AR Classics: Vicky Griffith’s ten tips to increase sales

Vicky Griffith, who succeeded me as director of analyst relations at Brodeur in 2002, shared these ten tips to increase sales on the Pleon website in 2005, when she was still Vicky Steel. Pleon is now long gone, so I thought I’d share the article. It’s still useful.

Decision making is not getting any easier – Analysts help buyers make a vendor or product selection

Independent information and advice can help companies reduce the risk that new systems may bring. Not only do companies and the investment community use market analyst reports and consultancy before buying, but journalists and vendors also rely on the analysts for neutral comment.

 

Analysts can determine the fate of technologies and vendors. A favorable placing on one of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants gives vendors real credibility – and is an entry ticket to dozens of shortlists!

 

Analyst Relations – ten tips to increase sales

 

Analysts generate over 15 billion dollars in worldwide sales each year, according to Darwin magazine. So ensuring that they recommend your company, rather than your competitors, is crucial to successful selling. Their influence now pervades vast regions of the technology and telecoms markets and few significant purchase decisions are made without their involvement. Indeed somewhere between 40 and 60 per cent of all corporate IT and Telecoms purchases involve analyst input.

 

So why is it that so many companies take so little time to work out what information analysts actually want to receive – and how they want to receive it? And why do so many companies assume that it’s just like dealing with the media?

 

Creating good relationships with analysts and helping to secure favourable treatment calls for a particular approach. By contrast, a lack of preparation, targetting of appropriate analysts, knowledge and strategic thinking can get a company in trouble. It’s not rocket science but it does demand time and attention. Here are 10 tips on the right approach:

 

Tip 1: Analyst and Media Relations are different worlds

 

Most companies new to analyst relations (AR) believe the process is similar to media relations (MR). This is a common, but dangerous mistake. Soundbites and product marketing spin may make you quotable in the press, but will do your reputation no favours with the more academic analysts. Individual analysts take time to produce detailed and considered research; they are serious about your market and expect you to be too. Companies need to discuss their sector, strategy, future products, product plans and case studies, if they want to be memorable – focusing on your product features and a few catchy strap lines isn’t good enough.

 

Companies have to create collateral that is specific to analysts’ needs and interests. And spokespeople have to learn to work with analysts in ways that are different from their approach with the media.

 

Tip 2: Defining your target audience is key to getting mindshare

 

The first priority is to decide who you want to target. Appropriate targetting is achieved by identifying those analysts who have a significant impact on your market: analysts who focus on your activity, who are respected as industry experts and whose opinions are widely circulated through reports, conferences, the press or word of mouth.

 

Most companies that decide to invest in AR are not blessed with the vast funding and resources of global giants. Analyst relations have traditionally been the domain of the big vendors, who can afford to forge relationships with not only key analysts, but with their colleagues and acquaintances as well. Therefore it’s important for smaller companies to level the playing field by finding and ranking analysts in terms of their influence on the market by considering their credibility amongst buyers.

 

There are tools that enable you to model the impact of individual analysts – on the market, on the media and other criteria – and this process should precede any analyst contact activity. This makes it possible to identify the key influential analysts a company must target in order to deliver results and to focus budget for maximum effectiveness.

 

Tip 3: Not all the European analysts are in the UK

 

What if the result shows that half your analyst audience is based in continental Europe; why practice AR there when many other companies target only the UK?

 

Although most analyst houses in EMEA are headquartered in the UK, only 70 per cent of EMEA analysts are based there. Focus your efforts on UK analysts alone, and you’ll ignore 30 per cent of analysts who could be key for your business, and who are likely to be crucially important on their local market. The best way to approach EMEA AR is to research which analyst houses and individual analysts study the sector of the market you sell in and identify where they are based; it may be the case that a German analyst studying your German market is based in the UK, as many are, but the point is not to ignore analysts just because they are based in a different country.

 

Tip 4: Brief where you want to sell

 

The general rule is that companies should align AR resources with sales targets: if you only intend to sell to UK customers, it would not make sense to speak to analysts elsewhere. However, if you intend to sell hardware to French, German and Italian companies, it makes good sense to weight your activity between these countries to influence the analysts who are on the ground and are most likely to be approached for advice. Companies should not assume that analysts exchange information within houses, they rarely do; holding a briefing in the UK does not guarantee that a continental colleague will be aware of you.

 

Tip 5: Put your time into preparation

 

Preparation and organisation are key to the success of an AR programme. Analysts’ time and attention are rare resources that must be handled carefully. Identifying and selecting the analysts that are appropriate to your market and your company is the first essential step.

 

Ensuring that they are receiving relevant high-quality information (and no, that’s not your sales brochure) is the second. Spokespeople must be thoroughly prepared to deal with analysts and the type of questions they are likely to ask, and presentation materials must be tailored to the specific information needs of the analyst community. An effective AR programme brings these elements together to ensure that the influencers get your message and are able to pass it on to your prospects and clients in written and spoken form.

 

Tip 6: Help the Analysts do their job

 

Analysts don’t just come to briefings to be polite with vendors, they come to collect some of the information they need to build opinions, write reports and give recommendations to their clients. When preparing an analyst briefing, think carefully about what you want to say, but don’t forget to include what the analyst wants to hear. If your two key competitors have just merged, it may be a nightmare to you, but its an exciting topic to the analyst. Make the analyst happy: talk about it.

 

Provide copy-past-able electronic documents with information about your company, products, and markets, if the analysts you are speaking to reports on market share and sales figures, give them that information. Better you provide it than rely on your competitors to do so.

Analysts regularly turn out an article, brief, profile, insight paper… (Names may change, but in the end it’s a story about your company) after an interesting briefing. Give them the pieces they need to build a story – but don’t hint at what you want them to say!

 

Tip 7: Don’t forget to collect your free expert advice

 

A briefing is a two-way conversation. It centres on a vendor presenting to the analysts, but should not stop at that. Analysts have opinions on your market, and in all likelihood, they know things that you don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask, analysts are generally glad to show their skill and share their knowledge. It’s their job, and they see it as an opportunity to pitch themselves and their analyst house to you.

 

They are also much more likely to remember you for the engaging conversation they had with you than for that PowerPoint presentation. They live through tens of those every week.

 

Tip 8:Don’t brief and run: build a relationship

 

Unlike journalists, analysts don’t work on a pitch and move on to the next. They specialise in one market segment. They study it on an ongoing basis, update their knowledge daily and write and advise on it throughout the year. Making a big impact every six months with a briefing is useful, but staying in the picture between briefings is better.

 

Like the rest of us, analysts tend to believe that the last email to have arrived is always the most important one, and most recent information is the most reliable. Regular analyst newsletters, and up-date calls preceding major announcements will ensure that the analysts never let your company slip out of their memory. Not all news-worthy announcements are analyst-worthy, but they will appreciate to be kept in the loop of the important things that are happening to you and to your market.

 

You will have reached the Analyst Relations paramount when analysts start calling you for information and opinions to feed into their work.

 

Tip 9: Keep an eye on what your key analysts are saying

 

Analysts are independent thinkers. No matter how good your company, products, presentation and AR efforts are, analysts have the final word when it comes to choosing whether they report on your company, and whether they report positively or negatively. Any attempt to try and influence them is not only foolish, but also dangerous.

 

That does not forbid asking the analysts why they chose not to mention you or why they gave you bad press, but what you need to do is look for tips on what you need to change in your offering or in the way you present it, rather than try to change their opinion. Even if you get bashed repeatedly by analysts, keep talking to them and giving them fresh information. If you pull the blinds, they will just use the information they get from competitors and bash even harder.

 

If one analyst is clearly and consistently negative against general market consensus, try changing spokespeople, it might be a personal thing!

 

Tip 10: Know the analysis landscape and adapt to change

 

The analyst market is very fragmented, prone to bankruptcies, mergers, and redundancy plans. Analysts get tired of one market and move on to another every so often. Keeping an eye on these market evolutions is a key part in a long term AR programme, but it is not a straight forward process. There are no publications that can be relied on to bring regular updates, so the only way to get all the information is through regular contacts with each analyst house.

 

In house AR resources are usually too thinly spread to monitor all the activity in the analyst community. Market Intelligence teams, who are in touch with the analyst houses as clients can often be a good source of information, yet, the ideal source is your AR agency. The AR specialists at Pleon, for instance, are in touch with analysts on a daily basis, and, since we aren’t customers or competitors to them, we are much more likely to get the juicy information!

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