Insights from Forrester’s CEO presentation at an investor conference

This analysis does not look at areas of interest to investors, but seeks to pull out insights that are relevant to clients and prospects of Forrester Research, the number two advisory analyst firm, as well as communications and IT vendor analyst relations (AR) teams.

logo-forrester.gifForrester Research (NASDAQ: FORR) Chairman & CEO George Colony (Twitter, blog) and CFO Michael Doyle presented (replay available for approximately 90 days) at the William Blair & Co. Emerging Growth Stock Conference on Tuesday, October 6, 2009. Because the presentation was oriented toward investors that might not know much about Forrester, instead of the usual Wall Street analysts on quarterly earnings calls, there were some tid-bits of intelligence useful for clients and AR. 

A large number of diverse data points but spread thin: One of the advantages that a large analyst firm has is that its analysts can – not always – have access to a large number of formal and informal data points to include in research and use with end user clients during inquiries. Forrester revealed that its analysts conduct 3,500 vendor briefings, 16,800 inquiries, 250,000 consumer survey responses, and 10,000 large company survey responses.

Sounds like huge numbers, right? Actually these numbers might not seem so impressive when the average per analyst is calculated. Forrester currently lists 193 analysts, not including research associates and researchers. That means that the average number of inquiries per analyst is only 87 per year or seven (7) per month. Of course that is the average, which means that some analysts will be doing much less than the average, maybe as little as three (3) per month or less than one a week.

Calculating the number of briefings per analyst is a little trickier because a single briefing can have multiple analysts in attendance. For this discussion let’s say three analysts per briefing, which then calculates to each analyst getting about six (6) briefings per month. Again, this is not an impressive number when taking into consideration how important vendor information is for advisory analysts.

Of course, inquiry and vendor briefings are not the only sources […]

Stop playing Whac-a-mole by moving from firefighting and reactive to proactive and preemptive

Analyst Relations PlanningToo many analyst relations (AR) professionals spend too much of their time seemingly playing Whac-A-Mole. They rush from one emergency to another, respond to one request after another (from colleagues and analysts), and always seem to be in catch-up mode. The problem with this state is that AR gets in the rut of being tactical and does not have time to be strategic. Thus, the image of AR merely being meeting schedulers gets ingrained in the company. 

To get out of the firefighting/reactive rut, AR should focus on becoming proactive and eventually preemptive. Firefighting-Reactive-Proactive-Preemptive are what SageCircle calls styles of AR. A quick set of definitions are:

Firefighting: The firefighting style of AR is one where a vendor deals with the impact of analysts as opposed to dealing directly with the analysts. Typically, the vendor’s sales force is trying to do damage control because analysts’ research either ignores the vendor or gives the vendor a very negative description or rating. A vendor with a firefighting approach, because they do not interact with the analysts themselves, is doomed to be defined by the uninformed analyst. This allows the vendor to be characterized by the disgruntled customers, competitors, prospects, and partners who do interact with the analysts. Often a vendor in permanent firefighting style is there because it really does not have an AR program and maybe not even a real PR organization.

Reactive: The reactive style of AR is one where a vendor answers questions initiated by the IT analysts, but does not actively reach out to IT analysts. Because the IT analysts do not necessarily contact every vendor for every piece of research they publish, vendors are constantly fighting ratings and recommendations based on old information. In addition, AR is reacting to […]

Rapid Response by AR saves a $35 Million Deal (Case Study)

icon-dollar-euro.jpgThis post is one in a series of case studies on analyst relations teams have worked with their sales colleagues to grow the company’s top line. Readers that have AR-sales stories they would like to turn into case studies are encouraged to contact SageCircle. We will do the work of creating a case study at no charge.

About the Company: The IT vendor in this case study is a $6 billion per year IT professional services and outsourcing company that sells to governments and large corporations. The AR department consisted of one AR director and one AR coordinator.

Situation:  AR was notified by Sales that a bid for a $35m services opportunity never materialized because a major analyst firm had not included the company on the short list. This was puzzling because the AR department had recently developed a good relationship with the analyst in charge of research for this market.

Action:  The AR director did an inquiry with SageCircle to develop an appropriate course of action. After the inquiry, the AR director contacted her colleague in Sales to obtain more information. The underlying cause of the short list exclusion was that the prospect had outsourced several components of the vendor selection process to a major analyst firm’s consulting group. The analyst firm consultant’s job was to create the request for proposal (RFP), set up the vendor short list in collaboration with the client, send the RFP to the selected vendors, and then evaluate the responses. The client was to make the final vendor selection decision based on the work the consultant had done.

The key item found during the investigation was that the analyst firm employee was a consultant not an analyst. A follow-up inquiry with a SageCircle strategist provided the AR director with the critical insight that analyst firm consultants do not always work with the analysts, even though a close relationship between analyst and consultant is often implied when analyst firms sell consulting engagements. Quite often, consultants refer to written research and do not actually talk with analysts, even from their own firm. Exacerbating this situation, consultants often […]

Don’t bring your CEO to Symposium and expect to brief the analysts (part 2 of 7 about Gartner’s Q3 AR Call)

Gartner’s Analyst Relations team holds a quarterly conference call for the analyst relations (AR) community. SageCircle occasionally will post about the call, but for this particular call there was so much information that we have a seven-part series to highlight details and provide commentary. See below for links to all seven posts.

Logo - Symposium 2009One of the questions at the first of the Gartner Q3 AR Calls was something along the lines of “I am bringing my CEO to Symposium and want to meet with six analysts. In addition, my CEO wants to give an overview presentation. When can I expect confirmation?”

The Gartnerians were incredibly patient and diplomatic in their response. We will be somewhat more frank in our response:

  • There is a snowball’s chance in Hell that you can set up a meeting of this nature with six analysts because schedules are already getting booked
  • It would be a waste of time to do an overview briefing (see part 1 of this series for why)
  • Your CEO would likely be insulted by an analyst’s lack of interest in his overview should you actually corner one to meet with him, for instance during a 1-on-1
  • Not correctly setting the CEO’s expectations about Symposium could be a career-limiting move for the AR manager

First and foremost, vendors need to realize that Gartner Symposium is end-user centric. While vendor ITxpo sponsorships contribute significantly to Symposium’s revenue stream, it is the end users that account for at least 70% of Gartner’s overall annual revenue. So everything that Gartner is doing is focused on maximizing the experience for enterprise CIOs and IT managers. This includes giving end users priority access to […]

Prepping for Gartner Symposium (part 1 of 7 about Gartner Q3 AR Call)

Gartner’s Analyst Relations team holds a quarterly conference call for the analyst relations (AR) community. SageCircle occasionally will post about the call, but for this particular call there was so much information that we have a seven-part series to highlight details and provide commentary. See below for links to all seven posts.

Logo - Symposium 2009In the presentation for the AR call (click here to get a copy of the slides, to be posted by COB 9/21/09), the Gartnerians made a number of very useful suggestions for AR and other vendor staff going to Symposium. Many of the suggestions were the same ones SageCircle have made in the past including during the August 2009 AR Coffee Talk on “Staying Top of Mind for Symposium.” A quick summary of Gartner’s top suggestions with our commentary:

  • Understand the realities of analysts’ life at Symposium – Every minute is scheduled and they are worked to exhaustion.
    • Implication: Do not try to brief or otherwise give analysts information that you want them to remember because they simply will not remember it
    • Best practice: Use Symposium for relationship building and gauging analyst interest in a topic. Then schedule briefings after Symposium on the new information
  • Do: Draw relevance to analysts’ (that you are talking to) published research and know what they’re presenting on
    • Best practice: Do your homework before heading to Symposium
  • Do: Make it a two-way conversation (when talking to analysts at 1-on-1s or side meetings)
    • Implication: Monologues where vendors are talking at analysts are a waste of time
    • Best practice: Ask questions about their research agenda and what they are hearing from […]

Is it time to incorporate risk analysis into analyst list rankings?

Analyst Relations PlanningEvery AR team needs to manage their analyst list(s) to ensure they are focused on providing the right attention to the right analysts.  SageCircle stands on the “analyst list management” soapbox a lot because it such an important aspect of an effective and efficient AR program.  Creating a ranked list based on impact and then tiering based on available resources is the way to manage your service levels for analysts and ultimately manage your stress. There are many data points that go into an analyst ranking frameworks like visibility, research coverage, reputation, firm, geography and so on. This post is the opener for a discussion on whether risk should be added to the ranking criteria.

In this context, the risk being discussed is the potential damage to sales deals, market perception, internal politics, and such that can be caused by an analyst with a negative opinion. How much effort should you put into negative analysts?

So, should risk be incorporated into the analyst ranking framework as either a primary or secondary criterion? For instance, two analysts that are pretty much equal in all other criteria could see a negative analyst getting ranked higher than a positive analyst because there is more risk associated with the negative analyst and AR wants to invest more time to move that analyst’s opinion. If the two analysts are on the border between Tier 1 and Tier 2 […]