Four Rules for Global AR

Yesterday, I presented Four Rules for Global AR to Forrester Research’s Analyst Relations and Marketing Council. It helped kick off a rich discussion between council members on some of the challenges they face in internationalising their AR efforts.

A large majority of the attendees were based in North America, so I focused my comments on that scenario. There are lots of ‘best practices’ that are not transferable: what works for you, or your firm, or in your region, may not work elsewhere. However, there are some ‘rules of thumb’.

Rule 1: More candid discussion

Our global surveys of analysts show that analysts outside the US require more emphasis on relationship-building and greater candor before being convinced (indeed, there’s even a cultural shift between the US and Canada which seems to make many Canadian companies excellent at AR). Analysts outside the US have more interest in face to face meetings and, more to the point, meeting face to face is strongly correlated with better AR outcomes. Unlike the US (where spokespersons are less keen to travel and a majority of analysts at some firms work from home) other countries rely much more on face-to-face discussions. So, you cannot teleconference your way to greatness.
That is especially the case because outside the US, you willl often face greater skepticism that is harder to shift. Analysts outside the US expect more information, longer meeting, and greater openness. Formal face time and informal discussions allow the time to do that, and also give spokespeople visiting from elsewhere the time they need to show local commitment. Whether local or not, your company’s representatives need to know local case studies and prove your firm has a serious commitment to that country.

Rule 2: Respect non-US firms

Most organizations tend to use advisors that are close to their dominant national culture. So it’s unsurprising that our research shows that US and non-US analyst firms will tend to serve different clients. Guess who advises US multinationals? On average, US analyst firms have more than three times the high-end enterprise custom of non-US analyst firms.

But think about countries outside the US. Guess who advises the public sector? On average, non-US analyst firms have more than twice the public sector business of US analyst firms. And guess who advises telecoms operators? Indeed, non-US analyst firms have almost more 50% more telecoms business than do US analyst firms.

Rule 3: Be as local as possible, but as global as necessary

If a certain percentage of your business is overseas, why not allocate the same percentage of your analyst relations to analysts abroad?
Even if the US-headquartered firms have offices abroad, it’s often those local analysts who decide what advice they give to local buyers. Business needs differ nationally, and so does advice. That means you need brief the US-owned firms’ overseas offices, as well as their headquarters. From the center, there is a limit on how many analysts you could build deep relationships with, so tier your analysts. Decide how many to deal with from the US and, if in doubt, focus on fewer. Develop some easy global tools [like Webex, email newsletters, and extranets] that allow you to have some central contact with analysts. Then delegate the others to colleagues overseas, while perhaps serving the overseas top-tier yourself.
If you possibly can, delegate locally in countries where business is more relationship oriented, and where the level of business English is lower. In those circumstances, a mediocre face to face meeting is better than a good Webex.

Rule 4: Emulate the winners

Ask the analysts you are working overseas who does AR well – and then act like them. Call them and ask them how they do it (it’s cheaper than attending a training course). Remember that AR success is not about who spends the most with the analysts. Many of the largest and best AR teams are in firms where AR is totally cut off from research buying from analysts. You do not have to be a big-spender to win. Indeed, some of the biggest-spending US firms stink at AR.
Finally, use the IDEAL system (Identify; Drive; Engage; Align; Leverage) to get balance. Identify the analysts and set goals that help drive candid engagement. Align with the rest of the organization and help it leverage the benefits.

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