For technology companies, analyst briefings are an important element of the goal to gain mindshare of key influencers. Tim Cox of our Silicon Valley technology practice offers some advice on how to connect with key analysts and introduce them to your company and product.
By Tim Cox, SMG Silicon Valley
One of the most important outcomes of a focused public relations program is changing perceptions about your company and product/service by engaging with your target audience via the publications they trust. A journalist who is a recognized expert in a particular topic has the power to influence the opinions of that publications readership, which is why a good PR firm will take the time to thoroughly understand your customers and then research and understand the optimum set of publications, websites and blogs that will reach them.
Beyond the media, who else might influence your customers’ buying behavior? For technology vendors, market analysts and other technology pundits are an additional set of contacts to include in your sphere of influence. They’re crucial because these are the people who advise your customers — so it’s important that you develop a methodology to engage with them and inform them about your company and product.
Unlike many technology journalists, who generally cover a wide array of technologies and topics, analysts tend to be extremely focused on one area (for example: virtualization, security, PaaS, SaaS, customer engagement, CRM, etc.). Their role is to provide expert technical consultation for their paid clients, who are typically Fortune 100 enterprises who need guidance on which technologies offer the best path forward to improve business results.
Analysts are typically experts in their field, often with years spent assessing, selecting and applying a specific technology in the private or public sector. And to deliver expert advice, it’s essential that they stay abreast of the latest technologies. Forrester puts it this way: “Forrester encourages technology vendors and agencies to brief our analysts when introducing a new product, changing a business model, or forming a partnership, merger, or acquisition.”
The primary written output from top-tier market analysts are research reports for their firm’s subscribers. While it’s true that some analysts maintain a blog to discuss the latest trends, analysts are not interested in writing stories based on your company’s recent product announcement. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t keep them posted on your major product announcement — you should. But before you add analysts to your media list, it’s essential to understand their area of specialization, and then formulate a plan for engagement.
Once you’ve identified your shortlist of analysts, your primary objective is to secure a vendor briefing with each firm. Vendor briefings are useful when you’re briefing an analyst on the company overall or providing an update on a significant development such a big product introduction or business strategy change. It’s typically a one-way flow of info from vendor to analyst — the analysts usually don’t provide much feedback during the briefing. Most analyst firms are OK taking vendor briefings from non-clients, awe recommend twice annually.
The first step in requesting a vendor briefing is to develop an engagement plan for each firm: some questions to consider… Which analysts matter? What has each been writing about? Have they covered your competitors? What is the reason for your briefing request? What do you intend to cover? What will each analyst learn from you during the briefing? The answers to these questions will shape the pitch that you’ll use for each firm’s briefing request. Each firm has its preferred methodology for setting these up; visit their website for information.
If an analyst decides to take a briefing with your company, you’ll need to decide who from your company will lead the briefing. Because briefings are generally technical in nature, we recommend the chief technology officer or a senior product manager lead the presentation. It’s OK to have your marketing chief on the call too. The average vendor briefing lasts no longer than 30 minutes, so you should prepare for it by developing a presentation deck of no more than 10 slides that covers: briefing focus, company overview, market overview, competitive framework, technology/product discussion, short-term roadmap, Q&A.
It’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of vendor briefings. Analysts use briefings to learn about changes in markets, providers, and services. To increase their understanding of your business, the analyst will ask you clarifying questions. These questions can range from specifics about customer drivers and product features or functionality, to how the change reflects your company strategy and competitive positioning. Again, the information flow is largely from the vendor to the analyst, so while it’s OK to check that your presentation is making sense and to solicit basic feedback, this is not the time to ask questions pertaining to strategy or competitive positioning.
Want to learn more? Here’s some further reading — or contact us for assistance.
Preparing for your briefing, and the anatomy of a good briefing: