5 Ways To Ensure A Worthwhile Analyst Meeting

In today’s B2B PR, good analyst relations (AR) are essential. Technology analysts at firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC can meaningfully shape the overall direction of a category and directly impact a B2B technology provider’s business. This can occur in two ways.

First, most analyst firms publish in-depth research that potential clients and existing customers buy on an ongoing basis. These reports are meant to guide technology decision makers on the best vendors, or at least the most relevant ones.

The most famous examples are Gartner’s Magic Quadrants and the Forrester Wave. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to have access to analyst reports, so vendors that are well positioned in the the reports benefit.

The second way analysts affect a category or industry is more informal. Analysts are constantly being tapped as thought leaders by media for stories, as expert panelists and speakers by event coordinators, and more. They have a platform to share their opinions and perspectives on who matters in a space.

This is why AR, and building bonds with relevant analysts, can help a business stay top-of-mind and be referenced. A mention by an analyst confers immediate third-party credibility for a solution by someone with real authority in the industry.

But how do B2B tech companies build long-term relationships with industry analysts? Many have paid relationships, of course. Any analyst company is more likely to listen to a client company, especially one in a hot category. But it is possible to get their attention without paying an analyst company? Ultimately, it all starts with an analyst meeting, and in maximizing the opportunity once secured. I’ve sat in on hundreds of analyst meetings over the last seven years. Here’s what I recommend.

Bring your best deck

Every analyst meeting, unless otherwise directed, should start with a cogent presentation that outlines a company’s mission statement, positioning and differentiators, core features, pricing, clients, use cases, and scale. These presentations should be more in-depth than a typical media overview, of course, given analysts’ level of expertise. And they should be less focused on marketing jargon — analysts can see right through that — and more focused on the technology. The overview should last roughly 10-15 minutes.

Bring your best demo

After B2B tech companies offer up an overview of their platform, it’s important to walk through and demo it. Again, this demo differs from a media demo, which is generally very top-level, if provided at all. Instead, an analyst demo should be more comprehensive and in the weeds, calling out any bells and whistles competitors don’t have. The demo should be the centerpiece of the briefing and take up the majority of the time. Given its importance, it’s critical to bring a top demo provider. If this means passing the baton from a CEO or C-suite exec to a product manager, then so be it. Whoever will deliver the best experience should be the demo point person.

Ask them what they think

Analyst meetings are an excellent opportunity for a software company to gather valuable feedback on company positioning, products and features, pricing, and more. Too many B2B technology companies will treat an analyst briefing as an opportunity to steamroll an analyst with an information dump. I find that the best meetings, however, are more conversational. Pausing to ask an analyst for their opinion on something leads to a more engaging dialogue, and will likely elicit candid insights and feedback that can shape your market strategy. This takes on even more importance if you’re not a paying Gartner or Forrester customer, since you have limited access to the analysts.

Become a valuable resource

Just as an analyst can share their opinions on your company’s positioning, a rising business can set itself up as a valuable information resource for the analyst. Don’t be afraid to share insights into current or future industry trends relevant to the analyst’s coverage. They appreciate an informed perspective from the front lines on the space and competitive landscape. This will show that you care about the demands of their job – and that your company is a thought leader. If you can become a reliable resource, your company and solution will resonate that much more with the analyst moving forward.

Make sure PR is in touch

Once a meeting has wrapped, PR teams should incorporate the analyst into their outreach plans. This means pinging them about significant platform updates, new product launches, customer wins, and more. This will allow a constant drumbeat and ongoing communications between formal briefings or meetings. (As with media, outreach must be tailored and personalized.) A failure to nurture these relationships can result in your outstanding solution not getting the visibility and market share it deserves.
AR is a key piece of any B2B technology PR or marketing program. Cultivating relationships with analysts can move the needle for your business and brand and elevate your positioning in the marketplace. These tips can help you maximize the value of an analyst meeting and ensure ROI. Are there any tips I’m missing? Let me know on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

How PR Can Make The Most Of Analyst Relations

As we’ve advised in a previous post, every good public relations person should know how to handle an analyst meeting, particularly if they specialize in B2B or tech PR. For nearly any vertical, it’s important to understand how analysts can be an asset to a PR program. PR is, after all, about reaching individual audiences, or publics, from media to investors, consumers (through social media), and influencers. And most audiences influence one another, so there’s a distinct multiplier effect to good PR that successfully engages all key segments.

A good first step is to recognize the influence of a major analyst report and to engage the appropriate analysts early on and not as an afterthought. Early and open communication with analysts can help inform a company’s ideal messaging, help position product launches, and actually support customer referrals for costly services with lengthy selling cycles.

By establishing relationships and setting up briefings with leading analysts like Gartner or Forrester early on, companies are sometimes afforded the opportunity to be featured in reports that provide them a powerful reputational boost and influence prospects for months or even years.

Reports can generate sales leads and investor interest. Positive response positions a company as an innovator and thought leader. Most importantly for PR strategists, analyst reports generate influential collateral for media outreach, providing journalists with credible sources to offer up insights, confirm trends and add quotes to industry profiles. Over time the well-tended analyst relationship can result in positive coverage in the trade press, and general business media as well. Some top tech companies actually consider analyst relations as (or sometimes more) important than media relations. Here are some tips to foster and nurture positive analyst relations.

Make sure the analyst is a fit to the company. Many executives may be enamored of the bigger brand names in analyst relations, but they aren’t the only players. Sometimes, they’re not even the right players. Look for niche firms who operate in your space. What they lack in size, they make up for in influence and depth of expertise. The right niched analyst is often more knowledgeable about a certain tech area than the major players. For example, you may not be familiar with Skylogic Research, but if you rep a drone company, you’d better bone up. Smaller specialty analysts often carry more weight with customers, journalists, and even other analysts.

Start small. As noted, a niche analyst relationship might be a better fit even than one with a brand-name company, but there’s also the nature of the relationship. Don’t be put off if you’ve just missed the large report, or if you don’t have a paid relationship with a given analyst. It’s almost always worth spending the time and energy, particularly if your business is new to the analyst company, if you have (big) news to announce, or if you can offer insights or intelligence into your industry as a whole. A good PR rep can also commission a quick survey of analysts who cover a given vertical on their impression of your brand and use the responses to prioritze both AR and media relations within a given category.

Plan, practice and prepare.  PR teams must put in the same level of planning and preparation for an analyst meeting that they would for a journalist interview. We advise in-depth briefing docs, simulated Q&As, and scrutiny of competitors in order to gain real fluency with the data and insights offered. Remember analysts are less about breaking news than they are about a deep dive into an industry, keying into important trends, and being able to translate complex information about an entire competitive set into easy-to-understand reports.

Make your presentation as compelling as possible. Prepare a clean, uncluttered, well-designed deck to supplement the verbal briefing. If appropriate, augment with visuals, video and any other special effects that allow you to tell the story most effectively.  Also important, you are there to share insight, not just input. In order to become a valuable resource to the analyst, you’ll want to provide a thorough briefing about a product or service but go further by offering an informed perspective on industry trends and competitive moves. Some companies don’t like to acknowledge competitors, or offer opinions or intelligence on rivals, but, analysts are usually covering entire industries, not single products.

Offer up media opportunities, where appropriate.  Most tech-industry analysts are eager to burnish their own reputations and are happy to be quoted by the media. Typically, they will also return the favor if the information you provide is useful or if it helps characterize trends within an industry or sector. The savvy analyst is hyper-conscious of the quotes he may generate in the press — top firms value media exposure because it helps generate increased credibility and business. Certain analysts like Gartner’s Brian Blau feature heavily in the press, sometimes as often as two major stories in one day. Analysts are quoted in 1 in every 9 technology-related stories, so their influence is clear. But beware, some analysts are too media-hungry, going out with predictions that do your B2B tech company no favors.

Nurture and maintain the relationships.  Good analyst relations can help a new tech player leapfrog to the head of the list and gain the attention of industry leaders, the media, and the competition. Poor analyst relations can result in good technology being ignored while less promising products gain visibility and market share. Therefore, it’s important to work with analysts in a mutually supportive manner, respecting their time and expertise and sticking to promises and deadlines, just as PRs nurtures relationships with journalists.

Industry analysts trade in information, so become that go-to source that provides “news you can use” to your key analyst contacts. It will be a two-way street, as journalists may request the names of analysts who can comment on a company’s products and strategies. The upfront investment of time and resources can pay big dividends down the road.

What PR People Should Know About Analyst Relations

Most B2B technology companies and the PR agencies who represent them understand the value of industry analysts as part of a strong PR program. Journalists often look to analysts to confirm trends, deliver insights, and add quotes and credibility to their profiles of key industries. Cultivating analyst relationships over the long term can result in positive coverage in the trade press, and many are influential with general business media as well. Some top tech companies actually consider analyst relations more important than media relations.
Yet AR is sometimes an afterthought for companies who can’t afford pricey subscriptions, or who are purely focused on earned media visibility.

That shouldn’t be the case. Even without a paid relationship with key analysts, a long-term commitment to analyst relations can pay off for any company in an important industry or an emerging category.

Analyst meetings require a level of preparation and planning similar to those with journalists, but they aren’t out for news. They’re more interested in depth of knowledge about an industry or niche, identifying trends, and placing an entire competitive set into context for their reports.
The good news is that most tech-industry analysts are eager to keep a high profile; they want to be quoted in the press and will sometimes return the favor if the information is useful or if it helps characterize trends within an industry or sector.

Every good PR person should know how to handle an analyst meeting.

Involve the analyst(s) early. It’s not always necessary to wait until just before a new product launch to arrange meetings with key analysts. For one thing, their schedules often book weeks or months in advance. More importantly, a good analyst relationship is a give and take. A top analyst can be a source of feedback on how you plan to position your offering as well as the competitive space overall.

Respect their expertise. The typical industry analyst is a true expert in your category, so expect a sophisticated understanding of the space, and don’t waste time with an industry overview. Even if you think your business is unique, assume the analyst is familiar.

Take the time to prepare for analyst meetings. A good PR consultant will research the individual analyst and his company for you, but it’s also important to prepare the content and think through answers to questions as you would for a journalist meeting. Make sure all internal experts are present for the call or meeting and that they know what to expect. Don’t run long, and make sure your presentation allows time for questions.

Share insight, not just input.  You’ll want to do a thorough job of briefing the analyst about a product or service update, but you can be an even more valuable resource by offering an informed perspective on industry trends and competitive moves. Some companies don’t like to admit they have competitors, or they’re afraid to offer opinions or intelligence on rivals, but, remember, most analysts are paid to cover entire industries, not a category of one.

Go niche. If meetings with the big guys like Forrester and Gartner can’t be scheduled right away, look at smaller analyst firms that have a hyperfocus in your area. They are often very influential and the depth of specialist expertise can make up for the lack of scale. Most B2B marketing technology categories, for example, are followed by at least one niched analyst who is enormously knowledgeable about the space. These individuals can influence customers, journalists, and even other analysts.

Try to meet in person. This isn’t always possible, but a real sit-down beats a phone or skype briefing. It’s easier to get into greater depth, and you have a stronger chance of building a long-term relationship. An industry conference is usually a great opportunity to schedule analyst meetings that would otherwise be over the phone.

Use visuals. Particularly if your analyst discussion deals in technical matters or explains a complex or emerging issue, make use of an uncluttered, well-designed deck to supplement the verbal briefing.

Stay in touch. It’s best to look at analyst relations as a long-term asset, and one that is mutually beneficial. Maintain the relationship by reaching out periodically with industry insights, important news, or observations about shifts or competitive moves. You can also ask for opinions and insights in return. A top analyst can be a terrific contact and a career-long resource.