OP-ED: Clear objectives can make analyst meetings a success
I have been an industry analyst for more years than I like to admit. For more than 17 years, I have sat in meetings where PR pros bring clients to see me in an effort to influence my perspective on their potential in the market and in hopes that I will write something wonderful about the company. Here, I will give my view on how to have a successful encounter with an industry analyst. Keep in mind that there are many varieties of analysts, so not everything works with everyone. But there are some principles that are worth remembering.
I have been an industry analyst for more years than I like to admit. For more than 17 years, I have sat in meetings where PR pros bring clients to see me in an effort to influence my perspective on their potential in the market and in hopes that I will write something wonderful about the company. Here, I will give my view on how to have a successful encounter with an industry analyst. Keep in mind that there are many varieties of analysts, so not everything works with everyone. But there are some principles that are worth remembering. Why are you here? Make sure your client has a clear agenda regarding the visit. Is your client trying to build relationships? Is there an important new product being introduced? Is your client looking for reactions and assistance? You and your client may be clear about the nature of the meeting. I think it is important to let the analyst know, as well. I have sat in countless meetings where I'm tempted to ask the question, Why are you here? This happens when there is no clear agenda for the meeting and when no dialog happens. Analysts appreciate knowing what is on your clients' minds and what they are looking for.
Who is your audience? It can take as long as 20 minutes, in some cases, to figure out what the bottom line is for the company coming to see me. Too often a client will feel the need to demonstrate how smart they are by recounting the history of the tech market that his products fit into. While this may be a good approach with a prospective client who needs to be educated, it may be the wrong path for a sophisticated or experienced industry analyst. Therefore, even before preparing for the meeting, find out about the experience level of the analyst your client will be meeting with. If the analyst is new, a good education will help establish a strong relationship and will help the analyst better understand your client and the market. However, the worst thing you can do with experienced analysts is tell them what they already know. Your client is much better off stating at the outset what the firm is announcing and why it is important. Help your client understand that the dialog is important. Make sure they spend as much time listening as they spend talking. Experienced analysts are perhaps your best source of insight into your client's marketplace. Take advantage of that knowledge and insight. Most analysts that I know love to talk and demonstrate their knowledge.
Visualize the future. What does your client want to get out of the meeting with the analyst? This may seem obvious at first glance. The client probably has told you that he wants to get in front of an analyst so he can influence him or her. But you need to help him understand that the world is more complicated than that. First, getting to know and influence an analyst does not happen over night. The best executives understand that to get real value from an analyst requires a long-term commitment and a quid pro quo. After all, we are all in business to make money (hopefully). If the client can't buy services from the analyst, he should offer information that helps the analyst do his or her job better. Can your client give the analyst insights into the market that the analyst might not be aware of? Can the client provide the analyst with access to his customers? Are there surveys your client has conducted with customers that could be shared with the analyst?
How to get what you want. Finally, you want to help your client visualize the future. What would be the best possible outcome of the meeting? Maybe your client hopes that the analyst will serve as a press reference and write a bulletin about the company. If this is the objective, what would you like the analyst to say? Use this visualization as the starting point to help prepare your client for meetings. If your client comes prepared with a clear objective for the meeting, tells the analyst the purpose of the visit, and gives valuable information, your client will have a path forward.
Building relationships with analysts can help in both market influence and gaining valuable insights. The best companies understand the long-term nature of the process of building enduring relationships. These are worthwhile partnerships - especially if planned the right way.
Judith Hurwitz is an enterprise software strategy consultant and analyst in Cambridge, MA.
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