Planning and Measurement: more than activities, these are essential components of effective AR

SageCircle - connection between planning and measurementTop-performing analyst relations (AR) programs follow a simple model: 

  1. Define the results they want to achieve
  2. Define and execute a set of activities designed to achieve the stated results
  3. Measure progress

This approach not only helps to keep the program focused, it is critical for gaining and maintaining executive sponsorship and support.  Executives do not have time to learn the details and nuances of AR operations. They could care less how many briefings AR performs, how many e-mails were sent, or how many analyst requests the AR team supports. Executives want to know

  1. What are the business-relevant results the AR program will deliver
  2. Does the AR program have a plan (or is it flying by the seat of its pants)
  3. Is the plan reasonable
  4. How will the program prove its impact

Many AR programs lament their lack of strong executive support, yet have not committed the time necessary to develop the key ingredient for executive sponsorship, a pragmatic […]

The process for developing an AR Strategic & Tactical Plan

SageCircle's AR strategic & tactical plan processCreating a comprehensive AR plan is a significant undertaking, with myriad steps and details. To accomplish this work in an efficient and effective manner — and to ensure nothing falls through the cracks — AR teams should follow a process similar to the one depicted in the graphic (click to enlarge). 

Going through a formal process is worth the effort. We have seen clients’ AR programs receive more headcount and budget when other departments in their companies face cutbacks in tough economic environments. Why? Because these AR programs had realistic AR plans that focused on delivering business value (including sales support which is prized in recessions) that could be measured.

SageCircle Technique:

This AR planning process has six discrete steps (numbered items relate to numbered circles on the diagram):

  1. Assess your AR program. This step helps identify opportunities to build on existing programs and to improve weak or non-existent areas
  2. Align AR goals with overall corporate objectives to prove AR’s value and to make timely adjustments based on business needs
  3. Build outreach programs and activities to accomplish […]

Gathering data for measuring analyst impact on sales

AR Metrics & MeasurementSageCircle research shows that overall analysts have a significant impact on IT buyers.  However,  each vendor in the community often has only a general perception of how much the analysts have an impact on their sales. Often, the perception is formed more by anecdotal information than systematic research, with stories filtering up from individual sales representatives about analysts negatively influencing deals. Vendors that do systematic research on analyst influence discover the broad and deep influence, both positive and negative, that the analysts have on deals. Analyst relations (AR) teams with a goal to become more strategic should institute a formal program for gathering sales impact data. 

Unfortunately, it is not a simple task to gather sales impact data. If it was easy, then everybody would already be doing so. There are many factors that contribute to the difficulty in gathering sales data including:

  • Multiple types of data
  • Multiple potential sources of data
  • Multiple points within a sales cycle when an analyst could impact a deal
  • Lack of institutional relationship with the company’s leads management and sales teams
  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of formal measurement plan
  • Lack of bandwidth to do the work

While there are these barriers, none of them are so difficult to overcome that AR should not even try to […]

How third parties can help with data collection

AR Metrics & MeasurementAs was mentioned in Out-tasking AR Activities, measurement work is a prime candidate for out-tasking. There are various firms that can assist AR programs with measurement program design, gathering, and analyzing data. Some examples include: 

Measurement program designSageCircle has proven intellectual property and templates to help AR teams set up practical and effective measurement programs.

ARchitectTM ARinsights‘ collaborative application and integrated database makes data collection, querying, and reporting easy. AR practitioners can accomplish in seconds what used to take hours of manual effort. SageCircle strategists are experts in how to leverage ARchitect as part of a measurement program.

Spoken Word Audits A variety of firms provide services which are similar to SageCircle’s suggested technique for Spoken Word Audits. The Spoken Word Audit uncovers what analysts are saying about your products/services to end-users during […]

Making Data Collection for Measurement Practical [AR Practitioner Question]

AR Metrics & MeasurementQuestion:  How do you make data collection easier for AR measurement programs?

This question gets to the heart of the measurement challenge-if it is too difficult to do, it will not get done.  Making data collection practical involves selecting the right mix of metrics, leveraging outside resources, and automating many tasks.

[This post focuses on the data collection aspects of an effective measurement program.  Therefore, the following related topics will not be addressed 1) picking and prioritizing the right metrics, 2) distinguishing between operational and performance metrics, and 3) using metrics to track performance against pre-defined goals.  For discussion of these topics, please see Online SageContentTM Library series “Metrics and Program Measurement.”]

SageCircle Technique:

  • Selecting the Right Mix of Metrics. First, to make data collection practical, you must pick metrics that meet measurement program goals (e.g. track what you want to measure) and are easy and cost-effective to generate (e.g. data collection requires moderate/minimal effort). Be clear on what you want to measure and collect only that data so you can encourage AR team participation. However, do not reject metrics that initially appear difficult to collect. New options to out-task and automate may make collection easier than you think.
  • Leveraging Outside Resources (Out-Tasking). Out-tasking is a variation of out-sourcing, but instead of contracting out a significant part of your AR program (which SageCircle rarely recommends) this technique refers to contracting out an activity or task. Out-tasking is especially appropriate for activities that are […]

Monitoring Analyst Opinion within the Context of Measurement

AR Metrics & MeasurementCounting analyst mentions is often an operational metric.  However, it is a very incomplete measurement because counting mentions typically does not consider the intensity, the exposure, the focus, the alignment, or the accuracy of the opinion; all critical factors in determining the net impact of an opinion on shaping market perception and influencing buying decisions. If you consider these other attributes it can become a form of performance metric  because it can demonstrate that AR reached out to the analyst and communicated information for them. 

In order to move beyond an at-best tactical performance metric such as counting mentions to something more strategic, AR needs to elevate its focus by tracking opinions and data points (relevance, perception, net impact, etc.) over time on a more regular basis.  Monitoring opinion can help AR understand the effectiveness of its work by tracking whether opinions are improving over time. For instance, merely counting that there were 20 quotes per quarter in Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 indicates little on AR effectiveness. However, tracking that overall opinion in those four quarters went from very negative in Q1 to negative in Q2 to neutral in Q3 and positive in Q4 shows that AR has been very effective in understanding the positions of the analysts and presenting the company’s case to them.

It is our recommendation that AR programs do not settle for simply counting mentions in the press and research notes, but move to include analyst opinion monitoring. However, in the spirit of making data collection practical, this does not mean that […]

How much to spend on analyst contracts [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgInquiry: SageCircle received the following inquiry via e-mail: “Is our use/cost of the major analyst firms at about industry standard or better – especially as it relates to analyst contracts?”

“Are we spending the right amount on analyst contracts?” is a common question that SageCircle receives. This is one of a group of “standards” or “benchmarks” inquiries (see The Size of the AR Team [AR practitioner question]) that many AR managers wrestle with, often in response to their management’s demands for justification for budgets. While clients want us to provide a simple rule-of-thumb for analyst contracts (e.g., as a percentage of vendor revenue), we cannot provide it. Through our research, we have discovered that comparable vendors (in terms of markets, total revenues and number of employees) can have dramatically different analyst contract requirements.

The more important questions that need to be answered are: “Are the contracts providing us the services we need to reach our defined goals?  Are we managing the contracts to get full value? 

For end users clients, usually IT managers at large enterprises, the answers are much more clear cut. Even though enterprises use analysts for a variety of purposes (see Why technology buyers use the IT industry analysts), these purposes basically fall into either strategic and tactical decision support. Thus, spending can be focused on active topics and activities, especially where internal expertise is not available.

How much IT and telecommunications vendors spend on analyst contracts is dependent on a variety of factors. In this SageCircle blog post, we will focus on identifying the factors.

Breadth of usage – How many different functions in the company will analyst research and advice be supporting? The broader the usage, the more […]

Defining “Analyst Relations”

When you meet someone new in a social setting the topic often turns to “so where do you work? What do you do?”  Do you struggle with explaining Analyst Relations?

Many AR programs cannot give an “elevator pitch” on AR. You should have this available for not only those social settings, but also to explain your expertise to others in your company.  Here is a quick definition of AR that can be used when explaining what AR does:

“Analyst Relations takes advantage of the unique influence that the IT industry analysts have with our prospects and customers to help drive revenues. Analyst Relations works to influence analyst opinions regarding our company and our products to increase positive coverage in analyst research publications and analyst media quotes. Through briefings, inquiries, newsletters, AR portals, analyst firm events, and other tactics, we work to constantly maintain top-of-mind status with key analysts, so our company and products are frequently recommended by the analyst community.

As a corollary charter, Analyst Relations works with […]