I’ve talked a lot about the way brand journalism works with clients, colleagues in marketing, and reporters. But a very important community we haven’t talked about enough is that of the analysts.
I want to start redressing that, as some recent experience has brought home just how misunderstood this incredibly important stakeholder is in the hi-tech software and services ecosystem. Let’s fix that – as analysts, used in the right way, are a fantastic resource that should be a key part of any brand awareness programme.
1. It’s Only Ever A Big $$$$ ‘Pay To Play’ Game
It is true that once upon a time the analyst market was dominated by a few huge operations whose name we know very well – and who seemed primarily motivated by pretty empty, insanely optimistic ‘up and to the right’ style ‘predictions’ that promised whatever market you were interested in would end up at $2bn in two years’ time.
A lot of people ended up very cynical about that, especially when it became known that for a vendor to be hailed as an all-conquering hero really only took the writing of a pretty fat cheque for the analyst’s subscription service.
But if this is all you think about analysts in 2016, you’re simply out of date. For one, this business model, if it exists at all, is only for a certain class of vendor, as we’ll see. And two, starting to engage with analysts is not going to cost you the Earth. Indeed, I have been amazed at the cost-effectiveness and low entry-point of such engagement.
So – myth one needs to be busted. No, they won’t do it for free. But they don’t expect supermodel wages any more.
2. It’s All One Size Fits All/Enterprise IT Only
Again, time was that analysts only ever got out of bed to talk mega IBM projects over five years, kind of thing. Well, the market’s really evolved on this front, too. There has been a welcome and very healthy proliferation of analyst firms, many of them boutique, smaller, and focused on very specific niches.
That’s good news for you, Mrs Software and Services SME CEO – as no matter what your market, you can find an analyst already there whose job, basically, is to live and breathe that world. Which in turn means growing firms can get relevant advice that isn’t stale, which brings me neatly to my next point:
3. Ah Come On, They’re Basically The Same As Journalists
An AR (Analyst Relations) programme head that really thought this should be marched out of the building without passing GO.
Journalists are smart people, sure, but they want the basics and they want narrative – stories. They are all about small, tasty tidbits of knowledge… to use the wonderful old analogy of philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin , they are ‘foxes’ in terms of industry knowledge. Really, they want to be off the call with you inside 10 minutes to hunt on.
But analysts are miners and hoarders of knowledge. Information junkies. Their raison d’être is to acquire encyclopedias of inside information about the sector they cover – they are deeply, deeply interested in it. They are hedgehogs; they really only want to know one big thing, not many.
That’s why the call with them is an hour – and they will brush aside your soundbites and snazzy story, as that’s of no interest to them. They want to understand your proposition in exhaustive detail. And having conversations as they do with people like you all day, that means they almost certainly will know more about your market than you do!
Not knocking journalists here; they are great (and important at what they do, too). But if the reporter wants the ‘news’ version, the analyst wants the novel one. Don’t sell one to the other; it’s a rookie mistake.
OK – so that covers the three biggest mistakes people make out there about analysts. What’s the smart play in terms of using them properly, then?
More Brain Picking Than The Walking Dead Going On Here
These people know your market inside out. They know what your competitors are up to. They talk to your customers all day, too (current or desired). Ask them for advice.
It’s surely obvious that an advisory service (as many of these guys label it now) that can help you ask questions about what the market wants or where it’s going is the same thing as having an in-house R&D team? Your very own market niche Brains Trust?
I have a couple of clients who’ve wised up to this very recently, and are as a result scoping out their next moves by a deep, mutually respectful and fun interaction with relevant, informed analysts. This is saving them time, money – and I think probably headed off at least one or two drastic mis-steps.
So it’s About More Than ‘Up And To The Right’? You Betcha
If you really want to be visible to the top enterprises, then yes, pay the money and get mentioned in the reports and the market snapshots. (That’s why the IBMs of the world do it – at their level, not being mentioned would strike a very wrong note in the CFO’s office of any major corporation that had committed to using its services, after all.)
But chances are, that’s not where you are… you are more likely not that well-known yet, or about to take a punt on a wholly new market.
Analysts are key in this situation. They are nodes of astonishing influence and credibility. Use that – talk to them. If they think you are on the wrong track, they will tell you. But if they think you have the new secret sauce every needs… wow, there’s no holding them back from letting the world know, believe you me!
Don’t Be Myopic
Putting all this together, I think that any kind of marketing plan that didn’t include some sort of engagement (either market research or influencer) with analysts would be completely short-sighted.
So if you have held back from doing so because of old-fashioned views of what these smart, turned-on characters do all day – it’s time to stop. You’re only harming your own potential!