Technology Companies and IT Analyst Relations
The third in a series of three blogs by Judith Rothrock, President of JRocket Marketing, covering Vendor Strategy, Analyst Relationship (AR) Cultivating & Brand Propulsion Opportunities.
Leveraging Analyst Programs for Sales Momentum
Many of the original analyst firms began as research companies, IT publishing houses, and/or as IT selection consultants/integrators, at a pre-internet time when they were one of the few information-gathering options for companies looking to buy technology.Remember that there were no Google searches for companies to get the information to shortlist ERP or financial software solutions, to read hardware spec reviews, or to leverage changing trends.Buyers either asked a colleague, bought a subscription to Computerworld or PCWeek, went to a tech trade show or industry conference, or relied on ads or PR articles!And those that had the cash to do it, purchased projects from analyst firms.
So, without websites and browser search capabilities, how did IT buyers then ultimately DECIDE on which products/services to buy? They again asked the analysts or reviewed their published rankings. Meaning — from the vendor side — if you didn’t have your company/value proposition and products well known and understood by the IT analysts, you were significantly hobbling your marketing/sales efforts.
Today, technology buyers have many options and avenues to get vendor ratings, quality rankings and competitive inputs before they make a purchase — and numerous vendor websites they can wade through.Yet, analyst firms still play a critically important role in technology sales, though that role has changed.
For the large tier one vendors with large marketing budgets and complex/controlling owners or boards, spending hundreds of thousands to many millions of dollars on analyst research prior to entering markets or building products is commonplace.These large technology vendors also think nothing of hosting analyst events at their user conferences that cost tens of millions of dollars — and consider this table stakes to staying in the good graces of the large global analyst firms.
But, smaller and mid-sized companies (and the smaller tech vendors that serve them) don’t have the resources (nor want to spend the money) on over-priced mega subscription services offered by the giant global analyst companies.
Old School AR Practices Don’t Work (and aren’t Smart!) for Smaller and Mid-Sized Businesses
So here’s the dirty little secret of the industry:all of those expensive analyst reports you see advertised when you do a Google search, that you think you can’t live without and are currently dropping thousands on? You can likely download them for free by filling out a registration page on a vendor site of some company that already bought the report and is desperately using your download activity for lead generation!
And, buying $25,000 or $50,000 subscriptions to EACH research area at big analyst firms? Also a complete waste of your money unless you are a very large company with money to burn, and want to use the few hours of “meeting time” that sometimes comes bundled for a specific purpose.But again, access to almost any information you might want these days is available on the internet — including market stats, competitive stats, buyer stats, etc. I download this material all the time for free for my clients, you just have to know where to look.
So what does this mean to the savvy mid-sized technology vendor?Gone are the days when a once-yearly meet up with a giant analyst firm was a good analyst program.Instead, smart technology vendors who have done their homework know they are going to get a lot better value — and a lot more assistance in sales deals — by bypassing the giants and instead, working with well-known individual analysts or highly targeted analyst firms like ChainLink Research.
Make Every Dollar Count — and Make It a Sales Tool
So what is a smart spend with smaller boutique analyst firms (like ChainLink Research)? If you want real marketing deliverables that can be used for sales programs and for lead generation, here is a small sample of programs that you can gain from many of the smaller analyst firms at a reasonable price point:
- Webinars (taped and re-usable for direct mail and lead generation campaigns)
- White Papers (on key hot topics that support your go-to-market strategy)
- Large surveys or mini-surveys (on points of interest to your prospects)
- Co-branded newsletters (your content wrapped around a previously published analyst report that is tangential to your market/strategy)
- Prospecting events that feature analyst speakers (again, on hot topics that support your strategy)
Analyst firms can be very useful for startup companies or for new product initiatives at established companies to validate or outline the competitive points of differentiation.An investment in a highly targeted project with an analyst firm you trust can both speed your time to market AND make sure that you understand how the competition stacks up against you.
Finally, an investment in an analyst relations firm with deep experience and analyst relations can quickly pay for itself.Here are the five requirements you should expect:
1. Proof of established relationships: ask for their analyst list and their key contacts; if they balk they either don’t have them, or believe that AR is simply an email exercise;
2. Recent analyst reports that they’ve been responsible for securing for other clients;
3. Reference calls with at least three key analysts who have worked with them (and who are important to you);
4. Understanding of your industry: the worst thing you can do is to use a PR agency with an analyst firm — they don’t understand technology deeply and the analysts will avoid them;
5. Guaranteed results on three levels:
- The minimum number of meetings that will be set up;
- The number of (free) reports/blogs that will be result from their outreach;
- At least one face-to-face analyst event each year with your key analyst targets.
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Contact JRocket Marketing (www.jrocketmarketing.com) or me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to negotiate, structure and leverage these sales supporting analyst programs.
About the Author: Judith Rothrock is President of JRocket Marketing since 2001, and the recipient of more than a dozen marketing awards. The company was recently named as a finalist against marketing firms 1,000 times its size at the Creative Media Awards, held January 2015 in New York.
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.