Alan Cumming, a Scottish actor living in the United States, recently explained that he found adopting an American accent is a great aid when speaking with Americans. I can appreciate this; British accents can be difficult to appreciate or indistinct when heard. Few Americans react badly to a foreigner with an American accent, since they will simply identify the person as either a foreigner or someone from a remote corner of their own land.
Certainly, it’s a strategy that could lead to occasional bad outcomes, especially since one would still be using British idioms without the ‘danger of misunderstanding’ warning that foreign accents provide. On balance, the benefits greatly outweight the dangers.
However, could one extend the same strategy to analyst relations? This one of the topics that my colleague Jerry James discussed in a conference call for Lighthouse’s friends and clients yesterday.
Those US-headquartered companies that are doing a good job of influencing local, regional analysts outside of the US are going so with local, regional spokespeople. Of course, some analysts outside the US are global analysts. Since most exec operations and R&D of US companies takes place within the US, those analysts tend to connect with the global headquarters of the firms. Very often it is only the US-based CEO or VP of Product Marketing or Product Management who feel really empowered to speak about the future plans for a company.
However, both global analysts and analysts working at a regional level want to speak with people who can answer all the key questions — and those include understanding the ability of that company to support and extend its base in that region. That means that even if the US CEO on on a European or Asian tour, a regional or country Director (who often has responsibility for local sales) or even a local pre-sales specialist is often added to the briefing team to give more insight into local realities.
Regional sales and pre-sales teams can have a lot of value to local, country analysts and non-US analyst houses, since they really show the ability of the firm to succeed in local markets. Regardless of the chatter online, technology preferences have profound national trends that reflects different business cultures and adoptions trends.
That poses a major challenge for AR programs run from the US. Many non-US analysts are in the habit of interacting with a US AR program manager, but analysts have pretty low expectations of them. Many US-based staff interacting with people outside the US do not refer to local reference customers, do not understand local differences in market demand and local requirements, and many are unable to act in the knowledge of different business cultures, especially different expectations about formality.
Many US firms are simply speaking with a foreign accent: explain US market trends and buyer-preferences, while being more flexible over working with different time zones and with different cultural cues. However, non-US technology markets do not develop on a linear model, in which they progressively become more like the US. Furthermore, the ability to deliver in the US does not mean one can deliver elsewhere; as most people who travel with a US carriers’ cellphone will testify.