7 Ways to Use Analyst Relationships to Your Start-up or Scale-up's Advantage
For the most part, analyst research firms are an enigma to start-up founders and marketers. They hear a lot about the importance of getting covered in analyst research, but don’t exactly know how to manage analyst relationships – and their own expectations.
In the start-up world, analyst relationships are grossly misunderstood, and undervalued. Founders and marketers with high-growth experience probably have fair to strong confidence in understanding the jest of how analyst relationships work. But if you’re in the majority who don’t, you probably have no idea where or how to start.
Let’s start with three truths and a lie, analyst edition.
1. Analyst research is pay-for-play – if you don’t pay, you don’t get covered.
2. You can engage with analyst firms for free.
3. Your company can get referrals from analyst firms/analysts covering your space.
4. Analyst research should underpin product positioning and even your product roadmap.
Can you spot the lie?
If you chose #1, you’re right. You don’t have to pay subscription or research seat fees to get covered in analyst research. When you think of analyst firms covering the tech or security space Gartner, Forrester or IDC likely come to mind. These are the analyst giants. Enterprises and industry insiders turn to them for trend or category validation.
But there are many other firms out there producing stellar research – and through different channels – for free.
Industry analysts are friends, not foes. They’re experts in your space, just like you. Many of the analysts you’re familiar with spent years working in leadership, development and research roles on the corporate side of the fence. No matter what firm these analysts represent, they themselves are innovators and love to engage with peers and industry experts with unique POVs or observations, whether they’re paying for a research seat or not.
Many do industry talks, write blogs/contribute to industry publications and do podcasts outside of their employment. If you’re able to provide credible context, data or insights that dispel or disrupt traditional industry thinking, why wouldn’t they want to talk to you?
But where do you start? Here are 7 tips to help you build relationships and leverage analyst research, for free, and as you grow your budget.
Early Start-ups – build analyst relationships (for free) to drive brand awareness
Use industry research for positioning alignment. Most start-up founders will say that their product/service/innovation is radically different than what’s available in market today. But before you create your bold positioning statement, look at industry research and note the categories/technology trends that align to your product/service/innovation. Many founders make the mistake of coming out of the gate with a position that doesn’t make sense, because it doesn’t align with where the market (read: your buyers) are at. Narrow down alignment to the legacy or emerging category/trend that’s the closest relation to your offering. Build your core positioning/description recognizing the category/trend, then differentiating against it. Alignment in the early days is important for several reasons: market fit, buyer recognition, understanding and relatability. If you’re not using analyst research or observations to drive your positioning, you’re making up something new that no one will recognize and that you’ll have to spend more time explaining. That’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to build rapid traction.
Ask your customers or early adopters how important research notes and analyst endorsements are to their decision making process. Ask if they use industry research or analyst subscriptions for direction and referrals, and if so, which firms they use and trust. There isn’t much point in chasing analyst relationships that will not impact your buyer’s research, validation and decision making process. It’s important to put aside your own assumptions and instead lean into the validators that matter to your buyers.
Create relationships. Connect with and follow analysts covering your space on LinkedIn and Twitter. This is an easy way to build connections and let analysts know you exist. You’ll be able to keep track of newly researched research and get access to content they’re producing on behalf of their firm, or independently. That includes articles, blogs, podcast episodes and even presentation decks from conference appearances. Founders, marketing leads and product owners can and should follow and engage with analysts.
Reach out to analysts when you have news. Industry analysts like to stay on top of what’s happening in the market, which is why (for the most part) they welcome industry news shares. As you start to mobilize your PR strategy, remember to share news announcements with your analyst contacts.
Offer a briefing either at introduction or when you have news. Contrary to popular belief, many analysts accept briefings for free, including Gartner, Forrester and IDC. Briefings are basically a one-way street engagement where you have an opportunity to walk through a briefing presentation. You can offer a briefing for company/product launches, to cover unique case studies or review interesting data points from things like self-generated research that aligns to the analyst’s research focus. Briefings build relationships, potentially generate content (through analyst blog or article contributions) and create opportunity for future engagement on things like analyst surveys, or research background (when an analyst is gathering information or context for upcoming research).
Click through to check out the difference between inquiry calls and briefings, and how to build a briefing deck.
Scale-ups – use a mix of paid and un-paid activities to drive referrals and remove barriers to purchase
Once you’ve capitalized on momentum and start to expand market share, you’re ready to look at paid analyst engagement. At this stage analyst relationships can be a powerful accelerant – and product differentiator. Paid analyst relationships look a little different, depending on the firm. A relationship with Gartner for Forrester gives you access to inquiry and briefings, while a relationship with IDC or Ovum could give you that, plus a net-new research paper that’s yours to keep and share.
Either way, it’s important to work with an analyst firm that’s known and referenced by your customers. Most analyst firms have subscriber bases who turn to their research for product reviews, trend reports and technology recommendations. Those subscribers vary, with enterprise, mid-sized and SMB readers usually favouring one firm over another. Don’t align to a single analyst firm because you think it’s the biggest, or the best. Align to the analyst firm that produces meaningful content covering your niche. Why? Inquiry calls with the analyst behind that research can influence your product roadmap for the better. Research outputs will be more meaningful because they answer the exact questions your buyers are asking. They’ll refer you to potential buyers that match your use cases, rather than buyers you’d never have a chance of landing.
Here are some ways you can drive value through paid and unpaid relationships as you scale up:
Create a tiger team to establish accountability and get the most out of your paid relationship. Map out a team of stakeholders from across the business who can engage with analysts on different levels (eg: founder, CEO, CSO, CMO, CPO etc). Create an engagement calendar and assign tasks and expectations – get buy in from each stakeholder send out quarterly updates with a scorecard to make sure everyone is pulling their weight. Your calendar should include quarterly inquiry calls (at a minimum) and quarterly briefings with each relevant analyst and/or as relevant news announcements arise.
Ask your analyst firm rep for research calendars and plan to align briefings ahead of those calendars. You don’t automatically get mentioned in research just because you’re paying for the research seat or subscription. Research mentions happen through thoughtful, meaningful briefings that demonstrate your alignment to the research topic. Try to stay 3-6 months ahead of research schedules – plan to build a bespoke deck that addresses that research topic. Gather data or context from your company’s POV or customer base that adds value around that topic. Stay in touch with your firm rep and regularly ask for updates on the research release date and whether there is opportunity for additional briefings or contributions.
Keep on top of reference or referral data. When you pay for a research seat or subscription with a big firm like Gartner, you basically funnel into their referral network. A big part of the analyst’s job is taking calls with firm customers and making recommendations on vendors that address their challenge. Make a point to check in your rep on referral quantities and demographics on a regular basis. They won’t give you names, but they can offer broad details like industry, company size or role. Use that data to quantify or attribute inbound leads.
Like PR, analyst relationships are a get-what-you-give situation. Your time and insights are often more valuable than the budget you assign to the program. Analyst relations is often thought of as an activity reserved for larger companies and big marketing budgets. But the reality is that it’s an underused growth lever that accelerates brand awareness, establishes credibility and strengthens buyer intent.
Give it a try and see what happens. 💫