The Size of the AR Team [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgInquiry: SageCircle received the following inquiry via e-mail: “I have a question that I hope you can answer.  Roughly, how many people do you think a company like ours (around $250 million/year) should have dedicated to AR?”

 SageCircle receives questions of this type of question a lot.  While you might want us to provide a simple rule-of-thumb to validate your need for more headcount, we cannot provide it. Through our research, we have discovered that comparable firms (in terms of total revenues and number of employees) can have dramatically different resource requirements.

Your AR program requires the level of staff and budget necessary to accomplish the AR objectives outlined in your plan.  These levels will vary, depending on a number of AR program factors, two of which SageCircle has identified as causing significant resource-level increases: 

  1. When AR plans outreach 12 months in advance of product releases as part of marketing and product development initiatives-Long-term, cross-functional planning requires greater coordination and funding across a large Extended AR Team
  2. When AR actively supports Sales in closing deals through leveraging positive – and mitigating negative — analyst commentary Sales support requires AR to invest in resources/processes for monitoring/distributing information during the sales cycle

Other AR program factors that cause the level of staff and budget resources to vary include the following, along with questions to ask in each area:

Specific Charter:

  • Does the program focus mainly on “Shaping Marketing Perception” among a small group of key analysts?
  • How many analysts is the program attempting to influence?
  • Does the program use advisory to improve company decision making?
  • Does the program support the Sales organization?
  • Is the program a strategic initiative with active executive sponsorship, or just a “checkbox” to be completed by Marketing before each product release?

Stage of Effectiveness/Maturity:

  • Is the program new and, therefore, focused on building awareness and gaining coverage among analysts? Or, is the program mature and striving to achieve dominance in its markets?
  • Has the program developed an “Extended AR Team” to provide additional “off-budget” resources from other departments (e.g. business development, marketing intelligence)?
  • Has the AR program established training, best practices, and processes to increase core and extended AR team productivity?
  • Do executives fully support and actively participate in AR’s outreach efforts?

Level of Infrastructure:

  • Do AR managers dedicate resources to track analyst comings and goings, or subscribe to an outsourced analyst database that tracks this information for them?
  • Do AR managers commit resources to preparing briefing books and reports, or leverage software applications that do this work for them? Is that work outsourced to an agency?
  • Do AR managers devote resources to tracking and responding to analyst firm reports/quotes, or do managers receive automated, customized data feeds and alerts with relevant research/mentions tagged and categorized according to sentiment?

Complexity of Analyst Situation:

  • How many non-overlapping product groups do the analysts cover?
  • How many analysts cover more than one of your products?
  • What is your mix of major analyst and small boutique firms?
  • What is your mix of your revenues from mature vs. emerging markets? Do they map to SBUs of different sizes?
  • How many signature research reports (e.g., Gartner Magic Quadrants, Forrester Waves) are published on your market(s)?

SageCircle Technique: To sort through these variables, SageCircle recommends developing an AR Strategic & Tactical Plan to:

  1. Identify measurable goals aligned with corporate objectives
  2. Define the tactics through which these goals will be achieved
  3. Lay out a calendar of activity triggers and interactions
  4. Specify the resources required to execute these tactics (use a predictive workload model to estimate the amount of labor required per month)

Bottom Line: There is no magic “Rule-of-Thumb” that AR managers can use to estimate-or justify-their AR programs’ size.  However, the appropriate size of an AR team can be determined through the AR planning process. Basing resource recommendations on your AR plan’s intended business results more accurately estimates the staff and budget size you need while providing proof points to convince executives of AR’s value.

Question: Do you have a formal AR plan that incorporates labor requirement estimates?

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Carter,
    Nice post. I’d also add how much market intelligence (MI) is the AR team asked to do. It can range from almost none (there’s always some: you’re not going to not respond to an email from someone important) if there’s a separate MI/CI team to quite a lot if it’s in the AR team’s charter.

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