In December I’m one of the speakers at a Forrester Research briefing Effective European Analyst Relations: “Effective European Analyst Relations” (If you’re a Forrester or Lighthouse client, please do come along).
Readers of this blog will know that Lighthouse’s analysts think there are globally-applicable rules which are still ignored more often than they are heeded. However, there are some specific realities about Europe. This is not to suggest that European analysts are all alike: there are certainly sharp differences between north, south and eastern European intellectual cultures, and between people. However, there some some commonalities, four of which I list below.
- Time-orientation. This is something I’ve discussed before in passing. In the United States, the time orientation of most managers is shorter than in most other countries: they want things done more quickly than do businesspeople in other regions. Most European tend to take less time to make a decision, and are much less likely to use instinct or rules of thumb. This is reflected in the analyst industry in a number of ways: In Europe, cycle times in research are longer; briefings are longer; analysts react against time pressure more clearly.
- Comfort with risk. Part of that difference is because European businesses generally have less tolerance for risk, error and for failure. If error is less accepted, then analysts will take more time to ensure that their research methods have a higher probability for being successful. They are also less likely to have clients who are tolerant of risk, and will therefore then to give more cautious advice.
- Data sufficency. The lower tolerance for risk means that higher levels of probability and more understanding of alternative scenarios. That is deepened by the different intellectual traditions: the commonly-European to gather data, detect patterns, test them for falsifiability and so on before deciding on the way forward; versus American pragmatism, in which the best way to discover is to experiment in any almost direction.
- Facts or systems. As a result, US business people in Europe are very likely to present analysts with partial information that only confirms the vendors’ positive experiences; while European business people in the US are likely to bore, and baffle, American analysts by presenting systemic world views and by addressing eaknesses and ‘down side’ risks explicitly.
Of course, overcoming these challenges can be fairly straightforward. Most organizations have communicators with the skills needed to adapt. Sadly, few of these people are in external communication roles, and even fewer of them are in the firm’s overseas markets, where those skills can make a substantial impact.