Last week in Part One we summarized some of the issues noted in our survey on LinkedIn asking what people felt were the biggest challenges that AR will have in 2008? Last week’s list focused on the traditional problems that AR teams always face. Today we look at some new areas of concern.
Return on AR Investment
While the ROI of the AR program has always been an issue, the measurement tools are getting cloudy. The hardest part for the AR team is showing the correlation between AR ‘effort’ and true impact or outcomes. The temptation for senior management is to point to published research as a result of AR effort, rather than the true goal of influencing analyst opinion and what they are verbally recommending to their clients – your customers.
Measuring the impact of analyst firm expenditures on vendor sales/bottom line is always a concern. The larger analyst firms face new challenges as they have consolidated and downsized, and separately, are forced to compete with niche market analysts who may in fact have a greater impact on the vendor’s bottom line due to their press visibility and niche market influence. Assessing that impact is critical.
The perceived importance of the “new” influencers
Analyst blogs and the ability to leverage social media are opportunities for the AR professional, as the control over what and how often analysts can publish, and how that content can be promoted by vendors using PR and social media tactics, is more flexible than it used to be. However, the rise of bloggers and social media challenge AR to redefine their role and will impact the traditional roles and responsibilities of the AR professional.
For those AR teams that report in through corporate communications another issue will be the lessening influence of the analyst in news coverage scenarios and therefore the perceived lessening of influence of the analysts. Analysts used to be the “go to” sources for breaking news commentary, and thus the vendors really cared at least at that level about what analysts thought. Now those who have prominent blogging platforms are competing, and often winning, the media mindshare. Bloggers have gone way up on the priority list, usually at the expense of analysts.
Marginalization of the traditional AR function
In order to maintain strategic relevance, the AR practitioner needs to understand the problem(s) that they are really trying to solve for their company and demonstrate how working with analysts and IT Influencers can help solve them. Even ignoring the new media influencers you will find that the total analyst community really has limited scope of influence relative to the total market opportunity that a company is targeting.
The global market opportunity for vendors targeting the enterprise is about 80k customers, and for SMB it is about 57million, but the largest firm, Gartner, has about 15k customers. That leaves a large segment of the market available.
The traditional analyst firms are important. But growth will need to come from new areas and most likely new customers. If the AR team does not innovate and find ways to influence these customers (perhaps through the new media), the value of the traditional AR manager will be marginalized and the precious resources (stakeholder time and budget) will be diverted to other high return marketing and communication activities that target these high growth opportunities.
- Continue to measure AR ROI – focus on spoken word audits and sales win/loss data
- Work to understand the relative importance of new media in your market. Pilot some efforts so that you are familiar with the tools
- Assess the true influencers in your market and make plans on how to change your program to begin to address them
Bottom Line: Traditional analysts are important, but company management may see alternative uses for the resources that have gone to AR unless teams plan to address the larger influencing community. Tip o’ the hat to the analysts, AR professionals and other interested members of the community who provide the tips and insights that became this post. One of the ways that SageCircle is different is that we are aggressively leveraging social media as a research tool. Become part of the community that discusses the analyst ecosystem. Connect with us via LinkedIn (Dave, Carter) and Twitter (Dave, Carter).
Question: Vendor Teams – Do you measure your impact via sales data? If so, how? Have you considered adding new media opportunities to your program?
Is your AR program ready for the challenges that 2008 will throw at it? SageCircle Can Help. Our strategists can:
- Conduct a free SageCircle AR Diagnostic and provide you with a concise analysis of your program
- Participate in an AR staff conference call to discuss the trends in the analyst ecosystem and how they might impact your program
- Act as a sounding board for your AR plans to ensure that you are anticipating all the changes
Click here or on grahic for SageCircle’s AR Diagnostic Mini-Workshop brochure — It’s free, it’s fast and it’s easy.
Contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309 for more information about how SageCircle can help take your AR program to the next level.
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WRT lessening influence of analysts at the expense of bloggers, it depends on the scope of influence. If you mean influence on journalists who need a quick soundbite, then you may be right. But if you mean influence on end-user firms, then I see little impact from bloggers other than very technical issues. Perhaps the issue, then, is one of accessibility, rather than influence.
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