Late December is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by and think about the people that made the year special. Among the people who are special to analysts are the many people we work with in the vendor community. The key contacts we have with the vendors are in the field of Analyst Relations. It must be a tough job, since they probably find themselves in a constant game of tug-and-war between the analysts and their employers – they being the rope that’s getting pulled, of course. It is often a thankless job, so I want to say, “Thank you!” to them all!
For the past few years, I thought it would be a nice gesture to award a semi-formal recognition to the Analyst Relations professional of the past year. There is no trophy, plaque, or certificate, just my personal gesture of appreciation.
For the subset of AR pros I encounter, one name has appeared repeatedly on the winner’s list – Liz Kingof CA. In fact, she has won 3 of the four awards so far. Liz is amazing! She embodies all the qualities of greatness in this field! Another stellar professional won it in 2011, Linda Sanders of HP. This year, we have another name making this venerable list, but I have to also give special kudos to Liz, who was once again incredible in 2013.
I will postpone the name of my 2012 winner for a bit. I first want to thank the great AR professionals with whom I have the pleasure of working! For those outside the technology vendor world, analyst relations is a function vendors use as the liaison between their people and analysts like me. We influence the market and therefore they know they need us to understand their offerings so we can accurately advise our clients.
Not all AR people are good, so the great ones always stand out. Some view the analysts merely as extensions of their marketing initiatives and see their job revolving around trying to “brainwash” the analysts. This is a narrow-minded view of the relationship that never works with self-respecting, intelligent analysts. Take note, vendors: we analysts hate that approach!
Great AR professionals engage us in a more intimate two-way dialog. We need more than just the occasional briefing. We need access to executives and developers. We need to know the roadmap and where executives see the company going. My favorite part of the relationship is to be integral to strategic directions, participating in the development rather than just being informed after the fact. The great ones make this process seamless and enjoyable. We all like to pick on vendors, but we need to engage them as partners. The reason we like to pick on them is because poor AR and other stereotypical behaviors fuel distrust and sometimes downright hostility. Bad vendors give the good ones a bad rap.
I am fortunate to work with some fantastic AR professionals! They make my life easier and I appreciate that! They all share some important attributes:
They are genuinely warm people. They may be aggressive inside their organizations and possibly even disliked for their ambitious approach, but to us, they clearly want to help us. That benefits their employers more than most people know.
A lot of emerging companies think they've "arrived" when they've launched their first analyst briefing "tour." Oftentimes, these start-ups have very small to no marketing function internally, instead turning to outside agencies for public relations, marketing communications, and of course, the debut to the analyst influencers. These small firms feel confident that once they've placed themselves in the hands of the seemingly capable agencies, they'll get all the ink and influence needed to execute the hockey-stick growth curve they've presented to their board and investors. The agency then scurries off, schedules a bunch of analyst briefings, and gives themselves a big pat on the back: mission accomplished! The appointed briefing time comes, the firm's show dog delivers the pitch, and then. . . the promise of a successful briefing fizzles.
Earlier this week, I had a briefing with just such a start-up. The agency dutifully sent me the slides in advance and, as analysts are inclined to do, I took a look. . . and was left wondering just what value this agency was providing to this client. Why? The slide deck, while short, did nothing to sell this company to me, the analyst. Here's the start-up's value proposition:
To this end, Company X seeks to design a system leveraging the latest technologies and utilizing a common processing engine and user interface to provide an integrated, easy-to-use, cost effective solution for financial institution.