Conventional wisdom says that big analyst firms have the ear of your customer and make a big difference in who buys what. Conventional wisdom says you better not piss off a big analyst or it will hurt. Hope, pray and brief.
We know better than this. Those of us smart analyst relations pros understand that influence is far from straightforward. There are powerful analysts that don’t know what they’re talking about. There are nobodies that seem to have all the answers. There are customers who are eager to cover their butts with Gartner’s approval on a big investment. There are those who believe that going against the grain is the only way to compete. It’s a complicated mess.
Precise understanding is the answer. The more you know the mechanics of influence and decision-making in your business the better. Probe around. You’ll find a lot of assumptions, conjecture and guessing. And most of those people think they’re right. But you know better.
You show your real value when you upend what they think and open their eyes.
The first perspective is through the customers. They are not an amorphous blob. Your company has likely segmented and persona-fied your target audience, but they probably haven’t dug into how those personas are influenced. It’s very hard to know. Research this question hard and find out the nature of the decision makers. Who do they listen to most and how do they get their information? You can get insight from sales and partners. That’s a great start. Outside sources can precisely identify key words in your industry to determine who is listening to who, down to role. Enlightening. Extremely valuable.
Second perspective is directly through the influencers. You have a good sense of who they are and what they write, but there are techniques to reveal what they really think and say about your company, and you very well may be surprised. Likely there is some negative there, and people don’t easily say that to your face. No matter how well you know the analyst, no matter what she writes, no matter the feedback they offer, you'll never know what they will say to an outsider.
Running an AR program is only as good as the influencers you target and the real perspective they have of your company. The only way to do that is to always be aligned with who influences customers and what they write and say.
I’d love to hear other perspectives on this challenge and how you’ve addressed it.