SageCircle’s “Analyst Hierarchy of Needs” – Part one

SageCircle’s Analyst Hierarchy of NeedsWhy is it that some analysts are content with receiving a newsletter while other analysts always demand access to the vendor’s CEO? In this post we introduce a model that defines a hierarchy of analyst needs.  Application of the Hierarchy can help AR programs prioritize initiatives and focus communication and interaction strategies based on a new understanding of analyst motivations. In addition, the Hierarchy provides an essential component for manager and executive AR training as it explains the need for specific AR strategies and activities.

SageCircle developed the “SageCircle Hierarchy of Analyst Needs” after conducting literally thousands of industry analyst interactions, both surveys and interviews, while doing measurement engagements like the AR effectiveness study, spoken word audits and analyst conference surveys. Through pattern analysis, it became apparent that the analysts had common professional needs and expectations. By drawing parallels between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and this similar observation about the analysts, we can better understand analyst behavior and AR programs can develop more effective strategies for managing and maintaining relationships.

Levels of the Hierarchy

The levels of the analyst needs pyramid (click on figure to enlarge) are, from lowest to highest, responsiveness, outreach, personalized outreach and making an impact.

Responsiveness: Because the analysts spend much of their time researching vendors either for a publishing deadline or to answer a client inquiry, vendor responsiveness is a major factor influencing the analyst’s perception of the company. During the analyst interviews for various AR effectiveness studies, it became clear that analyst dissatisfaction with vendors was most often caused by lack of responsiveness. Just like food and shelter in Maslow’s model, the foundation is often taken for granted. But if the foundation is unstable, all subsequent efforts are at risk. Thus, responsiveness to requests is a prerequisite for establishing relationships with important analysts.

Mass Outreach: Many vendors have asked the question, “Why don’t the analysts pick up the phone and call us?” The reality is that for routine updates, most analysts do not have the bandwidth to pick up the phone for “anything new?” conversations. The unstated assumption is that if the vendor has any interesting news, the vendor will initiate the contact. While communication devices like newsletters and mass email announcements may seem less than effective, most analysts – even Tier 1 analysts – consider them important.  As a consequence, an effective outreach program is critical and should be focused on providing analysts with timely information.  Executed effectively, an efficient outreach program builds upon the Responsiveness foundation to establish a functional relationship based on mutual expectations.

Personalized Outreach: Through interviews with several analysts it became clear that the analysts themselves were very interested in taking their vendor relationships to the next level. Of course the next stage is rather self-serving, especially for Tier 1 analysts who frequently deal with issues of “spamming” by vendors who merely want to keep their name in front of the analyst. “Just send me information about stuff I care about” was the common refrain. Once your AR program is proficient at providing analysts the basic information they need, your program should work to begin personalizing content based on the specific coverages, speaking calendar, and editorial calendar of individual analysts.  Targeted information supporting issues they are concerned about is highly prized by the analysts and can raise your AR program’s visibility significantly.

Impact on Strategy: It has been noted that analysts have a healthy ego and no lack of confidence about their insights and abilities. A recurrent issue during analyst interviews is, “Why don’t vendors get me involved earlier? I could help them in so many ways.” The analysts sincerely believe that their vantage point as an analyst provides the opportunity to recognize emerging patterns and then comment on what is happening before anybody else. All analysts, but particularly Tier 1 analysts, believe that they have critical insights into end-user’s needs that vendors would benefit from hearing during early strategy and product planning stages. Like the self-actualization pinnacle of the Maslow Hierarchy, the summit of analyst self actualization is realized when an analyst contributes to their vendor-clients’ strategic planning and product planning.

In the next part of the series on the Analyst Hierarchy of Needs, we will examine how the stage of an analyst’s career (see Know your analyst – Novice, Luminary or Sage) can impact the pyramid.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Analyze your past analyst interactions to determine if the distribution is skewed toward one level or another of the pyramid
  • Modify your AR plan so that Tier 1 analysts receive more “Personalized Outreach” and “Impact on Strategy” interactions
  • Use the Hierarchy to educate managers and executives about how the analysts work and why certain AR activities and investments are necessary

Bottom Line: The SageCircle Hierarchy of Analyst Needs can be a good tool for helping set AR priorities. A key insight of the Hierarchy is that one size does not fit all, driving AR groups to start personalizing their interactions with important analysts.

Question: AR teams – Can you think of particular analysts that seem to demand more personal outreach than others? Are there analysts that are satisfied with simple broadcast outreach and mass teleconference briefings?

Do you want to apply the Analyst Hierarchy of Needs? SageCircle can help – Our strategists can:

  • Review your analyst list(s) to determine how the analysts are distributed over the pyramid
  • Analyze your analyst interactions to identify skewing toward one level or another of the pyramid
  • Critique your AR plan and suggest changes in order to have the greatest impact on the most important analysts

SageCircle strategists understand your opportunities, challenges and priorities because we have been AR practitioners and executives as well as industry analysts and AR researchers. SageCircle emphasizes the use of phone-based inquiry through its Advisory Service, which is your lifeline when you need timely access to an AR and analyst expert to exploit an opportunity or mitigate a problem. Advisory is available through an annual “all you can eat” contract or blocks of two or five hours “by the drink.” Click here to learn more about our advisory services.

To learn more contact us at info [at] sagecircle dot com or 650-274-8309.  



  1. Excellent post and model. I can’t tell you how many organizations miss out on the fundamentals of effective outreach, with no visible channel for an analyst to contact them.

  2. “Personalized response” … the early factoid, the early hypothesis, details from a beta customer situation (an alpha if you have it): these are the types of things I should think an upper tier analyst would find most useful.

    My own view is that AR folk should also consider who can do them the most good *with* this information, and treat it as you would a tip to a media person. Get each tidbit into the right audience — an analyst may be widely followed and well thought of in the industry, but if this isn’t what turns their crank, they’re unlikely to change their emphases to suit it. Place each tidbit where it will do the most good!

  3. Hi Bruce, Excellent comments. You are absolutely right that focusing on the right analyst for the right situation is critical for both efficiency and effectiveness.

  4. […] Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident with a particular group of analysts. I started finding more examples of analysts from many firms who admitted during client inquiries that they had not “got around” to checking the relevant financial facts. This then launched a regular program of extracting key financial information for specific parts of the company and sending different extracts to different analysts based on their coverage – leveraging the “Personalized Outreach” aspect of the Analyst Hierarchy of Needs. […]

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