Analyst Relations: The “R” is for Relationship

October 4, 2012  | By Jeff Ketner

Clients frequently ask our opinion on analyst relations. Which firms do we recommend? Who are the top analysts in a particular space? How often should they brief with analysts? Should they become paying clients?

We can’t answer all these questions in a short blog post. But we’ve been fortunate to work with a number of clients that understand the value of analyst relations, and in the process, we’ve seen what works – and what doesn’t – in analyst relations.

Here are several principles that Ketner Group stresses to our clients. We use these as some of our guidelines in helping our clients develop appropriate analyst relations programs.

Remember, it’s a relationship. Analyst relations are first and foremost about building relationships – and like any relationship, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Relationships between analysts and technology vendors are mutually beneficial. Analysts need to know about the key vendors in the spaces that they cover, and vendors, in turn, depend upon the analysts to help get the word out to the market. But like all relationships, analyst relations take time and nurturing.

Know the analysts and leverage their strengths. It’s essential for vendors to develop relationships with the leading analysts that cover their technology – not only to be included in key reports but also because large enterprises often turn to retailers to get their advice when they’re considering a major technology initiative. Analysts can be especially valuable as strategic partners, offering insight on product direction and positioning, the competitive landscape, possible partners or acquisition targets, and messaging.

However, to “go deep” with analysts, vendors will need to develop paying relationships. And if your company is considering that, you’ll want to carefully consider everything that entails (which leads to our next point).

Be realistic about the commitments. Becoming a paying client of the right analyst firm can pay for itself many times over, if vendors are willing to commit time and resources. However, that leads squarely back to the first point – you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Are you willing to do regular briefings, talk honestly about the challenges your company faces, accept tough feedback, and invest in periodic analyst days, so your top analysts really know your technology and direction? Are your key executives willing to commit their time and energy to nurturing key analyst relationships?

If the answers are “yes,” an analyst relationship can pay for itself many times over. But if you aren’t willing to commit time and top-level executive access, your company will likely waste money on a paid relationship; you’ll be better off just doing occasional high-level briefings and updates.

Be respectful. For most analysts we talk to, there just aren’t enough hours in the day; they have a heavy workload of reports and client responsibilities, and they participate in way more vendor briefings than they’d like. If you’re not a client, you should expect to brief only once or twice a year. Be respectful of analysts’ time constraints. If you have a one-hour or 30-minute briefing, stick to the schedule, and consider sending your presentation in advance, so you won’t have to waste time while everyone logs in for the presentation. You don’t want to waste precious time while everyone logs in for the presentation.

Set expectations. Analysts aren’t a panacea that will magically cure a company’s ills. If you engage with an analyst solely to boost your rankings in an upcoming report, you’ll be disappointed. And you shouldn’t view analyst relationships as a source of leads (although some firms offer vendor-neutral sponsored research that generate leads for sponsors).

But it you view analyst relationships as a long-term commitment, make strategic investment decisions, and take the time to develop in-depth, give-and-take advisory relationships, you’ll find that analyst relations can be every bit as valuable to your company as traditional PR.