AR managers are failing with consulting firms

Reflecting the paradoxical position of many clients, Kea’s Analyst Attitude Survey also goes to a wide range of consultants who play similar roles to analysts and are often employed by analyst firms. The responses to the current survey show that consultants are generally much less happy with their relationships with AR teams than analysts are.

The paradox is that as consultants, advisors and other non-analysts have risen in influence, analyst relations teams have grown their budget and improved their relevance by expanding their coverage to include those consultants. However, the complex nature of ICT markets means that the wide range of consultants and advisors is far more diverse than the analyst community. These consultants span from strategy houses to Big Four accounting firms, through to advisory firms and verticalized consultancies. While we use the umbrella term, consultants, to describe them some will use other terms, including advisors, commentators, experts, freelancers, influencers, information providers, opinion leaders and specialists.

Kea’s consultant relations approach is based on unrivalled experience. In 1987, our colleague Efrem Mallach wrote the first book on consultant relations. He remains a master practitioner and remains a ‘grandfather’ to the consultant relations community worldwide. Bob and Donna, his colleagues in our East Coast consultant relations team, are also deeply experienced.

Much of the best practice of analyst relations applies to consultants too. Very often, for example, tiering strategies are used similarly to those of AR teams

  • 1. A top tier of around a dozen most influential and most connected consultants. Consultant outreach will tend to focus on rich, in-person interactions with them.
  • 2. A second tier of less influential, but still important, consultants is better suited for one to many communications, such as events and online interactions.
  • 3. A third tier of consultants with whom firms don’t interact on a regular basis, but whom they know about from sources such as a request for information on their part, also exists. This could be a long list. Some third-tier consultants may migrate to a higher tier over time.

However, the comparison is not complete. Consultants are different. Outreach to consultants requires more tenacious and regular communication than is typical with, for example, journalists or analysts. Consultants often flourish through personal networks which are often ‘saturated’ with dense redundant connections which make some regions and market segments challenging for new or marginal participants. As communications professionals, our value proposition for consultants also has to take a different place. While analysts and journalists are relatively fact-driven and have particular interests in new capabilities, consultants are more focussed on current organisational challenges, which are often driven by both business objectives and organisational political jockeying. Interconnections between consultants are more important, and more valued, by consultants in many segments and geographies. As a result, our value proposition for analysts is often focussed on helping them to meet their commercial and strategic position rather than focussing only on their clients’ information needs.

Outreach to consultants is thus more relational and less transactional than it is with analysts. The model is more like a business development pipeline with multiple upsells than like a series of relatively independent briefing campaigns. This complexity also means that CRM tools like ARchitect are more needed.

The Analyst Attitude Survey shows us that most AR teams are not able to develop that more relational approach. Quite the opposite: because consultants are rarely in the top tier we see AR teams are more transactional with them.

Kea consultants use our Development Workshop Service to make sure your team can approach the right consultants in the best way. To find out more, contact us.

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As SageCircle research director, Chapple directs programs that assess and increase the business value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.