Analyze This

You are reading about a hot new product category in the local morning paper’s business section. Suddenly, you come across that inevitable glowing quote from an industry analyst who is smitten with the concept and, in particular, a number of nascent companies in the space. It’s another one of those things you see every day but take for granted. Yet make no mistake — the positive vibes are no accident.

While it’s the job of analyst groups like Gartner, Forrester, Aberdeen, and IDC to track, understand, and make projections about the industries they cover, they are not omniscient. Their quotes are the result of hard work by the companies they mentioned. Not only did the companies elevate the product category to merit press coverage, but they proactively worked with the analyst community to make sure they understand it and, equally important, the critical role the company played in developing it.

Working with analyst groups is a critical marketing component of a technology start-up. In the best of all possible worlds, they can further validate your space and your company’s place in it to the outside world. Even in a worst-case scenario, they can provide valuable feedback on how to morph your strategy and communicate it so that it makes perfect sense in the marketplace.

Here are some tips on how to work with the analyst groups.

How to Choose the Right Analyst Group for Your Company

All of the analyst groups will tell you they offer broad coverage in numerous business categories and that they do it all well. While this may be true, the fact is that most analyst groups tend to excel in a limited number of vertical categories. For example, Forrester and Jupiter have strong practices in online advertising, while Gartner is strong in enterprise computing solutions.

Additionally, all of the analyst groups offer a wide array of services, some more than others; so if you need research support, you should make sure the analyst group you choose to work with has an offering in this area. This is not to say that you couldn’t work with more than one group at a time, but it’s best to determine which groups are best aligned with the direction and focus of your company and target those first.

When to Work With an Analyst Group

When you should work with an analyst group really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Is it simply advocacy, do you need research, or do you want to also include consulting support? Most analyst groups have outstanding industry research programs and can provide wonderfully detailed competitive analyses and customer profiling. Certainly, that information would be most useful early in a product or company’s development cycle so the information can be put to work.

The Benefits of an Analyst White Paper

Under this category, analysts can prepare for your company a “white paper” — a background document that provides deep insight into the category in which you do business and how your product solves a real problem with your core target audience. These papers are meticulously researched, written, and footnoted, and they make fabulous marketing materials for your company.

Engage the Analysts

If advocacy is what you are after, then engaging the analyst groups either directly or through your PR agency is typically done four to six weeks prior to the actual launch of your company. In this way, they will be fully prepared to handle calls from journalists who often check in for clarity and quotes on a variety of issues relevant to a particular analyst group’s ongoing coverage. Not all analyst groups offer a consulting practice, but the ones that do actually come on board and provide outside advice and support on strategy for your business that can be quite useful.

How to Estimate Costs

The advocacy program is least expensive, consisting of out-of-pocket expenses for travel to meet the analysts face to face, along with any PR agency costs if they set the meetings up for you. Research and consulting are pricier, but the services are well worth it. All the companies have different price structures, so make that part of your due diligence.

Communicate Clarity

Analysts are looking for — in a word — clarity. Do you understand the space you are in, the problem your company is solving, your target audience, or what your product offering is? But, most important, can you communicate a company message clearly and succinctly in a compelling fashion so others understand? It sounds easy enough, but only 1 out of 10 companies seem to be able to do this.

One Caveat for the Road

The analyst groups may not understand, like, or support what you are doing. But gaining their support (and doing that can be hard work) can go a long way in validating your product and company in the eyes of the most important people out there — your customers.

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