Last week at the Product Marketing World Conference in Boston I did a presentation focusing on an aspect of Product Marketing that is often not talked about: Analyst Relations.
For larger companies that have analyst relations teams working full time, this may not sound like such an interesting topic, but for all the other product marketers busting their chops to get their startups growing to an eventual IPO, a sound analyst relations strategy can be a key component of that growth.
Since I’ve made all the mistakes you can imagine when trying to figure out how to talk, present, and leverage analysts I feel like there’s a ton of lessons learned that others can use and — hopefully — avoid the painful lessons that I have learned.
First, an important disclaimer. What I share is based on my B2B SaaS/Tech experience and thus is certainly biased towards what product marketers in tech will encounter. This means working with Gartner, Forrester, IDC, 451 Group, ESG, and a myriad of other firms that cater to this market. I have no idea if this is transferable to B2C environments, so you should be the judge of that.
Why Analyst Relations?
Product Marketers involved in Go-to-Market strategies and especially at mid-stage startups can benefit a lot from a good planned A/R program. Among the benefits I have seen are:
1. Validate your company and solution in the market (i.e. build trust)
2. Help define and educate the market about a new category
3. Give market and competitive intelligence
4. Assist with product and GTM priorities
5. An unbiased sounding board to help with feature prioritization
6. Feedback on your sales team
7. Buyer insights to assist with persona creation and messaging
8. Demand generation (via licensing and via sending you leads directly)
9. Investor validation (if you are fundraising, VCs will ask analysts about your company and market)
What will determine the goal of your A/R plan is the stage of your company, and whether you are creating a new category or trying to displace the leader in an existing category. Not having internal alignment on the A/R plan is a recipe for certain disaster and we’ll talk about it later (or scroll down directly to the “what can blow up your analyst plan” section.
What Role Does Product Marketing Play?
I have found that there are four key elements where the PMM play in relation to analyst programs, and this is true whether you have a full-time A/R person or not.
Helping craft the story and message to tell analysts about your solutions/services. This is not the same as using your sales pitch deck. Analysts require a somewhat different structure on how you tell the message and should also be tailored to the firm and analyst in question.
What is your company play in the market and category? Analysts want to know not only how you are different from everyone else in your market but also how you play with adjacent technologies, with the broader partner ecosystem, and your channels to get to customers.
Arming analysts with info on how you relate to the competition. This is essential if you want to make sure the analyst can answer the question “how is this company different” when talking to a client. Analysts get asked all the time by their client companies about who are the top players, who is the best vendor for their project, and how one vendor is different from another. The competitive side is not just about features vs features but also ensuring the analyst understands your ideal customer profile (hint: is not “everyone in this industry”).
Building a list of questions to be asked of the analysts. Whether the PMM is participating in the briefing or inquiry call or not, it is important that the PMM understands the different firms and the intelligence that can be gathered during such conversations. Analysts can help identify opportunities in the market, competitor moves, etc. so the PMM should craft a list of key questions to be asked during these interactions.
Building a Great Analyst Deck
From my own missteps to talking with analysts and reading their suggestions, there are four key elements to a great analyst presentation deck:
CREATE AWARENESS — You need to ensure analysts are aware of your company, your solutions, and how you are different. Make sure in your deck you are highlighting these as well as key product capabilities, ideal customer profile, and market attributes for your sweet spot.
DIFFERENTIATE — Highlight how your company and solution are different from everyone else. For this, is useful if you don’t just have a slide listing all key features but if you can tie the customer problem with how you are solving it with your product. Analysts talk to dozens of companies every week and after the third conference call every vendor start sounding alike. You need to stick out.
DEMONSTRATE — All talk and no substance is a sure-fire way to get ignored. Analysts want to see how customers are using and benefiting from your solution. When talking about a new capability make sure to not just give the analyst a demo but link that to an actual customer and their ROI. The more customer stories you use to showcase what you do and how you do it, the more memorable your presentation will be. Remember, storytelling works in A/R as well.
SHOW EVIDENCE — Sure, having the list of all your great customers in a slide is good, but better is to directly connect ROI from those customers to your solution. This is related to the ‘demonstrate’ element above, but also to make sure customers are ready and comfortable in talking with analysts. A great example that you are doing this right is when analysts reach out to you asking to be put in touch with customers so they can get information for a report they are working on.
Create a Kick-Ass Analyst Program
Great analyst programs have the following elements in common:
1. Documented and aligned on clearly articulated goals
2. A tight schedule with specific cadence for briefings and inquiry calls
3. Looping in the specific subject matter experts and people with the right expertise
4. Specific metrics that are tracked and shared with the broader team
While this could be a post by itself with more details, suffice to say that as a product marketer you want to make sure that you have visibility and understands these four items before jumping into analyst calls. Nothing good will come out of your analyst interactions if goals are not clear and there is no alignment with the rest of the organization and people start asking what exactly is the analyst strategy.
I’ll try to address additional lessons learned in a follow-up post, but I hope this is helpful.