Analyst relations teams can have quite a disconnect from the market intelligence and customer insight processes in companies.
There’s a substantial opportunity: industry analysts can give you unique insight into your company, your clients, competitors and the regulatory environment. Furthermore, analyst relations managers are also observing the broad range of topics that relevant analysts are following. Smart AR professionals are helping analysts’ research efforts, even with regard to solutions that the AR pros are not personally promoting. By understanding that context, AR professionals can understand what solutions their company is not providing, where it can find partners and what unmet needs might be developing in the market.
However, there are several obstructions that can prevent technology solution providers for getting that insight from their analyst relations programmes:
- Many AR professionals have little understanding of market intelligence;
- Many AR teams protect their spokespeople by putting them only in front of analysts who focus on the same solution set, and who are already knowledgeable about the firm’s solutions;
- Many AR teams focus only on promoting their products, and don’t speak to analysts about the markets as a whole. The conversation is too often a one-way monologue about the solution, and no time is given to analysts to give their opinions; and
- Many AR programs start from their solution portfolio rather than from the customers.
Some of the solutions to this problem can be accomplished by AR. For example:
- AR professionals need to understand how market intelligence works. I recommend Market intelligence versus marketing research a paper written by Ed Crowley, a service infusion doctoral researcher at Manchester Business School (one of my almae matres). However, AR managers also need a working relationship with their own company’s market intelligence function.
- By reaching out along the long tail, companies can find out about the solutions that are recommended by analysts who don’t already have. Those conversations need to start from strategy, not from solutions.
- AR spokespeople need to talk about where their solutions fit into the broader context: what other solutions their customers are using, and what technologies might be substitutes.
- While analysts don’t need to be taught about the generic megatrends in the market, there’s an opportunity to talk about specific customer experiences and to describe your solutions as part of a discussion about the heroic journeys being taken by your common clients.
Because many AR programs don’t do this, spokespeople need to ensure that market intelligence work is conducted to fill the gap.
- Briefing notes from conversations from analysts should record the questions and comments that analysts share, especially about their future plans and customer inquiries.
- AR teams should be tracking a longlist of analysts, not only their core analysts, to see the trends and topics they are writing about and how that’s changing over time. Services like our free Spotlight emails scratch the surface of this, giving an outline of new and notable research.
- AR teams need to be looking for interviews and quotations from analysts to see how they see the issues changing for their customers. That can produce specific lead generation opportunities, as well as an understanding of emergent needs. Our Spotlight Plus service takes that a step forward, by conducting in-depth interviews with analysts about trends.
Some basic observations: At many tech vendors there is a separate MI function staffed by MI pros, just like there is often a CI function staffed by CI pros. Finally the strategy team requires intel and often has a specialist or a few responsible for intel gathering and filtering. AR’s first job in this space, therefore, is to understand the internal org boundaries, activities, and reporting structure for “intelligence” functions, understand how analysts fit into this equation, and engender teamwork. AR, however, needs to ensure that the intelligence people, when they do inquiry with analysts, don’t spill any beans, and don’t break copyright rules. Also AR could offer the intelligence teams a “preferred list” of analysts who are known to (a) have in-depth market understanding in specific areas, and (b) can be trusted. Unfortunately there are some analysts who just lack the grasp of what NDA really means. Ah yes, need that NDA in place! Note that analysts are just one of the many source of intelligence info out there, so if your intelligence people seem to be only or mainly dealing with analysts, your org may actually have a gap in intelligence expertise.
Nice article Duncan. We’ve thought about this too; as analysts we have worked with many MI teams and know how they work (at least in the companies we’ve dealt with). Some of our thoughts are here: http://www.slideshare.net/DannyDicks/market-insight-and-intelligence-3-key-design-factors-and-8-top-tips