A guest post from Ludovic Leforestier, founder at Starsight Communications
Your salesforce is one of your most precious assets. They are the face and voice of your company. They get big bonuses. They get flashy company cars. And yet, according to Gartner, B2B buyers only spend 16% of their time with vendors when considering a technology purchase. Meanwhile, those clients of yours are spending almost twice as long (27% of their time) with industry analysts and reading their reports.
What’s more, deal influence is only one of the four business impacts from industry analysts and other B2B influencers. Engaging with those thought leaders can be a secret weapon for strategic brand communications professionals –let’s dive into the world of analyst & influencer relations.
Who are industry analysts?
The IIAR> defines industry analysts as follows:
“a person, working individually or within a firm analysing and publishing research and/or opinions, forecasts, market sizing, on ICT products and services trends, adoption, market-fit, procurement, deployment and/or advising independently technology buyers and vendors and/or providing go-to-market services.”
This industry analysis market is dominated by the “three FIGs”: Forrester, IDC, and finally Gartner is in a league of its own. These three firms each employ between 2,000 and 500 analysts –collectively about 37% of global industry analysts, according to ARInsights data.
Challengers range from 400 to about 30 analysts, here we find regional champions such as Omdia, BARC, ITR or Teknowlogy and vertical or specialist firms such as ISG, 451 Research, Analysys Mason, AITE or Celent.
There’s a vast array of niche firms, typically with under 30 analysts, often excellent in their domain and some with a public profile punching far above their weight, for instance CCS Insight, KuppingerCole, HfS Research, Constellation, or Signify.
Finally there’s a (very) long tail of over 800 independent analysts, firms with 1 to 5 analysts. Many of those boutiques are fronted by analysts who are extremely talented in their fields, delivering great insights and advice to vendors. If you know how to employ them, they are an extremely valuable addition to your product planning cycle and go-to-market strategy –remember that exposure isn’t related to size. There are too many names to cite, many are Starsight friends, but at the risk of upsetting some we’ll name Thomas Otter and Madeline Laurano for HRM, Redmonk for developer relations, Aragon in ECM, Ampere in telco/media/games, Ventana for BI/CPM, Zeus Kerravala, Pat Moorhead on data centre and IoT or Paul Greenberg for CRM. Sorry for such a short list –we know there are many others with specific domain expertise.
How do industry analysts work?
Analysts (and to a large extent, many B2B influencers) rely on information asymmetry: they enjoy a unique vantage point from speaking to all players in an ecosystem –these can be your prospects, clients and competitors. In fact, industry analysts are somewhat like office security: they screen and know everyone coming through the door.
Day in, day out, analysts have to carve out thinking time between their conversations. They attend technology vendor briefings, take inquiry calls with users (technology buyers) and vendors alike and of course write research and market analysis. In BC times (Before Covid), many were road warriors travelling to present at conferences and attend vendor summits –their days are instead now packed with Zoom meetings. In addition to inquiries, many also deliver advisory and consultancy services as projects for both vendors and users.
Broadly, we categorise analysts in 3 groups: prescribers, number crunchers and market mavens. However, no two analysts are the same –there are a variety of deliverables and business models.
Prescribers advise IT buyers on vendor and product choices, often producing well-known vendor ‘landmark evaluations’ such as the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Forrester’s Waves and IDC’s MarketScapes. They have a direct sales influence but also identify market trends and glean invaluable insights from buyers.
Number crunchers use quantitative methods to collect data points and publish market statistics, typically market forecasts and vendor shares. Beyond sizing the total addressable market (TAM) and identifying opportunities for vendors, they also play an often underrated role in making sense of an ecosystem by defining categories in which they place each vendor offering and product. Those so called taxonomies are of prime interest to vendors: vendors who can claim the leadership position into a growing category benefit from a formidable marketing claim, endorsed by a third party adjudicator. That #1 press release might be all investors are waiting for!
Market mavens offer independent perspectives and analysis on market developments. Some have a personal brand far larger than their size, which vendors can leverage to support go-to-market tactics, to wrap context around a technology and help position a product. They’re also an invaluable source of insights to achieve a better market-fit and bullet-proof vendor messaging.
Generally speaking, all analysts tend to work on annual research agendas, each report cycle is typically 3-6 months. These research reports therefore combine both salience and resilience.
What is the impact of analyst relations?
The impact of analyst relations falls into 4 areas: insights, awareness, influence and go-to-market strategy –as per the seminal IIAR> Best Practice Paper: the AR compass.
Leverage insights from industry analysts throughout the product life cycle, from inception to launch, starting with feature prioritisation all the way to message testing. The best insights from an analyst come when you engage early and often, maintain constant contact and consistent messaging. They function as sounding boards that offer insight to anticipate issues early and avoid making costly mistakes, enabling your business to maneuver around the competition.
Analysts do wonders to drive awareness in the marketplace: they are the original thought leaders who make and shape categories –for instance ERP was coined by Gartner and Digital Transaction Management was established by Aragon Research. Analysts shape conversations in your ecosystem and they should be engaged with in a very specific way. Research published in their subscription services is only one of the ways analysts shift perceptions of the marketplace. They’re quoted in up to 70% of trade press articles (Gartner reports that their analysts are quoted by leading business publications over 70 times per week). Analysts are also frequent conference speakers –the largest events can gather thousands of executives, many of them in the C-suite. All of this impacts public perception of your brand.
Analysts influence buyers directly throughout the entire purchase funnel. Whether you have an analyst & influencer relations (AR) program in place or not, industry analysts speak to your clients. Gartner claims its analysts hold over 400k direct client interactions per year –on average, an analyst can take between 200 to 800 inquiries, typically 30 min web conferences, per year. These are key prospects, as Forrester’s clients include 31% of the Fortune 100. It starts at the consideration stage when technical staff typically compile a long list of solutions to evaluate from published evaluative research such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant, the ISG Provider Lens, the KuppingerCole Leadership Compass and others. Analysts are present all the way, including inquiries with analysts to draw short lists up to the end when they rubber stamp the CIO’s final investment decision. A high vendor rating in an analyst report will boost customer perception of your brand and be used as third-party endorsement and social proof.
Go-to-market strategies benefit from analyst input by accelerating message development. Analysts can put your offerings into market context, validate your product and increase footfall via a big industry name at events. When commissioning an analyst white paper, you develop a call card for sales teams. You can also offer this valuable resource behind a sign-up wall to create a lead generation engine.
How to leverage analyst & influencer relations (AR) for your communications?
Engaging with such a specific audience requires a unique combination of skills to successfully hone an AR program. This includes knowledge of the technology industry, the vendors they represent and preexisting relationships with the right analysts. Experienced AR professionals can use this expertise to glean analyst insights and present them strategically. This is in addition to communication skills, relationship building, presenting and collaboration.
Analyst and influencer relations deliver invaluable assets that are synergistic to brand communications. AR is a specialist area that differs from PR and brand comms. It should be embedded early to provide a foundation for your brand strategy and refine your market messaging. Use vendor ratings as social proof and analyst insights for perfect market fit.
Starsight Communications is partnering with Eureka Box to elevate your strategic communications with AR expertise. Use the prescribers, the number crunchers and the market mavens to capitalise on analyst insights, awareness, influence and go-to-market advice. Eureka Box can help you to integrate this powerful industry validation into your broader brand communications activities to build credibility and persuade potential customers.