Defining “Ranking an Analyst List”

Ranking is a process for ordering a list of analysts based on formal weighted criteria. The criteria can include points such as research coverage, visibility (e.g., publications, press quotes, social media, speeches, etc), firm affiliation, geography, risk, and others. Criteria and weights are driven by the objectives of the vendor at both the business unit and analyst relations level. Criteria and weights should evolve over time as objectives change. 

While firm affiliation is an important data point, it is not the primary driver for analyst lists. Ranking should focus on individual analysts and not automatically give top placement for analysts employed by the largest analyst firms.

Ranking is one step in analyst list management and precedes tiering.

Defining “Analyst List Management”

Analyst list management is a process for identifying, ranking in priority order, and tiering into segments the analyst community. The purpose is to provide analyst relations with a tool for establishing analyst relevance and analyst relations (AR) team priorities.

There can never be an analyst influence database [Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgQuestion: Is there a database that ranks analysts in terms of influence?

While there are some fine analyst directories or databases available for purchase (e.g., ARinsight’s ARchitect3) none of have “influence” data. This is because influence is a relative term which is dependent on what the vendor is trying to accomplish and the market space they are addressing. Obviously two companies with different products would see the same analyst as having different influence.  However, two competitors in the same market could also end up with analyst lists that are different because they have different business objectives they are trying to accomplish. Even the same vendor could rank the influence of the same analysts differently over time, even in a span of only a few months, as the vendor’s business and analyst relations (AR) objectives change.

While there are no databases of influence to purchase, AR can still create a formal analyst list management process with documented ranking criteria. Although this framework cannot eliminate the work associated with determining influence, it will permit AR to rank their analyst lists efficiently.

If an AR team does not have the bandwidth to do the work associated with creating an analyst list, there are Continue reading

So you were left off a Wave or Magic Quadrant – what next?

We don't exist according to ForresterIn January 2009, The Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 2009 was published. This happened to be the inaugural publication of a Wave for this particular market. The primary author of this Wave was Jeremiah Owyang (bio, Twitter handle, blog) who conducted an incredibly transparent – for a Forrester or Gartner analyst – process for the creation of this Wave (see list of relevant blog posts at the end of this post). Jeremiah’s use of social media gave vendors in this nascent market plenty of opportunity to know what was going on with this research.

As is with the case with any piece of analyst research covering a new, dynamic, and extremely fragmented market only a fraction of the possible vendors can be fit into the time and space available. In this case, it was nine of more than 100 vendors. Neighborhood America, a social networking platform vendor, was left off the Community Platform Wave and did not take kindly to the exclusion. Neighborhood America created a web page, “Why weren’t we included in the Forrester Wave Report?”, to tell its side of the story. They also put a link on their home page (graphic above) to make sure visitors knew to go to the page. The explanation was reasonably well done (SageCircle would have counseled some additional text to provide context) and did not overtly attack either Forrester or the analyst. The latter part is important because an attack would have looked like sour grapes by a sore loser.

This was a very smart step to do. You can see the Community Platforms Wave graphic on Flickr and the PDF of the research note is easily available for free on the web. As a consequence, Neighborhood America prospects might see the graphic or Wave research and decide to drop them from a pending sales opportunity without further information. While Neighborhood America’s response will not get the breadth of readership that a Forrester research note will, it is a useful exercise.

SageCircle does not know the exact details about why Continue reading

How many Tier 1 analysts can be supported by an AR professional? [Practitioner Question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgQuestion: We are heading into our annual planning process (or preparing to revise our analyst list) and want to know if there is a rule of thumb for how many Tier 1 analysts per AR headcount?

A common question SageCircle receives is what is the rule of thumb for how many Tier 1 analysts that an AR professional can effectively support? Sometimes it is within the context of an AR planning exercise or because we had gone through our litany that for analyst lists “you rank on relevance and tier based on AR resources.” Inevitably the next question after that is “Ok, how many Tier 1s can a team of my size support?”

Up to this point we always gave a very firm and definitive answer of “it depends.” There are so many variables to calculating this answer that we could not – would not – give a hard-and-fast rule of thumb because it would be misleading. So what are some of these variables? A small, very small, subset includes:

  • What is your service level framework for each analyst tier?
  • What standard activities per month do you want to do with each Tier 1 analyst?
  • How many full time equivalents are on the staff?
  • How many Magic Quadrants and Waves are you on?
  • How complete is your measurement program and who does the data collection?
  • How many general briefings do you plan on giving in an average time period?
  • Et cetera

Frankly, the “it depends” answer was honest and best, but unsatisfactory. So we analyzed the question and determined that it is possible to estimate the number of Tier 1 analysts per AR headcount. And the answer is… you have to create a spreadsheet that captures the variables and crunches the data. There still is not a magic rule of thumb that will tell the average AR team what the ratio is because there is no truly average AR team. While this is a non-trivial exercise, AR teams should be able to develop a tool with sufficient skull sweat and effort.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Create a service level framework that defines what services AR will be providing each analyst tier
  • Create an analyst list management framework that defines the criteria that will be used to identify and rank analysts
  • Create a standard approach for Continue reading

Analyst Relations budget – Use it, don’t lose it

It’s now July 22nd, about half way through the third calendar quarter. Many communications and IT vendors have budget policies in place where departments lose any budget that is not spent within a particular fiscal quarter or calendar year. AR managers frequently find it difficult to find a good use for remaining budget, especially when it might only be a few thousand dollars. Are you kicking yourself because you had had left over budget at the end of the last quarter that you did not use? In addition, you don’t want to blow any remaining budget on something that might not be used to its fullest extent, like a reprint of a so-so research note or a Gartner Advisory seat for someone who probably won’t do inquiries.

An excellent use of remaining budget is AR staff development because it increases efficiency and effectiveness, boosts staff morale and adds variety to the job. Staff development  is even more important during a recession when bonuses are meager and pay raises are not likely.

To make it easy for AR managers to spend odd amounts of end-of-the-quarter budget, SageCircle offers its services à la carte as well as by annual subscription. We have many services under $1,000 such as webinars ($95), Online SageContent Library ($395), AR briefings ($495), workshops ($495) and advisory blocks (2 hours $495, 5 hours $995) and seminars ($995).

Another advantage of SageCircle AR training offerings is that many are 90 minutes or less, making them easy to fit into a busy schedule or a regular staff call. Oh, did I mention that you can conveniently buy any SageCircle service via credit card to ensure you get it into this quarter’s purchases? We will also work around the clock to complete any paperwork you need for traditional purchase order/invoice.

Here are three examples of how you can mix-and-match SageCircle training services to meet various needs:

AR continuing education – This example assumes an experienced AR staff located in one office. The first two items are free, which of course is a great price. Using the AR DiagnosticTM as a continuing education tool is atypical, but the questions asked Continue reading

SAS day success – ruthlessly drive value

SAS(1) days (aka analyst consulting days, see definition) are a popular tool with many technology vendors. If done correctly SAS days can have a great ROI. If done poorly, a SAS day is a waste of time, money, and AR political capital.  It also has the added risk of hurting your company’s relationship and standing with the analyst.

The business problems for the IT vendor community lie in the fact that neither the analysts nor the vendors have a good process in place to ensure that the analyst consulting day will deliver value to the client. Too often analyst consulting days are executed in a haphazard manner with little prior planning or even a formal agenda. In order to solve this problem, vendors need to take a more a systematic approach to deciding whether or not an analyst consulting day is even required and then executing the days purchased with more rigor.

The critical success factor to ensuring SAS success is for AR managers to take full responsibility for driving business value from the engagement. Taking responsibility also means managing colleagues as well as analysts. You need a process, best practices, checklists, and participant training to ensure your colleagues are fully prepared and in agreement with the desired outcomes for the SAS day. 

In terms of the analysts, AR needs to work hard to ensure the analyst is fully engaged in preparing for the day and completing any follow up that you specify. AR also needs to work doubly hard to make sure the analyst does not try to stay for less than Continue reading

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