Question: How is an analyst subscription like a gym membership? Answer: If you don’t use it – and use it right – it’s money down the drain.
Subscriptions cost a pretty penny. That’s not the point. If the return is there, it’s worth the investment. If it’s not, it’s not.
How is the value of this investment calculated? Answer: Same as at the gym, E = ROI, The energy you put into analyst engagement determines the return you get. Also if you lift enough weights, you get a beach bod.
Many companies are under the misconception that the analyst game is pay-to-play. Spend enough money and analyst firms will treat them well, rate them well, generate leads and skyrocket their brand awareness. Any large vendor will tell you different. Way different. Large vendors spend millions of dollars annually on AR, and they know the truth: Their investment buys them a lot, but buys them no favor.
Good analysts from good firms fiercely protect their independence from the vendor’s dime. In addition to knowledge, integrity and reputation are what they sell. If they violate that independence and show bias, the reputation of that analyst and firm is shot. Good firms will not give away these cornerstones of their business proposition for a subscription. Any firm that does is not a good firm. Keep away.
So, what do subscriptions buy you? Plenty.
When making such an investment, consider the following:
Is your company a “listening” organization? Do the key players recognize the value of analyst input and will they put it to good use? I’ve worked at many a firm that give this lip service, but when the rubber hits the road people are somehow too consumed with pressing priorities to really consider the feedback, guidance, recommendations, ideas that come from the outside. Good analysts bring a world of insight, based on their in depth knowledge of a specific space, buyer needs, and the competitive landscape. They can point out new opportunities and save you from going down wrong alleys. They can validate your plans. But only if an organization can listen, change, and turn outside expertise into internal action. That’s when a company turns their subscription investment into achievable progress on their product roadmap, GTM, messaging, partnerships, and more.
Do you have at least one person dedicated to consuming research? Analyst reports contain gold nuggets, but you need a champion to stimulate actionable improvements based on the lessons learned. Far too many organizations undervalue analyst research and miss the opportunities within the research. While companies generally read evaluation reports (like the Gartner Magic Quadrant) thoroughly, to understand the competition, these reports are only a fraction of the research an analyst conducts. Analysts conduct quantitative research to forecast the way a technology domain will evolve in the future. They do trend or best practices research to understand how a technology is being adopted by organizations. They conduct deep dive research on the technology itself, providing overviews on how it works. This research helps the savvy vendor with their business strategy, product roadmap, GTM plan, etc.. When you have a subscription, this knowledge is there for the taking. But only if your company can take it and run with it.
Will you optimize inquiries? Subscriptions come with inquiry rights - calls with analysts that help firms make the right decisions. Most companies underuse and misuse inquiries. We’re constantly pushing seat holders to make better use of this valuable resource. Inquiries have two benefits, and smart vendors get them both in every interaction. First, inquiries are to support decision making. What should the priority of the roadmap be? Where are the untapped markets we can access? Which message will resonate with our audience? Should we evolve in this direction or that? These are real questions addressing real challenges. Too few vendors build a culture where analysts are an organic part of decision making. They should. How much is your subscription worth if your company ignores the valuable insights and recommendations that came with it? Second, inquiries build relationships. If your only interactions with analysts are one way briefings, you’re missing out on multiple dimensions. While an analyst only grants briefing time for big news and updates, inquiries are often unmetered and can be conducted on a more frequent basis. Regular interaction keeps you top of mind and top of mind is where you want to be. While briefings are a very passive activity for an analyst, inquiries wake them up. You get their best selves because they like answering questions and handing out sage advice. While analysts are only listeners in briefings, in inquiries they’re advisors. They’re sitting on “your side of the table”, thinking with you and solving problems. inquiries build the relationship between the company and the analyst, and, by the way, that’s what analyst relations is all about. When the cost of a subscription is measured against the value you get out of it, the proper use of inquiries plays a big part in the equation. Inquiries can address both benefits at the same time- support decision making and build relationships. Plan the interactions right and you kill two birds with one stone.
Once you’ve decided that you can get the ROI from subscriptions, the question becomes, which firm? There are pros and cons to engaging with the big 3 (Gartner, Forrester, IDC) vs smaller firms more focused on your space. Larger vendors hold subscriptions with a variety of firms, but if you’re just starting out, you need to be careful. Consider each firm’s influence, the quality of the analyst(s) in your space, the reports they publish, how they cover your space, other services they may provide, such as content generation, and any “perks” that come with subscriptions, such as quotes for press releases.
If a firm has strong influence, it’s worth building strong relationships. And, when you find an analyst who really gets it, who understands the market in ways you can learn from, that is another significant factor. And cost obviously comes into the picture. Your engagement can be anything from a one-off advisory session to a thought leadership paper with a small firm to a full multi-year subscription with one of the big firms. Explore your options.
When seat holders put the time and energy into subscriptions, the ROI is obvious and significant. When major company advances are attributed to analyst input, the value of the subscription speaks for itself. And when deep relationships are built using the subscriptions, you can expect evaluations to improve. Subscriptions can shift analysts from neutral observers to advocates. It’s not because you paid for a subscription. It’s because you used your subscription wisely to improve your business and deliver better products and services to customers. Analysts love being part of positive change. They love being trusted advisors. You’ve not just built a relationship, but a powerful fan.
How is an AR subscription like a gym? If you choose right and use it right, you’ll get powerful results. You may need an AR pro or physical trainer to give direction. In each case the experienced professional will make a huge difference in what you accomplish. Okay. Blog's done. Time to get over to the gym and make some sweat.