with FX technology firms, brokers and venues. I predict a queue to analysts that can help vendors and/or banks deal with all these issues – and this is just FX!

Self-fulfilling prophecies
These predictions will, to some extent, dictate what analysts are interested in. And if they are really interested in something, it is because there is a demand for their insight. While I have not covered all the fintech predictions possible in this post, it is clear that things like regulation, mobile, customer experience, cloud, big data and analytics will be top of mind in the industry.

The key thing many banks and vendors have to do is to find the right analysts to help delve deeper than the predictions outlined and actually get insights that give them a competitive advantage.

Picture courtesy of www.theiconconciergeblog.com

Sibos – no rest for the wicked or even the wise

30/06/2014

Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead reviews the ‘dos and don’ts’ for getting the best out of the mighty trade show.

Sibos  – comes round quicker than Christmas

So I’ve just been to a couple of big industry events, and it got me thinking about the preparation exhibitors need to do to make them worthwhile. I am going to use Sibos 2014, this year in Boston, as an example here as I have shed so many tears getting clients Sibos-ready over the years.

Obviously there are many exhibitors who have got Sibos running through their veins and if they had time, could write this post with their eyes shut, but here’s a guide for Sibos newbies, or a useful checklist for the seasoned salts.

What are some of the issues with events like Sibos 2014?

  1. ROI – if you’re going to exhibit, you want to make sure you recoup your costs and some! It’s a very expensive line item, the return needs to be quantifiable and equally impressive.
  2. Poor preparation before the event – If you don’t plan your communications and resources properly, you will look amateurish and it will show compared to those companies that have this event down pat.
  3. Being heard above the white noise – if you don’t know your key message, if it’s not relevant, fresh and exciting, then you won’t get heard.
  4. Thinking lead generation begins at the event – People come to Sibos to continue conversations, not to start them, Sibos needs to be the culmination of a campaign that results in a face to face meeting.
  5. Recruitment consultants – not much you can do about this. I remember a consultant at Sibos who told me, at a party, that he had received or processed CVs for about 25 people in the room. The recession is over; it’s a seller’s market.

What should you NOT do before Sibos 2014? 

  1. Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event.
  2. Keep your head in the sand and ignore industry trends leading up to the event – you need to know what pain delegates are feeling so you know what your products and services best address it.
  3. Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later).
  4. Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic.

How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?

  1. First of all, you need a three-month activity timeline with specific actions and deadlines, allocating responsibility for each action. So, with Sibos 2014 in October, you need to start planning now, July.
  2. If you’re reading this and you haven’t booked your hotels and flights yet, suggest you stop reading right now and get on it 🙂
  3. To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries.
  4. Read Sibos Issues and other news to understand what people will be talking about this year. Don’t repeat the last year’s messages or themes – find something new and relevant to attract attention in the lead up to the event. If you can’t figure out how to articulate your value proposition, get help.
  5. Think how this event falls into your sales funnel. Identify key prospects from the delegate list, and plan multi-step communications or lead generation activities to get them to want to talk to you at the event. Each step should add value to the relationship, so use content to increase interest. Get delegates to self-select themselves to contact you for a meeting based on the content you have provided BEFORE the event.
  6. Plan your press and industry analyst engagements now. Influencers don’t have time to speak to everyone so make sure you know how and what to pitch to them. If you don’t know how, get an expert in. Don’t be unprofessional about this and ignore the value of great influencer meetings.
  7. Focus on meeting influencers you rarely see, rather than those that are down the road from you who you can catch up with any time.
  8. Go for feature opportunities that get you in the news the week of Sibos, and make sure whatever news announcement you have is actually informative and not simply white noise.
  9. Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event.
  10. Plan your post-Sibos steps now – what content or steps will you follow up with and who will be responsible for these steps? What you do after the event is even more important if you want to convert prospects into sales?

What to do at Sibos 2014?

  1. Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with.
  2. Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions.
  3. Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when.
  4. Get someone to walk the floor to see what other exhibitors are displaying. You need to understand what competitors are saying and how they might be getting their message across.
  5. Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions.
  6. Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked!

 


Can you have a non-commerical relationship with analysts?

14/06/2014

Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead dispels the most common myth about analyst relations – you have to pay them to play with them.

Analysts are paid to know, so what do you know?

“We have a problem with analysts,” I hear you say. “You have to buy analyst services to have a good relationship with them,” has got to be the most common phrase any analyst relations professional hears from colleagues.

Cynicism reigns when it comes to judging analysts, which reflects the way many of us might feel about the role they, and other influencers, have when recommending IT products or services.

Admittedly some are harder to engage than others if you do not have a subscription, but is that true of all Analyst Houses or is there a middle ground?Seven things worth knowing about analysts

We’ve compiled a quick checklist to help you understand their drivers and so you can better develop great relationships with analyst firms:

1) Good analysts prize their independence. In fact, their reputation hinges on remaining independent while advising their clients.

2) Analysts will NOT ignore you if you have something really good to talk about. Why should they? After all, you might be the trailblazer they identify and, in turn, get the kudos for predicting the disruptive influence you have on your target markets.

3) Analysts are human. They don’t know everything but, crucially, don’t have time to speak to every single vendor.

4) As they are human, you have to understand how they work, what they are working on, the timescales they have and the channels through which they provide advice.

5) To catch their attention, you need to provide really useful information using structured engagements over time to help them with their research, and make sure this fits in with their schedules. One off briefings are useless.

6) If you say ‘we are the world leading vendor providing modular, scalable solutions…blah, blah, blah’, just STOP. This means nothing. Tell analysts about specific and real problems you are addressing and let them tell people you are a leader.

7) They need to eat, pay mortgages and go for the occasional holiday. Separating how they make money and learning about various vendors so they can then advise their clients is something they all do – the best ones give disclaimers so you know exactly who their clients are.

So, what are analyst subscriptions all about?
Sometimes, you just need help with your lead generation and market positioning. Analysts who track various vendors in a specific market will know the ones that are doing well. Sometimes it is simply the technology or services that competitors provide which simply rock. Most of the time, they just have a good story that resonates better with clients than yours does.

Analyst subscriptions are, therefore, useful to help you position yourself better using the resources, advice and specific feedback opportunities you have available with individual analysts.

If you think it means analysts will say you are the best thing since sliced bread was invented, forget it. No analyst worth their salt will destroy their reputation doing so. Yes, you might get the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves, but these follow strict guidelines to maintain analyst independence (whether you agree with them or not).

Why don’t analysts want to talk to me then?
Just maybe, you don’t have anything relevant to add! Or maybe what you have to say is not relevant to their speciality.

There are too many vendors to track and a lot of output they need to plan for and deliver. Follow the steps above. Make sure you have a really good update or case studies to follow up with (even better if end users can talk to the analysts directly).

Will analysts stop talking to me if I don’t pay them?
No. They would ideally like to have you as a client (if they take on vendors as clients), but if you’re making waves in your market they still want to give advice to others that will help them make good purchase decisions.

So, be relevant but realistic about what analysts are looking for. They need information to help them build thought leadership positions. You can help them if you engage properly with them. They can also help you if you are honest enough to recognise you need advice to position yourselves better against your competitors. That is when analyst subscriptions come into play.

If you found this interesting you may also to peruse our analyst relations whitepaper which can be downloaded here.


How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line – part three

16/02/2014

The third post courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of the team and our resident analyst relations guru:

In part one of this series, we looked at the reasons AR programs fail and what you need to do before speaking to analysts. In the part two we provided some metrics you should consider measuring and a few questions you need to think about to maximise the impact AR has on your marketing. And in this final part, we look at how to integrate your good work with analysts and your wider marketing activities, ensuring everything feeds into your overall business objectives…

Do people REALLY know what they will get from the description of your products or services?

Your problem: If you only offer services, this can be one of the hardest things to do correctly. How do you convince prospects to buy from you if it takes time to realise any major benefits? Are you confident that the way you have named or packaged what you sell clearly articulates the benefits that clients would get if they bought from you? If prospects don’t know what benefits they get from what is on offer, then price is all they’ll use to make purchase decisions. The impact on your bottom line is huge if your competitors package themselves much better than you do. Quite often, poor product packaging happens when marketing and sales teams don’t interact effectively.

How analysts can help: Analysts can provide guidance regarding product or service packaging as part of wider marketing efforts. Their unique insight into the various strategies used by competitors, means they can help build services around your unique perceived benefits (UPBs). They can also show you how to break services down into logical processes that are easy to follow and which, more importantly, clearly show what prospects will get.

Do you know your customers’ lifecycles and do you change the way you provide value to them over time?

Your problem: A customer lifecycle is the journey someone makes from the initial discovery of your products / services to being a client. It is important to understand lifecycles so that you manage client relationships effectively and tailor your messages or services accordingly.Marketers, therefore, always need to answer the following questions so that they add value to each stage of a customer lifecycle: What factors influence initial purchase decisions within specific niches? What do competitors offer? What end results do clients actually desire? What are the market / technology changes that impact the continued use, or upgrade, of specific technologies or services? Without this information, marketers will struggle to effectively manage each step of a typical customer lifecycle. For example, think of companies that have simply tried to renew contracts or upsell additional services without tracking client needs properly. Tales of woe after deals have been signed are common, and a lot of this is down to the inability to manage the various stages of customer or partner lifecycles effectively.

How analysts can help: When you are fighting day-to-day battles and trying to get quick wins to justify marketing budgets, it can be hard to step back and have a big picture view of whole lifecycles and the different engagement methods necessary to nurture early prospects or long-term clients. Getting independent feedback on how best to do so might not be something you have considered.How analysts can help: Analysts, especially those that have a good knowledge of licensing and contracts, can provide independent advice to companies to help them manage customer lifecycles better. Of course, the products and/or services you provide have to be spot on in the first place. However, given the fact that there is almost always an alternative choice that could be made, marketers should use industry analysts to stop customers getting fed up and looking elsewhere because their continually changing needs are not being met.

Are you using the right traditional and social media channels to communicate?

Your Problem:Every marketer knows they have to communicate through the media channels that their prospects and clients use to look for information.Your problem: Whatever media channel you use to generate leads, solidify thought leadership or remain top of clients’ minds, you need to know which ones the analysts use to share information. For example, you need to know whether you potentially lost a deal because of comments made by an analyst via a blog or online forum. The problem here for marketers is the perceived loss of control and the lack of resources to do this effectively. It can be tough to justify the time and effort given the tight budgets many marketing departments have. It all comes back to the feedback you collected from clients and prospects

How analysts can help: If prospects / clients are influenced by specific channels that analysts also use, then you need to make sure you engage with the analysts via the same channels (on top of regular briefings) so that you can positively influence their output. Commenting on their blogs and participating in discussions helps you understand the frustrations analysts have with technology vendors. It also means you engage with them more effectively and, hopefully, can convert them into advocates.In conclusion

AR is often seen as an add-on to marketing and PR activities that is hard to measure and whose budget is hard to defend. It can be tough to stick your neck out and plan long-term engagements when we are all judged on quick wins.

But, trust is a hard thing to come by now, and we are pretty cynical about most of the content and claims from many technology companies. Engaging wth analysts, earning ther respect and winning their support can deliver the esssential credibility factor into the marketing mix.

***

Post script: These three AR posts have proved pretty popular. So we’ve put them together, ripped out the fluff, given it a bit of structure and turned them into a whitepaper, which you are welcome to download here:

 

 


Guest post: How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line – part two

09/12/2013

The second of my guest posts, courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru:

I’m telling you, my AR campaign was this big!

In part one of this series, we looked at the reasons AR programs fail and what you need to do before speaking to analysts. In this second part, we’ll look at some metrics you should consider measuring and a few questions you need to ask yourself to maximise the impact AR has on your marketing. This should help create the right foundation on which to build an effective AR programme.

Metrics to measure
If you don’t know your key marketing and sales metrics, how do you know what needs to improve? And if you don’t know what needs improving, then what is the point of doing AR? Typical metrics you need to know include:

1. Number of enquiries for a product or service;
2. Number of referrals made by existing customers or partners;
3. Percentage of enquiries and referrals converted into RFPs;
4. Typical lead response times;
5. Number of RFPs that convert into actual sales;
6. Number of active customers;
7. Total spend per active customer;
8. Customer churn rates;
9. Gross revenue;
10. Gross profit;
11. Marketing costs;
12. Marketing costs per enquiry;
13. Marketing costs as a % of gross profit;
14. Cost of sales (i.e. cost of converting RFPs into actual clients);

Once you have this information and can pass it along to your analysts, it is easier for them to compare you with competitors and work with you to identify specific activities or messages that need to be improved. Tap into their knowledge of industry go-to-market, partnership and channel strategies. Use their unique insight into competitor or industry-wide metrics to test how well you are doing. Most of the time, all you have to do is position your company more clearly in your target markets. If the analysts don’t believe your messages resonate with the needs of your prospects, you will need to keep tweaking;

The key marketing metric take-away is this: analysts can only help you improve your marketing and sales metrics if you measure them properly in the first place.

Is what you say you do what people think you do?
The key consideration here is that in order to develop an accurate representation of your company’s technology or services, you must first get the right feedback from customers, independent influencers and your employees.

To do this properly, you need to have a well-defined process in place to ask the right people the right questions, store the answers and provide easy access to anyone developing marketing strategies.

When approaching customers for feedback, you need to try and get them to do so based on a full understanding of the key competitive options available. You need to understand why they bought from you but might not do so again, or what their biggest frustrations are with vendors in your sector(s). Finally, you must understand where they look for information and how they make purchase decisions as this can help you direct resources to the most appropriate channels.

The feedback from your employees should be consistent across the various teams. There is nothing worse than having the sales and marketing teams disagree on the best action to take to generate leads or because of internal feuds.

Finally, all this feedback needs to be independently analysed or verified. This is where analysts are important. They should be used to sanity check feedback and company-led competitor research. They will compare it with opinions they get from end-users or your competitors. Based on this, they can advise you on how to use the feedback to change your product or service strategies.

Are you talking to the right people?
This is all about marketing to specific niches / target markets so that you maximise your marketing resources.
The people you target should want what you offer and be actively looking for a solution to specific problems that you can provide. More importantly, they should have the money to buy from you and be easily reached by your marketing efforts.

TAnalysts have a good knowledge of potential target markets and will give you advice on how best to reach out to them. They know the drivers and trends that impact purchase decisions. Though bound by client confidentiality, their inside knowledge should be tapped to re-focus your marketing messages and tactics. Analysts also monitor regulatory and industry trends and will suggest markets to consider that you might have ignored.

Part three, we’ll look at some thorny marketing problems AR can help solve.

Post script: These three AR posts have proved pretty popular. So we’ve put them together, ripped out the fluff, given it a bit of structure and turned them into a whitepaper, which you are welcome to download here:



How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line – part one

28/10/2013

The first post courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of  the collective and our resident analyst relations guru:

EriaThere are many reports about how to conduct an analyst relations (AR) programme and you can also follow discussions on various LinkedIn groups too. Many of these cover some common areas, such as how to provide a good briefing or how to track and tier analysts. Yet some people find it difficult to measure the impact AR has on the bottom line and as a result, AR can be seen by the board simply as a cost centre with marketing teams struggling to extract and prove its value.

In this three-part series, we will look at how to integrate your good work with analysts and your analyst work with wider marketing activities, ensuring everything feeds into your overall objectives.

What defines a successful AR programme?
Successful AR programs use analysts to improve lead generation, shorten sales cycles and retain customers. That’s basically it!

When managing AR, companies should avoid briefing analysts simply with the short term aim of receiving positive feedback or a quote for a press release. Success has to have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line.

Look at the bigger picture: Analysts influence purchase decisions, through their reports, through a recommendation or as a result of help given by analysts to position a company more effectively within its target market.

In a successful AR programme, marketing and sales teams work closely together. They involve analysts in the different steps of their mutually supportive strategies and ensure analyst feedback is shared internally with specific action resulting in more competitive positioning and compelling messaging, with customer focused products and services.

Give your AR programme a health check

  • Are you only looking only for the endorsement or quote;
  • Are you focused on one-off engagements rather than building a relationship;
  • You are deprived of the time, expertise or resources required to run a measurable programme;
  • Are the briefings timed around your news or the analyst research or events?
  • Are you lumping anaylsts in withthe press – assuming one approach fits all?
  • Are you taking time to fully prep for a briefing?
  • Are you sharing the analyst feedback internally?
  • Is your AR programme synched up with lead gen and sales activities.

Symptoms of an ailing AR programme

  • · Difficulty forming an approach for new target markets as lack of independent insight;
  • Outdated knowledge of key business or legislative drivers;
  • Assumptions have to be made of what drives competitive success without independent testing;
  • Limited ideas for possible partnership strategies;
  • Limited channel knowledge and insights into where prospects look for information resulting in no new routes to market
  • Poor understanding if company messaging are resonating due to an absence of message testing strategies.

Check list to get your AR programme back in shape

  • Be clear what you want to get out of an AR programme. Raising awareness is all well and good but if it does not result in more leads or better client retention, then you need to change it;
  • Get stakeholder buy in. Train spokespeople and teams about the value analysts provide;
  • Develop proper metrics. Measuring briefing numbers and report mentions, running perception audits or getting placed in various analyst rating scales is all good. However, if there is no positive impact on the bottom line then you need to change your rethink the metrics you use;
  • Define and target the right experts. Think about individual analysts and not just the firms they work for. Find out how they get information and influence decision-making processes. Don’t forget analysts from small or niche firms as they may have a unique market impact that you could leverage;
  • Plan regular engagements to gain trust instead of one-off jobs every year, such as at events. Be prepared to follow up with information that actually helps an analyst with their research.

In the next post, we will start looking at the impact AR can have on various marketing tactics. and in  part three, we’ll look at some thorny marketing problems AR can help solve.

Post script: These three AR posts have proved pretty popular. So we’ve put them together, ripped out the fluff, given it a bit of structure and turned them into a whitepaper, which you are welcome to download here: