What to do when you only have a few dollars for AR

rocket-for-startups.jpgThere are many IT vendors that are either launching or reinvigorating their AR program for the IT industry analysts (e.g., Gartner, Ovum and Yankee Group). It is typical for nascent AR programs to have a small budget to work with. This heightens the importance of spending decisions because when there is little money the margin for error shrinks considerably. 

The first priority for AR managers is that they demonstrate effectiveness early to get more support for AR. This requires a ruthless focus on the key success factors and how money spent can help achieve those factors. While there are many reasons why IT vendors invest* in AR, more often than not the initial reason is to obtain increased visibility with the analysts talking to their prospects. This post focuses on that premise.

First, spend your money with the right analysts. There are three primary types of analysts: end-user advisory, market research, and white paper for hire. It is the end-user advisory firms that have the hundreds of thousands of personal interactions with IT buyers every year. Thus, dollars spent with those analyst firms will have the biggest payback by obtaining relationship-building tools. Advisory firm contracts provide the ability to do inquiries on a frequent basis, which are invaluable for gaining insights into the analysts’ thought processes and research agenda, getting “top of mind” presence, doing spoken word audits, and developing a personal relationship. These types of activities will greatly enhance an IT vendor’s visibility with their primary analysts leading to analysts being more comfortable recommending the vendor to their clients.

Market research firms are less important because their clients are vendors and financial firms. The exception is when the market researchers are affiliated with an end-user advisory firm (e.g., Dataquest and Gartner) where a well-crafted and keenly executed “market driver” study can be used to influence the advisory analysts. In this case, the AR program might be able to leverage their company’s research/competitive intelligence’s market research budget for this project.

White paper for hire firms should NOT get any of your meager AR budget. These analysts’ primary clients are vendors’ marketing and Continue reading

Value for Effort

Analyst Relations PlanningOne of the slides we consistently include in any of SageCircle’s training content, private or public, covers value for effort. Basically this is our discussion about implementing only those activities or best practices where the analyst relations program receives more value back than the effort put into it.

For example, SageCircle consistently encourages AR professionals to pay attention analyst usage of social media. However, we also consistently say that AR needs to limit the number of analysts that they monitor on social media so as not to use too much time. This recommendation then dovetails into a discussion of the need for a good analyst list ranking and tiering framework to make sure that the AR team is focusing on the most relevant analysts.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR teams need to careful vet any new programs or best practices for relevance and practicality

Bottom Line: The most precious resource that AR has is its time. While there are many Continue reading

Stop playing Whac-a-mole by moving from firefighting and reactive to proactive and preemptive

Analyst Relations PlanningToo many analyst relations (AR) professionals spend too much of their time seemingly playing Whac-A-Mole. They rush from one emergency to another, respond to one request after another (from colleagues and analysts), and always seem to be in catch-up mode. The problem with this state is that AR gets in the rut of being tactical and does not have time to be strategic. Thus, the image of AR merely being meeting schedulers gets ingrained in the company. 

To get out of the firefighting/reactive rut, AR should focus on becoming proactive and eventually preemptive. Firefighting-Reactive-Proactive-Preemptive are what SageCircle calls styles of AR. A quick set of definitions are:

Firefighting: The firefighting style of AR is one where a vendor deals with the impact of analysts as opposed to dealing directly with the analysts. Typically, the vendor’s sales force is trying to do damage control because analysts’ research either ignores the vendor or gives the vendor a very negative description or rating. A vendor with a firefighting approach, because they do not interact with the analysts themselves, is doomed to be defined by the uninformed analyst. This allows the vendor to be characterized by the disgruntled customers, competitors, prospects, and partners who do interact with the analysts. Often a vendor in permanent firefighting style is there because it really does not have an AR program and maybe not even a real PR organization.

Reactive: The reactive style of AR is one where a vendor answers questions initiated by the IT analysts, but does not actively reach out to IT analysts. Because the IT analysts do not necessarily contact every vendor for every piece of research they publish, vendors are constantly fighting ratings and recommendations based on old information. In addition, AR is reacting to Continue reading

Managing Your Gartner and Forrester Expenditures – A SageCircle Webinar

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgThe largest analyst contract commitments by enterprises, vendors and PR agencies often go to the Big Two advisory analyst firms: Forrester Research and Gartner. Unfortunately even during this recession, the two firms are not displaying any flexibility in contract negotiations – even though vendor clients are experiencing budget cuts.

To help analyst contract managers (e.g., AR, market research and procurement managers) take a strategic approach to dealing with the need to manage spending with Forrester and Gartner, SageCircle has a public webinar focused on providing the tools and intelligence needed to make the best decisions and deal with the firms’ sales representatives. 

In this SageCircle Webinar we provide insights and actionable advice on how to manage what you spend with Forrester and Gartner to ensure that you have the access you need without spending more than necessary. Key Issues to be addressed in this webinar include:

  • Is it possible to negotiate discounts with Forrester and Gartner?
  • What are the best practices for identifying expenditures that can be safely cut?
  • What are the repercussions with analysts at the Big Two if contracts are cut or even eliminated?
  • What are the best practices for handling angry and even threatening analyst firm sales representatives?

In this SageCircle Webinar, our strategists will provide a succinct analysis of why the Big Two are not being flexible and how vendors need to respond. Participants will come out of the webinar with best practices and tools that will help them manage their expenditures without adversely impacting their ability to 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

Change management is a critical component for successful social media or ARM initiatives

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Click to enlarge

You may call it behavior modification, but one of the most critical components – often overlooked – for a successful AR social media program or analyst relations management (ARM) application deployment is change management. Without a way to reinforce new habits, AR managers will find that their new initiatives will fade away as old habits and day-to-day activities displace the new behaviors (click on graphic to enlarge).

Change management does require specific techniques (e.g., monitoring activity, active intervention, and coaching), but the biggest issue for most managers is the investment of time. If the manager does not have time to be the change agent for the initiative, then they will need to assign one of their team members to that role and manage change through that person. It is also possible to out-task the change agent role, but the manager cannot out-task the accountability.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Incorporate change management activity into the plans for major new initiatives
  • Assign one person to have clear responsibility for change and hold them accountable
  • If out-tasking the change agent role, determine how you will manage the third party firm and measure its effectiveness
  • Add metrics for new behaviors into the goals for the entire team and individual team members
  • Periodically review progress with the team and individual team members

Bottom Line: To overcome the inertia of long established habits, managers need to make change management a vital part of their plans for new initiatives, especially social media and ARM usage.

Question: Do you have a formal section in your AR plans for change management?

Don’t Have the Time to be Your Team’s Change Agent? SageCircle can Help.

 SageCircle has the experience and processes to be the change agent for your initiatives. Please contact us at 503-636-1500 or “info [at] sagecircle dot com” for more information.

The Top 5: Mistakes when Buying Analyst Firm Services

icon-budget-cuts-105w.jpgWe have identified over 40 key issues that analyst contract managers at vendors (e.g., analyst relations, market research and competitive intelligence) need to be aware of when buying and using services from the IT industry analysts. In this post we list out the Top 5 Mistakes that buyers of analyst research commonly make.

5) Not determining the firm’s commitment to the research topic

4) Falling into “contract renewal trap”

3) Expending too much energy on obtaining incremental discounts from the Big Two (i.e., Forrester and Gartner)

2) Purchasing the premium version of a service, when the basic version would suffice (e.g., Gartner for Business Leaders versus Core Advisor)

…and the number one worst practice is Continue reading

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