SageCircle promotes the use of inquiry and we have offered suggestions on various topics for both Enterprise IT research consumers and Communications and IT vendors. In general, vendors spend far less time doing inquires than they should. This both decreases the business value they are receiving from the analyst contract and misses some important soft dollar benefits that are hard to achieve in other ways. Not getting value from the inquiry contract also contributes to the perception of some vendor executives that advisory analysts like Gartner and Forrester are “pay for play,” otherwise why spend the money on the annual contract. In this post we will look less at the techniques and more at the realized benefits of a program of regular analyst inquiry.
Gaining real information
The stated purpose for inquires is to gain greater depth and understanding of an analyst’s research and opinions. As always, you should review the currently published materials before scheduling a briefing. However, inquiry can provide insights into an analysts’ work-in-progress and allow you to discover research papers and presentations that are not on the firm website. The work in progress can give you market perspective, competitive intelligence, or signal new trends. Inquiry is also a means to have the analyst apply the written research to your specific situation or interpret research written for IT managers for a vendor context.
Providing the analyst with information
An inquiry can, if done carefully, act as an unofficial “briefing” by asking the analyst to do a review of plans, press releases, messages, and so forth. For them to give advice they will have to understand the content. This not only gives you the advantage of a credibility review and honest opinion, but ensures that the analyst knows the key message or other content. The double business value is hard to achieve in other ways.
Working with the analyst in this manner also addresses the top of the Analyst Hierarchy of Needs. Sage analysts are most receptive to good inquiries that address strategic needs and are most likely to give advice that has the greatest impact. Use your top analysts and top executives to review company strategy and you will gain business value on many levels.
Influencing the analyst opinion long term
Obviously there is a key business benefit to get positive opinions from an analyst. However, this can only be done with real content that shows the vendor in a positive light. Inquires that seek to go into depth on earnings reports, customer case studies, or changes in market are one way to stimulate a conversation that may lead to enhanced vendor credibility. Remember that shifting an analyst’s opinion is a long slow process that includes a mix of interactions. Moving the analysts’ opinions via “peeling the onion” on a variety of relevant topics may be part of that process.
Broaden the analysts’ perspective during hot news
When a significant announcement occurs in a market (e.g., a major merger) inquiry can be used to raise the analysts’ awareness about a broader range of issues than what the vendors are briefing the analysts about. Inquiry is especially useful for parties not directly tied to the event. Analysts might not accept a rush briefing from a vendor during the early hours of news, but they will – have to – take a client inquiry request. Just make sure your inquiry is reasonable (see M&A events should send vendor AR teams into overdrive).
Enhancing the analyst relationship
It is always difficult to quantify the business value of the analyst relationship, but our experience shows that the personal relationships between the AR Manager (Executive staff, Researcher, etc) carry a lot of weight when the analyst has doubts. Those analysts that feel comfortable with the relationship are more likely to hold their opinion pending more information than to shoot off a flash report based on speculation. They will also be more likely to accept suggestions that could influence their research agenda.
Careful use of inquiry is one of many techniques that can enhance the relationship between a company and an analyst.
- Inquire must be part of the analyst interaction plan
- Look to use inquiry for high value topics and avoid topics where the research is well published
- Always keep inquiry as a dialog and include hooks that can lead to further dialog
- Consider inquires as a key metric
Question: AR Teams -How do you track your interactions? Are you using enough inquiry? What value are you receiving from inquiry?
Are you getting the most from your analyst interactions? SageCircle can help
- Determine appropriate topics for analyst inquiry
- Guide you on good inquiry techniques
Visit www.sagecircle.com to learn more about SageCircle’s services. Or, call 650-274-8309 to speak with a representative about how SageCircle can help you take your AR program to the next level.
Don’t forget that SageCircle has an AR Effectiveness Seminar on May 5 & 6 in Cupertiino, CA. Details on the website at www.sagecircle.com