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Who benefits from Analyst Relations?

I ran a LinkedIn poll recently about analyst relations:

Which team benefits most from AR?

  • Marketing

  • Product

  • Strategy

  • Sales

The results and commentary were quite interesting.  

Strategy came up on top with 37% of the votes, but all four fared well.  The bottom score was Product with 15%.   (Sales had 25%, Marketing 23%)

"Analyst Relations is a Strategy job with a capital “S.”

Unfortunately, most firms do not realize this."

I asked whether he meant that the job is strategic in nature, or the Strategy team is the biggest beneficiary.

His answer:

"It belongs in and around product or services strategy.

If the calling card of an Analyst Relations professional is the successful stewarding of a competitive report like a Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave, the job needs to be a member of the firm’s strategy. The levers of good work is “how does the ENTIRE firm look under product and business scrutiny.”

It’s why I think many leaders opt for an AR person with either decades long AR or industry or segment experience. It requires high technical skills and knowledge combined with social intelligence of a high level executive.

It’s why it’s so hard and sometimes unnerving because AR people are not viewed this way, most likely at large.

Many fantastic highs for those tied to already solid products. Equally fantastic lows when you are blamed for poor product or services strategy yet are not placed inside the organization to direct it.

AR is closer to ARR than PR; most folks have no idea. And many find out too late."

Chris focused on Product or Services strategy as the target beneficiary.  This is different from the Strategy team, which may or may not be engaged in analyst relations.  I once had a client who’s Strategy team was deeply involved in the Magic Quadrant response (probably because the CMO also ran Strategy).  I have found more often that Strategy is busy creating detailed decks, computing TAMs, and looking at M&A targets… sometimes pulling data, but rarely holding inquiries, presenting briefings, or reading research..  A shame, because I think there is tremendous value for the company when Strategy is deeply involved with the analysts.  They tend to be smart people and can have power in the organization to drive change. 

Some of the benefits for Strategy team are:

  • Incorporating market predictions into plans

  • Identifying geographic expansion opportunities

  • Vetting M&A targets

Sales is my favorite beneficiary. ‘Cause if Sales ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.  I’ve never met a business that doesn’t say that revenue growth is their number one goal. Number two at the least. The best moments in analyst relations are when we hear about big deals where analysts have made a strong positive impact. 

I’m having fun working now with the sales teams of two emerging vendors. I explained to sales the various ways to open, advance, or close deals using an analyst.  I always figure analyst relations has two core parts: 1) Getting the analyst to be an advocate through strong briefings and inquiries, and then 2) Leveraging the positive mojo in the sales cycle. 

Some Sales benefits are:

  • Leveraging analyst reports to position your company as a contender.

  • Using inquiries to discuss sales opportunities and gain insights on your win strategy.

  • Directing prospects to friendly and positive analysts.

Marketing is clearly a beneficiary; we all know that. If AR doesn’t provide value to Marketing, it isn’t doing a big part of its job.  Marketing should never be the ONLY beneficiary, but it has some of the clearest and most tangible value.  It’s interesting and satisfying to see how much our world has evolved beyond marketing.

Bill Reed of Narrative Worx chimed in:

"The Voice of the buyer and voice of the expert influences Marketing, as well as Sales and Product.  I think Marketing is number 1 here.

AR (through their analyst contacts) can get a sense of what buyers care about, or as I describe it 'Voice of the buyer' (albeit there's often a delay there). That input can aid sales, product management, and marketing. If AR has an ear on customer reviews they will have a sense of the 'voice of the buyer' which can also impact the same three parts of the business. Taking into account the engagement with analysts and other authority figures they also hear the 'voice of the Experts' that shape buying decisions. That influences the same three business functions again and combined they can influence the overall strategy. I like to describe it as 'Listen and Grow'"

Marketing benefits include:

  • Reviewing branding and messaging deliverables (web copy, ads, presentations) to ensure they speak to the target audience.

  • Creating content for demand generation - thought leadership papers, custom research, webinars.

  • Getting quotes and media support to validate your market announcements. 

Product trailed the pack, which surprised me a little, but then again it was a tough choice.  I love AR programs that are product-led, because I think Product has the most to offer analysts, and quite a bit to gain.  

Analysts have insight into what customers need, and perspectives on what competitors offer.  They get that insight from talking openly in thousands of conversations. It's near impossible for vendors to get that understanding.  Engaging with analysts gives you constructive feedback on your products and strategies. Analysts provide insights on areas that need improvement and suggest enhancements that make your offerings more competitive.

Product benefits include:

  • Reviewing product roadmaps to help prioritize new capabilities against buyer needs. 

  • Understanding competitor capabilities in order to plan your own roadmap.

  • Getting insight into the macro business and technology changes that impact your space. 

Several comments were about how difficult it was to choose one:

"Wish I could do a three way vote for Marketing, Product, and Strategy! So much potential for vendors who are willing to take advantage of the value AR can provide across the organization. "

"My favorite thing about AR is the fact that done right, it’s so cross-functional. There is not a team at your company that can not gain value from AR so this was a hard one for me. "

"What if I want to vote for all 4?"

BTW, there is a great paper and webinar that I developed with the  IIAR Editorial Committee that addresses aligning AR with business priorities:  The AR Compass.  Check that out if you’re a member. 

The conclusion of this?  All teams in the organization are winners when analyst relations is done right.  Put on your CEO hat and look at all the business priorities and step in and deliver value. You, and your business, will be all the better for it. 

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