It’s not the analysts, stupid!
In interviews with 30 analyst relations professionals (ARs), we learned about their challenges, priorities, and professional development needs.
- AR bandwidth is strained
- Changes in the advisory model are creating confusion
- Managing internal relations is the biggest AR challenge
- Creating value
- Managing analyst engagement
- Leveraging technology and services
With respect to professional development, ARs shared their insights for what an AR masterclass program would include. They expressed a need to address their key challenges and priorities, but also stressed some of the fundamental aspects of the role, including getting the most value from analyst strategy days, inquiries, and briefings.
Our approach – phone interviews with 30 ARs
After speaking with 30 ARs about their challenges and priorities, we are telling ourselves: “It’s not about the analysts, stupid!”
Going into this project, we assumed that the big challenge for ARs would be managing relationships with analysts. Good thing we tested that assumption! The biggest challenge isn’t the analysts. It’s influencing internally, influencing corporate peers and executives.
It’s a good thing we started designing this initiative from the ground up. It would have been easy to apply the several hundred years of combined experience of our 30 former (mostly) Gartner analysts in designing an AR masterclass. But frankly, as experienced analysts, we knew we would be missing a lot if we kept it to ourselves. So, we reached out to ARs via LinkedIn and asked if we could have a half-hour of their time. The response rate was terrific, and the insight and advice were fantastic.
As far as challenges, ARs told us that:
AR bandwidth is strained. Demand for AR is increasing. There are not enough junior ARs. Quadrants, Waves, and other ratings reports are proliferating. Just responding to Magic Quadrant and Wave requests is not enough; hence, ARs spend a lot of time with analysts.
Changes in the advisory model are creating confusion. The future of industry advisory seems uncertain. Crowd-sourced platforms like Gartner Peer Insights, IT Central Station, and G2 offer a lightweight alternative to analyst advisory services for buyers. Meanwhile, crowd inputs are mined to create other products to sell to technology providers like those you work for.
Complicating things even further, Gartner has begun incorporating Peer Insights into its magic quadrant process. Gartner is also bypassing AR and selling directly to marketing and product management leaders, thus undermining ARs’ abilities to command attention from corporate peers and executives.
Several ARs mentioned that analyst firms are pushing back on analysts doing document reviews and on providing feedback on pre-release product demonstrations. Instead, the firms are trying to channel those types of inquiries into more expensive consulting engagements.
And the big one – managing internal relations is the biggest AR challenge. ARs must generate real business value, and to do so, they need the involvement of marketing and product management peers as well as corporate executives. Yet, ARs get pushback from peers and executives when asked to contribute – even when it is magic quadrant time! Some also must repeatedly re-introduce what AR does and why it is crucial to influence analysts.
ARs have to spend a lot of time coaxing and guiding product marketers’ style and messages to avoid turning off analysts with too much hyperbole. ARs are similarly caught between their own product managers and outside analysts, trying to better align both sides of the dialog.
Executive attention to influencers is harder to get. When ARs do get it, the execs spend too much effort trying to build personal relationships with analysts and telling analysts what to believe and not enough listening to them. Overall, demonstrating the value of AR to peers and execs is difficult, and it is often not visible except when positioned favorably in quadrants and waves.
ARs shared the following as their priorities:
Generating value. By far, the most pressing priority for ARs is generating business value – and proving it. ARs want to help their business leaders by gaining analyst insights into the competition and competitive trends. They want to help their businesses be more strategic, and they want to use analysts to help their execs see different views than what they get “from their screens.” They also want to use analysts to test market hypotheses and give feedback on planned marketing campaigns.
Managing analyst engagement. A critical part of the AR role, of course, is managing analyst engagement. ARs said that it is essential to have a calendar and good planning for communications with analysts. Follow-up and feedback are also important.
Engaging executives to meet with analysts is valuable, and executive engagement can make or break the analyst relations process. Managing executive communications with analysts is difficult because of a divergence in goals. Executives want analysts to treat them as the ultimate source of truth on strategy and vision, but most seasoned analysts have too much real-world experience to buy that. Executives most often want to focus on building relationships that pay off in analyst fidelity to the Executives’ visions.
Besides executive engagement, aligning internal teams to the analysts can help flow information in both directions. Since analysts do not work isolated from the rest of the world, identifying analysts, tiering them, and mapping their networks is also a priority.
Leveraging technology and services. ARTech is a relatively new phenomenon but is growing in importance. It can ease the burden of tracking what analysts are doing and saying. AR services can assist in communications and messaging to analysts, and AR-as-a-service can expand the capacity of a vendor’s AR team.
Social media analysis is critical in tracking analysts and their market influence all the way down to their direct and indirect impact on individual deals. Engaging with analysts and participating in their online networks can help to raise a technology provider’s profile.
What’s needed in an AR masterclass
In addition to sharing their challenges and priorities, many ARs with whom we spoke contributed their ideas on what should be included in a masterclass curriculum, as follows:
How to work with internal stakeholders. As mentioned above, collaborating with peers, and engaging them and executives, is the greatest challenge for ARs.
How to leverage AR with the sales organization. This issue emerged as an essential subset of working with internal stakeholders and, if done well, can help drive the business top line.
The value of AR. This element of the curriculum needs to include the processes for generating value, as well as how to measure and communicate it to internal stakeholders.
Working with the analysts. Many of the ARs with whom we spoke see this as a fundamental element. They identified it as important for junior ARs and even as a refresher for senior ARs. Class sessions may be designed differently for senior and junior ARs.
How to do an analyst consulting day. This is a fundamental element. It consumes a significant investment of time and money. The masterclass may include separate breakouts for junior and senior ARs
AR technology and services. What is available, and how can it be used to improve productivity and value?
The future of industry advisory. Gartner and other firms are evolving with a breadth of offerings to a wide variety of professionals. Crowd platforms are having more influence. New specialist firms, independent analysts, journalists, and social media influencers are all helping to shape the future influencer ecosystem.
Our goal is to serve a community-driven forum of AR professionals and others, especially product managers and product marketing professionals engaged in influencing the influencers. To start, we are designing a masterclass that focuses on the challenges and priorities of AR professionals.
We’ve broken the concept of a masterclass into three levels of detail.
- An introductory webinar that covers the findings of our interviews with Analyst Relations Professionals. First showing, fourth quarter of 2021.
- A more detailed AR Pro virtual half-day event including presentations, panel sessions, and a workshop. First half of first quarter of 2022.
- An in-person Masterclass for AR Professionals running two days. First half 2022.
Candidate locations for in-person classes include the Bay Area, Austin, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, Raleigh-Durham, and Cambridge, UK.
We want direct input and insights from AR professionals at each stage of our journey. We would greatly appreciate your feedback on this assessment of the challenges and priorities for ARs and on the elements of the masterclass curriculum.