Analyst Relations: The Greatest Sales Channel You Never Knew


Whether you are in the world of financial services and you're feeling the heat of the current recession or you are in the tech industry, where mergers and acquisitions are rapidly changing your landscape, the same thing holds true: Analyst relations is a key part of your organization's success, and integrating it into your communications strategy will enhance your brand, expand your network and generate sales. Sound like the greatest story never told? Read on. Industry analysts (not to be confused with financial analysts--a different animal altogether) are part of the greater marketing machine; they are the Gartners and Forrester Researches of the world that act as independent third parties to grant corporations stamps of approval (or disapproval, as the case may be). But, given the perceived complexity of analyst relations, many communications professionals overlook it as an important tool for establishing credibility and, ultimately, reaching their target audiences. "Analysts provide the research that you want to be in, because their customers are your customers," says Shawn Whalen, SVP of Schwartz Communications, a Boston-based PR firm that specializes in analyst relations. "It's a practical means of enhancing lead generation, sales and your overall brand. because it gets you on the short list of prospects that you would have never otherwise bumped into." Reaping these benefits, then, requires a basic understanding of how to gain traction with the influential analysts in your industry. The first thing to know: Most companies will only get one or two opportunities for analyst briefings per year, so it's essential that you make a big impression when you've got them in the room (for best practices in this area, see sidebar). Next, know what to give the analyst firms ahead of time in order to get on their calendars. This involves actually knowing which research areas various analysts cover. "Gartner, for example, is an 800-pound gorilla, but when it comes to vertical industries, there are boutiques out there that specialize in niche industries," Whalen says. "If [your industry] doesn't fall under the umbrella of Gartner, you need to research these boutiques to find the right match." The Institute of Industry Analyst Relations has a list of analyst firms on its Web site, http://www.analystrelations.org. However, getting a meeting with an analyst firm is only the tip of the iceberg; actually turning that meeting into a lasting relationship takes much more. "Make the most of your time with analysts," Whalen says. "Some companies focus on a few key analysts for paid research and work with them in a close partnership. This focus enables executives to build strong analyst relationships that help them move toward corporate objectives. At the same time, it's important to communicate with the broader analyst community so that your company is not left out of significant research reports." PRN CONTACTS: Shawn Whalen, swhalen@schwartz-pr.com. For more analyst relations resources, visit armadgeddon.blogspot.com, weblog.tekrati.com and analystinsight.blogspot.com Best Practices In Analyst Relations Operating under the assumption that your company only has one or two shots at analyst briefings per year, it's important to make sure you make every second count. Shawn Whalen, SVP of Schwartz Communications, offers these best practices for summarizing a year's worth of business in a two-hour meeting: Think Carefully About Your Briefing Schedule: Determine the two or three most important announcements in the next six months. Schedule analyst briefings around each piece of news. Another potential strategy is to meet with analysts every six months with strategic updates that summarize your achievements over the past months and communicate your strategy. Articulate Your Business Strategy: It sounds basic, but an analyst can only know as much about your business as you tell them. You need to be sure that your business strategy comes across clearly and cogently. Relate your business to significant market demands or technology shifts that have created new market opportunities. Describe the benefits you offer customers, not just the technical features. And make your presentation concise by sticking to the big picture rather than getting bogged down in minutiae. Think Competitively: While demonstrating your product and sales strategy is important, so is competitive positioning. Analysts specialize in looking at entire markets from the buyer's viewpoint. Help the analyst see where you fit in the larger landscape. Also, think very hard before attempting to create a new category. It takes a lot of marketing muscle--or a truly revolutionary offering--to build industrywide momentum around a new category. You may be better off creating a unique niche within an existing category. Provide Access to Customers: Customers tell your story better than you ever can. They're the third-party validation you need to prove that your business strategy works and that your technology and products are for real. That's why it's important that analysts have access to these customers. Even if the customer does not let an analyst quote them directly, the analyst can at least use the information on background. The customers will also be able to provide the hard facts and anecdotes that the analysts need to create reports. Cultivate Relationships by Adding Value: It's the analyst's job to look smart in front of their own clients. Analysts need you. Those vendor executives that provide industry insights, background and "word on the street" perspective are valued by analysts more than scripted executives who only talk about how great their product is. Keep the Communication Flowing: While your briefing times may be limited, the information flow can keep going. Send analysts periodic updates on your progress through e- mail. Sales wins, management changes, partnerships, acquisitions and product announcements are all part of your corporate picture and will help the analyst get a sense of who you are and where you are going. Have your executive offer perspective and insights on industry news, which will bolster your thought leadership.

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