2021 Planning: The Role of Industry Analyst Relations (AR) in B2B Tech

Breaking down the myths so you can start a successful AR program

By Colleen Martin, Principal

The value of one analyst report can be worth more than 10 pieces of collateral – eBooks, sales slicks, infographics, webinars, whitepapers – you name it, because it’s not promotional and comes with third-party credibility. Just like a positive, well-written article in a top-tier tech or national publication gives more credibility to a company than a paid advertisement, a mention in an analyst report provides third-party validation that a business is real, provides measurable benefits, and recognized by others as a potential force to be reckoned with. Enterprises frequently use analyst reports to short-list the solutions that they consider buying.

There are many myths that hold B2B businesses back from getting involved in analyst relations – and a lack of understanding of how the “magic” works. I break four of them down below.

Myth #1 – If I want my company to get involved in analyst relations, I have to spend tens of thousands of dollars

This is perhaps the biggest myth I have heard from clients over the years as to why they haven’t ventured into AR. I have worked with one client for nearly a decade that has consistently, at least twice a year, briefed top analysts in the enterprise technology space, without subscriptions to any firm. This has resulted in numerous valuable mentions in analyst reports, blog posts, and high-quality relationships with some of the biggest influencers in the B2B technology world. These analysts and their reports are tapped by some of the largest purchasers in the world of enterprise software to make decisions about what capabilities they need to help them (fill in the blank: save money, move faster, gain more insights, etc.) – and which companies are excelling at providing those capabilities.

While subscriptions can buy you access to things such as research reports, messaging sessions with analysts, webinars, whitepapers, tickets to events and more – a subscription is not required to do the most basic element of AR, which is keeping analysts up to date and informed about your company and technology, go-to-market strategy, customer base and count, partnerships, and more.

Myth #2 – AR is for large companies that are the leaders in their space. Analysts aren’t interested in small to mid-size companies

If people thought that the only companies worth buying software from were industry leaders, then there would be no competition, no disruption, no incentive for improvement, and no reason for analyst firms to exist.

It’s the job of the analyst to know ALL of the key players in the category or categories he or she covers; to use the terms that Gartner, one of the most voices in the analyst community, uses in its famous Magic Quadrant reports, the analysts need to know the Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players, and Challengers.

Forrester is another highly regarded analyst firm that publishes reports called the Forrester Wave to help its clients make technology purchasing decisions. The Wave reports include diagrams that identify Challengers, Contenders, Strong Performers, and Leaders. Forrester and Gartner are not the only analyst firms that matter and should certainly not be the only firms that companies turn to for AR briefings. There are a number of other well established, boutique analyst firms that are respected and sought after for B2B software evaluation, such as 451 Research, IDC, Redmonk, Wikibon, Eckerson, and more.

Myth #3 – The companies that spend the most money are the ones that get the most favorable commentary in analyst reports

Just like money can’t buy you happiness, money can’t buy you the leader ranking in an analyst report. It can often seem like the largest companies, which often have the most dollars to spend, are the ones that get the top rankings in the analyst reports; but rather, it is usually because they have been around the longest, and have crossed the chasm from capturing innovators and early adopters to reaching the early majority with strong solutions, as famous management consultant and author Geoffrey A. Moore has shared in his Technology Adoption Life Cycle, in his best-selling book, Crossing the Chasm, Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.

When it comes to rankings, neither money nor any amount of persuasion will influence an analyst’s decision. In the world of AR, merit, as well as the facts (customers, revenue, product line, leadership, and more) speak the truth.

Myth #4 – Analyst relations is just like media relations

Anyone who works in media relations knows all too well the challenge of getting reporters’ attention. Public relations jobs exceed reporting jobs by 6.4-to-1, according to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau. Most of us don’t work with the Fortune 500, and know it takes more to get a writer’s attention than a simple name-drop of the client.

What’s refreshing about analyst relations is that it is a straightforward process. If you have a product launch coming up, for example, you would reach out to the analyst firm in advance to request a briefing with the analyst(s) that cover your space; and typically, within 36-48 hours, the answer is either yes, they will take a briefing, or no, the analysts are not interested in your topic at this time. There is no game of cat and mouse, no big “sell” of the story like in media relations and, most of all, there is no guarantee of being written up in a report or blog post. The biggest value comes from building a relationship with the analyst and helping them develop a deep understanding of your product or service, so that he/she knows where you sit in the market, and has the knowledge needed when the time does come to write about the players in the space.

I hope this gives you at least a 101-level of understanding of how analyst relations works, and the confidence to get started. If you would like to start a conversation about starting an AR program, give us a shout!