For several years in the 1990s I shared a household with an old golden retriever named Murphy. Murphy had ESP. He’d know exactly where one of us would want to be in five minutes. He would position himself right there, in the way. It didn’t matter if the place was the refrigerator, the best chair to watch TV, or the bathroom door. Wherever it was, there was Murphy—ahead of us – where he knew he would get our love and attention.
Murphy has passed on to the land of eternal bones to chew on and grass to romp through. But one of his lessons lives on: if you want to be effective in analyst relations, figure out where the analysts you support will want to go, and get there ahead of them.
That’s easy to say, of course. But, speaking practically, how can you do this? If you don’t have Murphy’s psychic abilities, how can you read an analyst’s mind?
Fortunately, you don’t need ESP to find out where an analyst will want to be. You may not always be able to position him or her at the refrigerator or TV set, but analysts’ professional lives are easier to figure out. The key factor is how the analyst’s business works.
There are four basic business modes. Many analysts work in more than one from time to time but most tend to emphasise one or two of them. These modes may apply to a firm as a whole or, at a large firm, on an analyst-by-analyst basis. These basic business modes, and how you should treat analysts in each mode, are:
This applies to firms who analyze and forecast market shares and volumes. They follow a quarterly or annual cycle. They need specific information at a certain point during their cycle. Earlier, it’s not available. Later, it’s too late.
Find out what they need and when in the quarter (or year) they need it. Start collecting it before then, so it can be ready by their deadline without creating a rush situation in your company.
These firms offer subscribers a series of (usually monthly) reports. They plan their research calendar months in advance. Some firms publicize it as a selling point for potential clients. Others see it as a competitive issue, and disclose upcoming topics only when it’s too late for others to copy the idea.
Call these firms every six weeks or so and ask “Do you have any upcoming reports where I can start collecting information for you?” Offering meetings with your firm’s technical and marketing staff is also useful.
These firms report on industry events, analyzing new products and services, discussing executives’ strategic pronouncements and who’s moving up or down. They can’t tell you what they’ll report on next month because they don’t know what you (or any other vendor) will do next month. You, however, do know, at least for your firm.
Pre-briefings (under suitable non-disclosure agreements, sometimes called embargos) are called for here. Let them get a head start on analyzing and reporting your news, so they can get answers to their questions and do it justice when the press calls them.
These firms or analysts operate more as consultants. In some cases they’re hard to tell from any other consultant. In others, they simple apply their firm’s existing research to individual clients’ needs. In either case, they won’t know what they’ll be asked about until the client asks.
Keep them informed at a background level of what your company is doing, what exciting new capabilities it has, and how they can get more information quickly when they need it.
The really good news is that analysts will tell you which mode applies most strongly to their work. All you have to do is ask! They’re happy to tell you, with as many specifics as they can possibly provide. And it shows you care.
Asking also prevents you from making embarrassing mistakes that may hurt your relationship with them. For example, suppose you ask an event-driven analyst “Are you working on anything we can start collecting information on?” The most likely response is “We don’t work that way here. Are you about to announce anything? If you are, that’s what I’m working on, so tell me.” Your question, while fully appropriate for an analyst who works in planned mode, accomplished nothing. Ask it once, and you haven’t done much damage. Ask it twice, and you prove that (a) you don’t understand that analyst’s business, and (b) you weren’t paying attention the first time.
Once you ask, though, your job’s not done. You have to keep the information and use the information. Enter it into your analyst database and refer to it when you make your regular “keep in touch” calls. For analysts who work in scheduled mode, enter key dates on your calendar or tickler file. For those who work in client-driven mode, make sure you have experts on relevant topics lined up so they can swing into action on short notice. For the event-driven analysts, be sure the non-disclosure agreements are ready to be signed and the materials are ready for them the minute their signature is on the paper. If you can do this, Murphy would be proud of you.
Efrem G. Mallach