Is it time to incorporate risk analysis into analyst list rankings?

Analyst Relations PlanningEvery AR team needs to manage their analyst list(s) to ensure they are focused on providing the right attention to the right analysts.  SageCircle stands on the “analyst list management” soapbox a lot because it such an important aspect of an effective and efficient AR program.  Creating a ranked list based on impact and then tiering based on available resources is the way to manage your service levels for analysts and ultimately manage your stress. There are many data points that go into an analyst ranking frameworks like visibility, research coverage, reputation, firm, geography and so on. This post is the opener for a discussion on whether risk should be added to the ranking criteria.

In this context, the risk being discussed is the potential damage to sales deals, market perception, internal politics, and such that can be caused by an analyst with a negative opinion. How much effort should you put into negative analysts?

So, should risk be incorporated into the analyst ranking framework as either a primary or secondary criterion? For instance, two analysts that are pretty much equal in all other criteria could see a negative analyst getting ranked higher than a positive analyst because there is more risk associated with the negative analyst and AR wants to invest more time to move that analyst’s opinion. If the two analysts are on the border between Tier 1 and Tier 2 (see Note below) then the negative analyst could bubble up the analyst list landing in Tier 1 and maybe pushing the positive analyst down into Tier 2.

In theory, incorporating risk into the analyst list ranking framework should not increase analyst relations’ (AR) workload because AR should know the opinion of its most relevant analysts. Thus, this idea would only enhance AR’s decision making process, giving the team members another tool for fine tuning their priorities and adjusting their planned service levels.

What do you think?

Note: SageCircle’s methodology for analyst list management has two distinct elements: identifying and ranking analysts based on relevance to the vendor’s and AR’s objectives and then tiering the analyst list based on AR’s resources. Analysts should be ranked individually based on the criteria and not be given automatic Tier 1 status because they work at one of the largest firms.

Bottom Line: There has never been a time when the demands for AR resources have been greater. As a consequence, AR needs to be ruthless in prioritizing its activities. A better understanding of risk could be a valuable tool for AR to ensure that the team and its stakeholders know which analysts should receive the most attention.

Question: AR – Do you have a formal analyst list management process? How do you take into account analyst opinion when deciding team priorities?

SageCircle clients have already received a SageInsight with additional detail about this idea, implications, and recommendations. In addition, Advisory clients were encouraged to schedule inquiries to discuss the ideas in the SageInsight. To learn more about how SageCircle strategists can help you take your AR program to the next level of effectiveness and efficiency, please contact us at 503-636-1500 or “info [at] sagecircle [dot] com”.

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4 Responses

  1. I know certain AR practitioners who use “risk” as a top-two criterion for engaging analysts, despite the fact that the analysis and insight they offer may not hold a candle to other analysts with far larger firms.

    Negative analysts can often be turned around with a proper focus on finding out what they need in terms of information, and what’s driving the negative perception and working to meet the need with appropriate information.

    When I worked in AR at a large microprocessor maker some years back, an AR colleague once described the dynamics of analyst listing & tiering as “a giant freakin’ game of whack-a-mole.”

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  2. It’s really sad that analysts who are thoughtful are considered less important than difficult analysts. Another example of rewarding bad behavior. This just increases the likelihood of some analysts to intentionally say inflamatory things in meetings and in papers just to get on vendors’ radar screens.

  3. Get on vendors’ radar screens!!! ??? LOL We’re talking about the business model of these ‘difficult’ analysts here.

    Solo and fired analysts are the worst offenders who do this negative vendor baiting publicly and deliberately to be an irritant to the vendors. This is so that the vendors will buy their services to shut them up. It’s implied blackmail. I can name 5 analysts who do this right now. Several of these are among the ‘most quoted’ analysts in the press. If the vendors don’t buy them off, they’ll say negative and unflattering things in rags like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business Week, and other widely read venues.

    It is indeed really sad. But it’s also a little talked about underbelly of the analyst ecosystem. A few analysts here spoil it for the rest of the group, who are hard working and generally do the right thing by vendors and their end customers.

  4. Thanks Gerry, Anon and Anon II for your comments.

    One of the reasons to have a formal analyst list management process is to distinguish between the truly relevant and influential analysts versus those that try to get vendors’ attention by making provocative statements in the press or social media.

    Our experience and research shows that the type of “difficult analysts” referred to above would not rank high in the other criteria in a solid analyst list management process (e.g., a significant set of end user clients or speaking at relevant industry events) to be anything other than “Tier 3.” Frankly, analyst press quotes are rarely influential in IT buyer decision making. However, analyst press quotes are very useful in getting vendor executives annoyed.

    One of the most difficult tasks for analyst relations teams is educating internal stakeholders about the levels of influence that various types of visibility have. For example, a press quote has nearly zero influence but great public visibility. On the other hand, an advisory analyst (e.g., AMR, Forrester, Gartner, Ovum and sourcing specialists like EquaTera) who do regular client inquiries with IT buyers have great visibility with their clients, important influence on buying decisions but low public visibility. Unfortunately it is the press hounds who get the attention of executives and other stakeholders.

    The best way for a vendor to make sure that the press hounds do not get under the skin of executives is to ask customers and prospects about their sources of information and advice. Then use that information to educate executives about the truly influential analysts – or other influencers – ask for the executive support in ignoring the press hounds and other non-influential squeaky wheels.

    http://sagecircle.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/dont-listen-to-the-squeaks-when-managing-your-analyst-list/

    This customer and prospect information can be gathered from lead management, win-loss analysis, sales representatives and surveys of the customers. This is the type of critical data that can be gathered in a formal AR-Sales Partnership program.

    http://sagecircle.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/encouraging-your-sales-force-to-ask-questions/

    Another reason to ask customers about sources of information is the role of blogs and other forms of social media. A blog can zero influence or huge influence depending on many factors. Some potential indicators, like number of unique visitors, are interesting but do not really give an insight into influence because these numbers do not say if the audience has relevant decision makers. Asking prospects and customers about their use of blogs for information gathering and decision making will only become more important.
    .

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