Should AR strategy prioritise initial planning or developing rapport?

This weekend I’m re-reading Market-Driven Management by Frederick Webster, the core book in his MBA elective on business-to-business marketing which I took at Dartmouth. It focuses on the major shift in the 1990s away from strategic planning and towards customer-orientation. That’s a shift than analyst relations has yet to complete.

In a nutshell, the strategic planing approach, which was dominant in the 1980s, emphasized long-range planning that was centered on the firm and its competition. In contrast, modern marketing is based on the notion that analysis of wants and needs has to come first, since the task is to develop to fit the customer’s notion of value. Lighthouse takes that latter approach, in which strategy is about program development rather than a static initial blueprint.

In a couple of discussions this week, I’ve found myself talking at cross purposes with some AR managers about strategy. Many folk here understand strategy as an individual, initial engagement that reviews a SWOT or PEST analysis and then tests messaging, differentiators and presentation content. At Lighthouse, we call that positioning.

We have a broader idea of strategy: our concept focusses on ways to deliver increasing value to analysts, and internal stakeholders. It’s about delivering what they want with quality, rather than serving them up only what you have, but with the best possible presentation. Think of the whole hotel experience, not just the bed.

For us, strategy is about engineering into your program the goals, capacity, culture and tools to benchmark what you’re going and to regularly refine and adapt to meet the changing needs of analysts and advisors. Analysts are not buying your products or services, so strategy has to be much broader than understanding what you’ll say about them. That content is just one part, a small part, of the value the analyst gets from the AR relationships with the most rapport.

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