Surviving Conference Season: How to Thrive Via Digital AR

Digital Board
Credit: ilker, FreeImages

Every summer the conference season kicks off here in San Francisco, prompting many tech communications teams to ramp into overdrive. There are many large conferences every year – prominent examples in the second half of the year being VMworld, Oracle OpenWorld and Dreamforce. It’s a busy time for communications teams.

Digital communications strategies are (rightly) an expected component when it comes to planning communications for an event. Analyst Relations teams have historically been somewhat conflicted about the use of digital within AR events. This is for many reasons, but the main one is cultural: integrating digital into an AR event strategy can feel a little counter-intuitive for AR specialists. This is because much of the critical value analysts provide – candid insights, often confidential – takes place in behind-the-scenes conversations via inquiry calls, in-person meetings and strategic advisory sessions. Nonetheless, analysts are active on online channels and a digital strategy should be something that an AR team considers when planning an event.

Many of the strategies and tactics used by PR and social media teams are very transferable to digital AR plans for events. However, there are some clear differences that need to be considered first in order to run a first-class digital strategy. When planning, the below are essential ‘to dos’:

  • Matrix Participating Analysts: While many analysts are active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – some may be more active on a specific channel than others. Levels of social participation can also vary greatly from firm to firm and from analyst to analyst. If you have key analysts that have yet to catch the social media bug, then set expectations accordingly with your execs. Alternatively, if you know the majority of your key analysts prefer LinkedIn to Twitter, then factor that into the kinds of digital content you prep for your event. Prioritize activity around the analysts who are not only active on social media, but who base their business models and marketing strategies on being seen and heard on digital channels.
  • Assume Nothing, Ask Smart Questions: When prepping digital content, there’s no better way to plan for an analyst event than to actually ask analysts what they want to hear, what worked well last time and then follow their advice.Run a pre-event audit of your analysts – make sure you have the right execs, right customers and right content onsite to meet their research needs. Leverage inquiry access – either your own, or your PR agency’s – to speak with analysts and ensure that you’ve bullet proofed your agenda, topics and digital assets.There’s no better way to get analysts sharing and commenting on digital content than to ensure the topics discussed on the day interest them professionally.
  • Absolute Clarity on Sharable vs. Confidential Info: We’ve all heard the odd horror story about an analyst tweeting out confidential information – usually roadmap details or confidential customer info. It’s an AR pros worst nightmare. There’s no magic bullet here, but comms teams must cover all possible scenarios. Be clear on what’s sharable, and what absolutely needs to stay under NDA. Be sure to reference this clearly on slides and materials and always verbally re-emphasize what’s under NDA.Make sure attending analysts know they have to be on their very best digital behavior.
  • Thoughtful Content and Discussions Generate Online Commentary: This one sounds pretty obvious, but vendors sometimes become so over focused on their own product specific message, that they can accidentally side-step some really interesting industry centric discussions. Make sure you ask the analysts smart questions on what they’re seeing and hearing – and what their customers ask them about. Be sure to also give them relevant data points and graphics that they can share online with their followers. Remember that analysts care most about:
    • Solving the problems that their end user clients are dealing with
    • Successfully predicting trends and demystifying technologies
    • Level setting industry hype, with their own perspective

Digital content that addresses these areas will be intellectually compelling and highly sharable.

Are you running an industry analyst event for the first time this year? Not sure on where to start when executing your digital AR program? Feel free to email me at tris.clark@blancandotus.com

RSA 2015: Does the Security Industry Need a Reality Check?

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Thinkstock

Yes, it’s that time of year again: The RSA conference is the world’s flagship security technology tradeshow and later this month it will be back in San Francisco. To prepare for the event, the Blanc & Otus Analyst Relations team spoke with many prominent analysts regarding the likely hot topics at this year’s show. Several themes quickly emerged from those discussions – some of which vendors should be worried about:

Vendor marketing is increasingly diverging from reality: While powerful marketing is part and parcel of being a successful vendor, analysts are becoming increasingly fatigued with vendor hype within overcrowded segments. Expect to see more and more research notes countering vendor claims, especially on areas of contentious category creation. Many analysts told us that they increasingly see the show’s value as centering on various networking opportunities, rather than the content vendors provide during the show.

AR Recommendation: When approaching new narratives and messaging work, marketing and communications teams should be asking themselves: “How can we best tell compelling and useful stories?”

CISOs…sweating in the spotlight: The pace of high-profile breaches is increasing and security has never been higher up the boardroom agenda than it is today. While this attention may help the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) secure much-needed funding for security initiatives and technologies, it also increases pressure on them to deliver. Some CISOs do a fine job of explaining their strategies to their boards, peers and the broader company, but too many revert to the comfort zone of ‘speeds and feeds’ speak, and as a result they don’t address business risk succinctly and compellingly enough. This ultimately leads to a failure to secure the necessary behavioral changes at the cultural level, which drastically impacts their ability to deliver in the long term. With growing numbers of ‘non-IT’ executives running their own shadow IT investments beyond IT’s control, this challenge is only increasing.

AR Recommendation: When framing up sales enablement materials prior to launch, sales teams should ask themselves: “How can I help my clients succeed in winning hearts and minds within the business?”

The user politics of digital transformation are unstoppable: Technology has always been successful based on user acceptance at a behavioral and cultural level. This has always been a particular challenge for security teams who have historically wanted to lock assets down. However, the shift towards digital business models – based on cloud, mobile, social and Internet of Things-based technologies – means that old ‘lock down’ style security models simply aren’t feasible (if they ever were). While pioneering vendors are improving the usability of their solutions, they often do a much less compelling job when it comes to addressing the cultural, political and procedural impact of security technologies – specifically how security teams and processes can work with (rather than against) the business. To succeed, security must become invisible.

AR Recommendation: When creating content to support a product launch, product management teams must consider: “How do I articulate how this new technology changes the way the business operates?”

There are no easy answers here. Standing out from the crowd in 2015 – without being excessive – is a real challenge. However, vendors should keep themselves honest by running regular reality checks as the year progresses. Remember:

  • Narrative Always Trumps Messaging – It’s great to have a well-crafted product message, but that hard work is wasted if the broader narrative it sits within isn’t also working. A great narrative generates interesting viral conversations by generating questions and answers that can play back to product strengths. Does the narrative gel with the end user’s experience and situation? Messages need roots.
  • Authenticity Has Never Mattered More – Yes, perceptions matter, but ultimately it is reality and the facts on the ground that makes or breaks careers. Be sure you can stand out with a smart idea, but you must also stand by your claim and own it. Does the excitement of the initial concept marry the possible with the probable?
  • Research Hard, Fail Fast and Re-iterate – Research can make all the difference, turning early adversity into future opportunity. Take a DevOps approach to your communications activities – use analyst inquiry and messaging sessions to quickly develop Kevlar for your Narrative prior to launch. Better to fail early, and then quickly re-iterate your way to success, than continue with an approach that’s not working.

So what’s got you excited about this year’s RSA? If you have an RSA story to share, or want to discuss how analysts can help bulletproof your story then drop me a line at tris.clark@blancandotus.com.

In The Tech Trenches: Analyst Interviews – Alan Pelz-Sharpe, 451 Research

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, 451 Research
Alan Pelz-Sharpe, 451 Research

As we’d previously written in our last AR blog: Analyze This: Getting to Know Industry Analysts, the Blanc & Otus Analyst Relations team is launching In The Tech Trenches: Analyst Interviews. In The Tech Trenches is a recurring Q&A with analysts from around the world in which they share insights about their firm, talk about their research plans and give tips on how the comms community can best engage with them. For our inaugural interview, we were delighted to speak with Alan Pelz-Sharpe from 451 Research.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe
Research Director for Social Business Applications
451 Research
Based in Boston

What drew you to a career as an analyst and what do you enjoy most about your role?

It was sheer accident or divine intervention, depending on your particular point of view. I was coming to the end of a long business process consulting project in 1998 and was looking for a job, I saw an odd advertisement from a firm called Ovum looking for a ‘Document Management’ expert, and as I was the only person I knew that even knew what Document Management was, I figured I should apply. Somehow I got the job and then faced the biggest and most daunting learning curve and air mile accumulation process of my life!

The combined challenge of spotting emerging trends and disruptions, deeply researching them, and then articulating all of it into a digestible way – this continues to energize me. It’s an incredibly hard job to do well, and it comes with a lot of responsibility – my ‘advice’ impacts investment and also hiring and firing decisions each year. I take that responsibility very seriously, and try to drill into my staff the importance of accuracy, fair opinion and never ever resorting to being snarky or taking easy shots. In the process you talk with the tech world’s movers and shakers, get involved in fascinating strategic planning and deal situations, travel the world and meet with some of the smartest folk on the planet. It’s the best job I have ever had.

How does your firm differentiate itself from other analyst firms?

At 451 and my Social Business Applications in particular, we are focused squarely on innovation and future disruption. We are differentiated by the fact that we are a major analyst firm (much bigger than many seem to realize over 100 analysts and influencing over $160B in tech investments over the past five years) that spends a lot of time looking at early stage startups, we are often the first and only analyst firm many have speak to. We don’t have a Quadrant or a Wave (nothing wrong with that, we just have a different approach), nor a checklist of requirements for inclusion. To speak with us you just have to be doing something interesting and different that we – and by extension our client base (forward-looking large enterprises and investors) are going to be interested in knowing about. Due to the sheer volume of small vendors, we act as a filter of sorts to identify the future successes.

Describe your firm’s client base – which type of executives typically subscribe to your services?

As 451 Research has grown over the years the client base has changed – today we seem to attract larger enterprises (over 10,000 employees) in particular. These tend to be firms that have dedicated strategy teams, and IT Directors that want first mover advantage over their competitors, yet they are also firms that have hugely complex IT infrastructures, Global Data Centers, decommissioning and migration challenges, etc. – they like the sheer volume of research and data we generate (we generate a lot!). They also like the ease of access they have to chat to the analysts, and that fact that we are happy to provide actionable feedback. We have also traditionally had a strong client base in both the startup and its related investor community.

What kinds of questions are you getting most frequently from your clients these days? And what kinds of questions do you think they should be asking more often?

Questions trend over time of course but right now, I am taking questions sets from two different but complimentary areas. On the practical nitty-gritty side of things, questions about how to migrate from and even decommission legacy business applications and file shares effectively. Nothing new in terms of topic but the volume of requests here has jumped. On the other side of the equation are questions regarding future of business applications, micro apps, micro tasks, leveraging crowds, intelligent information management and dynamic supply chains. So our inquiry calls increasingly involve analysts from other 451 teams such as Security, Wearables, Dev Ops and Mobility.

Which developments in the world of technology interest you the most today? And which key trends have not received the attention they deserve? 

Personally I am interested in the outer edge/fringe opportunities and challenges for Enterprise Social. I’m thinking here of Micro Tasking and Crowd Computing. Also analyzing customer and employee behaviors and trends. I think that technologies such as Machine Learning, Predictive Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence get good analyst coverage. However, the implications, legal complexity, ethical challenges and the future use and impact of these technologies in the workplace does not.  

Are you launching any new services at the moment, or changing existing offerings?

We are launching a major new service that has been in the works for over a year – detailed market sizing, monitoring and analysis of a number of Social Business sectors – Enterprise Collaboration & Social, Marketing Automation and Web Experience Management. We will be expanding this out to more areas incrementally over the coming year. We also just finished up our Software 2015 M&A Report, which is one of our most important reports of the year. Over the next few quarters – and through the rest 2015 – we will be looking at expanding coverage in disruptive areas of human resource management and crowd computing. Our focus shifts as the market shifts.

What has your experience been historically when interacting with AR, PR and marketing teams?

Very mixed, though there are some stars out there – I enjoy working with the folks at Box, Adobe, Salesforce, EMC, OpenText, etc., all of which have a well-oiled AR machine. But as much more of my time is with startups, the challenge is that they don’t have AR and rely instead on PR agencies. PR agencies are often incentivized to get stuff published, so we come at the briefing with different agendas. We give our thoughts and opinions pretty openly in briefings and can often give a startup a perspective or competitive insight they would normally not have access to. Whilst in turn we get insight into somebody doing something interesting that may impact the market at a future point. Whether that results in anything publishable to our subscribers is a different story; PR firms often don’t value that kind of interaction.

What is the most common mistake that vendors make when they interact with you?

Either they give me the standard sales pitch, or they are expecting one from me. In both cases we are off to a bad start. Particularly annoying is when a vendor ‘explains’ to me the market sector that I cover for a living. I’m happy to have a discussion on our different perspectives but not keen on being lectured. Similarly when I request a briefing on a new product or service and then get one hour’s worth of a startup insulting all their competitors, then things aren’t going well.

My requirements are simple. Tell me about your company, why you exist, the specific problem you solve, and how you solve that problem differently than previous attempts have or do?

What do you like to do to relax when you’re not doing the day job?

I have a small but active side career as an actor (voice and screen) and that takes me completely out of my day job persona and challenges me on so many levels (I studied Method Acting); this in turn relaxes me. Odd, I know…

Blanc & Otus AR Commentary and Key Takeaways

Thank you very much, Alan, for taking the time to share these insights with us. 2015 is looking like a very productive year for the team at 451 Research! Alan raises many great points that vendors should take to heart. Having heard Alan’s perspectives, some related takeaways we’d particularly like to emphasize for vendor communications teams to consider:

  • Briefings – The Need for Focus and Clarity on Capabilities: During briefings with analysts, vendors must (succinctly) outline the problems they can solve. As Alan mentions, this time is best spent focusing on their own differentiation and crucially – the resolution of a customer challenge vs. just critiquing a competitor’s offering. Sharing useful data and relevant insight with the analyst is crucial in delivering a valuable briefing and is a key step in building a lasting relationship with the analyst (something many PR firms do badly). Don’t forget to also ask the analyst for their opinion!
  • Technology’s Societal Impact – Tech vendors often dive into the widgets, speeds and feeds – forgetting to address the human, legal and cultural impact that technology has on workplaces and home. The societal impact of technology is one of the most compelling stories a vendor can tell, if they do it right. Our advice to vendors is to be clear on your narrative and message – ensure you relate these back to problem resolution for the customer.
  • Gauging Vendor Viability – Industry analysts can play a valuable part in contextualizing and clarifying a vendor’s prospects and viability. This insight can be invaluable information for financial analysts and investors who are looking to source market data for their financial models, or validate an investment strategy. For this reason it’s also important that vendors’ Analyst Relations teams work closely with their Investor Relations colleagues. Remember, analysts talk to each other!

We’ll see you next month for the second edition of In The Tech Trenches.

Analyze This: Getting to Know Industry Analysts

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Thinkstock

Industry analysts play a key part in the world of IT. Put simply, they share expert insights with clients, media and investors on how businesses and consumers can take advantage of existing and emerging technologies. Their perspectives impact million-dollar tech deals – a Blanc and Otus and H+K Strategies study found that industry analysts (along with peer-driven word of mouth) are the top driver of B2B tech adoption – but their influence is not always fully understood by communications teams.

This lack of understanding can negatively impact an entire communications program and is a particular problem at this time of year when communication teams are preparing to brief analysts at events like Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and RSA in San Francisco. Some key questions to consider before baking in your analyst relations (AR) strategy for the year include: how can I ensure that I am briefing the right analysts on the right topics? What can I do to really maximize the value of analysts for my stakeholders in the product strategy, marketing, PR and sales teams?

While many communications teams do a solid job covering the basics with ‘outbound’ briefings, many still fail to capitalize on the wealth of ‘inbound’ insights that analysts can bring to the table through inquiries, strategy days and consulting projects. It’s a common talking point within AR circles, and analyst firms comment on it too. When framing up any communications and marketing strategy, it’s important to know each analyst firm’s specialties, client base and the methodologies they use to analyze product markets. Getting to also know the analysts as individuals – dislikes, likes and their interpretations of a market space – is also very important.

Never a shy bunch, the AR team here at Blanc and Otus are big fans of sharing insights and best practice with others. As a result, we’ll shortly be launching  ‘In The Tech Trenches: Analyst Interviews,’ a recurring Q&A with analysts from around the world. For each interview we invite a guest analyst to tell us about their firm, speak about their research agenda and share insight on how vendors can best engage with them. We’ll also be offering our own perspective on key things vendors should bear in mind when planning AR strategies and briefing analysts.  We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be kicking off our very first Q&A interview with 451 Research’s Alan Pelz-Sharpe in the coming month.

Not sure which analysts you should be speaking with? Wondering how you can best leverage analyst insights before, during and after an industry event? Then drop me a line at tris.clark@blancandotus.com.

Gartner Symposium: Our Recommendations for Analyst Relations

The future of tech is in our hands. (Thinkstock)
The future of tech is in our hands. (Thinkstock)

At Gartner Symposium last week, Gartner posed a suggested golden rule for those making technology decisions: ‘How would you like to be treated as a customer, citizen and a human being?’ We’d agree that’s a great maxim to work towards as all of these exciting technologies intersect and change life as we know it. For technology vendors we’d make the following suggestions when reviewing Gartner’s predictions and guidance:

  • Keep Your Eye on the Long Game: While no one analyst firm has a monopoly on wisdom, Gartner does have an intimate grasp on the challenges and opportunities facing the Fortune 500 (the majority of its client base). As a result, Gartner’s views should be a key consideration in any technology vendor’s overall business strategy for 2015. Notice that I don’t just say the communications strategy here – true AR should also impact business strategy, positioning and product roadmaps.
  • Assume Nothing – Retain an Inquiring Mind: The facts on the ground can change quickly. Be sure to run regular inquiry and audits with your key analysts to ensure you make company decisions based on the best possible information you have available. Analysts can help identify where your offering is experiencing issues, and offer the first steps on possible solutions. Work with your AR team to make sure you engage the right analysts on the right topics.
  • Develop a Roadmap and Matrix for Your Messages: Many technology vendors have to balance reaching their traditional IT audience (CIOs, IT Directors) with newer emerging ones (Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Chief HR Officers, etc). Clearly, concepts and messages need to be tailored differently for a CMO or Head of HR than they would for traditional IT. Run message test sessions with analysts to ensure your message resonates as intended.

What was your key takeaway from this year’s Symposium? We’d be keen to hear your perspective. Please feel free to contact me at: tclark@blancandotus.com.

Analyst Relations: How to Get the Most Out of Gartner Symposium

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Thinkstock

Every year Gartner runs its Symposium event in Orlando. Symposium is the key event in the Analyst Relations calendar, due to the sheer number of analysts, vendors and high-level speakers attending. It’s also a great chance to hear Gartner brief the AR community on its latest research methodologies, changes and AR best practices. If you are new to the Symposium experience, here are some topline recommendations on how to get the most out of your time there:

  • Maximize the value of 1:1s – Ensure any 1:1 meetings with analysts are a genuinely good fit with your area of focus or the problem you are looking to solve. There’s nothing worse for either party than a discussion that is light on relevance. Be sure to give them opening context on what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation, especially if they’re not familiar with you, or your challenges. Often analysts are meeting attendees for the first time, so context is king.
  • Plan sessions carefully – As the venue is large and spread across multiple campuses, travel time can be a factor in attending sessions. Be sure to plan enough time between sessions for travel (especially if you’re new to the Symposium experience).  Gartner’s handy agenda builder will help you plan ahead.
  • Talk with CIOs for their reaction to analyst and vendor presentations  It’s one thing to hear what analysts and competitors have to say about tech trends. It’s quite another to observe how CIOs are reacting to those messages. When are they most engaged? When are they rolling their eyes in disbelief? This event provides a rare opportunity for message testing and trying out new angles. It also gives you a glimpse into where Gartner is – and isn’t – hitting its mark with the tech-buying crowd. Take advantage of it!
  • Seek out the unusual – Gartner Symposium sessions cover a wide range of topics. Often there will be novel presentations that look at the tech industry through a fresh lens – Gartner’s Maverick research notes are a great example of out of the box thinking. Gartner is particularly good at approaching topics from a high level, especially when it touches on the intersection of technology and decision maker politics and behaviors.

One great example from last year’s event was Tina Nunno’s session on CIO’s finding their inner Wolf (by learning the lessons of Machiavelli) in order to succeed politically in an organization. It was an excellent example of the political and emotional context of technology decision making. As well as being insightful, it was also very funny, and clearly resonated with the CIOs in attendance.

This year, Gartner’s introducing ‘Espresso’ sessions – quick fire presentations that are deliberately designed to be edgy and provocative. Examples of topics include: ‘Digital Ethics, or How Not to Mess Up With Technology’ and ‘The Next Digital Disruption Will Be the Human Brain: Is Your Organization Ready for Neurobusiness?’ I’m sure they will spur on a good deal of debate among attendees.

  • Intelligent networking – No, I’m not referencing some kind of new IT network delivery system, but Symposium is a great place to network with lots of smart AR folks. The Gartner Analyst Relations Forum is always well worth attending and is a must for anyone who has AR as part of their responsibilities. It provides a great macro update of Gartner’s latest plans, with many AR pros swapping anecdotes and comparing notes over drinks afterwards.

If you have any questions on getting the most out of Symposium, or how to best approach analyst events in general, please do get in touch with me at tclark@blancandotus.com.

XTC 6/24 – Must Be Season of the Pitch: Avoiding Hype and Hyperbole during Hype Cycle Summer

Credit: Stallio / Flickr
Credit: Stallio / Flickr

It’s hype season again. First, Mary Meeker comes out with her annual “the world is growing at a mind-blowing pace” Internet trends report. Next, pundit after pundit uses those stats in the latest pitch decks to media, analysts and VCs to prove up their own market leadership and thought leadership positions. And each of those decks includes varying shades of hyperbole to break through the white noise.

And then, between June and August, Gartner publishes a series of Hype Cycles that puts it all into context. With a separate hype cycle for more than 100 technology markets, these reports serve as a massively helpful reality check against big promises from tech vendors. It’s worth tracking. (My personal favorite is the Emerging Technology Hype Cycle, which is a terrific time-saver for staying on top of the latest technologies and the pros and cons associated with each one. The 2014 one is due out in August.)

But as is true of so much research, the trick is knowing how to interpret the data. Most hype cycles are used by tech purchasers or investors to help assess the risks and pitfalls inherent in any given tech segment. But there is a more creative application for tech marketers—to use the hype cycle as fodder for no-nonsense thought leadership campaigns. Here’s how to do it at each stage of the cycle:

  • Technology Trigger. Something is invented and debuted among a small set of geeks and investors. Expectations start low, and the real question is how this technology will disrupt existing technologies as it matures. This is the “next big thing” phase. Here the communications strategy is to illustrate the most likely ways genuine disruption will show up. How will it impact existing technologies and business models?
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations. Something is promoted to the market, usually over-hyped, and positioned as a game-changer. Expectations exceed reality, and the definition of this new thing and what it’s supposed to be is stretched in multiple different directions by different vendors. Here the communications strategy is to challenge myths, guide the public as to how to protect themselves from later disappointments, and establish yourself as a voice of reason.
  • Trough of Disillusionment. Something is deployed in the market by early adopters and a few fast followers, and implementation challenges begin to arise. Expectations are not met, and people begin to complain about the technology. Vendors and solutions are swapped out, and the people who chose these technologies are questioned internally. Here the communications strategy is to leverage your “voice of reason” position to explain how to protect your existing investment in this new technology and make it work in the real world.
  • Slope of Enlightenment. People either adjust their approach or their expectations or both, and this new technology becomes more intelligently deployed. Expectations begin to normalize against the reality of this technology.  Here the communications strategy is to celebrate the customers who were the first to figure out the proper use and expectations for this technology.
  • Plateau of Productivity. Here the technology reaches mass adoption and begins to become commoditized and/or ubiquitously included in other platforms. Expectations are completely in line with performance, and excitement levels are minimal. Not much is newsworthy in this phase except for price pressure and all that commoditization brings. The communications strategy here is to look back at technologies in the Technology Trigger phase and see what new innovations will come along to refresh and disrupt the existing technological norm.

So as we enter Hype Cycle season, keep an eye on Gartner’s point of view on hyperbole and overpromising in your tech sector, and take this opportunity to rise above!

Avoid Death by PowerPoint: The Anatomy of a Great Analyst Briefing

Credit: Gareth Saunders
Credit: Gareth Saunders

At this time of year many vendors go into overdrive as GartnerForrester, IDC and other industry analyst firms update their vendor landscape analysis reports. A lot of analysts, and analyst relations professionals, have their own take on what constitutes a great deck, but ex-Forrester analyst Chenxi Wang recently wrote a great blog post on how to design a deck for an analyst briefing.

Of course, vendors never mean to give bad briefings, but many do end up shooting themselves in the foot by either trying to ‘sell’ to the analyst as they would to a customer, or by packing in too much content. Analysts typically recommend between five to ten slides, but we all know that corporate decks rarely stay within that range and can quickly become 20, 30 or even 40 slides deep.

Ultimately, as with any communications activity, you’re telling a story—in this case for someone who is very busy handling multiple inquiries and briefings each day. Brevity, relevance and impact matter hugely. So how do you make a story that appeals to a busy analyst? Here are three bits of advice I’d encourage everyone to follow when briefing an analyst:

  • It’s Not About You: For an analyst, the primary purpose of being briefed by a vendor is to gain insight into how that vendor might be able to resolve a challenge that their clients face, and (on a smaller scale) to source intelligence on market trends for their research. One good trick here is to put yourself in the analyst’s shoes and interrogate each of your slides as a third-party viewer would.
  • Dialogue Not Monologue: Analysts are experts and they can be frustrated if vendors do not take heed of their advice. Check that they’re still awake every few slides by asking thoughtful questions! Seriously though, be sure to engage with their feedback when they choose to give it. If they disagree with you, don’t argue; discuss. Dig deeper on why they have that point of view. And always remember that a hero’s journey is a cycle, with challenges to overcome.
  • Think Holistically: Get your key ‘takeaways’ in early. Focus their attention straight off the bat. Frame content in terms of business problems, and how you think customers can best solve that problem. Nothing kills a narrative—or analyst interest—faster than uninhibited technicality, jargon and detail. To be sure, analysts will sometimes want to dive into technical specifics, but you should start high up and then let their questioning guide you.

What’s your favorite technique when briefing analysts? Feel free to contact me with opinions and questions at tclark@blancandotus.com or tweet at me at @TrisClarkARGuy.