I’ve been an independent analyst for a few months now, and it’s been an eye-opening experience in many ways. One has been the way some organizations I dealt with for a decade forgot my name the next day. This is not intended to embarrass anyone; I will name no names. It’s about best practices for AR. In the practice I started for Forrester on AR, and in any commentary from authorities like Sage Circle, Knowledge Capital Group, and Lighthouse Analyst Relations, you’ll hear it again and again: “it’s the relationship. stupid.” Perhaps not in those exact words, but you get the idea.
You deal with analysts for two reasons, as Kevin Lucas of Forrester likes to say: the Earn side (influence on sales) and the Learn side (guidance, advice, and input.) Over time, you learn who an analyst is, what she cares about, who she influences and whether she provides valuable insight to you.
Some of those things may change when an analyst leaves a major firm, as I did recently – most notably the influence. Absent a platform and a visibility strategy, that analyst may have much less “influence” on the buyer than before. So the Earn side is up for re-assessment. Which is not to say, drop them immediately from your contact list. “Move them to a different tier and watch what happens next” is the best guidance I can offer. And note that social media have changed the equation, as I’ve learned personally. And if you’re looking for speeches, webinars, etc., those people are just as good as they were before. If you liked them then, you’ll like them now. And they may be more available.
As for the Learn side, smart people working for big firms don’t leave their brains behind. Nor do they engage less – in my case, the circle of people I discuss with, debate, learn from, and collaborate with has increased dramatically. And I’m talking to more firms more, not less, especially smaller ones who might be potential competitors, partners, or acquisition targets. So if you had a good relationship with an analyst before, there’s no need for it to suddenly stop. The dialogue can be as valuable as ever.
All of which brings me to my point. Perhaps half the firms I worked with before have sustained their relationships with me since I became independent. A few have told me they see me as less valuable without my old brand. Some have said they will do things with me now they would not have done with me before. Some smaller new clients say they have no interest in working with the big firms because they think they won’t get any attention. And they may be right, although if they are interesting and they engage the right analyst, maybe they can get their money’s worth – especially if they are proactive.
But I said “half the firms.” And at least half have simply forgotten I’m here. I’m not whining, and I bear no grudge. This is offered as guidance in general: if you’re not paying attention to what’s happening out here, you’re flying blind. The blogosphere (and yes, the Twittersphere) are bursting with interesting analysts, many of whom you knew and have forgotten about. They are interacting with your prospects, your customers, and your competitors. And the most successful of them are doing so at a higher rate, not a lower one. If you have a communications strategy for analysts (and some of you don’t seem to, even with big firms; you know who you are), remember the “exes” too. If you haven’t thought about “Influencer Relations” yet, it’s time to check it out. Google it. There is a lot of discussion you can learn from.