Reflecting on a couple of our recent virtual analyst events, Eria Odhuba, Head of AR, provides some best practice dos and don’ts.
Oh, the joys of jumping onto a plane and flying off to host an analyst event in another city or country. If you speak to some industry colleagues, their eyes go all misty as they remember the best bits (or try to ignore the worst bits) after a year of Zoom calls. Physical meetings, handshakes, drinks at the bar, meals, 1:1 meetings – all seem a distant rose-tinted memory. And nobody is 100% sure they want to start again in 2021.
So tech companies have been attempting the ‘virtual analyst event’, with analyst Twitter feeds telling us who got it right and who didn’t.
One of our clients, Finantix, hosted a couple of virtual analyst events last year, and hit gold because The Comms Crowd’s AR team had the exact analysts that focus on their specific technology joining the events.
What did we learn?
- With only 2 hours for each event, our content had to be spot on. We didn’t have a full day to build up narratives, and each presentation had to deliver compelling content instantly. I don’t see why this should change when we go back to in-person events.
- Customers are your best friend, and getting them to talk to analysts is even better. Just think, analysts have been on virtual events for 12 months listening to vendors wax lyrical about how great they are. The customer just tells them what has actually worked and where they are going. If there is a moment when analysts will not multi-task, it is surely when the customer speaks.
- Good broadband is what keeps us all sane at the moment. Not everybody has great broadband, so glitches are inevitable. But presentations and demos need to run smoothly, so making sure you have the right technology, broadband and back-up as a presenter is crucial.
- Mix it up – videos, demos, panels, presentations. When someone switches their Zoom video off, assume you have lost them. It might not be the case, but if you have rocking content, nobody will feel the need to multi-task and start clearing their inbox (or turn off their video).
- OK, you are not organising flights, hotel rooms or dinners, but making sure analysts have all the right information in the lead-up to the event is crucial. Let them know the agenda, who is speaking and when/if there will be breaks well before the event, and confirm just before it.
- Not least, we learned that however important you are, your dog doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that you are delivering a presentation – there is a damn squirrel in the garden.
“Thanks again for helping to pull together an impressive crowd of analysts who cover our space for the briefing yesterday… . First time we have done this in our own right, so it was no mean feat to get so many folks on the call for what was a pretty reasonable discussion.” CMO at Finantix
“Thanks for inviting me. I was able to listen in for the first half. I enjoyed the content, especially the happy client testimonial.” Forrester
“Thanks very much for your kind follow-up! Amazing presentation.” Aite Group
“Great briefing today and clearly a lot going on. There were many other topics that were of interest to us. We would be happy to get in touch at the appropriate time.” Aite Group
What might we do better next time?
- Use the technology we have for more personalised engagements with execs, partners and customers (e.g. meeting rooms, personalised landing pages, etc.)
- Arrange more direct discussions between customers/partners and analysts.
- Once lock-down lifts, find a top notch venue and meet in person!
So we are going to run more analyst events this year, having learnt what worked well. We’ll use them as markers to engage with analysts, but maniacally focus on engagements with analysts between times to keep them abreast of client developments and, just as importantly, listen to what they are seeing in the market. Analyst relations is always a two-way conversation, however you have it.
Eria Odhuba, Head of AR, goes deep into the influencer mix.
Remember this line from Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
In the good old days when I started off in the tech industry, we’d just begun to move away from floppy discs, computers booted up really slowly (at least mine did), mobile phones multi-tasked as house bricks, social media didn’t exist, and organisations that wanted to get an idea of what technology to buy read industry analyst reports – sometimes, very long reports. I should know, because I wrote a few of them.
The role of analysts as THE primary third-party influencers was clear, and they really played an excellent role guiding organisations through complex decision-making processes regarding IT.
Fast forward to today, and while industry analysts still play a major role, they are not the only party in town. At the end of last year I went to an event at which industry analysts were joined by technology journalists (as expected), management consultants, bloggers, storytellers and academics driving student meet-ups.
All these influencers play a huge role in testing messages, driving conversations and amplifying what is great about a vendor’s technology. And they do this across multiple platforms – check out this blog post by our very own Marc Duke on the science of influencer marketing on how to deal with this complexity.
So how do you drive analyst relations programmes given the different influencers making their mark in the industry?
Well, fundamentally, how you view industry analysts should not change (see my white paper on how organisations can ensure AR delivers to the bottom line). Analysts are not irrelevant or losing their influence (just look at their increasing revenues). It is just that AR programmes need to take account of wider influencer relations activities, and organisations just have to be very clear what they want to get out of their engagements with analysts versus the other types of influencers.
So analysts still produce reports for those that want them, but even they have changed the way they get information out to a wider audiences (i.e. those that don’t have subscription seats). Analysts write their own blogs, interact with other industry bloggers, host webinars (many of them free), and speak at or run their own events. And, as I saw at the event, they pretty much know all the relevant journalists in their research areas and happily have drinks with them.
The crucial thing is that the core messages you deliver to industry analysts should be consistent to other influencers and across all the platforms (sure, you may give analysts some information under NDA). Ultimately the intermingling of various influencer types means it is easier to get caught out if your strategy or messages have holes in them.
Mapping this matrix of influencers, messages and engagement takes time and, more importantly, needs executive sponsorship. Board-level buy-in is necessary to develop the consistency in messaging to all influencers despite the engagement models with each, and it also means more employees are willing to take ownership of contributing to the developments of great relationships with influencers – including industry analysts.
Considerations for balancing AR programmes with wider influencer marketing or PR strategies:
- Focus on the core messages you want to deliver to ALL influencers, but tailor the delivery to match the different types of influencer;
- Point analysts to great work that other influencers may have produced (e.g. academics may have some data that would be useful to analysts as they build a picture of market trends and technology barriers/uptake);
- Identify the analysts relevant to you that use social media:
- read their blog posts and contribute to discussions they have started (sometimes, the exchanges are worth more than a 60 minute briefing);
- follow them on Twitter and comment on their posts etc;
- If you’ve connected with an analyst, make sure you also connect on LinkedIn and follow their posts – opportunities to commend them, comment or refer to others then become possible – just don’t use this as a platform to sell!
- THEN – use the picture you have built of analysts on social media to plan for and engage with them as part of the briefing / consultative process – bring all the various strands together but remain focused on the consistent message you are trying to deliver to them;
- Think about the conversations you have had with industry analysts – how can the information shared be used to drive engagements with other influencers? If you’ve used an analyst for message-testing, get that message out to customers and drive conversations with other influencers so they can amplify or provide feedback from an even wider audience.
Your plan should be to get industry analysts, technology journalists, management consultants, bloggers, storytellers and academics all telling your story – the way you want it.
So, why reference to the movie, The Matrix?
Blue pill = you have a very narrow view of industry analysts – just brief them, see them as people who simply churn out reports or pay expensive subscriptions to access reports which, while valuable, may not be balanced with output from the wider influencer audience.
Red pill = you start to do all the above and realise you are just beginning a journey that will spin faster and faster. This requires a new way of managing the various influencers and measuring the impact each has on sales or market perception, and figuring out how AR can drive engagements with analysts so that the final output is a consistent message that resonates in the market – and across all the influencers.
Which pill do you want to take?
Marc Duke, head of influencer engagement, takes an in-depth look at why even in B2B circles peer review sites matter.
Influencer Marketing, as the name suggests, is about influencing the various people, groups and organisations that are trusted by the buyer or decision maker when making a decision to purchase products or services. One such group are Peer Review websites, where customers leave reviews of recent purchases, and their importance is growing all of the time.
A couple of statistics to back this up:
- Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel Research Center, 2017)
- 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review (G2 and Heinz Marketing, 2017).
While you may have read a tale or two about fake Amazon reviews and getting friends and family to write about a holiday chalet on TripAdvisor, when it comes to B2B peer review sites things are much more regulated and the process of working with influencer sites is a lot clearer.
To give some context here, peer review sites are most relevant to software providers that are targeting businesses. For example, the adoption of cloud software has increased beyond all recognition in last decade. The Software as Service (or SaaS) market has become mainstream and with it the importance of reading and relying upon peer reviews to inform purchasing decisions has also risen. The reason for this is simple; it’s great to get a free trial of a piece of software but even better if you can read about the experiences (positive and negative) of your peers.
So what peer reviews sites are we actually talking about? Four major sites are:
Before you start to target peer review sites, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What categories do they cover?
- Are my competitors listed?
- Are my markets covered?
- Do the sites just generate traffic or also provide leads?
- Do I have the resources to create accurate product and company profiles?
- Do I have the resources to handle negative reviews?
- Does my marketing process enable me to maximise positive reviews/endorsements?
Assuming you can answer all of these questions, you are then in a position to look at working with Peer Review sites. The first thing that needs to be done is create a profile of your company and product/s, which doesn’t cost a penny. Once you have a company and product profile the next step is sourcing customer reviews. If you have happy customers it’s a case of asking them to provide a review of your product in much the same way you would ask a connection to endorse you on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a large bank of customers, you might find that some users will discover your profile.
You also have the option of contacting the account management staff at these sites who will be happy to discuss how to run a reviews programme (how to get reviews on your product page) and ways in which to generate branded collateral with reviews left by your customers to help with your sales process. You will need budget for this, so you have to weigh up the benefits compared to the costs. Just remember that all of these sites want to cover every vendor in the market. so Getting set up will just cost you some time and information so even a start-up should consider peer review sites.
The main benefits of working with peer review sites include:
- Traffic – people can click from the review page to your site or landing page
- Endorsement – some reviewers are happy to be referenced and to be used in customer reference programmes
- Leads – some sites offer ‘click to trial’ so a prospect reading a review can request a demo
- Insight – there is a lot you can learn about your competition.
One thing is for certain – businesses can’t ignore peer review sites as they are increasingly becoming a decision making tool of choice for some customers, and a positive review can help move a prospect from the top of funnel to the bottom. However you look to engage with peer review sites, they are certainly worth considering as part of your marketing strategy.
Marc Duke explains the science of influencer marketing:
I am a sports fan, so any sporting metaphor works for me. When I thought about Influencer Marketing this classic baseball reference sums it up and here’s why:
Influencer marketing is about making sure the people who influence your target customer know about your offering. The idea of covering all your bases means you have ‘influenced’ all those stakeholders who influence the purchasing decision, and can endorse or advise in favour of your company over the competition. When you communicate directly with your customer or prospect, you are then pushing on an open door as they have already been positively influenced and are already open to dialogue.
Which bases do we cover?
1) Identifying your influencers
So that’s the theory, but who are the people influencing your customers? Much will depend on whether your business sells direct to the customer or through the channel. Either way, the first job is to map out a set of discrete groups that influence the purchasing decision. Let’s take the example of a company that produces environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient office lighting.
Influencers that make the cut will include:
- Journalists – who write about office environments.
- Industry analysts/consultants – who write about the market and provide ‘behind closed doors’ advice to decision makers
- Academics – who teach about ergonomics and design and need to be aware of the latest trends
- Industry associations – who represent the trade and bring together people who work in in the industry
- Industry gurus – who blog, write and speak about the latest trends
- Existing customers – who use the product/service and can endorse its use
- Competition – who’d rather your target customer used their solution!
- Partners – who you work with to your mutual benefit
- Investors – who have invested in your business
- Charities – supporting greener initiatives
I could go on but by now you should have noticed a couple of things. Firstly, this is a long list (one client I worked with identified SIXTEEN separate influencer groups) and secondly, other parts of your marketing activity already address some of these groups e.g. journalists will be handled by PR and industry analysts will be looked after by the Analyst Relations team.
2) Scoring your influencers
For this example let’s just focus our influencer efforts on the industry gurus. How do we identify them and how do we work out the weight of their influence? Not as simple as you might think, and there is a need for some smart metrics that can evaluate the following:
- Reach – how big a following does this guru have on twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc? Does this person have blogs or articles in local publications or globally?
- Relevance – how engaged is this influencer socially e.g. how popular is the content that this person has shared?
- Expertise – from their public activity how is this influencer perceived? For example, have you noticed that they are giving keynotes at major industry events?
Each influencer will need a numeric score from 1 – 10 for each category. Ultimately, we will come up with a final influence score. The idea here is that there must be some measure of influence, even if arbitrary, that enables us to track and decide who indeed is an influencer of our target customer base.
3) Engaging your influencers
Assuming we have done our homework, we will probably have anything between 20 to 50 gurus that we have scored and ranked. But how will we work with them? This is where you need to be totally clear that working with an influencer is about education – NOT selling. It’s about informing – NOT persuading and it’s also about recognising that this influencer is rightly lauded because they might have a better understanding of the market than you, they have more experience than you or they just might be really, really smart!
The sorts of questions you need to think about:
- Is there information you can share that they will value and find of interest such as a white paper on an issue they care about?
- Are there things they can actually help with e.g. taking part in a podcast, speaking at one of your events?
- Do you have people in your company credible enough to establish and maintain proper relationships with your halloed influencers rather than just sell at them?
If you have big ticks to all the above then you are ready to go out there and influence those influencers.
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?
When 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.
Courtesy of Eria, our resident analyst relations guru, we look at engaging with the industry analysts via social media channels:
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.
Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead asks, when it comes to conducting an analyst relations programme, does company size matter?
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.
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
- 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
- Taking 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.
“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.
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.
In part one I looked at the reasons AR programs fail and what you need to do before speaking to analysts. In this post we 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.
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: