Who Needs Analyst Relations?
If you’re in a technology market, you need an analyst relations programme.
If you’re looking for funding, if you’re planning an initial public offering or if you’re a public company, you need investment bank analysts on your side.
For your products, you need market researchers (industry analysts) to understand your technology and your markets.
Let’s walk through the most important reasons for investing in an analyst relations (AR) programme:
- Expert Commentary
Press and bloggers often seek out comment on your announcements from both types of analysts. If you’ve been diligent enough with your public relations programme (and that’s another blog entirely), you have journalists that follow the progress of your company.
Before making an announcement, it’s best practice to pre-brief your top analysts, in case journalists call them for an impartial quote.
(It doesn’t hurt to tell journalists that analysts have been pre-briefed, but don’t name them. Then the journalist doesn’t feel she is being steered toward a specific “pet” analyst.)
- Analyst Publications
Both types of analysts have online and print publications. These range from news updates, to an individual analyst’s blog, to the ongoing reports of a research team and finally, formal research reports. These are read by your potential customers and investors.
- Investment Support
When seeking investment or planning an initial public offering, it’s essential your key investment bank analysts are aware of how your technology works, your technology differentiation, your target markets and your market positioning with regard to your competition.
How to Begin
Your analyst relations programme should begin alongside your public relations programme. When researching influencers in your market, include not just publications, editors and specialist journalists/bloggers, but also market researchers and investment bank analysts.
Read everything they’ve published recently about your market niche and your competition.
Ideally, you should reach out to analysts well before your first announcement, be it your company launch or a product launch. This will raise your chances that the analyst will take your briefing when you do issue a press release.
Make it Personal
As with public relations, the success of your analyst relations programme relies on the personal relationship between your AR representative and the individual analyst.
When you’re a new company, this relationship is what makes an analyst take your calls. When you’re an established company, the analyst takes your calls because they trust your AR rep not to give them misleading information.
Which leads to the next important point:
Don’t Blow Smoke Up Thier Skirts
This sounds obvious, but don’t brief analysts on a technology that doesn’t work yet. In the early days of Silicon Valley, we had a name for technology that was hyped but never seemed to come to fruition: vapourware.
The most fundamental rule of analyst relations is: Don’t, however unknowingly, give analysts incorrect information. If you’re an AR rep, here’s how to avoid that:
With a financial announcement, be as familiar with the numbers (and what they mean) as your CFO, before you start calling analysts. Don’t be shy about questioning the figures. It’s your job to ask, “Is there anything even vaguely iffy in this announcement that could come back to bite us?”
With a product announcement, always question the product manager and product marketer closely about
- the development schedule,
- what’s working,
- what’s not working,
- how this product compares to the competition,
- how it compares to previous versions and
- possible pitfalls.
Now you can be sure you won’t be misleading analysts.
On the other hand, it’s fine to brief analysts on a product whose features (or product name, or pricing, or licensing options) are not set in stone. Whilst you’re in the development phase, it’s perfectly fine to present the options to your analysts to get their opinion.
In fact, one of the most important tools in your toolbox is:
The best way to make sure analysts will react positively toward your announcement is to give them a stake in the outcome. Brief them (under embargo) far enough in advance that their opinions can make a difference. Ask them about the options that are still in question. You may receive some surprising and valuable suggestions.
Caveat: Be sure you have the product manager’s and product marketer’s permission to ask, because this maneuver can backfire:
If the analysts’ opinions disappear into smoke, they’ll think you were just stroking their egos by asking. If you take their advice, let them know before the announcement. If you don’t take their advice, tell them why – what went into the decision.
Should You Outsource Analyst Relations?
Possibly. Because an AR programme is dependent on personal relationships, you would need to find a PR or AR firm that has a proven track record in your niche. The more specialised your niche, the more important those relationships.
Many small companies begin with one in-house analyst relations rep (usually the in-house PR or marcomms rep), then move to an external firm when their AR needs are greater, then take the programme back in house when they can support a larger staff.
In summary, analyst relations are not just for market leaders – they’re for you.