AR: Continuity of Contact Makes A Difference

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.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

10 Responses to AR: Continuity of Contact Makes A Difference

  1. sandyb says:

    Merv – enjoyed this, very thoughtful and thought provoking. We’ve talked through much of this before. Thanks for taking the time to write it down.

  2. Merv Adrian says:

    Well, thanks! We need new tools to measure analysts and bloggers with – and few people are taking the time to consider what they might be yet. In the meantime, working with known providers of value is a great place to start. (I know it’s self-serving, but I can’t help that. It’s still true.)

  3. Curt Monash says:

    Merv,

    I agree with both the title and the body of your post — but I’m not sure you drew much of a connection between them. 😉

    Best,

    CAM

  4. Merv Adrian says:

    Hm. I guess I considered the result of the discussion in the body to be obvious enough not to restate it. BUt I’m glad you agreed!

  5. mshenry says:

    Merv,
    Thanks for the insight. The landscape of influencers is certainly changing and we all have to change with it.

  6. MelS says:

    Merv – Thanks for the thoughtful post and prodding. The industry analyst landscape is changing rapidly and we definitely have to make sure we have a good way to continue to track and connect with our influencers (and more importantly, friends and trusted advisors) as they move around. I’m reviewing our processes for doing so now… 😉

  7. Merv Adrian says:

    LOL – I’ve always enjoyed working with your team, and your dedication to process has always been quite evident. I doubt that you need much prodding. But when you don’t name names, even the good ones look over their shoulder, I guess! Thanks for participating pn my blog. It’s great to have you here.

  8. Merv, I’m just curious, when you say “They are interacting with your prospects, your customers…” – in what setting does this interaction take place besides the obvious trade/conference shows and perhaps blogs (although I doubt it). Do you see a lot of customers/clients actually tapping into analyst knowledge out there? If so, how does that work? Exactly how would one gauge the influence of analysts on customers/clients at this point in time?
    Thanks for any insight.
    J.

  9. Merv Adrian says:

    There are a few ways – of course every client of an analyst firm is not reading every piece of research, but if they cover the space you’re in, their work is being read. Analyst firms that offer inquiry to their clients have many interactons with clients under that rubric. See Carter Lusher’s post at http://sagecircle.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/dont-discount-business-value-of-phone-based-inquiries/ for more on that. Carter cites 350,000 inquiries a year by the big 3.

    Be a little careful with that number. Like all aggregates it sounds fabulous. My own experience in a decade in the industry is that the AVERAGE analyst does fewer than one inquiry per day. And when you consider the breadth of most analysts’ coverage, that may not translate into much specificity in your space. Learn about the analysts who will matter to you. Caveat emptor.

  10. Rob says:

    When I left a popular industry analyst firm a few years ago to go to Wall Street, I was one of the few analysts that spent most of the time talking to IT users vs. IT vendors. I actually loved inquiries. I more or less avoided vendor briefings like the plague. This firm later crashed and was acquired. It is not as glamours or as lucrative for an analyst to talk to users, but that is the missing ingredient in most “research.”

    BTW, why did I avoid IT vendor analyst briefings? They lie and spin. I just cannot sit there an put up with the BS. I knew the second IBM or Microsoft walked into the room it was going to be spin, spin, spin. It was exhausting.

    The most fun was saving IT users from costly mistakes.

    I’m miffed at your friend that wants to remain an analyst and be 2 years ahead of the curve. Does not make sense to me.

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