Featured Article: August 2021

Tiering Analysts

Robin Schaffer

There are 7,500 individuals who consider themselves analysts. There may be hundreds relevant to your space. Each has aspirations, preferences, a personality, and a way they make money. You can’t know and treat them all equally. Don’t try. It is a mistake – a big one, a common one, a waste of time and resources, and guaranteed to minimize your effectiveness. You must prioritize analysts and manage them accordingly. Tiering analysts according to their impact is critical to your success as an analyst relations professional and running a program that has impact. The analyst tiers are separate from the firms they work for. You’ll hear Tier 1 associated with the big three, but you need to do this on an individual basis. There may be a Gartner analyst who only tangentially touches your space and is Tier 3, while a one-person show may be a mover and shaker in your industry and goes on the Tier 1 list. Don’t be blinded by the impact of a firm; look at the impact of the analysts themselves.

A general rule of thumb is:

Tier 1 — The most important analysts. No more than 10 per company or business unit. These analysts you will engage with in depth. Lots of one-on-one time, inquiries, strategy days. You’ll understand their perspectives and have regular goals to make them more and more positive.

Tier 2 — The next level of importance and relevance. About 35 per company or business unit. These analysts need to be in the loop. Some may have one-on-one briefings and inquiries, but you’ll handle engagement as efficiently as possible. Group briefings and webcasts help you reach this audience.

Tier 3 — The analysts that are relevant, but are not a focus. About 100 per company or business unit. Use newsletters and other broadcast communications to stay in touch. You want them to know your name and key messages.

Don’t be rigid. Do be efficient. Don’t overthink it. Move individual analysts from tier to tier depending on changes in their focus, your company’s goals, and your mood, shirt color or horoscope. The goal is to prioritize your efforts. Understanding and tiering analysts is never easy. There are several dimensions: level of influencer (both direct sales impact and market influence), coverage area and regional focus.

If you have a large number of analysts, you have to organize them so that they specialize in specific technology areas.


Ray Wang talks about understanding an analyst’s influence.

When you’re tiering firms you’re trying to figure out who influences the buyers – are people going to buy from me because of them? The tier process comes into place based on how influential you think these analysts are with whatever stakeholder you’re looking at – partners, customers, the press and media.

Robin Bloor digs more into the process of identifying who is influential. It comes down to research.

AR professionals know how the larger analysts companies work (and if they don’t, they shouldn’t be working in AR). However, even if you didn’t know, you could easily work it out. If you have a large number of analysts, you have to organize them so that they specialize in specific technology areas. They can then earn revenues according to that specialization by producing research, writing white papers, doing consultancy or whatever.
So if you represent a company, you can find out who you need to talk to in the larger analyst companies simply by ringing them up and asking. But with the smaller companies, you don’t even know whether you should be talking to the company at all and if you think you should, then you won’t necessarily know who in the company you need to talk to.
You need to find out!
Bear in mind that what you are trying to find out is: who are the influencers in our market?
But how do you find out?
I’m hypothesizing that you are running AR for a promising technology vendor and you want to know which analysts you need to impress. In my opinion, you cannot actually buy that information, because no one I know of specifically stores exactly that information (with the possible exception of some of your competitors).
So what do you do?
Here’s a novel suggestion: behave like an analyst and research it. Surf your competitors’ web sites and read their press releases to see which analyst or analyst companies get a mention. Google “your technology area” + “analyst” and also get a Google news feed with those two terms together. Enter your technology area as a search item on analyst web sites. Ask the journalists that cover your area which analysts they speak to about it. You might even ask some of the analysts you know who they respect (some will help, some won’t, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get).

Be creative. Be open-minded. Don’t use one measurement or criterion to identify which analysts are influential. You might ask your sales team who they see involved in deals. You may want to directly survey your customers. Can you ask incoming leads as part of the qualification process? How about including analyst involvement in win/loss reports?

Know your analysts. Understand how each analyst fits in the landscape of influencers. These steps are essential and foundational for building a great AR program. And don’t forget a hearty breakfast. It takes time and energy up front to create a program that works for the long term.

Interested in reading more? Follow this link to purchase Robin’s book, “Analysts on Analyst Relations”.

Robin Schaffer

For 25 years I’ve been a successful corporate ninja, building a career around my B2B marketing expertise as a strategist and can-do intrapreneur for international corporations.  About 14 years ago I realized how powerful a tool analyst relations could be and how little it was understood and utilized. .  I’ve worked at companies that needed to evolve from reaction to a proactive program and now I help companies, large and small build and evolve their AR programs.  Reach out to me at robin@schafferAR.com

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