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Prerequisite to Magic: 6 Ways to Get More from Analyst Relations

6 Ways to Get More from Analyst Relations

“The Gartner Magic Quadrant is the passionately discussed tool for product selection in the IT industry. It is criticized for its simplicity, subjectivity and blind spots,” says Richard Stiennon.

Mr. Steinman is a former Gartner analyst, has a new book out on analyst relations, and recently spelled out his perspective on the infamous Magic Quadrant (MQ) technology research report in a piece for CIO, titled, 3 Things You Need to Know About Gartner Magic Quadrants.

For all its shortcomings, the MQ is still an envy of vendors and serves as a cheat-sheet for enterprise buyers:

“…the vendor community and IT leaders continue to support the Magic Quadrant; vendors by promoting Magic Quadrants when they are designated Leaders, and IT management when they use MQs to short-list vendors.”

He argues the MQs should not be used as a short list and his article strives to redirect this thinking. If Gartner were truly serious about helping Mr. Steinman’s ideas along, they would remove the word “magic” from the title and “leader” from the quadrant. While no alternative has the same ring…that’s the point.

6 Ways to Get More out of Analyst Relations

That sort of quibble matters little to vendors and technology providers – who still want to be on that short list. I’ve got a long history in analyst relations and – assuming your product works and satisfies customers – there are some things that you can do to improve the relationship your company has with analysts.

Many companies allocate a large percentage of the budget to analyst relations and a very small percentage of their time. There’s a perception that if you write a check, suddenly the analysts are your new best friends. It just doesn’t work that way. Surprisingly, analysts are people too, and so you need to take the initiative and make things happen.

Mr. Steinman’s article was written for the buy-side – those looking to use Gartner reports to guide their technology purchasing decisions.  This one will focus on analyst relations basics for vendors and providers seeking to sell technology solutions.

Many companies allocate a large percentage of budget to analyst relations and a very small percentage of their time. There’s a perception that if you write a check, suddenly the analysts are your new best friends. It just doesn’t work that way.

1) Read the research

Vendors subscribe to this expensive research and then don’t read any of it. Well, except perhaps, to rant that the company was not in a report that a prospect sent to a salesperson.  The subscriptions become like one of those data silos analysts like to talk about in their reports.

You can buck this trend by making a habit of perusing the analyst websites in a systematic manner once a week or a couple times a month.  If you manage analyst relations for your company, a good technique is to include the headlines from the research in a summary or list style email to key team leaders on a regular basis. If someone is interested, you can share it with them.

Many analyst firms stamp their research with over-the-top copyright warnings (and the T&Cs are truly insane). The reality is these firms want you to buy more seats and expensive reprints, and you should if you’re going to use the reports for public purposes.

Inside the firewall, if you don’t get some team interest in this research, your company won’t see the value and the analyst budget will slide. If you are discreet, you’ll probably be fine. In any case, it’s a far better idea then subscribing to research and not consuming it.

2) Use your analyst inquiries

Most research subscriptions come with some sort of inquiry. This is a chance to ask an analyst a question about research. These are inquiries not briefings, which means you must ask a question and then listen. Listening seems hard sometimes when all you want is to be in *that* report. As a result, inquiries are an underutilized way to build a relationship with an analyst.

If you can’t get an executive interested in inquiries, start using them yourself as the owner of analyst relations. Take notes on the inquiry call and share them with the team – and then archive these notes in a way you can use in the future.

You’ll be amazed what happens. First, because of the dialogue that unfolds over the course of several months, analysts will naturally be more interested in your company.  Second, members from the team will inevitably become more interested in the analysts. Third, you will personally benefit and improve your knowledge of the market very quickly.

3) Communicate with analysts systematically

When most companies reach out to analysts, they do so because they want or need something. As a paying customer, you can certainly do that, but if you want to build or re-establish good lines of communications, start when you don’t need anything.

Email is a good choice, but analysts get deluged with emails so use it sparingly. Roundup information from your company on a quarterly basis and send one easy to scan email with links out to assets referenced. Some of the things you might include are as follows:

  • Product updates
  • Customer wins
  • News coverage
  • On-demand demo videos
  • New fact sheets or product data sheets
  • Your very best white papers

Unlike a reporter, analysts don’t write every day.  In fact, there’s an internal review process for every note an analyst publishes.  As such, analysts typically do not need information immediately, so sending one off notes with new product announcements merely adds to the volume they get from vendors. If you are reaching out to the right analysts, they’ll save these quarterly roundup emails for reference.

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4) Plan your briefings in advance

Generally, you get a single one-hour briefing per year. If an analyst firm is doing a special report – a Magic Quadrant or Wave – you might get additional time where the analyst deems it’s warranted.

This means you must plan and time your briefings well in advance. In my experience, this was easier under a waterfall — versus — an agile development strategy. To make it work, you need to be in step with the product team and plan briefings around what you think will be the most significant features.

Keep in mind, analysts get dozens upon dozens of briefings and after a little while, they all start to sound the same. Think about the amount of data that goes into your briefing – and multiply that by 24. No human can absorb every detail, so consider carefully how you organize and prepare your briefing.

5) Pull out all the stops for references

When it comes time for references, this can make or break your chances of getting into a report. First person end user testimony is the lifeblood of analyst work on so many levels.  If your company does well here you stand to gain.

Most analysts will readily agree to keep names and brands in confidence. This makes such reference calls a lot more palatable to clients.

Mr. Steinman notes in his article, “Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution.”  Social proof is a staple tenant of marketing, and the key to getting risk adverse companies to buy a technology is to show them other risk adverse companies are already doing it.

If it takes getting your CEO to make client calls to facilitate analyst references, do all you can to make it happen.

6) Second and third tier analysts sometimes offer better deals

If you have never engaged an analyst previously, the first engagements are eye-opening. It seems illogical, to spend all this money on a subscription and still find yourself in the position of wooing analysts.  It gets worse when you discover there are an infinite number of rules about what you can and can’t do.

It can be incredibly frustrating for a tech startup new to the game. You’ll be better able to navigate analyst rules if you know what they are first. These are usually published in plain language and readily available.

Once you understand them, you’ll begin to realize what you spend with tier 1 analysts, could easily translate into 2x or 3x with a tier 2 or tier 3 analyst firm. Often you can engage such an analyst and hit objectives for awareness and lead generation with the same spend.

This is not an easy pitch when an executive team worships one firm in particular. Like anything in marketing, capture the results of your investment and build your case over time.

* * *

“The Magic Quadrant is a useful tool, but to reap its greatest benefit, you need to use it with the full knowledge of the research process and the analysts behind,” wrote Mr. Steinman.

His advice was leveled at enterprise customers, but it’s applicable to vendors too and fits just about any aspect of analyst relations, let alone that little quadrant everyone loves to hate.

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