Working with industry analysts is one of the more complicated tasks of product marketing and public communications. It is also one of the most elemental requirements for refining and focusing your product and company positioning and keeping the strategic side of your business moving forward and in synch with industry trends.
What Is an Industry Analyst?
There are several “breeds” of industry analysts. Fundamentally, industry analysts are those who earn their livings by being “experts” in their fields and having a third-party perspective. Industry analysts do not work for a particular vendor or manufacturer. Traditionally, they have no financial interests in the success or failure of any companies or products within their professional purview. Industry analysts are paid to take positions and have opinions, but not for the particular opinions or positions they have. They should be well-informed, objective, sufficiently proficient in the technology to provide educated evaluations, and familiar enough with the marketplace as a whole to understand the “big picture.”
Industry analysts may be independent, in which case they often publish market- or technology-specific newsletters or other products that provide them income, or they may operate a testing lab, for example. Analysts may be employed by consulting firms, large or small, either with broad scopes of interest or narrow ones. Analysts may be on the staffs of investment firms, financial managers, or brokerage houses. Analysts may venture into journalism, as well, though generally there is a discernible line between industry press and industry analysts. Nevertheless, as with everything in the high-technology sector, each year there appears to be less and less differentiation and more and more crossover among disciplines and media.
Targeting the Right Analysts
Targeting the analysts you want to build relationships with is complex. As we explained in the July Insights Newslsetter, understanding your position in the marketplace is crucial to the success of your business, but it is also crucial for determining which analysts you wish to pursue.
Identifying the right analysts for your company and products requires awareness. You must read the trades, read the online media, attend trade shows and other industry events and see who is speaking or holding seminars. Search regularly for research reports, analyst comments, white papers, and other documents germane to your field. Get to know the players. Who is writing about your competitors? Who is critiquing the market niche you wish to dominate? And take notes.
Just as the analysts want to find out all there is to know about key players in their markets, so must you know as much as you can about the analysts: their likes, dislikes, prejudices, misapprehensions, insights, and egos. Just because you agree or disagree with an analyst does not qualify or disqualify him or her from being on your target list. Discerning whether the public — your mutual public — agrees or disagrees is, however, an important consideration.
It is important to understand that your relationship with industry analysts is symbiotic. Yes, you need them; but they also need you. Sometimes this is forgotten in the interchange, with one or another player perceiving themselves to be on the king’s throne, but the best vendor-analyst relationships are built on a foundation of mutual interest, open exchange, intelligence, strategic thinking, and trust. Most often you will meet with an industry analyst under a non-disclosure agreement, so that you can journey into topics that expose your strategy, plans for the future, and competitive positioning. If you cannot speak openly with an analyst, neither you nor the analyst will benefit more than superficially from the interchange, and you will not establish the basis for a long-term relationship.
While there are many analysts, there are also many companies and many product managers who are trying to gain their attention. Once you have identified an analyst you want to meet with, your work is just beginning. You will have done your homework and clearly defined your message about your product. You will have a clear understanding of your positioning in the marketplace. You will be familiar with the public face of your target analyst. And you will have identified a few key points about your product and your industry and your view of the future to use as bait for the
The first phone call is important. If you have a public relations consultant who already knows the analyst or someone in your company who has a positive relationship with the analyst, that is a plus and may make your task easier. Otherwise, you will make your initial contact, ask to send the analyst some materials, and set a time for a follow-up call. At the follow-up call, your goal is to work towards a personal meeting with the analyst. Certainly a well-timed series of written contacts can be helpful, but nothing succeeds in riveting an analyst’s attention like a personal meeting.
Don’t be discouraged if the analyst doesn’t schedule you right away. Just keep the door open for a personal visit: ask whether the analyst has any questions, if he or she wishes to receive any particular information (competitor, technical, customer references, etc.), and what you might do to affirm that you are a player in his or her market and that time spent with you will be worthwhile. Find out whether the analyst prefers hard copy, e-mail (any prejudice against attachments?), fax, or overnight delivery, and try to honor those preferences. Be respectful of their time, and be sure the responsibility for follow-up is in your court.
To Be Continued on Friday, April 29