Analyst Relations – Putting Real Business ROI Into Your PR Program
With a squeeze on budgets along with increasing expectations, many CxOs and sales and marketing decision-makers are having to make hard decisions in order to deliver real return on their spending in marketing so that they are supporting sales and business development. Many times we hear the call that events are “out of fashion,” or that social media “doesn’t support B2B sales,” or that media relations is “too broad and lacks impact.” Half of these are never true and the other half are mainly due to bad execution. One area, specifically in Europe, that rarely makes it to the marketing plan is analyst relations (AR). Yet analyst relations has the potential to make a massive and direct impact on sales and business development, often outstripping like for like definable ROI for any other marketing activity in the B2B technology market.
So first of all, what is analyst relations? For many businesses and PR agencies it means viewing analysts as part of the same evolutionary tree as reporters and treating them accordingly. This is with an aim to get some “buddy” relationships started and hopefully some coverage in reports. In our experience, this is certainly the prevailing view on many European marketing and sales teams and the PR agencies that work for them. In the US, by contrast, most agencies and clients understand the wider strategic value of AR, the real business benefits analysts bring, what to expect from an AR program and how to best manage this. One negative spin off of this is that as a result AR is often “owned” by the US organization, leaving regional markets, such as Europe, starved from effective local support (a paradox given the better knowledge of AR that the US market generally has).
The “secret sauce” of AR was perhaps best defined by the company Kensington Group, which stated that around 80 percent of major IT related purchasing decisions by Global 3000 companies are directly influenced by analysts. Hold-on, did we just say 80 percent?!? Yes, that’s right, analysts do much more than simply write reports. They also spend much of their time offline, advising end-user client organizations on what solutions and vendors they should consider for major IT spending and what types of solutions and technologies they should think about adopting. So whether you are a vendor selling customer relationship management (CRM), eCommerce, business intelligence (BI) or telecommunications solutions, there will be an analyst at Gartner, Forrester, IDC, or a smaller specialist firm, covering your market and advising your target customers on who they should send RFQs to. And guess what? If you aren’t briefing those analysts properly in a specific region, your business will be losing out to considerable business opportunities.
How does this work? Well, analysts generally have two sets of clients: end user organizations and then the vendors that sell to them. The reason the analysts can maintain this seemingly awkward position of objectivity and credibility when working for both parties at once is that most firms maintain scrupulously high standards of process and client service that avoid potential conflicts of interest, or partiality. This is a system that has worked well for more than 30 years.
The big takeaway here is that if, as a US vendor, you have a European sales organization, then you can’t afford to ignore regional analysts, whether at the big firms, smaller local firms or specialist players. With an agency network, you know you will have local talented and experienced teams working for you making sure your ROI on marketing spend is being maximized and that this critical channel is being properly managed.
James Cooper is the Managing Director of Ascendant Communications and has more than eleven years of experience working in B2B and technology public relations, having been both a client and consultant within the industry. From his experience as PR Director for two U.S. technology companies, Cooper has sought to bring this understanding to Ascendant's approach to its clients and their needs. An expert in European PR and Analyst Relations, Cooper has helped deliver successful PR programs for organizations such as Siebel, IBM, Hyperion and VMware.