Monday, 18 May 2015

When it comes to AR - does size matter?

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead for The CommsCrowd .asks, when it comes to conducting an industry analyst relations programme, does company size matter?

 Analyst relations: do you have to be big to be clever?
I’ve had the privilege of working with every type of technology company - from mighty household names, to hungry start-ups. While many may differ, the goal is still the same for their AR programmes – they want to make sure they are on the radars of relevant analysts that cover their technologies and, hopefully, fall into conversations analysts have with their clients.

In a previous post, I covered building meaningful relationships with analysts even if you don’t pay them. The key perception that vendors need to overcome is that they must have large budgets to be on the analyst radar. Well – that is just not true. Here is why:

For super large vendors – AR programmes are normally multi-faceted (especially if there are different business groups that need to build a story that shows they are fully integrated with each other, and where the vendor needs to show growth in multiple markets). More often than not, there are opportunities for numerous engagements with analysts as there is a lot to update them on. Occasionally, analysts are writing reports looking at key vendors and they need to keep in touch to make sure they represent the vendor properly. Basically, there are more opportunities to build comprehensive AR programmes that have an impact on the bottom line.

At the other end of the scale are the start-ups.... yikes, where do you start? Actually, you start by first finding out what you’re passionate about and what problems you are looking to solve. You may not have the budgets larger vendors have, but you’re doing something interesting (hopefully) and touching people they probably don’t want to or can’t, and making your clients’ lives better. Crucially, you can be mavericks as you don’t have to defend vested interests or fight internal political battles that sometimes happen at larger vendors.

Working it
Whether you have large or small resources certain basic principles apply for an AR programme to succeed. These include:

· Doing some homework on your messaging to make sure you are absolutely clear on what problems you are actually solving and what solutions you have to help clients. You really need to make sure there actually is a problem you are solving;

· Identifying who actually needs your solutions and ideally, or if you’re lucky, finding out more about their decision-making process to see how they use analyst research to select technology solutions;

· Finding out which analysts are covering the technology solutions you provide, and tracking their research plans and speaking engagements;

· Using multiple communication channels, including social media, to amplify your message and get people to follow what you say as you drive or contribute to relevant discussions. If you’re a start-up - be provocative. You have no time for timidity;

· Taking the plunge and speaking to the analysts you’ve identified;

· If you’re lucky enough to have analysts interested in speaking to you, take on board their feedback and make sure they see you addressing any concerns they have raised.

So, those are the basics. You really can’t do much more if you’re a smaller vendor simply looking to start engaging with analysts. That is a good start! You just need to be realistic about the frequency of interactions you have and depth of programmes possible. If you are a start up with 15-50 employees, you will not have the frequency and depth of engagements a mega vendor has, but you can still make waves. And analysts will speak to you if you’re willing to accept that they will not promise quarterly updates or publish a report four weeks after meeting you.

As you get bigger and perhaps have larger budgets, your challenges as an organisation will change. There are more opportunities for competitors to hit back at you and you have to show you can continue to grow and defend yourself from all the FUD competitors will throw at your clients or prospects.

Now you can start thinking about more commercial relationships with the analysts – white papers, subscriptions, speaking gigs or event support. And be sure any feedback is integrated into your internal market intelligence, and that sales / marketing teams benefit from the enhanced relationships.

If you’re careful, you will have made sure you’ve used the interactions with analysts to identify who actually impacts your target market and can actually help you (without compromising their independence). While respecting the analysts and how they work, you can make better decisions about which paid engagements to plan for and how these help your wider marketing and sales teams to do their jobs more effectively.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Fintech trends, analyst industry round up part 2

Guest post: Eria Odhuba analyst relations lead for Comms Crowd collates industry analysts predictions for fintech for insurance, China and the cryptocurrency eco-system.

Gonna be a scorcher for fintech
Before we get too far into March, I thought I’d follow up my previous predictions by continuing to look at what analysts think is in store for the rest of 2015. I’ve also given myself a bit more time to get information from calls, reports or announcements made during February.

One topic that is hot right now - insurance. If you’re like me, insurance rates seem to shoot up every year. But if technology is being used to make the insurance industry more cost effective (and, hopefully, pass the lower costs on to us), what are the key things to look out for in 2015.
Focused on the US insurance market, Aite Group predicts a new trend which will inevitably be widespread elsewhere – personal risk management. Key things to look out for include:

1. Smartphones enable next-generation risk management capabilities

2. The Internet of Things and sensor fusion technology contextualize risk

3. A personal data backlash creates monitoring opportunity

4. Insurance learns to share

5. Digital marketing platforms socialize

6. Core applications cloud compute

7. Risk-scoring models sell life insurance

8. Health insurance transparency reaches ubiquity

9. Health insurance payments go mobile

10. Docs demand denial-management data

Here in the UK, the key trends are 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 (my take!) – we’ve not reached the health insurance penetration rates you get in the US, but there is a lot that vendors and clients will learn from the US experience.

For those interested in China, Kapronasia has looked at the top 10 China banking and capital market trends, plus the top 10 Asia digital currency trends. Key ones that jumped out for me include:

1. Wealth management will continue to be a key product area – with a growing elite class, this is inevitable especially as a growing band of rich Chinese look to pass their global wealth to heirs while minimising tax.

2. Chinese financial institutions move away from foreign vendors. Now this is big news. Over the past few years, the strategy for vendors looking to get into China has been to partner with local firms / individuals who can help navigate the bureaucracy that existed. It looks like Chinese firms are starting to build up the expertise needed to deliver many of the services that local financial services need, so foreigners will struggle to make in-roads. Value-add will be a premium for winning new business.

3. Overall digital currency regulation in Asia will not be positive. Trust is a hard thing to win, and digital currencies in Asia will be something the regulators look on with suspicion until they know more about them – and their potential for fraud. Basically, more money for analysts, consultants and lawyers that can help vendors and firms navigate what could potentially turn out to be a big, fat mess!

For more capital markets predictions, Greenwich Associates doesn’t just have 10 trends to watch, it has 15! Where do I start with these predictions, you just have to read them. The one I think will result in big structural changes (though all of them will) is number 7 – the unbundling debate in European equities will rage on. ESMA and the FCA have proposed a complete unbundling of all research advisory services including corporate access. Blood will be shed getting this sorted – and the buy-side firms will seriously have to think about how they access and use research to deliver value to clients.

Finally, what about Bitcoin? There are two sources I’d like to draw on regarding this.

First of all, let us look at Aite Group’s report in December 2014. This, controversially for some, came up with an interesting hypothesis. Bitcoin, as we know it now, might not exist in the future but could evolve and provide the platform for new laws and forms for cryptofinance within the financial services industry. The ‘Napster-came-before-Apple-and-Amazon-and-Google’ comparison might be something we look back on in a few years time.

Secondly, Juniper Research has published a report on The Future of Cryptocurrency. Whether bitcoin or other current forms of cryptocurrencies exist in 5 to 10 years time, Juniper predicts that although crypto-transaction volume is likely to increase in 2015, value should decrease 58% throughout this year to approximately $30 billion. It believes that despite the drop in bitcoin values, it is a great tool that can be used to improve the payments ecosystem.

Taking the Aite Group and Juniper Research reports / predictions together, it all makes sense. Crypto-currency transactions are in their infancy. With sensible regulation, sound storage and custodian services of cryptocurrencies, enhanced fraud protection and education, 2015 might just be the start of something really exciting.

Both the predictions above and those covered previously will drive the need for advice from the industry analyst community. There is so much change happening in fintech and a huge need to incorporate new things with old, creaking legacy systems, CIOs will have to prioritise with care.

Happy days!

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.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Why tech startups and PR freelancers are a winning combination

Year Four of being a freelancer:
A present for me? You shouldn't have!

Perhaps freelance years are like dog years, for I’m starting feel like I’m in my freelance prime! Four years in, and, as they say on those talent shows, ‘it feels like this is my time’! Oh why’s that then? Well I’ll tell ya.

Tech in general and fintech in partciular is finally hot! After some 20 years of apologizing for working in a sector of which nobody has ever heard; countless conversations explaining what I do to those whose eyes glaze over in the time it takes  to say ‘enterprise-wide trading systems’ - all of a sudden our sector is hot! Ya baby!

Not only is our sector hot, my home town for some 30 years, London, is fit to burst with tech startups and I do love a startup – always have! Not for me the 200 page branding guideline bible, the 83 slide PowerPoint on our ‘core’ USPs. Where’s the opportunity to add value to that (other than rip it up)?

I love the pace, the energy, vibrancy that comes with  young tech companies. They are brave, bold and, my lot at least, quite audaciously brilliant. But it’s always struck me, that at the point a young company needs the most care, nurturing and attention to its comms, is just when it can least afford it. Sometimes, that's not a good fit for a standard agency, where there can be an expectation mismatch, (a big PR budget for a small company is still a small client for a big PR agency). But it’s a great fit for collaborations and small networks of specialist freelancers like The Comms Crowd. Freelancers by our very career choices have often rejected the status quo and defined ourselves as fellow disruptors.

Another great thing about working with young tech companies is the absolute lack of formality. This suits me down to the ground, I want to use my time helping that company do smart comms, not validating how smart I am. Decisions are quick, turnarounds fast, reporting is a spreadsheet in google docs and emails are brief, often littered with typos from both sides. Witness recent email exchange, informing client CEO that we had secured media interest from a noted publication.

ME – OMG We’ve got Forbes!
CEO – F*** yeah!

And of course when you work in a hot sector, in a hot city, with hot clients, you get to talk to media that you have never had the temerity to approach before, but that, it turns out, are really just like us, if you have a decent story to tell. And call me a easily impressed but for a long-toothed B2B fintech PR to be suddenly talking to the nationals, is just really rather cool!

So yeah, in this the fourth year, I find myself, in the right place, with the right business model at the right time - happy freelance birthday to me and the crew, being four rocks!

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