Analyst Relations 101: How to Influence the Influencers
- Analysts want to hear a holistic story that shows the “why” not just the “what” of your company. Pitches should be tailored to the analyst’s background and perceptions and would ideally include customers.
- Seek out opportunities to engage with analysts outside of the briefing room at firm events, industry conferences, and networking functions.
- Go beyond the most obvious analysts covering your area. Look for tangentially related analysts; those responsible for writing on hype cycles; analysts that focus on emerging tech; or analysts who cover feature-level aspects of your tech.
- Start any paid engagement with an emerging tech-type package. Your rep should work hard to bring you new briefing and meeting opportunities.
- Demonstrate ROI early on for paid engagements by making analyst meetings and materials available to as many execs as possible and making full use of product and market insights.
Introduction to Analyst Relations
Enterprise-scale companies spend billions on technology strategies with the idea that pursuing the right path of innovation will confer a significant competitive edge. Industry analyst firms – the Gartner, Forrester Research, IDC, and countless boutique firms of the world – often have an outsized influence on those strategies. Being recognized and recommended by those firms can put an early and mid-staged technology company squarely “on the map.”
But in a world where there are an infinite number of startups promising new “revolutionary, best-in-class” solutions, how do you catch the attention of these analyst influencers?
A discipline called Analyst Relations (AR). Not quite marketing, sales, nor media relations, AR brings together tech innovation, market trends, customer intelligence, and brand narrative. It’s a long, relationship-based field that takes empathy, artistry, and skill.
A discipline called Analyst Relations (AR). Not quite marketing, sales, nor media relations, AR brings together tech innovation, market trends, customer intelligence, and brand narrative.
We sat down with Druva’s Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications, Sandra Henkel-Rousseau to better understand the strategies and tactics of building an AR practice from square one. A seasoned pro, Rousseau has built and refined many strategies over the course of her career that have allowed her to gain traction with influential analysts, landing her companies on the coveted Waves and Quadrants of this business.
In this primer, Henkel-Rousseau takes us through the process; from how to get in front of analysts in the first place, to troubleshooting strategies that are producing lackluster results.
Nail Your Narrative
Before pitching an analyst, you need to have a strong story to tell. Henkel-Rousseau says there’s a tendency to just jump into the middle of the tale – “Here’s our tech and why people should buy it.” Analysts get pitches like that all day long. What’ll make you memorable is the beginning and the end of your story.
Beyond what the technology can do Henkel-Rousseau finds the holistic company story by asking questions like:
- Why did you start this company?
- What are the goals here? What are you trying to achieve?
- Why is what you’re building necessary?
- What does the future look like with your technology in it?
A story that will differentiate you will emerge from those answers. Marry that story with data and customer references and you have yourself a compelling narrative – beginning, middle, and end – for analysts.
“When you pitch your company in story format, you’re painting a dramatic picture of say – how you’re going to change the face of cloud software and why that will matter,” says Henkel-Rousseau. “Done right, analysts will remember the vision and outcome. They won’t even need their notes to remember your name and what you do.”
When you pitch your company in story format, you’re painting a dramatic picture… Done right, analysts will remember the vision and outcome. They won’t even need their notes to remember your name and what you do.
Traditional analysts at the major groups like Gartner, Forrester, and IDC are top of the list of who your company should be in front of. But it can be almost impossible for a startup to score briefings with those firms most senior (read: influential) analysts* for a few reasons:
- They don’t know you, but they do know the established players well.
- The perception that you’re not a fit. Analysts tend to work in established categories. You’re extending functionality beyond those defined categories.
- They don’t see the need. They’re looking for solutions to customer current needs and you’re building ahead of the market.
(*Without a paid relationship, that is. More on that later.)
For this reason, Henkel-Rousseau says do not get discouraged. Broaden your outreach to find other analysts that are willing to talk.
- Find the emerging tech/hype cycle-type analysts at the big three. Less focused on ranking current solutions, they seriously care about the disruptive technologies that are on the horizon.
- Reach out to tangentially related analysts who cover an area where you have solid features. For example, while Druva’s core segment is backup and recovery, Henkel-Rousseau used the launch of observability features to go beyond her core analysts and broaden interest and awareness for Druva at the big firms.
- Gather intel in those meetings to better understand how the broader analyst team might be characterizing your market fit. Find out which other areas/analysts may be interested in feature-level conversations.
- Cast a wider net to smaller boutique firms. A great write up by a narrowly focused analyst can catch the eye of others who don’t want to be behind the curve. FOMO is your friend.
- Land and expand. Leverage the rapport and credibility you build with tangential and boutique analysts to re-pitch your core analysts at the big three for meetings.
- Don’t be afraid to go up the management ladder. In some cases, directors may take a meeting that could allow you discuss your space at higher level, learn more about a firm’s POV on your vertical, and may refer you to analysts/groups you might not have considered.
“It’s not always easy, but if you can find that one person who actually gets your space, gets your product, no matter where they’re from, you can very successfully parlay that into broader interest.”
Brass Tacks: Getting Face Time
If you’re still not making headway with your top analysts, set budget aside to attend analyst events and trade shows or conferences where those analysts are speaking. At firm-specific events, a set number of briefings will come with your ticket or sponsorship price. “I would register early and sign up for meetings with my most sought-after analysts. And then, send my best storyteller to those meetings,” Henkel-Rousseau shares.
Then it comes down to hustle. Use the “white spaces” of events: after an analyst finishes a panel, at scheduled social mixers, or in the hallways between programming, as an opportunity to make a connection. Never miss an opportunity to expand your network beyond your key targets either.
Don’t Forget the Legwork
Henkel-Rousseau stresses that one of the most significant changes she made to become more successful in her AR efforts was to “start looking at the analysts as people.”
Instead of grouping analysts together as one segment with the same pitch for all, tailor your approach to each analyst. Take the time to understand their unique background, personality, and belief system; these are the core factors that form one’s perceptions and will help them decide if they take your pitch.
Take the time to understand an analyst’s unique background, personality, and belief system.
The key for this research is to identify what an analyst’s perceptions may be based on their background, so you can design a narrative that breaks those perceptions down and gets them on your side. Henkel-Rousseau shares an example of one instance where she learned that a particularly difficult analyst was a finance major. Armed with this knowledge, she designed an executive briefing around her company’s financials and less about the tech details. She used the data to prove the story she was telling. As a result, she was able to “flip that analyst around in a couple of meetings.”
When posed the question of when on the product development timeline is it best to get in front of analysts, Henkel-Rousseau said, “It’s a delicate balance on timing, because many analysts have seen too much vaporware.” Start socializing the product or feature early on by sharing FYI links to blog posts and documentation. To put more meat on the bone, pull your best beta customer in for a briefing.
Though you should approach every analyst as an individual, there are some similarities among them. A major one is they don’t like to be wrong. “They’re paid to predict what might be happening in the market and write about it and then be right,” said Henkel-Rousseau. They’ll be most interested in hearing hard proof points they can use in their research and writing.
Analysts don’t like to be wrong. “They’re paid to predict what might be happening in the market and write about it and then be right,” said Henkel-Rousseau.
They’ll also be interested in new and novel use cases for technology. If you have a customer who has had success with a technology the analyst has written about, give them more validation for their point of view. Better yet, if you have a customer doing something distinctive that you believe is the beginning of a trend in the market, that’s even more valuable to the analyst.
Don’t be afraid to bring a customer in to meet directly with analysts. “Your customers can tell the story of why your product’s important to the market, and your customer holds a lot more weight in what they say with the analyst,” shares Henkel-Rousseau. But do avoid letting customers talk to analysts without a prep conversation with you. Guide your customer to the most interesting parts of their story so they’re prepared to deliver something succinct and compelling in person.
Your customers can tell the story of why your product’s important to the market, and your customer holds a lot more weight in what they say with the analyst.
Henkel-Rousseau notes that if we’re being honest, no matter how you dress it up, there are periods when your story is just not that interesting. In those cases, offer analysts a thought-provoking point of view that challenges current beliefs and has the facts to back it up. Analysts will pay attention to a smart argument on the future of technology.
When it Doesn’t Land
Sometimes even the most carefully crafted pitches don’t land. It can hurt, but Henkel-Rousseau shared a clinical approach to thinking about these misses and how to come back from them:
“When an analyst writes you up poorly, it’s usually the result of a perceptions or beliefs that are not accurate. You’ve got work to do to correct those beliefs and ‘flip’ the analyst to becoming an asset instead of a liability.”
To “flip” the analyst, create a detailed outline of the series of activities that will address the specific missed points and misconceptions to change the analyst’s mind. This could mean bringing in someone to talk about the overall market, tapping on someone else to talk about competitive products, and then getting a customer in to validate those points. Each touch point should build on and complement the previous one.
When an analyst writes you up poorly, it’s usually the result of a perceptions or beliefs that are not accurate. You’ve got work to do to correct those believes and ‘flip’ the analyst to becoming an asset instead of a liability.
When to Pony Up
As a company’s AR journey continues, it will make sense to enter a paid relationship with at least one firm. Those engagements become two way streets. It’s just as much about influencing the analyst as it is getting product guidance and market feedback from them. Consider smaller, more cost effective firms or look for “starter packages” at the big firms geared towards early stage companies that are reasonably priced but still afford you good analyst access.
Many of the “free” strategies will still apply in your approach with a paid engagement: Find every analyst that covers areas related to both your core business and your feature set; tailor your pitch to their interests; and offer smart takes on industry-specific points of view. With the paid engagement, you’ll have a rep to do the time consuming homework. Expect them to identify opportunities to be seen by analysts and potential customers.
AR Ownership & ROI
The AR activities we’ve described can accumulate into a hefty workload, creating a considerable time burden for lean teams. Rather than make a fulltime AR hire, some companies will contract with an AR agency. Henkel-Rousseau cautions that while an agency will be the arms and legs of an operation, it’s not a low lift solution. For a program to be successful, creating a narrative, goals, and objectives should be owned internally.
So now you have headcount, an analyst firm engagement, and potentially an AR agency on board. How do you demonstrate ROI for all that spend? It’s hard at first as analyst relations is a long game. But it’s like with any program investment – set clear goals, objectives, and timelines for your AR activities.
On the analyst influence front, have tactical plans at the ready to broadly maximize the potential of your work. For example, hitting a Gartner Magic Quadrant isn’t just a win for AR, it’s an instant asset for marketing, communications, and sales. On the product side, ensure your product/product marketing/marketing teams are building in cycles to test customer messaging, get product feedback, and integrate valuable market learnings from the firm you’ve engaged with.
Henkel-Rousseau also encourages AR leads to become a conduit of information between the analyst firm and as many departments within the company as possible. Connect the functional leads within the company to the analysts who are producing reports and market evaluations in verticals such as finance, legal, and HR or initiative trends like sustainability and remote work.
AR leads should become a conduit of information between the analyst firm and as many departments within their company as possible.
Analyst relations is a key component of success for any company selling at enterprise scale. It can be especially potent for getting an early-stage, category-creating company on the radar of potential cornerstone F1000 customers. There’s no trick to the trade. Winning over influential analysts takes time and dedication. A methodical, story-driven approach to analyst relations can pay dividends.