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 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
- 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.
Eria analyst relations lead ollates industry analysts predictions for fintech for insurance, China and the cryptocurrency eco-system.
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:
- Smartphones enable next-generation risk management capabilities
- The Internet of Things and sensor fusion technology contextualize risk
- A personal data backlash creates monitoring opportunity
- Insurance learns to share
- Digital marketing platforms socialize
- Core applications cloud compute
- Risk-scoring models sell life insurance
- Health insurance transparency reaches ubiquity
- Health insurance payments go mobile
- 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.
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:
- Using Customer Analytics to Drive Contextual Experiences
- Expedited Deployment of Digital Delivery
- Mobile-First Design
- Increasing Digital and Social Selling
- Mass Market Acceptance of Mobile Payments
- Focus on Security and Authentication
- Industry Consolidation
- Enhanced Customer Incentivization
- Investment in Innovation, Incubation and Uncommon Alliances
- 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!
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.
Over the last few years we’ve been working with vendors that have won significant projects through G-Cloud. From this vantage point it has got us thinking about the G-Cloud business opportunities available to small IT vendors and service providers, and some of the serious challenges they might face.
While 2015 might not necessarily be ‘make or break’ time for suppliers if they don’t get a bigger slice of the G-Cloud pie, we think one trend that will become more entrenched: there will be a small group of providers winning a disproportionately larger share of contracts, leaving the rest fighting over the scraps.
There are some vendors that are excellent at articulating their value propositions clearly and have the right staff, or well-designed systems, in place to get their messages out to their target market. More often than not, they will attract a bigger share of leads which, in turn, gives them more opportunities to convert these into contracts.Now, the UK government is no longer dragging its feet when it comes to exploring new and innovative models for IT spend and execution. As belts are tightened, it really wants to make sure it is getting value for money and look out for a larger number of suppliers that could potentially contribute to its success.
So discussions about cloud computing, agile software development, security, BYOD etc will be as intense. This should not be a surprise to anybody. The rise of the Public Services Network (PSN) and increased awareness of the benefits PaaS offerings could provide will see more government departments exploring cloud adoption and / or sourcing more complex requirements via the CloudStore.
The opportunity is clearly there to make a mark via G-Cloud, which is great for smaller suppliers. However, it also throws up a massive challenge for them. With more suppliers signing up to G-Cloud month after month, it is getting harder to reach the key public sector decision makers who need to understand what is on offer. Being human, they can’t process indefinite amounts of information and spend their time talking to every supplier there is.
Success in one area of the public sector is increasingly noted in other parts, so whoever is in charge of implementing a new IT system or product might want that success replicated in their departments using the same supplier. In many ways, this makes sense. If you know a supplier can consistently deliver quickly, without going over budget, you’d be crazy not to speak to them. So suppliers that have got a string of wins under their belt are in a great position.Suppliers that are only signing up now or who have not had a chance to show what they can really deliver need to find a way of providing the evidence they can do so.
They also need a creative way of informing the public sector decision makers and IT community about their solutions or products, engage with them appropriately via social media and participate at the right events. Quite a lot to think about which, if not done properly, will mean they don’t get to sit at the table with the other winners.Some industry analysts predict more commoditisation of products and services in subsequent iterations of the G-Cloud Framework. If this results in further commoditization of IT and lower costs, many would argue that is great for the public sector.For suppliers, there is a trap to avoid though.
The last thing many want to do is simply fight contracts based on cost. This tends to be a quick route to disaster. Value is what suppliers should be thinking of. What value do they bring to the table and how will this benefit their customers?Getting to the stage where suppliers can articulate their value propositions clearly and hit their target market effectively, with evidence to support what they say, will be the keys to survival within G-Cloud.2015 will be a good year for those that do, and a pretty harsh one for those that don’t.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event.
- 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.
- Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later).
- Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic.
How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?
- 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.
- 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 🙂
- To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event.
- 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?
- Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with.
- Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions.
- Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when.
- 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.
- Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions.
- Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked!
Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead dispels the most common myth about analyst relations – you have to pay them to play with them.
“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.