This article was originally written for Brand Illumination (edit-) in 2002.
Even in the best of times, IT analyst relations can be something of a black art. Analysts can prove inaccessible, uncompromising and fickle; attendance at events is never fully guaranteed; furthermore, it can be difficult to see the tangible results of briefings or other analyst relations exercises.
In these less than favorable market conditions, it becomes even more important to target the right analysts with the right information. To ensure that todays limited resources are used wisely, there are a number of considerations that should be taken into account.
Target and Nurture Analyst Relations
All analysts are different. Fact. For a start, an analyst firm will tend to focus on specific areas of competence, either horizontal (by technology type) or vertical (by skill set). Even the largest firms differentiate themselves, for example on depth and quality of research compared to hands-on implementation experience. Within analyst companies, too, the types of analyst will vary. Essentially there are two camps: market analysts, who consider the position and perception of your company and its products, and product analysts, who are more interested in ensuring you can deliver on your promises against real world needs.
Resources have never been infinite, either in time or monetary terms. In the current climate, it becomes even more important to ensure that you are targeting both the right companies and the right analysts within them. To ensure you have the correct mix, consider profiling analysts based not only on experience of a technology or market segment, but also on such criteria as perceived influence and skill set.
Make Briefings Worth It
At the best of times, briefings can be dull for analysts as much as for vendors. This is often down to the fact that briefing sessions are inappropriate, badly planned or conducted. Just as it is worth targeting the correct analysts, so a correctly planned and structured briefing can provide the best value to all involved. Consider the following:
Only use source information that is relevant to the briefing at hand. Dont waste anyones time (analysts or your own) in briefings, by slogging through irrelevant presentations that have been picked off the shelf.
Customize your message before the briefing. Understand why an analyst wants to attend a given briefing, and make clear why the briefing is taking place. Because the VP of product marketing is here is less relevant than because we have restructured our product line.
Ask the analyst what he wants to get out of the briefing at the beginning, or preferably before it.
Analysts Have Bills Too
Recognize that IT analyst firms are currently facing the same miserable market conditions as the rest of the industry. Of course, it is important that you achieve your agenda rather than theirs. However, if you are able to provide an analyst and his or her company with timely, tangible value, the analyst is more likely to have something to say about your company and your products.
In short, take the time to understand research programs and assignments of the analyst firms you have in your sights, and use this information to make the correct people available to support the analysts that you meet. For example, if a firm is conducting a market analysis study, there is little point in providing a technical expert at a briefing; similarly, a brand manager will be of only limited use if a product comparison is taking place. Either of these situations may lead to the worst-case scenario of not being mentioned at all.
Choose Bandwagons Wisely
In the glory days before the IT bubble burst, things seemed so simple. In the past, and based on their researches, the largest analyst houses have been able to give credible views (to an extent) on what is hot and what is not. Today, while there continues to clear existence of several hot topics for example, storage virtualization, Web services or mobile technologies. What is less clear is when, or even whether, the market will bite on these juicy worms.
Currently, even the majors are as much in the dark as everyone else about which way the market will go: not just up or down, but into which specific area. The result is a pervading lack of confidence todays predictions are couched in caveats that can only serve to undermine their credibility. It may well be that the current hot topics will already be cooling off by the time the industry starts to pick up momentum, so be sure that your marketing dollars are carefully allocated.
In conclusion, the entire IT industry is currently riding a storm and we all have little choice but to sit tight. However most companies do not have the luxury of doing nothing until the industry picks up. When forced to make limited marketing dollars stretch as far as possible, it becomes more important than ever to ensure that the right message is getting across, and that the correct people are listening.