Analyst Relations only really, really works for startups when you have a truly innovative, disruptive idea… then analysts are all over it. They want to hear early. They want to hear at the stealth level.
Most startups feel they are too small to be of interest to an analyst. You may think you need a track record, rolodex of happy customers, and solid revenue. No falser thoughts have never been thunk. Good analysts don’t care as long as you have a great idea. They want to be on the edge of the industry. The capital they have is their depth of knowledge, and if that knowledge doesn’t include new and disruptive ideas, they don’t have half the picture. The more they understand the dynamics in the market, the more valuable they are. And those dynamics are impacted heavily by entrepreneurs with new ideas about how to solve big challenges. It helps them predict the developments to come. They want to hear your ideas.
Now, founders live and breathe their idea and are sure they’ve built a better mousetrap… but if you want to test on a mouse, there’s no better audience than the analyst. From their place as experts on your industry, observers of all the competitive players, up on the trends, and in tune with the customer needs, they can burst your bubble and get you out of the echo chamber. This makes them perhaps one of the most valuable resources you can find.
This is a big secret to startups. Most don’t understand the value analysts offer them at this stage. It doesn’t even have to cost much, if anything. If you capture their imaginations, they will give you time to hear your story through a briefing. Briefings are always free and granted on the merit of your idea. While the Big 3 (Gartner, Forrester and IDC) may not always give you time, other analysts will because you’re giving them an edge. You are helping them and that support will go a long way as you grow.
The huge advantage of analysts below the Big 3, is that they will most often give you feedback. Is your idea really innovative? Are there others in the market with the same kind of solution? Is the problem you’re solving truly a pain buyers want to solve? Will they pay for that? They are a powerful source of answers. This feedback is a gift to an entrepreneur ready to listen.
Even analysts at the Big 3 give you feedback indirectly. They may not answer your questions, or give you specifics, but you’ll know by their questions and reactions if you’ve got something:
Do they even accept the briefing or is what you're doing a dime a dozen?
Are they fully engaged in the briefing, asking a lot of questions?
Do they give you any thumbs up or down feedback?
Do they really seem to want to keep in touch as things develop with you, or are they being polite at the end of the briefing?
A captivated analyst lets you know you’re on a hot path.
Briefing any analyst can also tell you you haven’t found the path yet. You’ll find out if your idea isn’t as new and different as you thought. Or that the problem you profess to solve isn’t worth solving to most buyers. If you have only an incremental improvement in an idea, if you are a “me too”, forget it. Analysts will yawn. They don’t want to hear the same old thing.
But, if you capture them they will help you move your idea along quickly, avoid blind alleys, and hit the market with power.
Once you get past the idea stage, the “free” advice dwindles. I recommend at that stage that you can engage in a commercial relationship. When you meet an analyst that gets it, that you connect with and want to engage in deeper conversations, their expertise is available in unlimited ways. It’s among the best investments you can make.
So, if you believe you are innovative or if you want to be innovative, all paths lead to analysts. Don’t miss this opportunity.