Play to Win the Industry Analyst Game

Whether you want to or not, you are a player in the industry analyst game. The reason is simple. Industry analysts, for better or for worse, are very influential. If you do a good job, you can positively influence their opinions. If you don’t — or if you are not playing — then you often suffer. Either way, you are a player — so learn to win.

How can you win with analysts? First you have to understand their role. This is where much confusion occurs, because there are so many analysts, and each does business in a different way. Just as doctors specialize, so do analysts. They cover different companies, services, technologies and industry segments — and they do it in different ways.

I have been an industry analyst for more than 25 years. That’s quite a long time to be playing this game. I have learned quite a bit about this business and would like to share some of it with you.

The Continual Dialogue

What I do is both similar to and different from what other industry analysts do. Generally I follow the tech space, including wireless, telephone, television, IPTV and the Internet, among other areas of technology. That means I have been invited to countless industry analyst conferences and individual private briefings with executives.

Unfortunately, only a very few have done a great job of communicating their messages. That is a gaping opportunity for companies to leverage, if they understand how. The approach and the relationship are two important factors.

Companies invest time and money trying to win the analyst game in two primary ways: 1) by holding larger and more general analyst meetings; and 2) by building one-on-one relationships with a few key analysts. There is plenty of value to be had through these approaches, but only if they’re executed right.

The reason is simple. There is a continual dialogue in the industry, and analyst opinions are part of that dialogue. It is important for companies to be part of the same dialogue. Like it or not, you and your company are key players in this game. You can’t avoid it, so you had better know how to win.

When you read the news, you generally read quotes from one company, then quotes from a competing company, and finally quotes from a third-party analyst who follows the business and tries to put things in perspective. This is one part of what an industry analyst does.

It’s one of the key reasons for you to be engaged in the process rather than letting the process go on without you. Either way, it will go ahead. Whether you participate can make a difference in what the world thinks. You must share your take on things or you will be like a blindfolded driver.

Having a good quality and ongoing relationship with both the media and the analyst community can affect the impact and tone of influential news stories and commentaries.

Different Styles, Different Approaches

There are many different ways analysts share their opinions and put information into the marketplace. Some use reports or e-books. Some participate in or sponsor conferences. Others give speeches and have conference call briefings with retainer clients. There are so many ways.

Talking with the media and providing comments and quotes is another. This is the part I love doing the most. I learn so much just taking calls from the media, responding to insightful questions about companies and technologies.

In addition to giving daily reporters interviews, I write columns like this one, put out press releases, and send email commentary to an extensive list of reporters in the U.S. and around the world.

Sometimes companies like what analysts have to say. Sometimes they don’t. However, companies generally want to make sure analysts are up to speed on their industry news. There are many reasons, but only some companies do a good job of this.

There are many different models in the industry analyst business. Over time, each analyst develops a unique style and approach — which, by the way, often changes over time.

Time is another point. I can assure you that the good analysts are very busy — all day, every day. In addition, following client companies often takes quite a bit of time. Plus, the more successful, the more value an analyst has — and the more clients.

It is important to understand that key industry analysts get more requests for briefings than they ever have time to accommodate. Many charge non-clients for phone briefings just to separate the companies that are serious from the ones that want to brief everyone.

Bottom line: Understanding and working with analysts — that is, figuring out the way each analyst works — can make quite a bit of difference to the end result — and it’s important to keep the end result in mind. You want to communicate good things about your company to the marketplace.

Build Relationships

So, how do you get the industry analyst world to know you and to think highly about you and share that with the world? Unfortunately, there is not one simple way. Since each analyst is different, the areas they follow are also different. The way they run their business is different.

It is up to each company to learn the best way to work with each analyst. If you work with five analysts, then you may have to do it five different ways. The industry analyst community is wide, but fortunately there really are only a few key players. Some are larger firms and others are individuals, with the analyst wearing many hats.

Think about your industry. Now think which analysts are most influential in your industry. Which are quoted most often? This is typically a short list. Make your list. These are the key analysts you need to cultivate. Analysts do things differently, and they charge differently. It’s not as though if you understand one, you understand them all.

Depending on the analyst, fees come in a variety of different forms, including monthly retainers, speaking fees, report sales and so on. Explore this with the analysts you’re considering.

Remember, some companies do a great job interacting and working with the analyst community. However, most do not. That is a big opportunity for smart companies. Don’t think that doing business with an analyst means you will get great coverage. Doing business just allows you the opportunity to tell the story from your point of view, just as your competitors are doing.

It is important to remember that analysts have minds of their own. You cannot expect positive coverage and reports or comments to the media. There will likely be things they say that you agree with and like, and other things that you disagree with and dislike.

What you can expect is that if you have a positive and ongoing relationship, an analyst will at least follow you and listen to your position and your side, and consider your message when thinking and writing about relevant issues.

Like it or not, you do play a role in the industry analyst world. That means you play a role in the result your company sees, positive or negative. That’s why it’s important for you to play an active role — to make sure your messages and thinking get a fair shake in the marketplace. If not, then your competitors’ thinking may drive influential news stories and commentaries.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Over time, I will share more thoughts and ideas that can help you better understand the industry analyst’s world and get the most from your analyst briefings and relationships.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is an industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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