Technology Companies and IT Analyst Relations
The first in a series of three blogs by Judith Rothrock, President of JRocket Marketing, covering Vendor Strategy, Analyst Relationship Cultivating &
Brand Propulsion Opportunities.
The Art of Working With Analysts
Nature abhors a vacuum, and for technology vendors, the overriding fear they bring to briefings scheduled with IT analysts seems to be:“Did we leave anything out?!” Somewhere along the line, technology vendors began misinterpreting the hungry look in the analysts’ eyes to be starvation, versus the analysts’ real appetite for tasty news “treats.”Specifically, treats that analysts find noteworthy/memorable, and that can be parsed and segmented into worthy reports, blogs and rankings.
What’s lost on most tech vendors (and some people in their own private communications?) — is — SURPRISE — that they are not the center of the universe and the analysts aren’t going to hang on their every word.By week’s end, many analysts have heard as many as 20-40 vendor presentations, all of which use the same “hot button” phrases and over-hyped trends.If you’ve ever been to a lecture where the subject matter has been unnaturally elongated or meanders needlessly, you know exactly what I mean:an unmemorable stew that you’ll forget within 15 minutes of leaving.
Every company faces the same challenges/opportunities with their go-to-market strategies:identification of an unmet (or poorly met) need and providing a product or service that fills the gap.Once you wrap the classic 4 Ps of marketing:price, product, promotion and place, you launch your website, hire your teams and go-go-go.For tech companies, part of the “Promotion” needs to involve leveraging the industry influencers, including IT analysts, who are largely speaking to the buyer community.
Let’s focus here on understanding the importance of correctly communicating a highly targeted strategy that is pointed at a specific marketplace to an identified buyer role, and that succinctly conveys the points of competitive differentiation.And for the purpose of this blog, we’ll talk about how to communicate that strategy to industry analysts.Here are 5 simple Dos and Don’ts:
1. DON’T SERVE A SMORGASBOARD: Skip the abundant buffet approach where you serve up every single “dish” in your competitive arsenal.Yes, your company has the ability to point its products/services in multiple directions; but no, it will hurt, not help you, if the analysts find your business unfocused.With the exception of the IBMs, Oracles and SAPs of the market, you can’t effectively sell to (let alone own) multiple markets at one time.
2. DON’T BRING CASTS OF THOUSANDS: We’ll talk more about relationship cultivating in Blog 2, but your first several analyst meetings should never have more than 3 people — and one of them (unless you are a multi-billion-dollar organization with multiple large businesses beneath it) — needs to be your CEO or President.The 2nd person should be a product/service/IT head and if there’s a third it should be a demo Don or Dolly.
3. DON’T BOOK MORE THAN 2 HOURS: Unless you are unlocking the secrets of the universe, the analysts have heard multiple versions of “your story” with the appropriate twists.You stretch their patience (and their ability to stay focused on you), when you go beyond a 60-90 minute presentation, plus discussion.(Less is more:peep shows got that name for a reason ☺.) Better to invest in multiple short, targeted communications during the year — get the hook in effectively on the first pass, and then reel down, pull up, reel down, pull up … throughout the year.
4. DON’T INSULT THE ANALYST: I’ve seen vendors tell the analyst they are “dead wrong” and even stupid (not kidding … and that resulted in 2 years of that vendor being blackballed from further briefings/reports).You can disagree by pointing out alternative POVs, you can demonstrate capabilities that the analyst says don’t exist, and you can go back to your offices and send through data to the contrary in the spirit of proving an unproven point.But let’s remember who is holding the megaphone here — it’s not the vendor.
5. DON’T REMAIN FACELESS:Yes, of course, the internet has made it possible for us to have multiple meetings with multiple people/companies at multiple locations.Video conferences and face time also provide more visual clues as to whether your communication is going well. But there still isn’t (and will never be) any replacement for reaching across a table, shaking someone’s hand, and taking the full measure of the person’s presence and even reading their faces, live. Smart presenters know how to work this data flawlessly into their presenting. If, at the outset, the analyst’s face or body language indicates that they are bored, unhappy to be there, etc. — do not start the presentation. Get to know them, their interests and their family, crack a joke (if you are good at them!), make eye contact and set the foundation to building trust and openness.Effective face to face communications are one of the most over-looked (and most powerful) business tools in the sales, marketing, PR, customer services arsenal.
1. FOCUS ON 2-3 SOUND BITES:Your twin goals are:convincing and coverage. Invest the time in either having your management team (or a trusted outsourced marketer) identify the hottest 2-3 news items that will make your business stand out from competitors.
2. USE SHORT SCENARIO-STYLE DEMONSTRATIONS: It doesn’t matter if they are “live” or videos or even powerpoint, but they should TELL A STORY and not provide a series of point and click attributes (no matter how in love you are with the full breadth of what the product/service can do … )
3. CAP YOUR PRESENTATION AT 25-30 SLIDES MAX:Simple, clean, uncluttered slides.Minimize (if any) the number of build slides.Don’t have a lot of stuff moving on the page; complex slides with multiple graphics, lines, etc. are simply ignored by analysts.
4. FRAME YOUR COMPANY WITH YOUR MOST ENGAGING PRESENTOR: Your CEO/President may be a genius, but is she/he the best presenter? If not, don’t have them drive the front end of the presentation where the company positioning should be given in the most compelling way possible.This can be followed by product/tech info or even survey data given out from a less dynamic presenter (product or tech people) later.
5. LEVERAGE HUMOR AND CREATIVITY:Reminder — these analysts are getting 20-40 vendor pitches per week.It’s not a glamorous life (as much as they might love what they are doing!) … and the vendors they remember most are those that went “out of the box.” I have a client that always holds a whacky contest (in theme with their corporate positioning) and that gives out memorable gag gifts each year at briefings. The analysts LOVE the genuine nature of the company executives and their love for fun, the analysts cover this vendor extensively, and they never leave them out of their key reports.Of course the “goods” have to be there. But there are a lot of great companies and you should find ways to separate from the pack.
Analyst Relations mistakes are costly in the vendor world — and can take years of damage control when done wrong (or when not done at all).Analysts are not reporters (and hence, PR techniques are not effective with them). And, generally speaking, few PR agencies have the technology knowledge to gain the respect required to work effectively with analysts. Investing in either external or internal resources with a solid track record of effectiveness with IT analysts is critical to the success of technology companies.
In the next blog, we will explore the dynamics and provide firm guidelines for cultivating a healthy, productive and long-term analyst and analyst firm relationship.
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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.