The Final Countdown… or how to survive attending MWC 2013

Suzannah Archibald
Senior Marketing Executive
Loudhouse Marketing Consultancy – 11 February 2013

It’s that time of year again. When all thoughts turn to the biggest global mobile technology and applications showcase in the world, Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). Held each year by the GSMA, the show unveils some key yearly indicators that any attending exhibitor, press member, or aspiring Steve Jobs-acolyte should know about mobile.

According to a recent IIAR webcast I listened into with industry analysts Keith Humphreys of euroLAN and Catherine Haslam of Ovum, as well as members of the IIAR membership committee, estimates say that you’ll be one of nearly 1,500 exhibitors, and more than 67,000 attending members of the public. And if MWC 2012 estimates from the GSMA hold up this year, there could be many morewho are interested in demonstrating or learning about your mobile wares.

How can you possibly hope to get maximum value out of Analysts’ who are attending MWC 2013?

Well the GSMA has published what they call their ‘MWC First Time Attendee Guide’ but we think it’s by adhering to what the IIAR webinar collectively referred to as the “MWC Rules of Engagement” – with some of my own two cents, thrown in!

1. Establish your KPIs and plan your attendance – well in advance
This may seems like an obvious starting-point. But it’s not. Prudent thinking would suggest that if you are booked into a one-hour media demonstration or analyst briefing you should plan for cutting it short to about 30-45 minutes as it’s possible that travelling between sessions which are at various points in the cavernous conference hall may take up to 15 minutes to traverse.

This will also do much to ingratiate your with your analyst or journalist who will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to assist them navigate the frankly chocka- timelines of a four-day conference.

2. Know Your Audience, as well as the competition
At an event of this stature, only the most arrogant would assume that they are the only supplier of services who plan to announce something during MWC 2013.

If you are a major vendor, it helps to know who you are pitting yourself against. Establish some competitive metrics several months in advance where you look at your competitors, their current market offering, and establish not only what you are planning to announce at the show, but how Well it might go down with the assembled audience.

If you’re not entirely sure that your product announcement has been stress tested enough to withstand the rigours of a major event like this, it may be worth waiting to announce after the show has passed, difficult to justify to your executives’ but perhaps the right move to avoid drowning in the competitive noise.

3. Feed Me – I’m Hungry!
We’ve heard it said that MWC is a killer for your feet, but apparently it can also be a killer on your… will to live.

Often the queues in the various cafes and canteens are as long, if not longer than the queues to get into the most popular speaker tracks.

You’d be well advised to provide your assembled analysts at the very least with some light snacks, which will do much to ensure that they can be briefed by you over the full time allotted, rather than dashing off to get into an over-long lunch queue at the canteen!

4. Prepare Your Announcement Schedule
This goes without saying, but if you have a channel announcement, an MSP announcement, an iOS update, and an Android integration update to announce during MWC, you would be well advised to space     them       out.

You will gain the most traction and the most eyeballs from your press announcements, if you are also clear with your embargo periods. It is well advised to bring several of your key analysts and journalists into the fold early and stress-test some of your messaging well in advance of the show.

5. Adopt a Best Practices Strategy
If something didn’t work for you when you exhibited in 2011, and then again in 2012, it might be prudent not to repeat it?

Work out with your on-the-floor team who will manage what in terms of your assembled bloggers, prospects, and analysts and associated hangers-on. Ovum’s Catherine Haslam put out a great post this week about what her firm’s analysts expect to get out of MWC.

MWC is a highly public event and of course you want to avoid any screw ups. By all means have a senior Comms person available who can handle crisis management, should one of your key executives fall ill, should the sky fall in Barcelona, etc.

7. Finally plan your MWC plans for next year’s show… based on this year’s performance!
It might be wise to note down who you really enjoyed meeting during this year’s conference, and put them top of your list to keep tabs on during 2013, and follow up with them in three, or six nine months’ to see how their progress is going And what their thoughts are on your go-to-market strategy.

Some of what we’re interested to see this year is whether the rumoured enterprise App Stores finally make their presence felt during the congress, or whether this so-called Internet of Things is finally to achieve criticacl mass and make its presence felt (so says Gartner).

The world will be watching, and we know we will.

Yankee Group saved by 451 acquisition

The 451 Group announced the acquisition of Yankee Group from Alta Communications on January 3, 2013. Yankee was one of the analyst industry’s most prestigious boutiques through the dot.com boom, with 70 analysts on the payroll in 2006. Today, after four successive years of contraction, it is a shadow of its former self. According to Yankee’s website, it now has a dozen full-time analysts, a data team of around the same size and several affiliated associates. If 451 had not bought the debt-laden firm, it would probably have closed.

The acquisition is excellent news for Yankee, 451 and their staff and customers. The big loser is Alta Communications, a private equity firm.

What happened
Howard Anderson founded Yankee Group in 1970. The firm was sold to Primark in 1996 [for an initial $34m, topped up to $51m on closure] and then to Reuters for $72.5m in 2000. In May 2004 Yankee was bought by Decision Matrix Group for around $30m. DMG was a Monitor Clipper vehicle headed by Ted Philip, which had the plan to merge Yankee with META Group. To prevent that, Gartner bought META from DMG, allowing DMG to make a good profit, revamp Yankee and in 2005, to sell it to Alta and Emily Nagel Green for $33m (more or less what they paid for it). The firm has been recapitalised since then: Alta is rumoured to have invested a further $15m to $20m.

Emily Green is a talented research leader who joined Yankee with a record of success in Forrester’s European and US operations. Forrester is a larger firm with a stronger internal momentum, and Yankee lacked the organisational dynamism and customer insight to succeed with an growth project which emulated Forrester’s. Green was the entrepreneurial engine who could produce the big ideas needed to orient the research business, but as CEO she could not successfully drive the project all the way. There were notable successes: for example, Yankee bought TrendsMedia, which gave them WiMax World.

Despite these successes, Yankee wasn’t able to build enough momentum. In particular, it failed to build any serious influence on enterprises. The firm’s analysts were stretched thinly and lost focus. Terry Waters replaced Green as CEO in 2010 with a mandate to slim the business’s costs, sell off assets like 4G World (as Wimax World was renamed), reposition the value proposition around mobility and prepare it for a sale to a strategic buyer. Green sadly left the business at that time, and since then the research team has lost some of its best analysts.

Despite a strong Q4, Yankee’s revenues have fallen year after year for several years. Yankee was offered to more than one firm, but the loss of clients and analysts made it hard to see a strategy for Yankee to recover. Its brand is much weaker than it was.

To some degree, Yankee tried to emulate the Forrester model and failed. Waters has made difficult choices in a highly constrained environment, but the damage was done. As a result, Alta is now walking away with close to nothing. Yankee will continue as an independent division of The 451 Group. Waters will remain at Yankee. No staff are expected to leave as a result of the takeover.

Perspective
Yankee and 451 are unsurprisingly optimistic. 451 is a better partner for Yankee, in that it understands the operations of an analyst firm and the two firms share an appetite to be analyst-led.

Through 451, Yankee will be able to obtain some modest savings with overheads.

The most valuable resources are the client relationships. While 451 feels that Yankee’s data, and data analysis approaches, are valuable it’s clear that most clients have not seen it the same way. Client retention is in the mid-80 percent, and contract values are under pressure across the industry.

What we liked
451 can’t confirm any numbers, but they confirm that it paid a modest amount for Yankee and will assume Yankee’s liabilities as part of the deal. Compared to the cost of recruiting a similar number of people it’s a bargain – and that low investment reflects both Yankee’s past financial performance and The 451 Group’s appetite.

451′s M&A recent experiences with the Uptime Institute and Change Wave have been broadly positive (as was Tier 1 Research), and have unlocked substantial revenue growth.

There’s a shared major emphasis on mobility as an enabler of digital infrastructure: that’s the core opportunity for Yankee, and it’s great that 451 and Yankee are investing to build it. They are looking to fill some gaps in the analyst team, invest more in marketing and discuss with colleagues in The 451 Group to identify new, hot, coverage areas.

There are numerous opportunities for co-operation: for example cross-selling (even where there are shared accounts, the clients are typically different)), and using 451′s events. Some of these are, at this early stage, admittedly aspirational but they point in the right direction.

As a whole, it’s excellent news for Yankee’s customers and analysts that 451 has bought it.

What we would have liked to see
Both 451 and Yankee emphasise that there will be little immediate change at Yankee. I think that’s a mistake. 451 needs to have a more hands-on approach, to actively manage its investment, and should really consider integrating Yankee into 451 as fully as possible.

Right now, 451 has a better brand name than Yankee. Rather than try to introduce the Yankee brand into the enterprise market, for example, 451 could consider how 451 can strengthen its brand by taking Yankee’s insight to enterprise customers.

While Yankee has been cut down to the bone, the reality is that there are not enough clients who buy into its value proposition. While acquisition by 451 gives stability, it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem – not enough people want to buy what Yankee has to sell.

So far 451 doesn’t seem to fully recognise that Yankee needs a substantial investment to build its mobility offer and to replace lost analysts like Eugene Signorini.

451 thinks there is a thirst for the sort of insight Yankee has to offer. It’s early days, but none of the other investors that looked at Yankee found a way it could find and meet that demand profitably. 451 needs to play the decisive role in solving that problem.

PS. Howard Anderson is now teaching at MIT where his subjects include Managing in Adversity. My thanks go to him for the clarification I’ve added above [in brackets].

PPS. Also check out Dave Michel’s article. After reading it, I’m wondering if Monday morning at Yankee will be like Glengarry Glen Ross.

Duncan

Why are firms HfS, PAC and 451 rising in influence?

According to a record number of participants who took this year’s analyst value survey the firms that have become more influential this year are Gartner, Ovum, Forrester, HfS Research, Pierre Audoin Consultants, IDC and Frost and Sullivan.

Amongst other questions, the survey asked participants which firms rose or fell the most during 2012. The firms most mentioned are in the chart below. Interestingly, the four firms that were also said to have most fallen include three of the firms said by others to have risen (Gartner, Forrester and IDC), as well as Aberdeen Group. One participant, commenting on a draft of this article, said “Aberdeen dropped in opinion or influence over the past couple of decades because it was seen increasingly as a pay-to-play marketing machine. This doesn’t sit well with executives and AR pros.” While that’s somewhat true, Aberdeen is still around because if offers value to both vendors and to its readers.

A total of 198 users of analyst research participated in the survey. The chart below reflects the opinions of 70 people who responded to one of the trickiest questions: which firms have risen or fallen the most. The survey is not perfect: non-random participants were invited through twitter, and invitations were sent to my LinkedIn contacts, subscribers to the Analyst Equity newsletter, and to past participants in analyst relations events. As a result the participants reflect those folk: 41% are from the Americas, 52% from EMEA and 7% from Asia-Pacific. On average out of every seven participants, roughly three work for telecoms or technology solution providers, two work for private sector firms, one is an analyst and one works elsewhere, like the public or non-profit sectors.

 

Chart 1: The firms most reported to have risen in influence by respondents to the 2012 analyst value survey

 

 

We have a few initial thoughts about these results: generally it shows two contradictory viewpoints exist: some folk feel the big three (Gartner, Forrester and IDC) are winning more; others feel they are winning less. If we mimic the approach of the Net Promoter Score, and subtract the numbers of people who feel each firm has fallen from those who say it has risen, then the firms with the greatest net improvement are: Ovum; HfS Research; Pierre Audoin; 451 Group / Tier 1 and Constellation. Honourable mentions also go to TBR, Infonetics and Saugatuck.

We like to focus on the positive so, with apologies to the colour-blind, let’s drill down on the firms who are said to be most increasing.

 

Chart 2: The firms most reported to have risen in influence by respondents to the 2012 analyst value survey

 

This year’s survey spotlights a number of second tier firms which have risen over the last few years. While it shows the change, it doesn’t fully explain the causes. I’d love to hear your thoughts about why these firms are rising, or falling.

  • Founded only in 2010, the rise of outsourcing and cloud solutions has allowed HfS Research to build momentum. The firm has been ideally placed in a growing niche, making its own growth much easier. Its pace has been accelerated by the changes at the Everest Group, which has lost some high profile (and high quality) consultants to HfS.
  • Pierre Audoin Consultants is a long-distance runner. Founded in 1976, the European firm has attracted a very specific type of analysts (including some talented Gartner and Ovum alumni). PAC looks for ‘five-legged sheep’ – the very rare analyst animal that can research, analyse, consult, present and project manage. It also made a substantial advance by purchasing Berlecon and building up a strong base in Eastern Europe.
  • The 451 Group is something like a US doppelganger of PAC, but without PAC’s strong focus on consultancy. Currently limited to the US and Europe, the swift pace means that time-poor vendors especially value its crisp research. Through Tier 1 Research and the Uptime Institute it has a unique footprint. It has also attracted some excellent IDC and Ovum alumni. Right now, there’s a lot of M&A chatter at the moment involving The 451 Group, and we expect it to announce at least one major acquisition in 2013.
  • Constellation Research is another 2010 birth using a flexible model combining full-time staff and self-employed analysts. That gives the business a wide pool of talent, and puts its strong business development team to work. Its social media savvy and entrepreneurial edge gives it a distinct place in the market.
  • Frost & Sullivan is perhaps the most surprising name, but it too was mentioned by a few participants. Frost’s secondary research centres in cities like Chennai, San Antonio, London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have given it a low-cost niche in market sizing across several industries, which are highly valued for vendors’ market entry and market intelligence activities.

The recession has produced some extreme environmental change in the analyst industry. Many of the best-rated firms are those which are most flexible in working with vendors, partly because many of the respondents to the survey are vendors. One participant said those analysts “do not harp on the traditional subscription-based research and put more focus on consulting, advising, etc.” Many of these firms, like PAC, hire analysts with strong consulting skills. As a result, their consulting and custom project revenues are closer to two-thirds of their total, while firms like Gartner and Forrester have consulting revenues that are less than one third of the total.

It’s interesting to contrast these results with the findings from 2006, before the profound shake-up since the credit crunch. As in 2012, the top three firms were Gartner, Forrester and Ovum. Back in 2006, the second tier rising firms were Aberdeen Group, AMR, Burton Group and IDC. Aberdeen’s value is now much less clear to vendors, while AMR and Burton Group have been bought by Gartner. IDC’s position is largely unchanged.

Next year I’ll be especially interested to see how firms like Bloor, Quocirca, Real Story Group, RedMonk and Securosis fare. Those are the firms which, on the basis of free-text comments in our survey, we should be watching especially closely in 2013.

Duncan Chapple

Six steps to get value for money from your analyst contracts

While the Northern hemisphere is getting chilly, this is the one month when salespeople at firms like Gartner and Forrester really start to sweat. Many vendors sign off their major contracts with analysts firms around now, and it’s a great opportunity for analyst firms and vendors to maximise the value from their contracts.

 

Despite the huge scale of vendor spending with analysts, many users don’t get the best value from their subscriptions. Gartner has a huge number of account managers and, while some clients don’t like being sold to, the advantage of working with Gartner is that it works harder than most other firms to make sure that seat-holders benefit from what they have bought.

That said, it isn’t only expensive analysts that deliver the best value. For example, when my colleagues and I help vendors to design and negotiate the optimal portfolio of analyst firms we typically start by surveying their key consumers of analyst services. Out of 20 firms that managers that a US vendor mentioned in our most recent project, I was impressed to see UK-headquartered Bloor Research come up as the fourth most valuable analyst firm: with its research almost on a par with IDC’s.

Of course, that says a lot about Bloor’s ability to attract analysts with deep niche expertise. However the reality is that it’s the individual analysts that create the insight, not the brand power of the firm, or its location.

We recommend six steps for firms wanting to get more value from analysts, but there’s one over-arching observation: it’s a win-win activity. We’ve found that account executives at analyst firms are generally willing partners in helping clients to get the best value. Of course they want to maximise contract value, but they know that the wrong portfolio of services won’t be highly valued. With very few exceptions, you can expect salespeople at analyst firms to be serious partners.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Audit. Large organizations sometimes lose sight of what is being spent with analyst firms outside of what goes through the primary contract. Identifying this current spend and adding it to total spend, strengthens your position. Having all the data in hand before the contracts are presented puts one in a position of strength.
  2. Benefits. Analyst firms should give valuable insight into market changes and developments, future trends, technology insights, what others are doing, and what customers want. The analysts can be an information bridge between vendor and clients. By measuring the benefits of subscriptions, you can establish value for money.
  3. Goals. Clients need to establish which firms best allow it to meet business goals. That means understanding who the priority users are, what parts of the value proposition are primary, and what users of analysts services find each firm’s strengths and weaknesses to be.
  4. Options. Any choice is only as good as its best available alternative. So identify alternative sources of research and inquiry access. There may be some areas of duplication between the analyst firms, and there might be some opportunity to better align analyst access internally. Identify the best alternative provider for every service, so you’re not dependent on any one firm.
  5. Portfolio design. Analyst firms employ some habitual tricks to get more power, including offering benefits which are either not essential to client success, or presenting established levels of service or access, which are not explicitly placed in the contract, as a special favour. To get around that, identify a portfolio of alternative firms that offer the best value for the analyst services that are critical for success. Consider taking a quarter off from your most long-standing contract, just to ensure you’re not dependent on a provider.
  6. Negotiate. Work to bring the best value services, shown in the benefits analysis, into the bottom line of the contract negotiation. Review contracts to ensure that the terms include what users need. Negotiate the contracts extensively in advance.

Everything depends on those how well the analyst firm understands the client’s initial needs, and how proactive it is in making that happen. The rest is mechanics and either account teams deliver or not. If they don’t, they don’t deserve your business.

Duncan Chapple

Note: My thanks go to several people, all of whom have helped buy or sell analyst services in the US, UK, Netherlands and Germany, and who freely gave their opinions and thoughts for this article. While I am responsible for its final form, I want to especially thank Merv Adrian and Agi Donnithorne for sharing their thoughts.

Five mistakes slow ICT solution providers’ sales

 

Buyers say IT vendors are aggressive, arrogant, ignorant and over-promising. However, that’s not the only problem discovered by the latest B2Buyology survey, which Loudhouse released at a panel discussion in the IET’s beautiful Thames-side headquarters on November 14.

Loudhouse MD Billy Hamilton Stent presented the research, which asked over 250 UK executives with IT responsibility in £50m+ businesses. Only 27% found IT vendors’ sales and marketing efforts to be innovative and professional. That’s a major lost opportunity for the industry, since 38% of firms report they are spending more on technology this year. Only 16% are spending less.

The major disconnection between customers and suppliers discovered by the study is that while IT vendors tend to define themselves by their technology, those ‘better mousetraps’ don’t speak directly to their clients’ needs and business demands.

Fresh from winning the PRCA’s specialist agency of year award the previous night, Rocket MD Pete Hendricks opened up a panel discussion of the research. Hendricks explained that many vendors seem to have a non-specific understanding that senior executives outside IT have a growing impact on sales. However, that realisation doesn’t mean they know who those influencers are, beyond a vague idea that it’s the C-suite.

Roger Alderson, formerly a global marketing leader at EDS, HP and Logica, expanded the discussion by listing five hurdles for vendors: understanding their market; identifying the co-decision-makers; discovering their criteria for buying; selling the value of the solution; and delivering in a way that builds up on-going customer engagement.

The final panellist, PAC managing director Jean-Christophe Bodhuin, made the discussion more concrete by relating the research to how major ICT vendors were going to market. He discussed the challenges that IT firms, like IBM, faced in developing business concepts that related more to client needs than to technology trends, like Cloud.

The panel responded to questions from an audience which included some of the best-known IT leaders, including Cisco, Ciena, HCL, IBM and Progress Software. The issue of selling through the channel, and the role of master managed service providers, was a topic of special interest.

Hamilton Stent closed the event with a hint of what the next B2Buyology report will bring to its audience. Scheduled for February 2013, the event will focus on how content accelerates purchasing, which brands perform best, and the ‘death’ of the sales funnel.

If you would like to attend or are interested in finding out more about the upcoming event please feel free to contact us.

Duncan Chapple.

A 7-Question Q&A with our newest Loudhouse member… Pru Shelton

 

 

 

 

This month we roll out the red carpet to our newest member, Loudhouse’s new Research Director Pru Shelton.  We asked her a quick couple of questions on some of her previous experience, her feelings on London as a football capital and some other ‘need to know’ information as a bit of a get-to-know you. Enjoy!

1. So Pru, tell us a little bit about yourself – in 50 words or less!

I’m a seasoned market researcher, specialising in communications research. I started my career at Ipsos conducting advertising research, before moving to Interpublic Group’s KRC Research predominantly working alongside PR agencies and, most recently, communications and reputation research at ComRes. I’m naturally nosey, and that’s a handy trait for a researcher!

2. What are you most excited about with your new role at Loudhouse, and working within the wider Octopus Group?

I love working with multidisciplinary teams and joining the dots between research and other communications functions.  With Octopus, Rocket, Union Street and Loudhouse under one umbrella, there are so many opportunities to use research and some great clients to work with. I’m looking forward to getting to know the Octopus Group people, what their clients want to achieve, and seeing whether research can help them get there – whether that be through a survey-based headline, a thought leadership piece, or internal strategic insights.

 3. Any exciting plans for this Christmas? More importantly what’s your preference – mince pies or pudding?

Perhaps not exciting, but definitely relaxing: I’ll be heading down to Kent to see my folks. I always have good intentions to go jogging in the countryside every day, or help more around the house – but I usually end up watching films, eating huge amounts, and drinking red wine earlier in the day than I would usually. Mince pies, definitely – I’ve got a weakness for pastry!

4. What would your colleagues say are your greatest strengths as a researcher?

I’ve worked in a few non-research companies, so they’d probably say that I’m able to dumb down research terminology and processes, and also to enthuse non-research folks about research. It’s all about trying to close the gap between different disciplines; disciplines that can gain a lot out of working with one another. And I know that when non-research people hear the dreaded words “market research”, their eyes usually glaze over, so it’s important to focus on the bigger picture.

5. What are some examples of great research which stood out for you in 2012? Which marketing campaign do you wish you had come up with and what are you most excited for in 2013? 

I loved the Samsung S3 video campaign (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf5-Prx19ZM). As someone who may have, just once or twice, turned their nose up at those who buy the latest Apple product just because it’s from them, it’s nice to know that us Apple-sceptics are a recognised entity. I think it was a smart piece of insight and brave decision-making to single them out for that campaign. Similar to the age-old Marmite campaign, there’s a risk of hacking off a considerable segment of the population with such a platform. 

I’m hoping that Abercrombie and Fitch have a follow-up to their Call Me Maybe video next year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5NRWM3FgqA) – purely for aesthetic reasons, as I’m not sure whether it actually drove sales.

6. Important question as someone living in London – which FC do you support?

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve never had any firm allegiance. That said, I seem to have quite a few friends who are Spurs fans, so I’d probably support them if any team.

7. Finally, it’s Movember. What do you really think of the quality of Movember tache efforts you’ve seen so far from your Loudhouse colleagues so far?

Having joined on 5th November, I initially thought that some of the Loudhouse guys were just fans of designer stubble. But as the days go on and more of them shave around the top lip, the glory of the evolving masterpiece is evident. Roll on the last few days of November!

What I like most is that, meeting the team for the first time with their moustaches in full swing, that first impression will likely stick and I’ll always think of them as a moustachioed bunch.

Pru joins us from ComRes, and will be based out of our London offices in Southwark. Pru started her career in market research at Ipsos ASI in 2002. Over the next three years, she worked on advertising pre-testing, post-testing, and ad and brand tracking projects for organisations such as British Airways, the World Gold Council and Sunny Delight.

In 2006, she moved to KRC Research – IPG’s research agency which is closely aligned to Weber Shandwick and Golin Harris. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, she helped a number of organisations optimise communications strategies, including brands like Abbott, Monster and MasterCard.

At ComRes, Pru led the quantitative research team on a variety of research projects including on behalf of Thames Tunnel, Plan UK, the BBC and ITV. At Loudhouse, Pru can be contacted on 08455 057770, or pru@loudhouse.co.uk

She will be managing both insight and content research campaigns and helping to develop new research- led propositions for the Group.

 

Analysts are treated inhumanly

Analyst relations (AR) programmes have a substantial opportunity for improvement. This month I’ve been reviewing ten years’ worth of data from the Analyst Attitude Survey, which Loudhouse Research and Lighthouse AR co-produce. Around 700 analysts have taken part in the survey and, after around 180 analysts downloaded last week, I’ve also been thinking over comments from them. What I’ve seen is that there’s a real opportunity to work smarter and more strategically.

However, most AR teams are having a harder time of things than they were. Analysts are now more demanding. Spokespeople are less forthcoming. While all AR managers understand that their reach is primarily a function of their resources, not every team is investigating how it can punch above its weight – or what is holding it back. One great example of that is the reticence to use social media to support relationship-building. While a tiny percentage of AR professionals are over-egging social media massively, many more turn a blind eye to social media. The challenge, of course, is to work out what kind of social media activity fits the analysts you are prioritising, both in terms of sharing insight and building rapport. It’s much easier to disregard all social media use, saying that it’s not worth the investment.

By sharing best practices, we can reach our goals more effectively. AR becomes more accountable and more effective when it has clearer objectives. The traditional approach to that is share of voice metrics, which the IIAR recent profiled in a teleconference. However, I feel it is better when AR teams use balanced scorecard approaches that help them collect an accurate view of analyst relations activities as a process with demonstrable measurement of sales and marketing benefits. That means setting multiple objectives: some that are meaningful to the business, and thus drive their accountability; others that focus on the quality and volume of AR ‘inputs’, and which taken together help to force AR teams out of the narrow range of traditional metrics (e.g. number of emails sent, number of mentions, or hours of analyst time).

The best AR programmes build real relationships with their top influencers. Therefore the AR process also requires an understanding of how the analysts see the wider industry environment. Understanding of the analysts’ research agenda is one prerequisite of helping analysts to meet their goals. AR professionals need to consume much more of the information that analysts consume. By doing so, we can start discussions from the real world rather than one company’s internal reality. That’s important for two reasons.

First, AR can deliver much more value to the business by feeding the individual and collective analyst agendas back to spokespeople and other colleagues. If the firm doesn’t address one of the analysts’ priorities, then it probably relates to a vulnerability which can impact future marketing activities. As a side-benefit, it’s also hugely rewarding for analysts when spokespeople show that they are aware of an analyst’s research (and personal interests).

Second, weaker AR programmes are less aware of the analysts’ agenda; that’s reflected by numerous symptoms. One is ‘broadcast’ email blasts that are not cherry-picked. Another, more generally, is the weakness or absence of personal relationships between analysts and AR professionals. These frail personal relationships are especially toxic when companies pass through periods of bad news. Too many AR professionals define analysts only by what they do, and sadly do not make the effort to connect personally with the analyst.

It’s dehumanising when AR professionals recognise neither an analyst’s individual research priorities nor what’s important to them personally outside work. Both are required to give analysts what they are looking for both rationally and emotionally. That sort of connection makes AR easier and more satisfying on both sides. The absence of this sort of relationship-building inhibits the flow of information and, because that makes analysts less likely to recommend solution providers, thus decelerates and derails the procurement process for analysts’ clients.

The fact that 700 analysts have contributed to the Analyst Attitude Survey give a sense of the frustration and impatience that many analysts feel with the analyst community. The power of their feedback is a vital tool for AR managers arguing internally for the added resources need to treat the analyst community’s long tail in a more humane way.

Duncan Chapple

A disruption in the force: Users win from Forrester’s Playbook, but will AR?

If the new Tech Heads survey of CIOs is correct, Forrester’s new ‘Playbook’ research framework is set for success.

When July’s TechHeads survey asked 250 CIOs about how they want to consume analysis, the answers was clear: in short, free-standing chunks. Forrester’s Playbook is a great step in this direction, dividing each the challenges facing industry professionals into a consistent framework used across every Playbook. The result produces great challenges and opportunities for analyst relations professionals.

TechHeads is an annual study conducted by Rocket Communications which asks top UK technology directors and CIOs how they consume information (See http://rocketcomms.net/tech-heads.php ). My colleagues at Loudhouse Research crunch the data, and it’s amazing to see how these managers are crying out for concise headlines and short, self-contained blocks of text. That means producing strongly-structured analysis, where each component is free-standing and, potentially, the blocks could be ‘sliced and diced’. In the TechHeads research, for example, CIOs are looking for just 4% of analysis to be over 2,000 words. Other firms have already moved in this direction: for example research from Current Analysis and The 451 Group has shone brightly, for several years, for its concision.

As far as I know, Forrester is not setting itself word counts like that, but the modular Playbook approach is the most substantial step towards this modularisation by a major analyst firm. In the Playbook format, each of four key priority areas for professionals are broken down in to three strategic tasks.

This framework for tight writing gives analysts a question to answer, allowing the analysis to be focussed and pointed. That helps the reader. It also accelerates the development of high-quality writing by analysts, a challenging process on which Forrester sets great value. Of course Forrester emphasises that the Playbook is more than just a way to organise its research. It is a framework for how to engage with clients via research, consulting, peer-networking (Leadership Boards) and events.

Analyst relations professionals, however, should not imagine that this makes their jobs easier. Forrester presented the Playbook last week to the recent London meeting of the IIAR, a key stakeholder group. One of the other attendees there, Kim Crosby, told me that when Forrester announces changes, from “roles to playbooks, it’s just complicating simple things that don’t require intellectualising”. That’s not a Luddite view: it’s a well-observed point. Changing the structure of research produces a disruptive learning curve for readers, writers and influencers. That might initially lessen the force and impact of some Forrester analysis. Forrester feels that the net result will be worth ‘the disruption in the force’, and the TechHeads research makes me think they are right.

Like it or not, analyst relations managers must adapt to the Playbook format. I gave similar guidance a few years ago after Forrester moved to role-based research (http://www.analystequity.com/997). AR managers’ internal clients generally would prefer research that’s not like the Playbook: they want research that focusses on one vendor’s solution and explains where it can be used to unlock the most client value. The bad news is that if Forrester holds its course, less and less research will be like that. But the good news, if UK CIOs are indicative of Forrester’s global audience, is that the Forrester’s Playbooks will be more useful and more influential than its current research.

That produces an opportunity for AR managers. If we are able to present solutions in ways that corresponds as closely as possible to the Playbook structure, then Forrester analysts will find it easier to write about our firms than about competitors. Of course that requires extra work to reconfigure information: we need to hope that our competitors won’t be bothered to take the effort, or to reap the rewards.

Duncan

Hopping to victory…

“Has all my life been leading up to this moment?” I ask myself the morning after. Sure, it had all the trappings of victory – the raising aloft of the yellow space-hopper and the exultant cries of the Ops Team, “We won one at last.” But like Ben Cross in “Chariots of Fire” it feels like a hollow victory.

It was the next instalment of the Octopus Group Office Olympics, and it was time for the Olympic Hop-OFF. The event itself had been fantastic – Abi, Helen and Sophie had proven worthy opponents, but had just been unable to make it out of the heats.

Showing the true international flavour of the event, and indeed the Octopus Group, the final came down to the oldest of rivalries; England vs. Slovakia. Ingrid laid down a fearsome pace, recording a time that almost ducked under the legendary one minute barrier that doctors had said was physiologically impossible.  A truly awesome opponent who deserves most of the credit for the exciting sporting spectacle the crowd had to witness on the day.

Reminding myself of every wet Thursday night training and the long weekend runs gasping for breath, I summoned up every ounce of my MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) being, and bounced my way to victory.

It was all over…I was the Octopus Group, Windsor Office, Hop-Off Champion 2012.

Hop-OFF

But in my heart, I know it’s not right. You see, I had an unfair advantage….I was the only contestant who had owned an original 1969 orange kangaroo space-hopper….life had prepared me for this event in the back gardens of West London in a way just not available to anyone else. “Ingrid, you are the true champion. You can have my chocolate medal, but I’m keeping the space-hopper.”

David

On your marks, get set, load your guns… go!

The dust had barely settled from the last week’s Mini Pong ‘OFF’ when at 17:00 Thursday 29thJune, the call came round that it was time to flex those muscles! That’s right, it was arm wrestling time – a sport that has been around since the day humans figured they had arms.

For those of you who haven’t indulged in this ancient sport, it isn’t complicated. You don’t need any equipment and the simple aim is to try and pin down the arm of your opponent. It’s a sport that’s all about brute strength, good leverage and quick instincts – qualities that shone through from all noble contestants.

The stage was set in the orange room; ‘the theatre of dreams’. It’s just you, your guns/miniguns and your opponent. There was a good turn out and a lively crowd with some dangerous heckles for topless wrestling (thankfully not enforced).

Over the course of the tournament we saw many different wrestling techniques. One bout that sticks in all our minds was the epic stand-off between Rebecca ‘the tinker‘ Taylor and Georgia ‘the hitman‘ Hart. A battle that resembled a scene from Friends where Spudnik and the big pink bunny had a stand-off to remember. Both contestants shared their percentage of possession, but in the interest of work deadlines, something had to give. The give was ‘the tinker‘s right bicep and ‘the hitman‘ walked away a delighted yet exhausted victor.

Rebecca vs. Georgia

There were many rounds to follow, but two people in particular were causing a stir amongst the crowd. The undefeated Sammy ‘the height‘ Jamieson and Steven ‘the wrist‘ Miller.  Before long it was time for the final bout. Sammy a 6′ 3″ (high) PR professional from Octopus vs. Steve a 6′ 3″ (wide) designer from Loudhouse.

Arm wrestling

Both contestants had taken their seats and the crowd was chanting. The count down begun, 3, 2, 1…. and it was over. A disappointed crowd, who were expecting more, didn’t get the value they were after. The victor, “the wrist”, had these words to say after the tournament:“I’m just so pleased to get Loudhouse, Windsor its first of many wins. Its good to get our team onto the podium, and more importantly, these chocolate medals are rather tasty”.

Watch this space for the next ‘off’ update!

Steve