Monday, 30 June 2014

Guest Post: Sibos - no rest for the wicked or even the wise

Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead at The Comms Crowd reviews the 'dos and don'ts' for getting the best out of the mighty trade show.
 
Sibos  - comes round quicker than Christmas
So I’ve just been to a couple of big industry events, and it got me thinking about the preparation exhibitors need to do to make them worthwhile. I am going to use Sibos 2014, this year in Boston, as an example here as I have shed so many tears getting clients Sibos-ready over the years.

Obviously there are many exhibitors who have got Sibos running through their veins and if they had time, could write this post with their eyes shut, but here's a guide for Sibos newbies, or a useful checklist for the seasoned salts.

What are some of the issues with events like Sibos 2014?

  1. ROI – if you’re going to exhibit, you want to make sure you recoup your costs and some! It's a very expensive line item, the return needs to be quantifiable and equally impressive. 
  2. Poor preparation before the event – If you don’t plan your communications and resources properly, you will look amateurish and it will show compared to those companies that have this event down pat. 
  3. Being heard above the white noise – if you don’t know your key message, if it's not relevant, fresh and exciting, then you won't get heard. 
  4. Thinking lead generation begins at the event – People come to Sibos to continue conversations, not to start them, Sibos needs to be the culmination of a campaign that results in a face to face meeting. 
  5. Recruitment consultants – not much you can do about this. I remember a consultant at Sibos who told me, at a party, that he had received or processed CVs for about 25 people in the room. The recession is over; it's a seller's market. 
What should you NOT do before Sibos 2014? 
  1. Panic (!) i.e. wait until it is too late before preparing for the event. 
  2. Keep your head in the sand and ignore industry trends leading up to the event – you need to know what pain delegates are feeling so you know what your products and services best address it. 
  3. Miss the opportunity to try and connect with signed-up delegates before the event (more on this later). 
  4. Prepare conference material that is bland or off topic. 
How should you prepare for Sibos 2014?
  1. First of all, you need a three-month activity timeline with specific actions and deadlines, allocating responsibility for each action. So, with Sibos 2014 in October, you need to start planning now, July. 
  2. If you're reading this and you haven't booked your hotels and flights yet, suggest you stop reading right now and get on it :) 
  3. To stay ahead of the game, read the Sibos 2013 summary by Aite Group here and other post-event summaries. 
  4. Read Sibos Issues and other news to understand what people will be talking about this year. Don’t repeat the last year’s messages or themes – find something new and relevant to attract attention in the lead up to the event. If you can’t figure out how to articulate your value proposition, get help. 
  5. Think how this event falls into your sales funnel. Identify key prospects from the delegate list, and plan multi-step communications or lead generation activities to get them to want to talk to you at the event. Each step should add value to the relationship, so use content to increase interest. Get delegates to self-select themselves to contact you for a meeting based on the content you have provided BEFORE the event. 
  6. Plan your press and industry analyst engagements now. Influencers don’t have time to speak to everyone so make sure you know how and what to pitch to them. If you don’t know how, get an expert in. Don’t be unprofessional about this and ignore the value of great influencer meetings. 
  7. Focus on meeting influencers you rarely see, rather than those that are down the road from you who you can catch up with any time. 
  8. Go for feature opportunities that get you in the news the week of Sibos, and make sure whatever news announcement you have is actually informative and not simply white noise. 
  9. Contribute or link to pre-event social media communications to help build your profile before the event. 
  10. Plan your post-Sibos steps now – what content or steps will you follow up with and who will be responsible for these steps? What you do after the event is even more important if you want to convert prospects into sales? 
What to do at Sibos 2014?
  1. Make sure you set time and proper spaces aside to speak to delegates you have meetings planned with. 
  2. Document your meetings and make someone responsible for managing follow up actions. 
  3. Plan how each contact will be communicated with after the event and when. 
  4. Get someone to walk the floor to see what other exhibitors are displaying. You need to understand what competitors are saying and how they might be getting their message across. 
  5. Have content that is sharp and precise enough for someone to read in two minutes that would make them want to ask questions. 
  6. Enjoy yourself; ergo no rest for the wicked! 
If you found this marketing advice helpful you may also enjoy:


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Guest Post: Can you build a meaningful relationship with analysts, even if you don’t pay them?

Eria Odhuba, resident analyst relations lead at The Comms Crowd dispels the most common myth about analyst relations - you have to pay them to play with them.

You could SHOW ME THE MONEY!
or why not TRY SAYING SOMETHING INTERESTING!
"We have a problem with analysts," I hear you say. “You have to buy analyst services to have a good relationship with them,” has got to be the most common phrase any analyst relations professional hears from colleagues.

Cynicism reigns when it comes to judging analysts, which reflects the way many of us might feel about the role they, and other influencers, have when recommending IT products or services. 


Admittedly some are harder to engage than others if you do not have a subscription, but is that true of all Analyst Houses or is there a middle ground?

Seven things worth knowing about analysts
We've compiled a quick checklist to help you understand their drivers and so you can better develop great relationships with analyst firms:

1) Good analysts prize their independence. In fact, their reputation hinges on remaining independent while advising their clients.


2) Analysts will NOT ignore you if you have something really good to talk about. Why should they? After all, you might be the trailblazer they identify and, in turn, get the kudos for predicting the disruptive influence you have on your target markets.


3) Analysts are human. They don’t know everything but, crucially, don’t have time to speak to every single vendor.


4) As they are human, you have to understand how they work, what they are working on, the timescales they have and the channels through which they provide advice.


5) To catch their attention, you need to provide really useful information using structured engagements over time to help them with their research, and make sure this fits in with their schedules. One off briefings are useless.

6) If you say ‘we are the world leading vendor providing modular, scalable solutions...blah, blah, blah’, just STOP. This means nothing. Tell analysts about specific and real problems you are addressing and let them tell people you are a leader.


7) They need to eat, pay mortgages and go for the occasional holiday. Separating how they make money and learning about various vendors so they can then advise their clients is something they all do – the best ones give disclaimers so you know exactly who their clients are.


So, what are analyst subscriptions all about?
Sometimes, you just need help with your lead generation and market positioning. Analysts who track various vendors in a specific market will know the ones that are doing well. Sometimes it is simply the technology or services that competitors provide which simply rock. Most of the time, they just have a good story that resonates better with clients than yours does.

Analyst subscriptions are, therefore, useful to help you position yourself better using the resources, advice and specific feedback opportunities you have available with individual analysts.

If you think it means analysts will say you are the best thing since sliced bread was invented, forget it. No analyst worth their salt will destroy their reputation doing so. Yes, you might get the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves, but these follow strict guidelines to maintain analyst independence (whether you agree with them or not).

Why don’t analysts want to talk to me then?
Just maybe, you don’t have anything relevant to add! Or maybe what you have to say is not relevant to their speciality.

There are too many vendors to track and a lot of output they need to plan for and deliver. Follow the steps above. Make sure you have a really good update or case studies to follow up with (even better if end users can talk to the analysts directly).

Will analysts stop talking to me if I don’t pay them?
No. They would ideally like to have you as a client (if they take on vendors as clients), but if you’re making waves in your market they still want to give advice to others that will help them make good purchase decisions.

So, be relevant but realistic about what analysts are looking for. They need information to help them build thought leadership positions. You can help them if you engage properly with them. They can also help you if you are honest enough to recognise you need advice to position yourselves better against your competitors. That is when analyst subscriptions come into play.

If you found this interesting you may also like:
How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line

- Part one
- Part two
- Part three

Or you may want to peruse our analyst relations whitepaper which is a summary of the above three blogs and can be downloaded here.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Guest Post:How PR freelancing has me feeling like a real life Carrie Bradshaw …

What's it like being a freelance PR when you've only got a few years' experience under your belt? The Comms Crowd's first freeelance account exec, Hiwot Wolde-Senbet, weighs in on the perils and perks.
Admin-lite, life as a freelance account exec


Freelancing was the last thing I thought I would be doing at this early stage in my career. But, as a natural risk taker, this opportunity came with perks that I could have only dreamed of, so I grabbed it without hesitation.

I figured, I had participated in enough weekly meetings; done a few new business brainstorming and planning sessions; pitched in plenty of stories; not to forget the never ending reporting; to give me a rounded view of the PR life. But let’s face it, I may have spent a few years as a junior in a few agencies, but there aren’t enough clippings in all the world to prepare me to fly on my own.

This is why being a part of The Comms Crowd works for me, as it’s made up of senior freelance PR and marcomms people, with loads of experience. So I get to work on what I really enjoy while they shoulder the responsibility, they even look after my training and devlopment too. And just because I'm the 'junior' doesn’t mean I get to miss the hunt, in fact, in less than three months of being a part of The Crowd, I found myself sitting in front of a possible client sharing my ‘out of the box’ thinking - way out of the typical junior’s comfort zone. As Sam says, “Well… you're a freelancer now, no one to hide behind, so get on with it.” So you do just that and learn from your experience.

As a freelancer, I get to work from home so, I make my own hours. It sounds fantastic right? You would assume so when you are on the 'nine to five‘ schedule and wish you could skip the rush hour. But freelancing comes with its own set of issues, not least isolation, turns out you really miss the mini chit chats and light hearted banter that gets your day going in an office.

And there are times when life as a junior freelancer can make you feel like pulling your hair out (the occasional side effect to Excel drama). And you really miss the days that you used to ask your colleagues to help you with those unsolvable IT problems (which you probably took an hour to deal with) and then they come and sort you out in a click, leaving you feeling inept but ready to roll. When you are a freelancer, your time is money and just that fact alone makes you become very aware and conscious of your time. So you can’t afford to spend an hour on some stupid Excel issue, yet you have no choice. Not having a colleague that sits next to you means are a bit at the mercy of email response and there are the inevitable, albeit occasional, misunderstandings that you get from working remotely. So everyone really has to work at overcoming the ‘cloud barriers’, but we’re getting there.

But then the niggles just melt away, when you look through your window and see that it is sunny and bright outside. It feels like it’s calling you to come and enjoy it, feel the sun touch your skin. Living in London, I already know sunny days don’t come by often, so I pick up my sunglasses and iPad and move to the café nearby with an outdoor space. I get my to-go cappuccino and lay on the grass to draft an artcicle. That’s when I realise that I am living the dream I never had, as a real life Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and The City. Except I don’t do my research in nightclubs.

When you live and work in the same place, life can truly get tangled up. Becoming a freelancer will really test and challenge your organisational skills. However, with clear objectives, support and training; the cloud-based agency model can help you release your inner Carrie and achieve a fair work life balance. Until then, be prepared to, learn fast and be out of your comfort zone.