Analyzing B2B Analyst Relations
Forrester. Gartner. IDC. These global market research firms can put your brand on the map, or they can tuck you into the doldrums of an undesirable quadrant. With a direct and well-trusted line to B2B customers, analyst relations are no joke, and the CMO plays an integral role in building up a mutually beneficial relationship that lasts.
In this episode, CMOs Isabelle Papoulias of Mediafly, Carlos Carvajal of Q2, and Narine Galstian of SADA share their experiences navigating the world of analyst relations and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Whether you’re in the early stages of getting on the analysts’ radar or refining the way you engage your analyst connections, this episode is packed with best practices, mistakes to avoid, and more.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- How 3 CMOs navigate analyst relations
- How to get the analysts into your corner (and get into their quadrant!)
- Real-world analyst relations stories, best practices, mistakes to avoid
Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 267 on YouTube
- RMU Episode #176: Keep Calm and Acquisition On
- “Mediafly acquires Alinean to Expand Evolved Selling Offering” via Mediafly.com
- Forrester Wave (with Mediafly): Sales Content Solutions, Q3 2020
- RMU Episode #211: B2B Partnerships That Matter
- Google Cloud Partner Awards: SADA, North America Reseller Partner of the Year
- CMO Huddles
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
- [0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Marketers Live!
- [1:56] Isabelle Papoulias on Analyst Relations at Mediafly
- [9:46] Carlos Carvajal on Analyst Relations at Q2
- [15:51] Narine Galstian on Analyst Relations at SADA
- [21:41] How to Get on Analysts’ Radar
- [25:08] On CMO Huddles
- [27:57] Great and Not-So-Great Analyst Relations Examples
- [34:12] Tactics to Get (and Keep) Analysts Engaged
- [39:04] Examples of Recent Analyst Interactions
- [44:21] Analyst Relations Dos and Don’ts
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Isabelle Papoulias, Carlos Carvajal, and Narine Galstian
[0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Marketers Live!
Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Today, you’ll be listening to a recording of Renegade Marketers Live, our live show exclusively featuring the marketers of CMO Huddles, our fast-growing, incredibly engaged community of B2B CMOs.
This episode in particular is all about analyst relations, as in how to build a close partnership with the people who can put your brand on the map. We’re talking about the Forresters, the Gartners of the world.
CMOs Isabelle Papoulias of Mediafly, Carlos Carvajal of Q2, and Narine Galstian of SADA come with so many great insights and real-world examples of how they’ve engaged these analysts to boost their companies’ success. I know you’re going to enjoy the show. Give it a listen. Let me know what you think.
[1:56] Isabelle Papoulias on Analyst Relations at Mediafly“Her response to me was, ‘You don't make sense, but I feel like you're being a little too polite and a little too shy, and not provocative enough. I think you can come out and be a lot more bold.’” —Isabelle Papoulias @Mediafly Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m your host, Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. Today we’re going to be talking about the all-important world of analyst relations. These are the folks like Gartner and Forrester, who can literally put your brand on a map with a good review or who can legitimize your efforts to claim a whole new category or can relegate your brand to the dreaded doldrums of an undesirable quadrant.
Many CMOs recognize that having analysts in their corner is foundational for outbound efforts and their assessments can also impact long-term retention as competitors exploit more favorable reviews.
So, in this show, we’re going to explore how CMOs start these relationships, gain favorability, leverage good reviews, and overcome the not-so-good ones. With that, let’s bring on Isabelle Papoulias, CMO of Mediafly and star of episode 176 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hello Isabelle. Welcome.
Isabelle Papoulias: Hi. Hi, Drew.
Drew Neisser: How are you doing today?
Isabelle Papoulias: I’m good. I’m waiting for the gin!
Drew Neisser: Ah well, we’ll get there. I know a lot of people are waiting for the gin. It’s that kind of Thursday, I guess. Anyway, let’s talk.
Mediafly is a relatively young company. And I know you’ve grown a lot during your last four and a half years there and 30 months as CMO. Can you remember back to the early days and how challenging it was to even get on the analysts’ radar?
Isabelle Papoulias: Yeah, I do. Even though I should start by saying that the way we handle analyst relations at Mediafly is perhaps a little different than most other companies like ours. The relationship is managed by our president primarily, with very, very heavy involvement by our CEO. It’s not technically owned by marketing even though I’m also heavily involved. It’s really led from the very, very top and it’s an enterprise-wide initiative.
And I do remember, when I started to get involved, it was hard. It was hard because we didn’t quite have a differentiated story. We were still a small company then. And frankly, it was hard for them to take us seriously. I mean they do look at scale. Back then, we weren’t the size that we were today. Lots has changed since then with the way analysts look at us.
Drew Neisser: It’s interesting to me and I think it’s worth pointing out that the fact that your CEO is paying attention to this and leads this activity only expresses how important it really is, at least in his or her mind, where they’re going.
So, I’m curious, what was the flipping point where you sort of moved from, “Who are these guys? They’re kind of way too small to care about,” to, “Oh, wow. Okay, we’ve got to start tracking them.” There’s got to be a moment where suddenly “Hey, they care!”
Isabelle Papoulias: Yeah, I would say for us that turning point was our first acquisition. We’ve had three acquisitions in two years. That’s a lot. And when we made that first acquisition, which was the acquisition of Alinean, its value selling tool, they were very much included in that decision.
They helped craft the go-to-market and the vision. I would say that was, in my mind, a turning point in the relationship. And then, of course, there was a second acquisition and then the third.
Then fast forward to, I’m in a relationship with Forrester, currently, so fast forward to the Forrester Wave of last year. We tackled that differently than the previous waves, which I’m sure we’ll touch on later in the conversation. And we performed really, really well and move the way, way up into the right, so that was another key milestone in our relationship with them.
Drew Neisser: So, I want to go back and break that down, because that’s so interesting to me that you would work with the analysts. They in theory have a vision for where the category is going because they obviously are working with folks who would be potential buyers of your product.
They have a vision and literally, in conversations with them, they say, “Well, if you had this too, you would be formidable.” That’s a bullet point on that. It’s like, “Whoa, it’s not just selling them on your current vision.” It’s sort of getting them involved in the vision. Interesting.
So, the next part of this that I’m curious about is, there’s a moment when you make this acquisition and it’s just vaporware because you’ve got your company and the other company and nothing’s been integrated, right? There’s no bridge made. Suddenly, you want to promise this sort of integrated thing.
How do you decide when you go back to the analysts and say… okay, because they bought into the vision, but that you actually have this product, and it works?
Isabelle Papoulias: The way we engage with them, frankly, is ongoing. There are multiple calls with analysts every month. So, it’s not a “Oh, we had an acquisition… Oops, the integration is not quite working to what we planned and now let’s talk to them.”
It’s ongoing. And I mean multiple calls a month. I don’t know if that answers your question exactly. I think it does, but not the way you want.
Drew Neisser: No, but I think it’s really interesting. Again, multiple calls a month—these are really close relationships that impact how you talk about your business, what your product roadmap is. This isn’t just going to them like you’re going to a film critic and saying, “Hey, like my movie.”
These are folks that are actively involved in the business. And you and I had a podcast conversation, gosh, I don’t know how long ago it was now—well, certainly more like a year and a half ago—and you had just gone through the second of the three acquisitions. I remember that that second one really caused you to rethink the brand.
I’m imagining at the same time, while the analysts are advising you, you also are thinking, “Wait a second, we’ve changed as a company, and we have to change our story.” How does that work?
Isabelle Papoulias: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that example because that’s a very relevant one. I remember it vividly. As you know, we pivoted the strategy about two weeks before the announcement. Fun times.
I remember having a session with one of the analysts. In fact, her response to me was, “Okay, you don’t make sense, but I feel like you’re being a little too polite and a little too shy, and not provocative enough. I think you can come out and be a lot more bold. Don’t be so polite and nice.”
You asked me about acquisitions, specifically, and how we engage analysts, but this is also to illustrate the types of conversations we have and how we engage and how they can help. Mind you, that’s not to say that we’ve always agreed on things. There are things we’ve done wrong.
Drew Neisser: We’ll get those things because I want to come back to how you don’t always agree with them and got things wrong. That’s great. We’ll come back to that. The one thing I just wanted to say that I love is the analyst saying to you, “Be courageous. Get out there and be courageous.” I love it.
[9:46] Carlos Carvajal on Analyst Relations at Q2“Analyst relations is a team sport.” —@carloscarvajal @Q2_Software Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring in Carlos Carvajal, CMO of Q2 and star of Episode 211 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hello, Carlos.
Carlos Carvajal: How are you doing, Drew? It’s great to be here.
Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s nice to have you here. Let’s talk about how involved are you? We’ve heard from Isabelle that it’s led by the President, where are you with the management of your analysts?
Carlos Carvajal: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m actually in transition where I’m taking over the programmatic side of analyst relations. I just joined Q2 in the last nine months. It’s been led by the strategy team and that’s been a good approach, but one of the key things that I’m emphasizing right now and that I’ve learned over time is: If you think about analyst relations or even influencer relations, the key word there is “relations” or think about relationship.
At the core of any relationship is communication, how you listen, and just putting a program around that. That’s a lot of what I’m focused on right now, kind of getting that message internally.
As far as the importance behind the communication strategy, how to make it more programmatic, some of the points that Isabelle just mentioned as far as the consistency and all those types of things come into play as far as the impact and potential results.
Drew Neisser: So, as you’re framing it, it feels more like a marketing campaign, but the target audience is really small. You’re trying to, in some ways, get them to buy into a story that you hope they agree with. And what was interesting with Isabelle, it was there’s this strong give and take.
I’m curious, from your standpoint, is there a feedback loop from them? Or is it more like, “Hey, here’s the story we’re hoping to tell. What do you think?”
Carlos Carvajal: No, it’s definitely a feedback loop. But I just think there’s some more internal as far as our approach because listening is critical. Like, if the analysts don’t feel like they’re being listened to, then that’s a bad day, right? So that’s the first thing.
And even if you don’t agree with everything that they say, how do you close the loop? And just close the loop and say, “Hey, this was great. We’re actually making progress. This is what you said, and this is what we’re doing. There are some things that we don’t necessarily agree on, but we appreciate the input.”
I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily running it as a campaign per se. We’re just trying to have more consistency in the cadence of communication and closing the loop and how we communicate.
Also, my strong belief from past experience is that analyst relations is a team sport. You cannot be successful in analyst relations through just marketing driving that. You have to have strong buy-in from product, you have to have strong buy-in from sales, everywhere else, because those are the kinds of things that the analysts are going to bring up with you.
I’ve had to deal with issues in the past as far as, “Hey, we don’t think you’re growing your partner ecosystem as fast. What are you doing in that area? What are you doing around customer references and testimonials?” So, getting buy-in across the company to help you basically address those topics and really change the game I think is critical.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s so interesting, and several things that I could go after. I’m curious—you mentioned sometimes you don’t agree with them. What do you do? When their assessment of your business and with some of the things that they’re saying, whether it’s about your product or about what your strategy should be—how do you handle that?
Carlos Carvajal: Yeah, it’s a tricky balance. I think, in that case, what I’ve seen work in the past—and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t—is just to really make sure that you’re communicating the strategy, frankly, the investment in things like advisory days beyond just a 30-minute inquiry, going deeper into explaining why and providing the context.
And then ultimately, the proof is in the results, right? If you deviate from a strategy decision, but you’re showing strong growth and results, that’s something that works itself out. If you deviate from the strategy and the results are not good, then that’s a harder conversation to have.
Drew Neisser: So if you can say, “Look, we’re growing, we’ve got this covered, we’re meeting our numbers, the market is reacting differently to what you’re saying. You’re missing something,” you can go back to them.
But are they spiteful? Like, you didn’t listen to them: “We told you to do more partnerships, how come you’re not doing it?” Or do they sort of let it go?
Carlos Carvajal: Well, no, I think it depends on the scenario. But let me give you a concrete example from the past. It could be something like, “Hey, we believe you should look at an expansion strategy international around certain geos and regions.”
And we may say, “You know what? We actually want to pivot to adjacencies more focused in the US, here’s why, we think we have pull, we can drive it out.” Then we’ll revisit our international strategy and how we grow that. It’s just a different view and the approach and the priority—those kinds of things from a strategic discussion.
But like I said, if those things pan out and work well, there’s not really spite. They kind of understand that sometimes they throw out ideas that are harder to execute, require a certain amount of investment that you can’t really pull off, all those kinds of things. Just having an open dialogue as part of that relationship is the key.
Drew Neisser: It’s funny because it’s one thing when they’re assessing the category and doing their evaluation of your product or service, right? You expect them to be able to go in there and talk to customers and really get to know what it is that you’re doing.
It’s another thing when they’re saying hypothetically when it’s not their business, “You ought to.” It’s like, “Huh, that’s interesting, but can we just talk about your position on our product and why we’re not at the very top of the quadrant?”
Carlos Carvajal: Yes. And that’s so funny, because even internally, you have that discussion sometimes with the CEO—not here, but previous companies—like, “Why aren’t we just in the top right?” Like really simply said. It’s like, “Oh, okay, let me just go fix that tomorrow.” Same kind of thing, right?
Drew Neisser: Well, this is amazing. Thank you for that input.
[15:51] Narine Galstian on Analyst Relations at SADA“We decided to go all-in on Google. It certainly has catapulted our brand and our business model and revenues overall, where we're doubling our business.” —@ngalstian @SADA Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s welcome Narine Galstian, CMO of SADA Systems. Hello, Narine.
Narine Galstian: Hi, Drew. Great to be here. Thank you for including me.
Drew Neisser: Excited to have you. You win for being in your role the longest: Eight years. Congrats on your tenure, by the way.
Narine Galstian: Thank you. It’s been a great journey.
Drew Neisser: There ya go. How involved are you with analyst relations, and how long has that been?
Narine Galstian: I started getting involved in analyst relations about six years ago from a channel perspective and helping the analysts like Forrester and IDC better understand the channel ecosystem and partnerships.
At the time, it was specific to the cloud platform providers like Microsoft and Google Cloud and helping the analysts understand the business models and margins and where the opportunities lie for the partner ecosystem to grow.
We were able to develop relationships from there with specific analysts, and to be able to go back and provide updates and regular cadence calls, if you will, to continue to have that kind of thought leadership aspect of it as well.
It wasn’t just a one-sided, “Here’s what we’re doing from the SADA perspective,” but it was also being able to educate them on what’s changing in the partner ecosystem and the entire landscape.
Drew Neisser: So, you’re doing a lot of spadework, just helping them understand what’s going on, which is important. Since you’ve been there and you’ve been doing this for six years, has your approach evolved? And if so, how?
Narine Galstian: So, their approach has shifted more towards our specific category in professional services for cloud solutions. We did divest our Microsoft practice and went all-in on Google Cloud and got noticed from being the Partner of the Year multi-year and suddenly it was, “Oh, who is who is this SADA competing with the Accentures of the world and why have we not heard of them before?”
Then it really made it clear that we needed to, one, make even more investment into developing those relationships in specific categories. And then becoming members of specific analyst groups like Gartner, for example, and working on that relationship and the feedback loop, as Carlos mentioned too.
It was providing them growth plans, roadmaps, asking for feedback on new products, new solutions, new business models, and being able to take their feedback and seeing what we can and cannot implement, then providing a report back to them. But that relationship is also open lines of communication where they’re coming to us and saying, “What’s next with cloud platforms? What are the next trends? What are your customers asking for? What are they seeing? Where are you successful?” So that relationship and trust build over time.
Drew Neisser: I think it’s so interesting that a business strategy choice, like saying, “We’re going all-in on Google Cloud,” puts you really—you think about the ripple effect of that choice.
And this is the thing that’s so interesting, this goes back to just, so many businesses lack the courage to have a focus like this, but by changing and saying, “We’re not doing everybody, we’re focused on Google Cloud,” suddenly, a lot of things changed for you including the way analysts think about you.
So the connection from strategy to analysts and making some hard choices—or let’s put it this way, focused choices—to me, your story is a huge example of that. So thank you for that. Is that a fair interpretation? That you know, this business strategy catapulted your ability? Suddenly they had a reason to pay attention to you that they didn’t before.
Narine Galstian: Sure. I think when you’re in the professional services side of things, and being able to go all-in on one particular cloud platform, you’re making a really strong statement of, “This is where our expertise and our business strategy is going to be invested in.” And then they’re like, “Why? Why would you only go with one?”
Based on the earnings call yesterday from Google Cloud, I hope it all makes sense for everyone why we decided to go all-in on Google. It certainly has catapulted our brand and our business model and revenues overall, where we’re doubling our business. It provides the credibility to our customers that we are the experts in this cloud platform.
Drew Neisser: Let’s just apply this notion in this moment, for listeners of this show, watchers of this show, sometimes… because at one point, you probably cut loose a big chunk of your business in order to focus on the one and in doing that it doubled and so forth. It’s just such an important perspective.
[21:41] How to Get on Analysts’ Radar“Before any of that outreach happens, take a good look at your story. What is your story? Where are you differentiating yourself in the competitive landscape?” —@ngalstian @SADA Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring everybody back and let’s say that you are at a smaller company that is growing pretty quickly that hadn’t really been on analysts’ radar. Where do you start? Is there a playbook that you can offer some advice on how to get going? I mean, do you go after all four of the big guys? Do you focus on one? What’s a way of getting in with some analysts?
Isabelle Papoulias: I would say, I would explore a number of them. Obviously, start with mutual briefings, right? That’s the first step because you want to make sure that you’re sharing a common vision of the category and aspirations of where it’s going. But I would cast a relatively wide net. I’m not talking 15 analysts, but more than one.
Drew Neisser: Okay, so go ahead, Carlos.
Carlos Carvajal: Yeah, I agree with that. But I think the thing for me just thinking about other companies I’ve been at, in smaller companies, is prioritizing. Do you have like, Tier One, Tier Two, and who’s your number one? Who is the analyst that can make the biggest impact in making sure that you prioritize and why they are going to make the biggest impact?
I can think of one company where I was at within the last few years where it was like, we know that we have a real shot, even being smaller, of getting to the leaders’ section in the benchmark report with this one particular influential analyst. Where, with the other ones, probably not so much.
It was going to take a lot more effort, so we were going to triple down. Like, we’re going to really go hard on them and still maintain the relationship with the other ones. But if we can build a momentum with one, then that gives us a way to actually then pivot into the other ones and show more momentum as a company.
Drew Neisser: It’s such a great point. And again, it’s this notion of focus, because if you get the one analyst on your side, you have something you can market against, right? Obviously, it would be nice to have them all, but when you’re small, take a win and run with it. Anything to add on that, Narine, in getting started with these programs?
Narine Galstian: Yeah, I would say before any of that outreach actually happens that you really take a good look at your story. What is your story? Where are you differentiating yourself in the competitive landscape? What’s your secret sauce that you’re bringing to the table?
You have to really feel confident in what you’re delivering when you get on the phone with an analyst, right? Because they’re gonna ask you, “What is your secret sauce? Who are your competitors? How are you differentiating your products and services?” So that’s the first step.
And second is, I agree with Carlos, definitely prioritize who are your top analysts that are heavy hitters in your space and category. And have a plan of action of not just a one-shot kind of engagement, but really establishing a cadence with them and maybe making an investment.
Sponsoring an event that they’re doing, getting on a panel for a conference or some sort of summit that they’re doing so that you’re contributing to them as much as you’re asking them to contribute to you.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s a pay-to-play world in many ways, and you just have to acknowledge that and again, getting some focus here can really, really help.
[25:08] On CMO Huddles“One of the things I love the most, frankly, is the smaller environment.” —Isabelle Papoulias @Mediafly Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m going to talk about CMO Huddles because that’s how we all came together. I’ll give a little plug for that. CMO Huddles was launched in 2020. It’s an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.
One CMO described Huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.
If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOHuddles.com or send me an email or on LinkedIn or a comment or something to see if you qualify for a guest pass. Okay, so I’m just curious. Would you like to share anything about your experience with CMO Huddles?
Carlos Carvajal: The experience has been awesome. I love learning—I’ll just give a couple real examples. This may be funny actually. But, Isabelle, for example, you’re not even aware of this. But just from previous calls, in the learnings, I’ve actually applied that on my team.
We’re actually talking to a conversational marketing vendor based on your presentation and your team and the learnings and that was incredibly helpful. And then, Drew, your summary emails from last month, around how hard it was to actually get talent and how competitive the market is…
I actually shared that with our HR people team to basically help justify doing offers at a higher base, basically, right? There’s just so much goodness from the learnings and the dialogue and everything else that has been invaluable.
Drew Neisser: I’m blushing. That’s awesome. Thanks, Carlos.
Isabelle Papoulias: Yeah, I mean, I second that. 100%. I’m a big fan. One of the things I love the most, frankly, is the smaller environment. I know many other peer groups are very large. And because of the format of the CMO Huddles, there’s, I don’t know, maybe 10, 15 people on each of the sub-peer groups, which makes it really easy to build one-on-one relationships. I’ve developed quite a few of those and that type of one-on-one networking as a result of your groups, Drew, has been very helpful to me.
Drew Neisser: I love that. Okay, Narine, you don’t have to say anything but feel free.
Narine Galstian: Well, I do want to kind of quickly add, the Huddles are really a great way to share those insights, especially on tools. I’ve gotten some great recommendations for PR agencies, I’ve gotten some great recommendations for tools, and also for reporting ABM campaigns. I think there’s definitely some value of like, “We tried this. It works; it didn’t work. Here’s what I recommend.” That’s really key.
Drew Neisser: I love it. Thank you all for that.
[27:57] Great and Not-So-Great Analyst Relations Examples“It's really on you to make sure that you're always ahead and you're always top of mind. And then that learning just goes both ways.” —@ngalstian @SADA Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s get back to the analyst thing that’s going on. And Isabelle, you mentioned when things go bad or you disagree a little bit and they can go wrong, or a pitch doesn’t work… I’m curious, can you give an example of something that didn’t quite work the way you planned and how you recovered?
Isabelle Papoulias: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a couple. I remember being at an executive off-site and saying, “Well, just because an analyst says we have to do something doesn’t mean that we have to do it!”
By not agreeing with them, in that particular case, we hurt ourselves because that specific feature actually ended up being a table stakes for the sales enablement category, and we lost quite a few deals to competitors because we were too late in executing on that. And eventually, we did. We didn’t listen, we didn’t agree, but we caught up eventually.
Drew Neisser: Right. That was where they were saying, “Here’s something to do. You didn’t do it and you paid the price.” So Okay, second example.
Isabelle Papoulias: Second example was our last Forrester Wave. We were very pleased with our scores ultimately. But you know, it definitely took some negotiation back and forth. Things got tense. There was a moment where things got tense. And that’s okay. Sometimes you really do have to have the confidence to push and have a conviction.
Drew Neisser: Right. You really know that you really have what you say you have, and you can push them on it. I want to get one more sort of war story, if I will, that will make us really want to have a drink after so Narine, maybe you want to share or Carlos. A circumstance that just didn’t quite go as you had hoped, and what you did or didn’t do.
Narine Galstian: Yeah, I think from my perspective, and this was a few years ago, where we missed an opportunity to be included in a Magic Quadrant research report that came out. We basically didn’t brief the analysts properly in making sure that we’re included and really bringing that competitive scenario and that differentiator to the table to be considered in being included.
Drew Neisser: Got it. Yeah, and that’s a bummer. You feel that pain right away. If you’re not in that quadrant, it like you don’t exist, at least to those customers.
I’m curious—talk about a moment where something went really well and what it took to get to that moment.
Carlos Carvajal: I can give one example. It might just take a second. It’s different than a pitch, but we were rolling out a new product line for a new market segment we were going after that had a lot of growth potential. And literally just asked the analysts, because we had a good relationship, “If you were in our shoes, how would you approach you? And what would the strategy be if we wanted to get in the leader section, let’s say two years from now?”
Surprisingly, the analysts just gave us a lot of great feedback, but this is something I wanted to share with everybody. I’ve never done this before. What he came back with, he said, “Hey, you need to do a dry run of the benchmark, of the actual report evaluation.”
So not the actual evaluation, but go through a cycle. It was a paid engagement. We actually filled it all out. Long story short, it helped us identify where the gaps were, and then we could actually action them so that when the cycle came up for the actual report, we actually did really well.
We did get into the leader section. It was pretty amazing. I’d never stopped to think about a dry run-type concept with an analyst, so that was something that made a huge impact.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s kind of like doing SAT prep. Just do a couple practice runs, you figure out, “Oh, I don’t know these words.” Okay, that’s very cool. Any other sort of success stories that you want to share, Narine or Isabelle?
Narine Galstian: From our side, I think it was when we were giving an update having just won our award for Partner of the Year and record-breaking numbers, and the analyst was like, “How are you not in that circle? How did we miss you?”
They took ownership of the fact that we didn’t do our homework right. I think that just really brings forth that it’s also on you to educate them, right? You can’t just think because they’re analysts, they know all the players in the ecosystem or that they know exactly what trends or what partners are playing there.
It’s really on you to make sure that you’re always ahead and you’re always top of mind. And then that learning just goes both ways.
Drew Neisser: It’s really this notion of assuming nothing. And it gets back to what Carlos is talking about—this drumbeat of information that is steady and consistent. They are fallible and the other thing to remember in all of this is, for each one of you, there are 10 competitors who are sending information through them.
So it made me wonder, since everybody has an analyst program of some level or another—Narine, your thing is interesting in that they missed it and you got validation in another way and that’s interesting.
[34:12] Tactics to Get (and Keep) Analysts Engaged“It's the physical events, the digital events. It's the advisory days where you bring them in and it's maybe a full day of discussions. It's the one-on-one phone calls.” —Isabelle Papoulias @Mediafly Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: But is there any wining and dining with these people? I know it’s in the pre-COVID… Can you send them a bottle of gin? What can you do that will help you get at least a conversation started with someone who says, “I know everything about this already. You got nothing new for me.” Any thoughts on that?
Carlos Carvajal: I personally think there is. Just pre-COVID—and I think it’s important as a CMO and as an executive, to have a one-on-one. Even if it’s going out to lunch, just building that relationship and having that kind of dialogue…
Because over time, I remember having a beer with one of the lead analysts at Forrester and it was at a bar where we were just kind of chatting, and that’s where we got into kind of the real discussion, like, “Look, these are the things you’ve really got to dig into because this is what’s hurting you.” Having that kind of dialogue is very different than a formal meeting with like, 10 people and everything else. Personally, I think it helps.
Narine Galstian: Drew, I just wanted to add, I think it’s also important to include the analysts—so for example, if you’re at a conference where analysts are going to be there and your customers are there and you’re hosting an event, include the analysts in that event, allow them the opportunity to talk to your customers.
That’s the first-hand experience they’re going to get to validate your services and bring to the forefront of what differentiates you. Don’t hesitate in inviting them to those types of events.
Drew Neisser: I know that happened a lot in the old pre-pandemic era. I’m curious, because in Huddles over the last year, we’ve talked a lot about these smaller events where you have 10 customers, a couple of prospects, but I’ve never heard anybody say, “We also had analysts at those virtual events.” Like, the virtual wine tasting. I’m just curious, have you included analysts in those kinds of things over the last year and a half?
Isabelle Papoulias: We have, and we do that regularly. I apologize for the downtown Chicago background noise. Exactly that actually. We had a wine tasting recently. When that happened, we regularly invite analysts on webinars, as speakers, presenters back in the day when we had the physical events, obviously, it’ll happen, too.
So, I know someone mentioned the word “campaign” earlier, I forget who it came from, but that resonated with me. I mean, yes, and no. It is a campaign and it’s not a campaign.
But my point is, we’re deploying different tactics to build those relationships. It’s the physical events, the digital events. It’s the advisory days where you bring them in and it’s maybe a full day of discussions. It’s the one-on-one phone calls. It’s all of these elements together that build a relationship over time. I don’t think there’s only one tactic that works better, I think it truly is a combination of things.
Drew Neisser: As you’re talking about that, it feels like, well, you would say about prospect campaign, but one of the things that marketers do is they think about the overarching story and the consistency of that story and packaging that story.
One of the reasons why it seems to make sense to me that a marketer versus say a sales or CEO is they would think about the story and make sure that that story is being told simply and consistently, as opposed to whatever the notion is at that moment.
And that’s why I think this campaign idea also makes sense, right? Now, I’ve no proof that what I’m talking about works except for we know that it works with any other form of communication. Consistency matters.
Narine Galstian: I totally agree with that, Drew. It is a consistent messaging that has to go out, and once you build the foundation of your story, you just keep adding and hitting on the points of your story.
It could be more customer references that prove your product or solution. It could be the growth story and how you’re continuously meeting that plan in advance of it or, you know, going back and reevaluating that. That consistency in the messaging is like any other campaign that you would do with prospects or install base. You have to make it part of your overall messaging.
[39:04] Examples of Recent Analyst Interactions“Just this week, they passed a lead to us for a great opportunity. It's kind of night and day.” —@carloscarvajal @Q2_Software Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: This is the moment where I ask: What would Ben Franklin say? I know that might seem random, but we are talking about, essentially, a third party that’s going to define your reputation. A third party that’s so credible that they can make or break your business.
So, here’s what Ben Franklin would say: “Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.” This is this point where if you get in that lower quadrant, it’s really hard to fix it. Thanks, Ben, for that.
Give us an example of a recent interaction with an analyst. Set the scene, tell us the approach that you took. Let’s start with Isabelle.
Isabelle Papoulias: Sure. I mentioned advisory days as one of the many forms of engagements. We had two half days of an advisory session with an analyst. Typically, we do these a couple of times a year and we do them in a physical location. But because this was a remote environment, as we all know, it happened via Zoom.
It was a messaging ICP advisory day, because we were in the process of refreshing our brand positioning, revisiting our CPS, and so on. I was, frankly, fully expecting that analyst to throw a bomb into all the work I’ve done. Because you never know how these things are gonna go, right?
The way they typically go into these sessions is there’s a lot of pre-work that they expect us to do. They hadn’t realized that we had done a lot of our own work. So instead, we preempted their process and I said to them, “We’re gonna come… I’m not going to fill out all of those things you want us to fill out because I’ve already done the work, so I’m going to come actually show you things for you to react to.” ICP segments and a messaging map and all those things.
That’s how we did it and we got her reaction, asked her to go back and do homework, digest, process, think about the competition, and come back to us with feedback on the second day. It couldn’t have gone better.
Drew Neisser: So, you went bold. Instead of saying, “Listen, listen, listen,” you went saying, “Hey, check this out. What do you think?” And you slayed the dragon. Awesome. Carlos, you want to share a quick interaction recently and how it went?
Carlos Carvajal: Quick interaction—this is one of the leading analysts in our space. There was some past baggage. That’s kind of setting the scene. A lot of it was going in—and this is an analyst I knew from past companies—just kind of talking through it and getting into the frank heart-to-heart conversation around what were the issues, and then making the commitment. I am committed to this relationship, the team, and the company is committed to this relationship and how we’re going to move forward.
And now we’re already—this has just been the last couple months—in a better spot as far as how we’re working together. Just impactful things. One example is, just this week, they passed a lead to us for a great opportunity. It’s kind of night and day. As far as a few months ago, it was like, a little bit combative and now we’re starting to get to a much better place.
Drew Neisser: Build a bridge. Connect it to them in a way that they said, “Okay, we get it.” Narine?
Narine Galstian: Yeah, similar to what Carlos said, I think, building that bridge is really important, where you get to a point where the analysts really, really understand your business and it just kind of goes off.
And then suddenly, they’re thinking about, “Hey, I have customers that could really utilize this. How do I engage both of you together? How do I make those introductions?” They become your advocate.
That’s exactly what happened on a recent call and that’s when you feel really confident of like, “Okay, this, this went exactly how it was supposed to” and you come out of it having that person on your side and being top of mind for them. So when they do their calls with other customers, they’re thinking about your solutions and services.
Drew Neisser: I just had this sort of crazy vision of Isabelle calling this analyst and they go, “We love your product. We just recommended it.” And then Carlos calls, a different company, “Oh, we love your product. We just recommended it.” I mean, these folks are getting pitched so often that I wonder if the last call in is the one that they’re influenced by. And I’m not giving them the credit that they deserve.
[44:21] Analyst Relations Dos and Don’ts“Your credibility lives and dies on your customers.” —@carloscarvajal @Q2_Software Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: What is one no-no? One big no-no when it comes to analyst relations. We’ll start with Narine.
Narine Galstian: I would say the one big no-no is, never be combative. Always just keep an open mind and listen respectfully.
I think you always should take back the information they give you and recommendations they give you, really think about it, and be able to come back to them with, “Yes, we decided to implement this.” “No, we didn’t implement this because of XYZ,” but never in a way of a combative attitude that they somehow don’t know what they’re talking about it or they don’t understand your space. It’s not what’s going to help you build that relationship.
Drew Neisser: This is not a scene from the movie Liar, Liar. We’re not gonna reenact that. Okay. Carlos, one no-no?
Carlos Carvajal: I couldn’t agree more with Narine. The combative point to me is huge. And then I’ll just add: Don’t ignore them.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, we’re not gonna ignore them. They’re just too important. Okay, Isabelle, a no-no?
Isabelle Papoulias: I mean, I agree with both Carlos and Narine. The third one that comes to mind is more about relational engagement. And second, know their buttons, again, going back to so you don’t come across as combative.
For example, when I mentioned the advisory day and me essentially saying “No, I won’t do it your way, I’ll take over the agenda,” I may not have been able to do that with another analyst. But I knew I could push the boundaries with that one.
Drew Neisser: So really understand your audience and where they’re coming from. I was also thinking of a conversation we had on Huddles, where we were talking about the book Never Split the Difference because we were talking in the context of a board asking you a question, and one of the things that comes up in Never Split the Difference is, when they ask a question that seems impossible, you push back a little bit and say, “Great question. How am I going to do that?” And just sort of turn it around because they might have just asked an impossible question.
Final words of wisdom. We’ll start with Isabelle. Last thing on this on this subject.
Isabelle Papoulias: Yeah, the thing that comes to mind is, for all of us involved with analysts, there’s always a wave or quadrant or rectangle or triangle, whatever the thing is. The way I think about it is—the next one starts when the last one ends. It’s ongoing.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, it doesn’t end. That’s the point. There is no finish line here. Okay, that’s great. Carlos?
Carlos Carvajal: Your credibility lives and dies on your customers. You can have really crisp messaging, you can tighten everything up, but if they’re not hearing that from the customers or references, it doesn’t work. My experience over time is, they care less and less about what you’re saying, and they’re paying a lot more attention to what your customers are saying.
Drew Neisser: That is such a great point and is one of the reasons why, again, I feel like if marketing can own customer interactions and so forth and has a board of advisors and gets them in so that they’re becoming part of it, this messaging gets back to the analyst and it strengthens that case. Okay, Narine?
Narine Galstian: I agree with both Carlos and Isabelle. Really, I think, one, you need to make it part of your marketing strategy and make it a priority. And two, the customer references, as it’s important for reaching out to your prospects or customer references for press, you have to make it a priority for analysts as well. It’s across the board that has to be part of your marketing strategy, to tell more stories.
Drew Neisser: Tell more stories. Okay. Well, I want to thank you, Narine, Isabelle, Carlos. You’re great sports, and thank you audience for staying with us.
Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me. Audio production is by Sam Beck. Show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius.
To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, and learn more about the B2B market research projects we have going on at renegade.com, please visit renegade.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.