Monthly Archives: June 2010

What is Analyst Relations and is it relevant anymore?

During my life I have worked at a Forrester Research as well as in the hi tech marketing world where I leveraged and managed services from similar market research companies.  Anyone who has worked in the technology space – either buying or selling the technology – is very familiar with the companies: Gartner, Forrester, AMR Research, ARC advisory, Aberdeen Group, Ventana Research, IDC, Jupiter Group, Meta, Giga, or Yankee Group  just to name a few. All these firms really emerged from the industry that Gartner and Yankee started back in the 1980s, the former looking at IT issues riding the wave of Digital Equipment, IBM and Wang while the former tackled the telecom space. Many of the other firms were founded by former Gartner or Yankee employees, the market research world is very incestuous!

Of course technology vendors are very familiar with the game we all play with these firms. We want to ensure they say good things about us so that when Proctor&Gamble or Toyota or Dow Chemical calls they will ensure we get short listed and better yet touted as the best solution and only option on the market! As vendors caught on to this game they realized they needed to tackle this with a dedicated resource or team of Analyst Relations professionals (something vendors with online communities need to replicate see my post from June 14 ) AR professionals were tasked with engaging with specific firms and analysts to ensure proper aka favorable, coverage. Many times the amount of money spent with firms was thought to have a direct correlation with level of coverage. Sometimes it did sometimes it did not. As time and the market has evolved and become more savvy, this pay for play model fizzled out.

What became more important was the ability of the AR community to build a true relationship with the relevant analysts. Analysts appreciated AR professionals that would share the inside scoop or gave them and advanced overview of a big announcement. Now, sometime companies would regret this sharing when the comments and insight ended up in a report. However good AR professionals took the time to learn the analyst community, who they could share sensitive information with and which analysts were just megaphones waiting for any “juicy” piece of inside information. A well developed relationship would start working both ways, with analysts being more open with that company, freer with some information shared and overall more of a strategic partner. So what does this mean in a world where market research firms have dwindled? Forrester went out and acquired Jupiter and Giga, Gartner has gobbled up AMR Research and Meta Group finally Aberdeen was acquired by Harte Hankes. Meanwhile the independents have only continued to spring up – that being analysts putting out their own shingle. With the explosion of Web 2.0 tools this has never been simpler. Look at what some former Forrester analysts have down with Altimeter Group…

Are AR teams still important? Can they play a role in a world that seems to be consolidating? I will say a resounding yes. I think having a solid AR team has never been more crucial. Why? With free blogging tools and Twitter more independents and more individuals will be sharing their experience and thoughts about technology and vendors! Hey look at this blog! So technology vendors must have an even keener eye monitoring and developing relationships with those in traditional market research firms but also with the blogosphere. In addition, one must keep good relationships with analysts at established firms because there is not much between them and becoming an independent still sharing their thoughts via blogs and twitter…

A good AR team will allow vendors to maintain positive relationships and open lines of communications. The trick is, once an analyst becomes independent they are not under a corporate umbrella that still has certain rules. Nor a corporate umbrella that a vendor can threaten to “pull the plug” on a contract if analysts are not checked. Now granted, some independents might rely even more on vendor revenue, but they tend not to be publicly traded firms – like a Forrester or Gartner – that needs to answer to Wall Street every 3 months!

So if you are thinking you no longer need AR, think again. Instead give your AR team greater responsibility to managing relationships in the blogosphere, while they will always need to manage and negotiate the contracts with traditional firms, they will need to pay greater attention to what is being said by single voices in cyberspace that can be easily found via Google, Bing or Technorati…

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To build or not build an online community?

A topic that many companies are gravitating to is the act of building and managing online communities. With tools such as Ning, Facebook, Linkedin as well as “old” online tools like email, the ability for companies to create and manage communities has become a must do for many marketing organizations. However do too many companies rush to create communities before understanding what their goals are for the community?

I have heard on many occasions the following – “We have an online community with 500 members! Success!” or we are starting a Facebook page and have “1000 fans!” Success!! I then ask the question, so what? What are you doing with this group?

Too often that is met with a somewhat blank stare or a simple – well we send them updates and press releases.Okay that is a start but a great opportunity is missed. So a couple of thoughts on good communities:

  1. What is your goal? Okay this seems obvious but too often over looked and not really given enough analysis. Is your goal to bring your existing customers a forum for discussion, do you want to elicit feedback on problems or product usage or have your community assist your product road map. Do you want your community to become a sales tool – have prospects experience a “day with” via the community? You need to be laser focused on what the goal is for your community. Do not feel as if you need to have one catch all community either. You might have a community built around certain verticals you target and cover, around a solution area, geography, or a whole host of other targeted groups. Depending on your goal will depend on who you will want to target to be part of the community.
  2. Who do you want to be in the community? Based on the above, you will need to determine who to target. Is this community open to all or is it targeting a niche audience? Do you want to engage with decision makers, influencers, thought leaders or external pundits? At times in the pursuit of numbers we forget that the quality is more important than the quantity. Clearly understanding the goal of the community will allow you to identify who should be part of that community – who you are targeting as a passive audience and who could be an active audience. Also do not feel as if the majority of the community will need to be actively participating – some might just see it as a source of information, that is fine. However you will want to target some part that can be engaged actively.
  3. What will make your community relevant? Based on the above 2 thoughts, what will make your community relevant and “sticky.” With the deluge of places we can become part of a group, many of us find ourselves part of dozens upon dozens of communities, so what makes a handful stick out? Why do I have to go to that community portal on a regular basis? For example, many professional communities I am a part of on Linkedin offer a job board, great resource! Unfortunately some get so much “spam” – aka “Join this group and learn to work from home!” – type posts it devalues the job board. Other groups I get articles from that are clearly being pushed by a vendor who is seeding the same content on as many groups/communities as it can. What value is that bringing? Before embarking on a community effort, be very clear as to what collateral and content will make it a go to place for your members. Re-purposed press releases will not cut it.
  4. Who is in charge here? This might seem obvious, but too often there is not a member of the marketing team that is responsible for the maintenance, direction, structure and on going leadership of the community. As the old saying goes – you get what you pay for. If you decide to turn over the community to someone who already has a full plate of responsibilities, guess what…community activity will not be what they need to be. If you feel like all you need to do is blindly push content to members – press releases or 3rd party articles to name some blind content – and then wonder why no one is engaging with you actively look at who is in charge. Or not in charge. Your community is just like your PR or AR or IR efforts – a full time job. If you want to maximize the results from that community you need a full time content savvy employee managing the process. This person needs to be given the responsibility to manage this entity with clear goals in mind: get 2 community members to act as sales references, secure 4 by line articles fro community members over the year or secure a 10% increase in membership of people with the X titles – to name some possible goals.

Communities are nothing new, we have had these groups in our personal lives and business lives since the dawn of time. However with new Web 2.0 technologies – Facebook, Linkedin, Ning to name a few – the ability to organize virtually, share thoughts and ideas have never been easier nor as far reaching. However with this comes the added need to ensure the content, value creation and purpose of these communities be clearly defined, constantly worked on and given the proper attention it deserves. Otherwise you will just get a nice mailing list or people that will ignore your emails just like you ignore the emails from a long lost cousin in Asia who wants to give you a percentage of their billionaire father in laws fortune!

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Welcome to the Thinking Frog

I want to welcome everyone to my blog, the thinking frog. I have another blog – the beantownfrog  – that is all about the beautiful game aka footy aka soccer. This blog will cover another area of interest, one that has provide myself with a paycheck for most of my professional life – I will share some thoughts and best practices on marketing, business and general thoughts.

I look forward to engaging in some in depth conversations.

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