Knowledge about the industry analysts can be a competitive advantage so create a training plan that includes all constituencies

Depth of detail depends on the audienceBest-in-class AR programs do not take training for granted.  They understand that communications and IT industry analysts can touch or be touched by many parts of the company and that a good training program is key for ensuring that all interactions with analysts are positive for the company. In addition to outbound activities a training program that includes inbound activites such as research use and effective inquiries can help you get more value from your analyst firm contracts.  This breadth of training will cover all aspects of communication with analysts and involve each constituency within the company (click on the graphic to enlarge).

It is important to note that training is not just for large Communications and IT Vendors, but should be addressed as part of any company, regardless of size, that deals with Continue reading

Transitioning to leading-edge AR: It’s in the plan

Analyst Relations PlanningWe have always received requests from directors of top analyst relations (AR) programs to define “World-Class AR.” These directors want to take their programs to the next level and they want to know the elements that characterize strategic AR. They also know that they require a plan for getting there. SageCircle has defined elements of this plan in its research on “The AR Effectiveness Matrix: Stages of AR Maturity, with the “Leading Edge” (Stage 3) representing world class AR. 

However, to provide a comprehensive response to these requests, we developed a 50-page report that is now a core component of the Online SageContentTM Library. In the process, we learned that 1) no one had developed a comprehensive vision yet and, if developed, a 2) comprehensive vision would have to be flexible enough to adapt to AR directors’ specific business needs. SageCircle built in this flexibility by focusing on how AR programs deliver business value to their companies (see Keys for World Class AR box).

pop-out-keys-for-world-class-ar

While the report provides a comprehensive overview of the components that make-up ‘Leading Edge’ AR programs, it leaves open the question: “How do we get there from here? This process is not simple (a “leap over tall buildings in a single bound” project). Rather, achieving ‘Leading Edge’ status requires Continue reading

Essential qualities of AR objectives: alignment and measurability

Analyst Relations PlanningSageCircle stresses the need for good strategic planning.  Creating the right objectives is perhaps the most significant aspect to advancing the AR program within your company.  AR objectives must exhibit two qualities: 

  • Direct alignment with overall company goals
  • Measurability

When establishing goals and objectives for the AR program, top-performing teams first focus on determining whether a candidate objective directly aligns with a corporate initiative. For example, many AR programs initially suggest a goal similar to, “Get our executives more involved with the analysts.”  But this goal has no explicit business value.  Why does the program want to increase the visibility of the executives?  In most cases when you review this objective the discussion leads to the understanding that analysts find meetings with executives more memorable and valuable, and messages from executives are considered more reliable.  Having executives meet with the analysts increases the company’s top-of-mind with the analysts, which is one factor that affects analyst recommendations.  The AR goal becomes, “Establish top-of-mind with key analysts covering the xyz market to promote inclusion on short lists”.  Executive meetings are recognized as one tactic for achieving this goal.

The second hurdle for program objectives is measurability. To assess this criterion, effective AR teams attempt to define Continue reading

Defining “AR Strategic and Tactical Plan”

Bottom Line:  AR organizations need to plan their programs and resources to achieve most effectively their AR goals. An AR Strategic and Tactical plan should be a detailed roadmap that aligns programs and activities with corporate and business unit objectives, AR goals and the strategic initiative of driving sales. 

AR Strategic and Tactical Plan:

n:  A scheme or method developed to ensure that the AR team is systematically delivering business value to the company for the time period specified. The AR plan requires both a near-term tactical focus as well as a long-term strategic vision. The AR Strategic and Tactical Plan is a document that begins with a statement of AR goals and then provides comprehensive detail for executing AR activities such that all AR resources and Continue reading

Planning and Measurement: more than activities, these are essential components of effective AR

SageCircle - connection between planning and measurementTop-performing analyst relations (AR) programs follow a simple model: 

  1. Define the results they want to achieve
  2. Define and execute a set of activities designed to achieve the stated results
  3. Measure progress

This approach not only helps to keep the program focused, it is critical for gaining and maintaining executive sponsorship and support.  Executives do not have time to learn the details and nuances of AR operations. They could care less how many briefings AR performs, how many e-mails were sent, or how many analyst requests the AR team supports. Executives want to know

  1. What are the business-relevant results the AR program will deliver
  2. Does the AR program have a plan (or is it flying by the seat of its pants)
  3. Is the plan reasonable
  4. How will the program prove its impact

Many AR programs lament their lack of strong executive support, yet have not committed the time necessary to develop the key ingredient for executive sponsorship, a pragmatic Continue reading

The process for developing an AR Strategic & Tactical Plan

SageCircle's AR strategic & tactical plan processCreating a comprehensive AR plan is a significant undertaking, with myriad steps and details. To accomplish this work in an efficient and effective manner — and to ensure nothing falls through the cracks — AR teams should follow a process similar to the one depicted in the graphic (click to enlarge). 

Going through a formal process is worth the effort. We have seen clients’ AR programs receive more headcount and budget when other departments in their companies face cutbacks in tough economic environments. Why? Because these AR programs had realistic AR plans that focused on delivering business value (including sales support which is prized in recessions) that could be measured.

SageCircle Technique:

This AR planning process has six discrete steps (numbered items relate to numbered circles on the diagram):

  1. Assess your AR program. This step helps identify opportunities to build on existing programs and to improve weak or non-existent areas
  2. Align AR goals with overall corporate objectives to prove AR’s value and to make timely adjustments based on business needs
  3. Build outreach programs and activities to accomplish Continue reading

When calculating impact sales impact, remember analysts impact multiple vendors on the same deal

AR Metrics & MeasurementThere are many examples of analyst impact on specific sales opportunities. It is important to note that most examples show the impact on only two vendors: the focus of the example and their competitor in the deal.  The example usually demonstrates a vendor that lost a deal through negative analyst commentary as contrasted to the vendor that benefited from that commentary. 

This is an important point that is easily overlooked. Analyst relations (AR) teams that are gathering sales impact data should also consider gathering information about how analyst commentary impacted other vendors on the same deal. If vendor A was eliminated from a short list because of negative commentary, does that necessarily mean that the commentary was positive about one or more competing vendors on the same short list? Understanding how analyst commentary and advice impacts all the vendors in a sales deal can provide Continue reading

Gathering data for measuring analyst impact on sales

AR Metrics & MeasurementSageCircle research shows that overall analysts have a significant impact on IT buyers.  However,  each vendor in the community often has only a general perception of how much the analysts have an impact on their sales. Often, the perception is formed more by anecdotal information than systematic research, with stories filtering up from individual sales representatives about analysts negatively influencing deals. Vendors that do systematic research on analyst influence discover the broad and deep influence, both positive and negative, that the analysts have on deals. Analyst relations (AR) teams with a goal to become more strategic should institute a formal program for gathering sales impact data. 

Unfortunately, it is not a simple task to gather sales impact data. If it was easy, then everybody would already be doing so. There are many factors that contribute to the difficulty in gathering sales data including:

  • Multiple types of data
  • Multiple potential sources of data
  • Multiple points within a sales cycle when an analyst could impact a deal
  • Lack of institutional relationship with the company’s leads management and sales teams
  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of formal measurement plan
  • Lack of bandwidth to do the work

While there are these barriers, none of them are so difficult to overcome that AR should not even try to Continue reading

How third parties can help with data collection

AR Metrics & MeasurementAs was mentioned in Out-tasking AR Activities, measurement work is a prime candidate for out-tasking. There are various firms that can assist AR programs with measurement program design, gathering, and analyzing data. Some examples include: 

Measurement program designSageCircle has proven intellectual property and templates to help AR teams set up practical and effective measurement programs.

ARchitectTM - ARinsights‘ collaborative application and integrated database makes data collection, querying, and reporting easy. AR practitioners can accomplish in seconds what used to take hours of manual effort. SageCircle strategists are experts in how to leverage ARchitect as part of a measurement program.

Spoken Word Audits - A variety of firms provide services which are similar to SageCircle’s suggested technique for Spoken Word Audits. The Spoken Word Audit uncovers what analysts are saying about your products/services to end-users during Continue reading

Making Data Collection for Measurement Practical [AR Practitioner Question]

AR Metrics & MeasurementQuestion:  How do you make data collection easier for AR measurement programs?

This question gets to the heart of the measurement challenge-if it is too difficult to do, it will not get done.  Making data collection practical involves selecting the right mix of metrics, leveraging outside resources, and automating many tasks.

[This post focuses on the data collection aspects of an effective measurement program.  Therefore, the following related topics will not be addressed 1) picking and prioritizing the right metrics, 2) distinguishing between operational and performance metrics, and 3) using metrics to track performance against pre-defined goals.  For discussion of these topics, please see Online SageContentTM Library series "Metrics and Program Measurement."]

SageCircle Technique:

  • Selecting the Right Mix of Metrics. First, to make data collection practical, you must pick metrics that meet measurement program goals (e.g. track what you want to measure) and are easy and cost-effective to generate (e.g. data collection requires moderate/minimal effort). Be clear on what you want to measure and collect only that data so you can encourage AR team participation. However, do not reject metrics that initially appear difficult to collect. New options to out-task and automate may make collection easier than you think.
  • Leveraging Outside Resources (Out-Tasking). Out-tasking is a variation of out-sourcing, but instead of contracting out a significant part of your AR program (which SageCircle rarely recommends) this technique refers to contracting out an activity or task. Out-tasking is especially appropriate for activities that are Continue reading

Ask analysts about their conversations with IT buyers

AR Metrics & MeasurementMarc Duke in Playing the numbers game? makes an excellent point about asking analysts during an interaction about the number of end users they advise. As we frequently say, linking the analyts to revenue / sales deal impact is a critical tool for establishing AR’s strategic business value to the company.

When I tweeted about Marc’s post, monkchips (James Governor, co-founder of Redmonk) of course had to reply.

@carterlusher at redmonk ask how many developers and architects we talk to. not the same as “end-user clients” but certainly valuable

I then challenged James to Continue reading

Monitoring Analyst Opinion within the Context of Measurement

AR Metrics & MeasurementCounting analyst mentions is often an operational metric.  However, it is a very incomplete measurement because counting mentions typically does not consider the intensity, the exposure, the focus, the alignment, or the accuracy of the opinion; all critical factors in determining the net impact of an opinion on shaping market perception and influencing buying decisions. If you consider these other attributes it can become a form of performance metric  because it can demonstrate that AR reached out to the analyst and communicated information for them. 

In order to move beyond an at-best tactical performance metric such as counting mentions to something more strategic, AR needs to elevate its focus by tracking opinions and data points (relevance, perception, net impact, etc.) over time on a more regular basis.  Monitoring opinion can help AR understand the effectiveness of its work by tracking whether opinions are improving over time. For instance, merely counting that there were 20 quotes per quarter in Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 indicates little on AR effectiveness. However, tracking that overall opinion in those four quarters went from very negative in Q1 to negative in Q2 to neutral in Q3 and positive in Q4 shows that AR has been very effective in understanding the positions of the analysts and presenting the company’s case to them.

It is our recommendation that AR programs do not settle for simply counting mentions in the press and research notes, but move to include analyst opinion monitoring. However, in the spirit of making data collection practical, this does not mean that Continue reading

AR Measurement – Moving beyond operational metrics

AR Metrics & MeasurementWithin one week, we received inquiries from two different AR-savvy clients about the measurements and metrics they should employ to track activities and benchmark progress against stated goals.  Both clients realized their existing measurement programs – primarily focused on counting AR activities and written research and press quote mentions – were not capturing the full picture of AR activities and effectiveness.  Therefore, the clients were unable to communicate effectively AR’s impact on sales to executives. 

First, before diving into what measurements and metrics to track, clients need to define performance vs. operational metrics.  Performance metrics measure AR’s progress against strategic results such as trends in analyst opinions by market, product, etc. or number of sales opportunities supported by the AR team.  Operational metrics, on the other hand, measure AR’s utilization and productivity against plan.  Some examples include briefings, inquiries, roadshows, summits, etc. and volume of analyst research publications tagged and monitored. 

Second, clients must examine the company’s overall performance goals and then define the AR goals needed to achieve these objectives.  For example, Continue reading

AR’s evolution from a cost center to something more akin to a strategic profit center

icon-dollar-euro.jpgIn the past few months, SageCircle has seen increased interest in how AR can support sales and set up an effective measurement program that focuses on outcomes (e.g., impact on revenues) rather than activities (e.g., number of briefings in a month). The convergence of interest in measurement and in supporting sales makes sense given that AR programs that have accomplished their first strategic AR objective – “Shape Market Perception to Generate Leads” – are now focusing on “Arming Sales to Close Business.”  Supporting sales and tracking analyst revenue impact is the process that elevates AR from a cost center to something approaching a profit center.

How can AR best support sales in a practical fashion given constrained resources and also measure its impact on the company’s revenues? While there are no easy answers to these Continue reading

Out-tasking AR Activities [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgInquiry: After posting The Prospect Profile Form, we got a call from a client who said it was a great idea, but she did not have the bandwidth to use this technique. The AR manager wanted to know what she could do in order to have time to do more for the sales team. 

AR departments are frequently short staffed and under hiring constraints. One method for overcoming this resource limitation is to out-task certain activities to contractors or PR firms.

In this particular case, we were discussing how an AR program could free-up the time needed to reach out to their company’s sales organization. It turns out that while our client understood the strategic impact and value of helping to drive sales by leveraging AR’s knowledge of the analysts, there was a major hurdle to overcome – not enough hours in the day. The company was and continues to be under a hiring freeze, so requesting additional AR headcount was out of the picture. However, during the conversation we discovered that there was limited budget to hire contractors or other outside resources. This turned out to be an underutilized resource as our client was not contracting out AR activities as aggressively as she could.

It is very important when considering this route to understand the difference between outsourcing and out-tasking. Outsourcing is traditionally associated with turning over operational responsibility for an entire business or IT process (e.g., outsourcing payroll management or mainframe datacenters). In this context, we are definitely not talking about outsourcing all of AR (usually appropriate only for startups). Rather, we suggested that our client take a serious look at all of their regular tasks and pick which ones could be turned over to an outside resource – thus the name out-tasking instead of outsourcing.

The types of tasks that are most suited to out-tasking are those that are Continue reading

Quantifying the Impact of the Analysts on Sales

icon-dollar-euro.jpgI was speaking with a client at a small vendor who was not having any problems getting her executives’ attention and support for AR. Why? Her executives understand that the analysts’ impact a minimum of US$6-7MM sales per quarter. They know the dollar impact on sales because this AR manager diligently captures information about deal size when sales representatives call her for assistance. 

Another client asked me to review a PowerPoint chart he had created. It was a very powerful chart because, again, it showed the millions in revenues that started as analyst-related leads – in this case, over 20% of the company’s annual revenues. Similarly, this second client also has no problem getting executive attention and support.

Showing the dollars, euros, yen or pounds the analysts have their fingerprints on presents a very powerful business case to top-line focused executives – and these days, which executives are not revenue focused? Yet, when presented with this approach, many AR managers simply shrug and say that they could never get their sales force to provide them with this information. However, when we ask whether they get calls from upset sales reps or managers about deals negatively impacted by analysts, invariably they say “yes.” Bam! The light goes on that Continue reading

How much to spend on analyst contracts [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgInquiry: SageCircle received the following inquiry via e-mail: “Is our use/cost of the major analyst firms at about industry standard or better – especially as it relates to analyst contracts?”

“Are we spending the right amount on analyst contracts?” is a common question that SageCircle receives. This is one of a group of “standards” or “benchmarks” inquiries (see The Size of the AR Team [AR practitioner question]) that many AR managers wrestle with, often in response to their management’s demands for justification for budgets. While clients want us to provide a simple rule-of-thumb for analyst contracts (e.g., as a percentage of vendor revenue), we cannot provide it. Through our research, we have discovered that comparable vendors (in terms of markets, total revenues and number of employees) can have dramatically different analyst contract requirements.

The more important questions that need to be answered are: “Are the contracts providing us the services we need to reach our defined goals?  Are we managing the contracts to get full value? 

For end users clients, usually IT managers at large enterprises, the answers are much more clear cut. Even though enterprises use analysts for a variety of purposes (see Why technology buyers use the IT industry analysts), these purposes basically fall into either strategic and tactical decision support. Thus, spending can be focused on active topics and activities, especially where internal expertise is not available.

How much IT and telecommunications vendors spend on analyst contracts is dependent on a variety of factors. In this SageCircle blog post, we will focus on identifying the factors.

Breadth of usage – How many different functions in the company will analyst research and advice be supporting? The broader the usage, the more Continue reading

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 Continue reading

If analysts do not get their impact, do your executives?

icon-dollar-euro.jpgAwhile back, I heard an interesting comment from a former advisory analyst who is now the director of AR at a software company. She said that when she was an analyst it was her opinion that vendors were crazy to think that analysts have a large impact on sales. However, now that she is at a vendor, she is experiencing first-hand the dramatic impact the analysts have on vendor sales opportunities.

This got me thinking that if analysts do not understand or appreciate their impact on vendor sales, do vendor executives really understand how the analysts have their fingerprints all over corporate sales opportunities? The reality is that many executives do not fully comprehend the true impact of the analysts on revenues. Thus, they are less likely to support AR by making time to meet and speak with analysts. 

SageCircle Technique:

Defining “Analyst Relations”

When you meet someone new in a social setting the topic often turns to “so where do you work? What do you do?”  Do you struggle with explaining Analyst Relations?

Many AR programs cannot give an “elevator pitch” on AR. You should have this available for not only those social settings, but also to explain your expertise to others in your company.  Here is a quick definition of AR that can be used when explaining what AR does:

“Analyst Relations takes advantage of the unique influence that the IT industry analysts have with our prospects and customers to help drive revenues. Analyst Relations works to influence analyst opinions regarding our company and our products to increase positive coverage in analyst research publications and analyst media quotes. Through briefings, inquiries, newsletters, AR portals, analyst firm events, and other tactics, we work to constantly maintain top-of-mind status with key analysts, so our company and products are frequently recommended by the analyst community.

As a corollary charter, Analyst Relations works with Continue reading

What do PR agencies bring to the table for AR?

At the inaugural meeting a couple weeks ago of what is hoped to become the Silicon Valley chapter of the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR, website, blog), I ran into Anne-miek Hamelinck, VP of Waggener Edstrom’s AR practice. I asked Anne-miek what she thought PR agencies brought to the table in terms of AR. Here is her answer.

Never assume during an annual renewal that the analyst service contract remains the same

Annual syndicated research subscriptions are a common approach for enterprises and vendors when it comes to gaining access to published research and advisory. However, for all the value and convenience in this type of contract, there is a potential “gotcha” to watch for during the contract renewal – changes in the terms and conditions.

Often contract renewals follow a simple path of adjusting the number of seats and add-on services based on past year’s usage, new requirements, and new offerings by the firm. Often the analyst firm sales representative will send along the new contract with a note that says “it is basically the same as last year, so please look at pages x and y to make sure we have captured the number of seats and services you need.  Then sign on page z.” If the client does not carefully go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb they might miss that the “basically the same” contract actually has some key changes to the terms and conditions that severely limit their use of the analyst services or gives the analyst firms the right to audit the client for contract compliance. 

In some cases, the firm sales rep does not know that the changes are there, they are simply using the new standard contract. In other cases, the sales rep is aware of the changes but does not Continue reading

Are you or do you know an independent AR contractor?

SageCircle is working on our newest reference page, the AR Contractors Directory. We are looking for names and contact information for people to add to this directory.

Definition: An AR contractor is an individual who will conduct day-to-day analyst relations tasks (e.g., set up and execute analyst briefings, monitor analyst opinion) in a non-employee relationship. AR contractors could bill by the hour or project. While PR firms do this type of work, they are not included in this category. This market category is focused on independent individuals or small specialized boutiques.

Directories can be found in the Pages box at the top of the left navigation menu.

Bottom Line: If you do contact work or have contact information for AR contractors you know, please send it to “info [at] sagecircle.com”

Question: AR managers – Why do you use – or not use – AR contractors?

 

How serious is the PR pro at an agency about AR? Check the Twitter follows.

icon-social-media-blue.jpgIn Killer questions to ask PR agencies to see if they are AR pretenders or contenders, we provided a technique to help determine whether a PR agency that is bidding for a vendor’s analyst relations (AR) business truly understands the analysts and AR. There might be another technique that could potentially – but only potentially – provide another interesting insight into the dedication to real AR. 

      Do they follow more analysts and AR than media and PR on Twitter?

This is only a potentially interesting insight because adoption of Twitter by analysts and AR professionals is still at a nascent stage. If an agency staff member is not following many analysts and AR pros on Twitter it could mean Continue reading

Operational framework: The 5 I’s of Analyst Relations

In the bustle of daily activities, it is sometimes hard for analyst relations (AR) managers to keep their teams focused on their key operational activities. SageCircle created the 5 I’s of Analyst Relations to provide an easy mantra of essential activities. The 5 I’s are:

  • Identify — The Most Influential Analysts
    • Ranked and tiered analyst list(s)
    • Continuous research on the analysts’ coverage
  • Interact — In the Correct Ways
    • Mix of one-to-one, one-to-many, none-to-many types
    • Mix of briefings, SAS, relationship meetings and client inquiries
  • Information — Most Appropriate in Continue reading
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