Ups and downs in automating analyst relations

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How far can analyst relations managers use the marketing automation approach? That’s the question we recently posed to Gary Katz, (LinkedIn, Twitter) CEO of Marketing Operations Partners, and he gave us a lot of food for thought, which we’ll be working on in an upcoming webinar.

Most AR people are aware of Vocus, Cision, Media Map and ARchitect (which Lighthouse partners with). They reflect the general advantages of automation and the specific advantages of SaaS:  they save time, someone else does the development and it’s easier to cooperate and interact.

One of the interesting questions for Lighthouse is: How does it influence measurement? It’s important when setting up any system to ask what goals the company has. The things that the software measures might not be what matters to you, so you either must know what you’re trying to change or you adopt someone else’s strategy.

Automation is not just for larger firms. If anything it’s going to make more of a difference to smaller firms that might not have other systems in place. When you think about the chaos of disconnected spreadsheets and all the up front work in developing your own systems there are big advantages for smaller vendors. Automation isn’t always instant, but it’s a big gain.

Looking at who is ahead, and who is behind, it’s clear that B2B tech firms really get this, and software firms of all flavours. Hardware firms, maybe because some of those firms that are protected a little from the market’s excesses, seem slower at adopting technology. Of course, some firms have a ‘not invented here’ thing going on.

What still surprises us is how many companies think it might often be cheaper to do this in-house. True,  firms have made big investments but still they don’t always end up with what they want. It really depends on what IT is prepared to give you, not what you need. It’s often the case that in-house solutions are not sustainable or scalable: and if your key developer goes or you need to ramp up to react to new challenges there can be problems.

For some firms it’s important to gear your automation around Outlook. There are big pluses and minuses from that. It really increases speed, but Outlook can make it very hard to get a central view, and a central memory. Tools like ARchitect which connect to Outlook need to help users integrate their views and have a common overview.

While Outlook is often mentioned, there are some questions which AR people might forget to ask about an automation solution?

  • how does it connect to the top of the silo? AR metrics are often developed in silos but, at the top, you might have marketing or communications, How does it feed in to them?
  • can it tie into other applications, the ones you are using elsewhere?
  • how are you communicating with the audiences now? Does the system fit into that?

Those questions hint at how are things changing. Now there’s a way of thinking of AR as part of marketing. It has to get out of its silo.  Of course, it often feels better better to be effectively organised in a silo than destabilised by trying and failing to connect up. But in the long term the business needs AR connected up. Indeed, AR needs to be connected to itself. At the end of the day, people are realising that cannot delegate all the necessary contact between the firm and its analysts to the AR team. There’s a large volume of work, and there’s real value to the business in direct contact between the solution people and the analysts. So AR must not be a gatekeeper, but it needs systems that make it easier for it to collect and share information. ?

That also hints at a couple of future opportunities for analyst relations teams, and the tools they use:

  • How to manage subscriptions with the analyst firms.
  • How to take advantage of the firm’s use of analysts within their subscriptions, for example to track the information that’s getting exchanged.There’s lots of information being exchanged, and that has to get closer to the AR team, and to product managers.

To read more about how ARchitect helps marketing automation, read Merv Adrian’s Automation in AR White Paper.

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