marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4 Tips for Pitching Analysts to Get Past the BS Filter

The first step is admission. I was an analyst, I admit it, and I appologize for all the bad ones out there. I hope that by providing useful tips and advice, that others may have more successful future interactions with them.
Some people have suggested that the analysts they’ve met either have attitude problems or have not learned the 5 lessons that I listed on my previous blog post. While that may be true, I’ll submit that there may be some key items missing from your marketing toolkit that lead analyst to respond to you the way they do.
Since others have asked me “what do analysts care about?”, I thought I’d frame my answer in terms of key marketing tips for analyst that often apply to the press as well. Oh, if you didn’t know, the analysts are almost always where the press go when writing stories if an analyst covers the space.
Here are some quick tips when pitching an analyst, in no particular order:
  1. Why should they care? 
  2. Really, chanting “we’re #1” without justification instantly turns on the bullshit filter for an analyst. Actually, the filter is always on, but it goes from “normal” to “high” if you just cheerlead. What impact is your company and/or product having now, not what might happen the in future. If your future vision doesn’t sync with your current actions or position, there will be a problem
  3. What is the current product/topic of discussion’s position?
  4. If you are talking to an analyst about a new product or service introduction, you MUST be able to state a clear and compelling UVP (unique value proposition). If there’s nothing unique and compelling, I wouldn’t care. Why would the analyst care? Of course, a “me too” offering can be news if you’re a $1B+ company entering a market and about to squash smaller competitiors. The value proposition in that case: Resources, massive customer base, long term market analysis and staying power.
  5. How does your product/service really compare to other offerings?
  6. No competition? You’re fired, your market doesn’t exist, or your lying. Good analysts know every significant player in a market, but no, a pre-product startup may not qualify. If there’s no one doing it the same way, in the same location, or with the same technology, then you may be re-segmenting an existing market or opening up a niche in an existing market. In either case, there are certainly indirect competitors or even hidden direct competitors
  7. Did you visualize your differentiation?
  8. Key skills that marketers need when presenting to analysts is position mapping and visualization. Analyst create reports, charts, and visualizations that the press and Wall Street love to reference. If you’ve ever heard that a picture tells 1000 words, then consider a good position map or visualization your resume to the analyst. In 3 to 10 seconds, the position map or visualization tells the analyst if and how you matter. Sure they might be pleasant to you anyway, but if you don’t have a position map or visual that conveys why you matter, you won’t. Nuff said.
          These tips, suggestions, etc. are part of the marketing framework I use when looking at a company and business and prepare them for press or analyst communications. Remember, the press assume that you already have contacted an analyst willing to speak with you or who is familiar with the product. The press will gauge the "news" value of your product or service depending on if an analyst took your meeting to cover the topic, and sometimes the number of analyst informed also telegraphs news value. If you’re doing outreach to the press, the above tips are good homework  to have done. You will need to do additional work to prepare for testimonials and "social proof."

          If you have question on this, please comment below, follow me @dkuroda on Twitter, or formspring me on my blog.

          Wednesday, March 23, 2011

          When it comes to trust, Industry Analysts rule

          I saw an interesting article in IT Marketing World that struck a cord. I had been an Industry Analyst in the past, but since I left that occupation, I have heard numerous engineers, IT folks, and even marketers call Industry Analysts all kinds of unflattering names.

          Recently, I spoke with a Marketing Director who referred to analysts as if it was a curse to work with them. I said it was no problem for me, since I used to be one. Now I do not hold Industry Analysts in a position of honor or holiness, but I knew then and still know now that they play an important role for technology markets, and it's just good business to deal with them properly.

          Why should you care? The article I linked above sums up the issue - Trust.

          The article states that a SiriusDecisions survey found that "Industry Analysts and Peers are the most influential and trusted sources of information", with Industry Analysts scoring nearly 3 percentage points higher.

          Of course there are other factors in decision making, and the study also cites "favored sources of content", "influencial sources of content", in addition to "trusted sources". Because trust is only one important factor of many, I won't claim that Industry Analysts are the end-all be-all, however I do have some fond memories of lessons learned from being an analyst and what it took to be a good one:

          1. Always have a BS filter - As an analyst, companies were always trying to bend my ear to their way of thinking. It never hurts to question motivations.
          2. You can position anything - Analyst are wary of every positioning statement, since every company positions themselves, and smart ones position their competitors. Good analysts know positioning well and that this is just part of the standard pitch.
          3. What really matters to the market? - An analyst is paid to think beyond spec wars and get to the issues that really matter to customers and the market.
          4. No one operates in a vacuum - No matter how good someone's story sounds, the competition is always moving. Sometimes they may even be ahead.
          5. The road to hell is paved with good inventions - One of my favorite lines first told to me by Jim Handy (hi, Jim), as it describes the hope inherent in every company pitch. Companies want to build a product or service that solves a problem. Often they fall short and the best product/service doesn't win. Good marketing, bigger marketing budgets, legal wrangling, misinformation, related product momentum, goodwill, or other factors can determine the winner.

          I think that good analysts apply the 5 guidelines above and can provide a truly balanced view with limited biases. When they do, the real issues that matter to customers can be addressed, and they can provide a perspective worthy of trust.