Marketing is by far the most complex organization within a business. The same individuals tasked with building brand standards and designing websites are also architects of intricate demand generation programs to drive lead flow to the sales team. Often these left-brained / right-brained activities are at odds with one another, which eventually leads to specialization within the team.
But as the VP Marketing building a new category of software, your job is to be great at both! In fact, a third dimension of activities exists that focus on your ability to influence, or story-tell with conviction and confidence. Nowhere is that skill set more important than in your efforts leading an Analyst Relations or “AR” strategy.
Analysts are key to new category definition. When creating new market categories, it’s your job to build a framework around the needs and pains of this market. Some of that outcome is realized through your content marketing efforts. But in order for a new category to actually become a new category, you need trusted third-party validation, or what I call a “sphere of influence” to back your claims.
Customers are a major part of a company’s sphere of influence. In another post, I went into great detail on this very subject, explaining how Customer Success is the new Marketing. But beyond your install base, the other strategic pillar to your company’s sphere of influence is the analyst community that your potential customers are engaged with.
Analysts by nature are vendor-neutral and typically have a deep Rolodex of contacts who actively listen to their perspective. Their name alone often carries a certain distinction that connotes authority. When operating in a new market, building those key relationships can mean the difference between a category leader and follower. Understanding how to influence these folks requires comprehending the distinctions of each.
Different Types of Analysts. Each market will have different nuances based on maturity and vertical, however there are typically three types of analysts that emerge throughout the lifecycle of your AR program:
1. The Subject Matter Expert. Also regarded as a “thought leader”, Subject Matter Experts are independent bloggers or advocates who have developed some type of following that garners attention. They typically are not employed by any competitors and are seen as first-movers in building community around the pains and needs of your market. You would likely engage with these individuals to market through them and to their following, as they typically will not charge you for an engagement. Rather, they are more focused on growing their own sphere of influence, and rising to the top as an independent, vendor-neutral player in the space.
2. The Super Consultant. Similar to a Subject Matter Expert, Super Consultants are independents that have gained notoriety in your young market. Unlike them, however, they will charge you for their services. These are the individuals who offer consulting services for speaking engagements, content partnerships, and other programs that focus far beyond distribution. You may consider working with Super Consultants to add credibility to your cause, especially when the market has yet to tip towards our next class of analysts.
3. The Majors. These are the “tier-one” corporations who have built withstanding businesses on offering trusted advice to your potential customers. If you work in technology, you are no stranger to brands like Gartner, Forrester, and IDC. Working with any one of The Majors means fighting for the support of the loudest voices in your category. This effort is usually pretty costly, however, an incredibly important endeavor that requires early and frequent investment in order to bear fruit.
Approaching an analyst relationship. You will almost certainly encounter each type of analyst in your efforts to market a new category. Your ability to influence will set you apart, but as will your ability to create a steady drumbeat and cadence of check-ins with analysts across all types that are covering your market. Here are a few reasons to engage with an analyst:
Upcoming product release. Keeping the analyst community up to speed on your latest product innovation will help reinforce your relevance in the space. You likely did not need to sell them on the pain, but with each release, you are selling them on why your product is the undisputed solution to address that pain.
Customer case studies. What better way to strengthen your market leadership than by offering paying (and happy) customers to speak to their ROI with your solution? Analysts will typically appreciate the chance to speak with customers, especially when the particular case study maps to their field of research.
Co-marketing opportunities. If you’re able to find an analyst who buys into your vision for the market, they will generally surface opportunities to partner on content efforts. These projects are typically high-value (albeit expensive in The Majors) and will differentiate your content campaigns with critical third-party validation. You’ll find that this investment will often produce better results than standard content campaigns and will further the perception of your market leadership.
Just because. It’s not uncommon for new markets to operate at the edges of existing ones. This means that although a well-known analyst firm may not have a research agenda that correlates directly to your category, they certainly have analysts covering tangential categories who are worthy of briefing. By using any of the tactics above, it’s your regular check-ins with these indirect analysts that can often convert to direct coverage.
Every marketer may have a different bias when it comes to engaging with analysts, but when building a new category, their authority and influence can support your thought leadership efforts beyond any other program. Invest early and often, and you’ll be sure to see the impact that analysts can make on both your market leadership, and ultimately, pipeline of prospects.
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.