A typical analyst in the digital media sector does over a hundred vendor briefings each year, it not more. For those of us who are veterans, some companies shine as articulate and insightful, while others are relegated to our transcript archives. The former remain consistently top of mind, while the latter merely sporadically resurface as we search through our email for a keyword.
In addition to my role at StreamingMedia.com, I am also a Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, working with a team of analysts in their digital media group. Along with my fellow Frost analyst Avni Rambhia, we have compiled what we think are the top-ten “what works” best for vendors and PR firms when it comes to working with industry analysts. We hope these guidelines will help companies get even more value from their relationship with Frost & Sullivan as well as other analyst firms you may work with.
Develop a relationship: This is at the top of the list, because it really is the most important but is often overlooked. Briefings and inquiries both run more smoothly and deliver better value when there’s familiarity and mutual respect. A PR firm that specializes in your industry can give you a boost on this front if you are just entering a certain market or amping up your AR/PR outreach – strength in relationship building is inevitably a feature of the best PR firms we come across. You can easily do this yourself as well. As analysts we welcome “get to know you” briefings. It’s a good way to learn about your company, and determine where in our structure of market definitions and coverage you might fit. We’re not pay-for-play and are eternally curious, so don’t be shy about reaching out. But that’s only the beginning. Meetings at trade shows, even brief ones, are a great way to put faces to names – follow up briefings become that much more engaging. At the same time, keep in mind that we come across a fair number of snake oil vendors, and we’re habitually wary of drinking any kind of kool-aid. In the case that you’re pitching a new product or making a strategic pivot, keep us in the loop on new customer wins, general-availability product releases, and pretty much anything that draws the line from concept to concrete at your end.
Avoid Death by Powerpoint: Unless you’re testing a new marketing message on us, using an excruciatingly detailed set of slides to deliver a monologue ranks among the least effective ways to conduct a briefing. Interactive discussions that demonstrate your expertise, credibility and competitive differentiation result in more favorable and more long-lasting impressions for us. They are also likely to result in refreshingly informative briefing experiences for you. Periodically interjecting questions like “do you agree with our assumption that…”, or “how do you think this relates to …..” are good ways to trigger interactive discussions and pivot the conversation if necessary. We love to hear about customer wins, in the context of why you were selected and how you delivered value. In all cases, try to send slides via email, since Webex or Skype don’t always work as expected. If you’ll be demonstrating a product interactively, make sure you (or your PR firm) inform us ahead of time so we can plan to stay wi-fi connected for the duration of the call.
Be Available: Research studies tend to be developed on tight schedules, so responding in timely fashion to briefing requests is deeply appreciated. Similarly, responding in timely fashion (as best as you are able) to preliminary market estimates helps ensure that you are represented as accurately as possible in published research. This doesn’t have to be burdensome – a short 15-minute call is often plenty to get the information we need. Going back to relationship building – we’re quite self-aware when pushing the scheduling envelope on occasion. For vendors who make the effort to accommodate us, we’re inevitably glad to return the favor as the need may arise.
Book trade show meetings early: For any analyst on your must-meet list, please reach out early to book a slot. Trade show calendars fill up very quickly. It’s not uncommon for us to get a slew of requests two weeks before the show, and have companies be displeased because there’s no more room to add meetings. This is especially true if you are an up-and-coming company seeking to build visibility and influence. For PR firms, it’s easiest for us when you send all your requests as one block – early enough that the calendar is pretty open. That maximizes your ability to have us meet your large and small accounts, while minimizing the individual scheduling requests that we juggle.
Livestream as many sessions/talks as you can: Not every analyst who touches your market is able to travel to physical events. Even if these presentations or panel discussions are at trade shows, we’re frequently multiple-booked and can’t attend or can’t stay the duration. Broadcasting the event via live stream, or (better) having it available to stream on demand, significantly increases our chances of viewing the material you worked so hard to put together. Having the videos in archive for us to be able to view later (i.e. when we’re actively updating a relevant market study) is invaluable.
On Engaging Via Social Media: Although we regularly monitor social media, standing out on our radar is hard. This is especially true if you’re a smaller company that we don’t already have a relationship with. Tagging a specific analyst in a tweet is a good way to be noticed. That said, tagging analysts in unsolicited online conversations is both awkward and unproductive. A short email with links to a breaking story and a concise summary of implications is extremely useful. While many analysts at other firms can be hard to reach, all Frost analysts have their email listed on Frost.com and I publish my cell phone number on everything. I’d gladly take a call over an email any day of the week and a lot more gets accomplished on the phone.
It’s not just about the PR: Analysts are reliable resources to test assumptions, validate product roadmaps, and refine prospect lists. Especially if you are a subscriber – but even if you’re not – have your product managers talk to the analysts, or at least listen in on briefing calls. We talk to customers, suppliers and competitors, and can offer a comprehensive and unvarnished view of your market. That said, it’s a two-way street. While we most often talk to the outbound marketing teams, we love talking to product managers. Those conversations tend to be more “real”, less fluffy, and give us far more insight into your competencies and market position. This directly translates into more accurate positioning within our studies. It also improves our level of confidence in recommending you to potential customers and in some cases investors.
Be an active consumer of research: One of our key responsibilities is to give you the data you need, in a format that is useful to you. No two companies are alike in how they view and measure the world. Don’t be shy about asking questions about any research you subscribe to. Frost & Sullivan typically publishes a small fraction of all the data and insight we have – it’s essentially the tip of an iceberg. Any competent analyst will be more than happy to get on the phone to answer questions, and provide follow-up material as needed. These requests also serve as customer research for our own studies. If we know that a long-standing customer prefers to see market numbers sliced in a certain way, we’re more likely to include that type of analysis in the study itself or proactively send it over to you when a study is being updated. Data is increasingly commoditized; implications and guidance on the “so-what” takeaways are what enable you to translate data into information, and information into growth strategies.
Keep It Real: As analysts, we tend to know our markets inside-out. We are well aware of trends, undercurrents, challenges and the current state of buzzword bingo. While we are resigned to the fate of being frequent recipients of glossy marketing pitches and inflated performance numbers, our job is to uncover what’s real. Candid conversations on your strengths, weaknesses, roadmap and growth plans help build trust and engage our interest. Conversely, sugar-coated briefings can result in long-term persistence of listening with a pinch of salt. Most analysts will be responsible about keeping all conversations confidential – our reputations are among our strongest assets. We’re happy to share our candid opinions in return. We are often pulled into calls to share and discuss insights that run against the grain of the internal team – these open discussions deliver real value, and real savings, to our customers. They are enabled by liaisons and stakeholders who are willing to keep it real.
It’s also important to remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of vendors across the entire digital media landscape. No analyst can be expected to reach out to each one. Many times vendors will suggest they should be on our radar and yet they don’t initiate briefings, sends us news, or put us in touch with their customers. The burden is on the vendor to be proactive in getting on our radar and staying there. Unfortunately at the same time, many analysts don’t make themselves easy to reach, ignore emails, and rarely publish their phone number, or will only talk to you if you pay them money. This is a terrible model and I recently did a blog post on this entitled “Many Industry Analysts Need To Rethink Their Role, Should Not Be Pay-To-Play“.
A good analyst doesn’t just want a one-off briefing, they want to get to know the company over an extended period of time and also hear their take on the industry. Don’t work with anyone you need to pay just to be able to give them a briefing, or have to subscribe to their research, just to have a conversation. If they require that, simply say no and move on no matter how big the analyst firm may be. If that’s the way they operate, then most won’t respect their thoughts on the market anyway. Any analyst that complains they are too busy to speak to you and can only talk to those who pay, doesn’t understand what the role of an industry analyst is and you can find and work with ones that are more than happy to hear about your company’s experience in the market.