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Driving Technology Thought Leadership
Implementing a strategic industry analyst relations program.
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 by Brian Muys
Strategic Communications Group

Brian MuysIn an increasingly competitive technology marketplace, the strategic relationship between industry analysts and IT companies is critical to establishing market credibility and building mindshare. 

When used effectively, analyst relations can reinforce media campaigns, increase industry visibility, drive thought leadership and provide objective, third-party validation of your company’s market vision and ability to execute on its core strategy.
In short, proactive, ongoing analyst outreach isn’t an option to growing companies, it’s a necessity.  Many clients of these firms are end-users and prospects with purchasing authority that are direct stakeholders in the successful application of technology products or services their companies are using everyday.
If your company doesn’t already have such a program in place, how do you get started?

You can become a client by investing in an annual contract with a firm, which can run from as little as $10 - $15,000 annually for smaller boutiques catering to specific market segments, to as much as $50,000 or more for larger firms covering the entirety of the technology sector. Such subscriptions provide clients with access to all primary research and, most importantly, the opportunity to consult with key analysts covering your product or service. This discussion typically focuses on such key business drivers as market strategy, positioning and technology roadmaps, in some cases as part of a half- or full-day “deep-dive” at your offices.
However, it’s not necessary to invest in such a relationship, any more than it is to buy advertising in a publication with the hope of securing favorable editorial coverage. Most firms routinely invite non-clients to schedule introductory and periodic update briefings, with the tacit understanding that their clients will always receive some level of preferential treatment. Others are less diplomatic, however, typically tying coverage directly to client status or research sponsorship.
The next step to securing a productive analyst relationship is to identify which analyst firm will be the most influential and compatible with your key business goals. Some of the best-known, if not well-respected, firms with a broad industry focus include Gartner Group, IDC and Forrester Research. Other, more specialized, firms include Aberdeen Group, Current Analysis and Frost & Sullivan. In making your selection, first determine what kind of coverage you are seeking, toward what end. 

Some firms do not fall neatly into any one category and most of the larger analyst firms are focused on a variety of technology  products and services, from hardware and software to systems integration and server storage. Gartner, for example, generally takes a more qualitative approach to its research, focusing on strategy and capabilities, and how your company or product differentiates itself in the marketplace. IDC, in contrast, is more quantitative in orientation, annually forecasting market growth and sizing up key competitors. 
After determining which firms are the best target for your company, identify the most appropriate analysts to engage, based both on their established market expertise and published research. However, contacting an analyst is not like pitching a news story to a reporter. The best route is to present a business-centric case, rather than a simple product-oriented discussion, with a focus on validating strategy and your supporting roadmap to achieve it.  

As such, there’s a central role for the CEO, as much as the CTO. And don’t expect an analyst to initiate coverage immediately. In most cases, it’s an incremental process to build key relationships and nurture them consistently over time, even when there may be no new corporate news to share. A regular quarterly outreach program to stay connected to important contacts is invaluable.
What do analysts seek from client and vendor briefings? Any information that will better enable them to make purchasing recommendations to their own clients relating to your company’s ability to identify and leverage key industry trends for the benefit of your customers. In many cases, this may include revenue metrics, so be prepared to provide this level of information on a non-disclosure basis, as appropriate. 

These briefings, in turn, routinely bear fruit in the form of annual market updates which focus on new and upcoming products and technologies, making them essential business development and market awareness resources for vendors. Many publications will also reach out to high-profile analysts to better gauge in what direction industries are moving, and what companies are doing well. 

Favorable commentary from an influential analyst educated in your company’s value proposition therefore helps validate your market strategy, building a solid business case for your ability to execute and grow market leadership.
Through such direct and ongoing communications, site visits and briefings; developing a strategic industry analyst relations program will better enable your company to truly differentiate itself in the marketplace. While they are often overlooked by emerging technology vendors, analysts are crucial to supporting sustained business growth and market credibility. 

If your goal is to validate your company’s growth strategy and business model, then seeking and tapping an analyst relationship is the best place to start.

Brian Muys is a Managing Director at Strategic Communications Group,  
an award-winning public relations and business development firm
 based in Silver Spring, MD and Tysons Corner, VA. 
He can be reached at
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