Part two of our analyst relations blog series is here! In the first article of this installment, I covered why a good analyst relations program requires research, attention to detail and an ability to think bigger than the immediate needs of your company.
In this article, we catch up with Matt Kimball, a senior data center analyst covering servers and storage at Moor Insights & Strategy, to get his thoughts on how often he likes to stay in touch with vendors and what he thinks makes for a successful briefing.
How often do you like to stay in touch with vendors? How often would you like to be briefed by them in a given year?
At least quarterly. Even if there is nothing to report, I think it’s a good practice for vendors to get into. Opinions change. Outlooks shift. Priorities get adjusted. As an analyst, it’s good to understand all of this as it can provide context to those “surprise” announcements or roadmap changes that can sometimes leave analysts scratching their heads. It’s also just valuable for the sake of relationship building. Honesty and transparency are important in any relationship. As an analyst, I want to know your real thoughts on a topic. Not so I can repeat them, necessarily, but because it helps me better understand you and your company. And on the other side, I’m sure vendors want to know my real, unfiltered opinions. But, it’s hard to do that when I don’t feel we know each other well enough.
Do you find that you get valuable information from vendors at tradeshows? In your opinion, what makes for a successful in-person meeting?
I know I may be in the minority, but I hate tradeshows. I get their purpose. I get their benefits. But as an analyst, it feels like it’s three days (or so) of wasted time.
What do I really like? Analyst summits. Pull us all together and let’s spend two days going deep on company and product strategy and outlook. But, let’s also skip those awkward group dinners where we all try and be social. We’re not. And adding alcohol to the equation only makes things worse.
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I really like in-person meetings (versus telephone, web, etc.). There is a familiarity you gain with a person or company that you don’t gain by teleconference. In fact, I never really feel like I know a company until I meet with reps face-to-face. Now, this doesn’t mean every briefing and every conversation has to be in person. But (going back to my first point) – the more I feel I know you as a strategist, and the more I get your company (culture, strategy, outlook, methodologies, etc.) the more confident I feel in the relevance of my feedback – and the more comfortable I am in giving it to you.
What makes for a good briefing in general?
When it comes to analyst relations, this may sound silly – but understanding what it is I’m being briefed on and sticking to that. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had where the topic was “ABC” but the discussion quickly morphed into “DEF.” Another thing is being complete. If you are going to get me on the phone for an hour to talk about the launch of a product, you should certainly be able to answer all of my questions in that hour. You are the product expert. You are the expert of that market segment.
What do you do with the information you’ve learned after a briefing/meeting concludes?
One thing I always do is go back and validate what I heard on the briefing, if possible. Or if there are other questions that the briefing caused (tangential in nature) – I chase down answers to those questions.
Another thing I always do is organize the notes I took. I will reference meetings from months/quarters back to see if market conditions, product directions, etc. are taking shape as anticipated. This is more for my education than anything else.
Finally, if what I’m hearing is very interesting – and if I think readers would agree that the topic is interesting – I will write about it (if not under embargo/NDA) and/or cover it in a podcast. That thing I write could be directly about the product I was just briefed on, or it could be more topical. It all depends. But, the vendor will always get a mention in my article/blog/podcast.
What’s one thing vendors often do that will make you less likely to set up meetings with them? Biggest pet peeves?
If I sense a vendor is being disingenuous, I am much less inclined to give them a lot of time. If I feel a vendor is completely unprepared – ditto. And if a vendor is giving off the “I’d rather be anywhere but here” vibe – I will let them be anywhere but here moving forward. Look, analysts can be jerks. And we can be know-it-alls. And we have opinions. But, if I have a thought about you, your company or your product, I am going to tell you honestly and respectfully because I was that vendor in a past life. I’ve done the briefings and I’ve also been an IT practitioner, so I’m not some person who has been sitting behind a keyboard for 20 years playing armchair quarterback. So, afford me the same level of respect I afford you and give me a reason to want to write about you (I’m not going to write about you just because of a company name).
I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of presentations over the course of your career. How can vendors avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’?
Dialogue. Conversation. You can give me 50 slides. If *we* talk through all 50 – I will be happy. Conversely – you can have five slides. If it’s just you presenting to me, I’m going to start answering emails or watching cat videos within a few minutes. That’s why I’m not a fan of group briefings. It doesn’t allow for any real dialogue. And from an analyst view, I get sick of the same old people jumping in on Q&As asking questions that they think make them sound smart.
I know we’ve chatted about how much you personally enjoy reviewing go-to-market (GTM) strategies. What do you look for when analyzing a company’s approach to a product launch? Can you tell (with a reasonable degree of certainty) whether it’s going to be a success or failure?
If you ask me, I can tell with certainty whether a product is going to find success or failure in the market. Right? I’m an analyst – I know everything (kidding). You know, it’s hard to say what I specifically look for when assessing launch plans and GTM. Every company is different. Hardware v. software. Startup v. established giant v. established player.
It’s impossible for me to look at a launch and follow-on campaign and say “yup – they are going to kill it.” I try to understand the logic and rationale behind such plans. And that gives me a much greater sense of confidence in a product launch/GTM plan’s chance of success. Because I look for the critical thought and actual strategy that fed into such planning.
What advice would you give to a company looking to launch an analyst relations program? What can they do to make sure they make a good first impression with the analysts covering their space?
Find the relevant analysts for your analyst relations program. You don’t need 100 analysts writing about you. And you don’t need the big guys (IDC, Gartner, Forrester). You need a few really good friends who have an outlet and a following with your audience.
- Focus on building relationships with analysts.
- Be transparent. Own your success. Own your shortcomings.
- Demonstrate a knowledge of your market (customers, competitors, trends).
- Don’t expect us to be product experts (if we are, you don’t want us writing for you).
- Be consistent.
- Be in our minds (keep a regular cadence of discussion).
Want to get more of an inside scoop of what makes for a strong analyst relations program? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, special thanks to Matt Kimball for his insight in this ongoing blog series!