Our Credo series on relationship management fundamentals gets on to the issue of timing this month: it’s an issue that should give some readers quite a few reasons to think. Relationship managers should ensure that the timing used in bringing up issues with analysts has to be determined by the relationship with, and needs of, the analyst. The opposite approach is used too often: only information with a date is given to analysts, and it’s often delivered on the same date to everyone.
Often the timing is determined by logistical tactics: colleagues often ask AR managers questions like “when are our staff close to analysts’ locations?” or “When are analysts at industry events?”. That’s good information to have, but it should not lead to a strategy of packing interactions with analysts into already over-packed agendas, when the spokespeople, analyst or both are really focused on something else. Typically that means that the discussion is really a one-way briefing on only the topic that brings then into the same space.
That’s the opposite of a conversation, and its not suggestive of the candid trust and thoughtful selection of appropriate information that the most successful industry relations and analyst relations campaigns display. Timing-driven briefings are often low-quality, and don’t some into the flow that the best relationships have, in which each interaction picks up from the last. Sometimes the physical environment and the thoughts that the participants have in the back of their heads as they come into the room, create a negative context. Highly-visible time boundaries, especially in locations where something else is happening, can point the interaction away from the strategic conversation. Instead, people’s minds of often focused on details that are too granular to really move the rapport effectively, especially when the details don’t connect to the way the analyst’s own thinking is developing.
Professor Efrem Mallach, Lighthouse’s Research Fellow, explored this in his white paper Get Ahead of Analysts: the four business modes of industry analysts. He explains the way that good relationship managers can anticipate the analyst’s information needs. A very similar point is made by the image in this post, from one of the most famous experiments into consciousness. It suggests that people make up their minds before they know they’ve made up their minds. AR managers should consider this, and prepare the ground for analysts to develop their thinking by anticipating what information they will need, and in what order.
Preparation is even more important than context. Very often vendor executives – and especially those in start-ups – over-estimate the urgency of getting their message out to analysts. As a result, they don’t put enough effort into developing the right messages and supporting proof. If an executive thinks that something is urgent, then often that’s a sign that relationship managers should be careful to make sure that there’s thoughtful messaging and that spokespeople are well prepared.
It’s important to let the analyst influence the timing and tempo with which information comes to them. For example, if the analysts approaches you with a request that suggests timings for your response, ask if there’s a specific client project behind the inquiry. It might be that you can accelerate or decelerate the response based on whether or not the information is for a common client. Normally, however, if something new comes up then you need to make an individual assessment about how valuable that information is to the person you’re trying to build a relationship with.
As a result, timing has to match the value of the information to the individual analyst (rather than the importance to vendors or to their clients). Don’t take a lot of time, or suggest urgency, for information that is not high-value to the analyst. Remember this rule of thumb: the faster the timing or the more time you want, the higher the value has to be to the analyst. For example, that’s why some analysts often don’t like the pressure they come under to attend generic briefings or all-day events in which the information is not tailored to their needs. The reward does not match the effort demanded from the analyst.
There’s another aspect of timing that matters: our guidance is that your relationships with influential analysts should be disconnected as much as possible from the annual cycle of buying research from analysts. The reality of the analyst industry is that the analysts with most influence on your clients might not be the analysts with the most valuable insight for your colleagues. Reliable and open discussion with industry insiders will impress influential analysts much more than contract values. As we explain in the ninth credo, that requires commitment.
In a nutshell: timing is crucial, but to know the right timing for communicating with analysts you need to prioritise the analyst’s needs above your organisation’s flow of information, and ensure that major announcements are preceded with the maximum of careful, collaborative preparation.