Analyst relations (AR) programs have a substantial opportunity for improvement. This month I’ve been reviewing ten years’ worth of data from the Analyst Attitude Survey, which Loudhouse Research and Lighthouse AR co-produce. Around 700 analysts have taken part in the survey and, after around 180 analysts downloaded the summary last week, I’ve also been thinking over comments from them. What I’ve seen is that there’s a real opportunity to work smarter and more strategically.
Needless to say, most AR teams are having a harder time of things than they were. Analysts are now more demanding. Spokespeople are less forthcoming. While all AR managers understand that their reach is primarily a function of their resources, not every team is investigating how it can punch above its weight – or what is holding it back. One great example of that is the reticence to use social media to support relationship-building. While a tiny percentage of AR professionals are over-egging social media massively, many more turn a blind eye to social media. The challenge, of course, is to work out what kind of social media activity fits the analysts you are prioritizing, both in terms of sharing insight and building rapport. It’s much easier to disregard all social media use, saying that it’s not worth the investment.
By sharing best practices, we can reach our goals more effectively. AR becomes more accountable and more effective when it has clearer objectives. The traditional approach to that is share of voice metrics, which the IIAR recently profiled in a teleconference. However, I feel it is better when AR teams use balanced scorecard approaches that help them collect a comprehensive overview of analyst relations activities as a process with demonstrable measurement of sales and marketing benefits. That means setting multiple objectives: some that are meaningful to the business, and thus drive their accountability; others that focus on the quality and volume of AR ‘inputs’, and which taken together help to force AR teams out of the narrow range of traditional metrics (e.g. number of emails sent, number of mentions, or hours of analyst time).
The best AR programs build real relationships with their top influencers. Therefore the AR process also requires an understanding of how the analysts see the wider industry environment. Understanding of the analysts’ research agenda is one prerequisite of helping analysts to meet their goals. AR professionals need to consume much more of the information that analysts consume. By doing so, we can start discussions from the real world rather than one company’s internal reality. That’s important for two reasons.
- First, AR can deliver much more value to the business by feeding the individual and collective analyst agendas back to spokespeople and other colleagues. If the firm doesn’t address one of the analysts’ priorities, then it probably relates to a vulnerability which can impact future marketing activities. As a side-benefit, it’s also hugely rewarding for analysts when spokespeople show that they are aware of an analyst’s research (and personal interests).
- Second, weaker AR programs are less aware of the analysts’ agenda; that’s reflected by numerous symptoms. One is ‘broadcast’ email blasts that are not cherry-picked. Another, more generally, is the weakness or absence of personal relationships between analysts and AR professionals. These frail personal relationships are especially toxic when companies pass through periods of bad news. Too many AR professionals define analysts only by what they do, rather than who they are, and sadly do not make the effort to connect personally with the analyst.
It’s dehumanizing when AR professionals recognise neither an analyst’s individual research priorities nor what’s important to them personally outside work. Both are required to give analysts what they are looking for both rationally and emotionally. That sort of connection makes AR easier and more satisfying on both sides. The absence of this sort of relationship-building inhibits the flow of information and, because that makes analysts less likely to recommend solution providers, thus decelerates and derails the procurement process for analysts’ clients.
The fact that 700 analysts have contributed to the Analyst Attitude Survey give a sense of the frustration and impatience that many analysts feel with the community. The power of their feedback is a vital tool for AR managers arguing internally for the added resources need to treat the analyst community’s long tail in a more humane way.
This post first appeared on the IIAR blog.