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“There are only so many briefing hours in the year” so AR professionals better make sure their briefings are focused and valuable for the analyst

Analyst Relations PlanningDuring the January 27, 2009 Gartner Quarterly AR Call, GVP Jenni Lehman, research operations, made a useful point that we think that vendors do not focus on enough:

      “There are only so many briefing hours in a year.”

This point is important because many vendors rely too much on briefings, and have ill-planned and poorly executed briefings. Calling on analysts too often and conducting low value briefings can lead to the situation where analysts cut back on the number of briefing slots allocated to the vendor. This outcome has nothing to do with the size of the vendor’s contract and everything to do with the typical value the analyst is getting from his or her investment of time with the vendor. Why should an analyst invest an hour with a vendor if they know they will get little useful information or strategic insights from the vendor?

AR programs need to carefully review all their planned briefings – you do plan your briefing schedule months in advance, right? – to ensure they are delivering the most valuable information for the analyst and communicating the highest priority of the vendor’s messages. Once you have made sure that critical messages and supporting context are delivered then you fill in additional information delivery needs using other types of

SageCircle Technique:

  • Develop a strategic AR plan that explicitly states what information and key messages need to be delivered and includes targets for the mix of interactions
  • Create a planning calendar that lists out your key influential analysts and planned interactions by month, balancing inbound and outbound
  • Capture all analyst interactions in your Analyst Relationship Management (ARM) application or other tool
  • Monthly review your previous three months of interactions to determine if you adhering to your mix targets
  • Adjust upcoming interaction types to adjust the balance of inbound and outbound

Bottom Line: Vendors have to be practical that analysts – not just at Gartner but at all firms – can only spend so much time on formal vendor briefings and that there is a lot of competition for that time. As a consequence, AR programs have to ruthlessly focus their briefings on the most important key messages and use other interaction types to supplement information flow. AR also has to make sure that every briefing has “hooks” that get the analyst asking for follow-on interactions so the vendor does not have use relationship capital for requesting briefing slots.

Question: AR professionals – Are you planning your information delivery priorities for a rolling four quarter time frame with quarterly reviews? Analysts – What do you want vendors to focus on in briefings?

 

4 Responses

  1. Of course, any length of briefing can be too long if it doesn’t serve a focused purpose. But as I’ve said previously, I think a lot of briefings could accomplish their purpose in 30 minutes. A lot of briefings I sit on either feel plumped out to a 1 hr length or they’re an introduction to a company that I find I don’t really need to dive deeply into.

  2. Carter,
    Many vendors I deal with do this well. They know my research area, send me slides and a summary beforehand, and are on the webex when I get on. They ask smart questions, and are prepared with answers to mine. This makes the contrast with those that don’t all the more jarring.

    I need to get more from the call than I can get from spending a little while in Google. Tell me the stuff I can’t Google.

    Some have read my research beforehand and check my blogs every now and then, and a couple actually follow me on twitter. They know that I’m based in Germany and often up late in the evening for the California time briefing, and they follow up afterwards with reference data or other useful materials. Best of all though, is when they connect me with their customers.

    This makes my job a whole lot easier and enjoyable.

  3. I agree with Thomas — most vendors are pretty good, but the ones who aren’t can be really jarringly bad. So here’s my list:

    1. If you’re briefing me and only me, you should have some idea who I am and what I cover. My bio is on Gartner’s website. A longer bio is on my blog. I have a profile on LinkedIn. You can get a list of my recent research without being a client. If you’re taking an hour of your executives’ time, and mine, in order to brief me, you should have done the five minutes of homework to figure out whether it would be a mutually beneficial use of an hour.

    2. Remember that analysts are supposed to be experts. I realize that some aren’t, but part of doing your homework on the analyst is figuring out how much they do or don’t know about the space. So, for instance, knowing that I focus on covering hosting, you shouldn’t be spending the first ten slides of your presentation explaining to me why a company would want to outsource its website. If you’re a vendor with some new and really unique tech, yes, you can and should construct your story from the foundations, but if you’re one of many competitors in an established market, spend your time explaining how you’re different.

    3. Answer questions straightforwardly. If I ask if you provide a particular service or if your product has a particular feature, and the answer is “no”, do not try to provide half-truths or evasions. It will force me to ask a follow-up question for clarity, to which you will end up answering “no” in an unnecessarily embarrassed fashion.

    4. If you agree to follow up afterwards with an answer to a question, actually do so. If you don’t want to answer a question, just say so; don’t use “I’ll get back to you” as a way of making inconvenient questions disappear.

    5. Remember that analysts normally save their advice for clients. We’re usually willing to offer a little bit of feedback to non-clients (and the best briefings naturally spark a lively two-way dialogue), but Gartner’s pretty explicit that non-client vendor briefings are intended to be one-way. When we tell you that the question you’ve asked is beyond the free feedback, and you requested the briefing (rather than it being analyst-initiated), griping that the privilege of a briefing is a two-way street is not only inaccurate but it’s unfair to us; we have to live by our company rules, which state otherwise.

  4. Lydia makes some great points. The last one strikes home for me. In the course of a good briefing it’s normal and mutually beneficial to have give and take. However, I get irked when a non-client contacts me for a briefing to introduce themselves and “to get my view of the market” (or something along those lines) or they start peppering me with questions.

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