A common question among technology companies looking for attention is: “How do I trick an analyst into talking about my product?” The answer: Find a really bad analyst.

Still, the question raises a good point. A lot of vendors view analysts as mythical, cave-dwelling beasts who demand ritual sacrifices before they deign to cover a new technology product. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Many tech companies try treating tech analysts like press, clients or financial markets, and that just doesn’t work. To correct that behavior and demysticize the process, check out this five-step crash course in analyst relations. These insider tips can’t guarantee your company’s product will show up in the “magical” top-right quadrant of some industry graph. But they will remove some of the most common analyst-relations slipups and help you seem like a pro the next time you go mano a mano with an analyst.

Step 1. Know Your Product’s Value

Analysts are no stranger to buzzwords, but they don’t want to hear any of yours. They love big-picture thinking, but they’re the ones being paid to paint the picture. Analysts like to draw their own conclusions from specific pieces of data. Be honest and specific about your product’s value and you’ll go places.

“We cut file sizes by 30%” is far more impressive than a lot of blather about “changing the game.” When it comes to references, case studies are great. Save the testimonials for consumer marketing.

Step 2. Scout the Team

“I have a CRM app for the iPhone. I’d like to talk to the analyst who covers iPhones.”

Some research firms are one-analyst boutiques. Others have more than 100 analysts covering pretty much everything. Regardless of size, no two firms view the world or distribute coverage the same way. Some firms might file your app under “salesforce automation,” while others might consider it “enterprise mobility.” It’s your job to determine how and where you fit before you ask for an analyst.

The good news is that you can discover most of the relevant information from the firm’s website. Firms usually break out coverage areas in their analyst bios, and if there’s a lot of overlap in a category like mobility, look at research abstracts. Note the titles and authors of the most relevant reports. When you contact the briefing coordinator, reference that research and ask if some of the authors might be available.

When you review the research, look for publication patterns. Does the firm offer a competitive roundup every third quarter, or maybe feature an up-and-coming vendor in a monthly newsletter? If you can time your briefing to synch with the firm’s research calendar, you’ll be a lot more helpful to the analysts who cover you.

Step 3. Nudge and Nod

Your job requires you to prod. Everyone understands that and no one is bothered by it – as long as you’re reasonable. Adding an analyst to your mailing list, calling periodically to ask about coverage opportunities, or otherwise staying in touch is actually helpful. But refusing to take “no” for an answer isn’t standing your ground. It’s seen as acting like a child.

As an analyst, I once turned down a briefing for a service that sounded pretty cool, but had nothing to do with the next few research papers on my schedule. Two days later, I received a call from a senior VP at the service’s PR firm apologizing for my previous rep’s behavior. The firm had moved her to a different client because she “obviously hadn’t communicated the full value of just how transformative this service is going to be.” At that point, I decided not to ever take a call from the company again.

Analysts exist to provide value for their clients - not the companies they cover. Ideally, the two can go hand in hand, but if you get turned down for an appointment, take it in stride. Calendars fill up, analysts travel, coverage areas aren’t a fit. Ask if you can reschedule, speak with another analyst or researcher, or maybe set up a Web meeting instead at a later time.

Whatever you do, don’t rush off in a huff. And always send a press packet and references, even if you feel rejected. Plant the seeds and water periodically. Eventually, something will grow.

Step 4. Have the Answers

Analysts ask questions. Be prepared to answer them. You might think this doesn’t need to be called out explicitly, but many companies simply aren’t ready for their analyst briefings.

Bring the staff you need to answer common questions, like “Will it integrate with x?" If that means bringing a sales engineer, bring a sales engineer, or at least have one waiting at the office by the phone. And always have a list of references printed out and ready. If you do need to resort to “We’ll get back to you,” be sure to do so. Quickly. Don’t expect the analyst to chase you.

Step 5. Become a Client

If you find an analyst who really gets your market and that analyst’s firm accepts vendor clients, consider signing up.

Clients have ongoing access to analysts and research, as well as the ability to schedule short strategy and Q&A sessions (depending on your contract). By spending time with and soliciting opinions from key analysts, you’ll learn about competitors' strengths and weaknesses, see exactly how you compare, and get some tips about pitching to other analyst firms along the way.

(Cormac Foster was a tech industry analyst at Jupiter Research, now part of Forrester. Be sure to read his Insider’s Guide to Technology Analysts.)


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