A Guide to Analyst Relations for Startups
When it comes to go to market and marketing there’s lots of pieces in a toolchest that all work together. One that comes a bit later, but if used properly (much like a PR agency) can be valuable is industry analysts. And while working with a PR agency can quickly start to become clear. How to work with analysts so it is productive on both sides can take a bit longer to figure out, or at least it did for me. Even before you do start working with them there’s the question of if or when should you. Here’s hoping this primer makes it a bit faster and easier for others.
What is an analyst
Apologies to all analysts, but of all parts of this post I might butcher this one
Analysts talk to a lot of companies, both the ones making products as well as the ones purchasing them. I’m not actually sure what the spread is I’d guess 80-20. A large output of this and other activities is creating various reports and rankings. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the most well known industry ranking. Much of what they create isn’t freely available for consumption so you likely don’t see the sheer volume of insights they put out.
Why would you engage with an analyst
So what do they do for you? There’s really two major buckets:
Help with sales/marketing – Given they’re informing and influencing buying decisions of businesses they can be one more person on your side. If a launch in Techcrunch makes business foo aware of product bar, then an analyst report or ranking can help sway a decision on whether to try bar vs. baz.
Consulting – The other major opportunity is for the analyst to give some form of guidance. In a larger company when you already have an established product they should absolutely be part of your launch process (more on that in a future post). They’re actively following your market and space, hopefully just as you are to some extent. They can offer an outside perspective and help with broad areas of focus and messaging.
More – In reality it’s as clean cut as above. They may be able to introduce you to good candidates for hiring. They may be able to introduce you to a large company interested in acquiring some capability which you have. They may be able to connect you with investors. All of these things can and do happen, but the above buckets typically are the primary drivers.
First, engaging with analysts should always come after you have some confidence in the product, after you’ve started some marketing drumbeat, and after sales. In short don’t be in a huge rush here, you’ll get there, but don’t be in too big of a rush. As you start to get some attention and momentum it’s just as likely they’ll engage with you first as you reaching out. Also, marketing != sales, more on that in a future post.
But, let’s assume you’ve got a product which targets business (Analysts aren’t just for tech companies, though you’ll see the benefit here sooner if you’re say a database company than a HR product). Let’s also assume you’ve got some sales and have some good launches under your belt. As it starts to come up in sales calls if you’re in any industry reports or rankings that may be an indicator, if you’re hearing about other competitors having more validation in such reports. As a general rule of thumb once you’ve got inhouse PR they should be able to help guide and steer to the right time.
So how do you engage with an analyst
If you’re engaging in some form of report or article, that should start to be pretty self explanatory. They’ll send you a questionnaire, you fill it out. You go back and forth a little bit.
However, the majority of my interactions aren’t on those articles and reports, for ever one time I fill out lots of questions to help some report or ranking I have 20 calls with an analyst.
There are two primary calls you can have, an inquiry and a briefing.
Inquiry is just a fancy word for consulting call. An inquiry you will always be paying for.
A small detour here. The regularity and consistency in which you engage with an analyst makes a difference. They’re also people at the end of the day, so while firms have certain styles it’s even further multiplied by being very people driven. In your interactions you’ll have a different rapport with different people, it’s at a minimum important to be aware of this.
So back to an inquiry. Within an inquiry your goal is to pull back the curtain and give some backstage insights into what you’re doing and where you’re headed. This is typically under NDA and trust the NDA of an analyst. It’s worthwhile to be as candid as you can here, yes it feels weird, but you’ll get the most value. They’re not like that of a reporter looking for a scoop (not that you can’t trust reporters, just know if you say it, it’s on record). You don’t have to relish the entire call to one area, but areas of coverage are often:
- Upcoming products and major releases you’re working on
- Broader strategy and roadmap
- Get input on what they’re seeing and hearing from customers
The other type of call we have is a briefing. This is a little similar to that of a press briefing. You’ll get on the call, and walk through some upcoming launch or just give an update on your company and progress. The latter is more common if they’re unfamiliar with you or your product.
Analyst briefings are good to do earlier than your press briefings, compared to press they’re like a bike with training wheels. It’s best if you still maintain your balance–the ride will be smoother, but there’s a little less risk of completely toppling over. One key difference is you often have a powerpoint deck you get to walk through during an analyst briefing. I’ve found this is helpful for pacing and key messages, I used to be skeptical, but now very much feel it’s always worth doing.
Pro-tip: You can create a deck and use it for press too, no they won’t want to get on a gotomeeting, but you can send it over so they have more content later. BUT, more importantly you can also walk through it on your own screen if it helps with pacing.
Within a briefing you’ll have some ability to ask them questions at points. Does this resonate? Are you hearing similar? What are you seeing in the market? Don’t turn it into an inquiry, but knowing the parts that hit home for them allow you to refine your pitch for the next call.
Engaging – the tactical parts
“Analysts are pretty much paid to talk and write” – @cote. So expect that often when you occupy their time there’s a price to it. In terms of finding them it should be pretty easy, to know the list of ones in your space, you may see them quoted or reference in various media outlets. You may just naturally crop up in a report.
If you create a regular relationship with them you’ll have some contract of hours over the course of a quarter or year. At an early stage company this is often owned and manage by whomever runs your PR from an internal perspective.
If you’re about to engage with analysts for the first time or haven’t figured out how to get the most out of your interactions I hope the broad overview is helpful. If there’s some glaring parts you feel I’ve missed let me know @craigkerstiens. And for further reading/watching I’d encourage checking out the great talk from @cote in the Heavybit library.
As far as take-aways and a recap:
- Don’t be too eager to jump in with analysts. They can absolutely provide value, but you have to put some time in before it really starts to pay off. It’s not an overnight change and takes building a rapport with them.
- At the same time, analysts can be useful in many B2B areas not just tech ones.
- When in an inquiry be open and as transparent as possible.
- Powerpoint/Keynote/Google presentations are useful in briefings, even if it’s just for you to follow along.