Monday, 28 October 2013

How to ensure AR programmes deliver to the bottom line - part one

The first of my guest posts, courtesy of Eria Odhuba, a founder member of The Comms Crowd and our resident analyst relations guru:

There are many reports about how to conduct an analyst relations (AR) programme and you can also follow discussions on various LinkedIn groups too. Many of these cover some common areas, such as how to provide a good briefing or how to track and tier analysts. Yet some people find it difficult to measure the impact AR has on the bottom line and as a result, AR can be seen by the board simply as a cost centre with marketing teams struggling to extract and prove its value.

In this three-part series, we will look at how to integrate your good work with analysts and your analyst work with wider marketing activities, ensuring everything feeds into your overall objectives.

What defines a successful AR programme?
Successful AR programs use analysts to improve lead generation, shorten sales cycles and retain customers. That’s basically it!

When managing AR, companies should avoid briefing analysts simply with the short term aim of receiving positive feedback or a quote for a press release. Success has to have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line.

Look at the bigger picture: Analysts influence purchase decisions, through their reports, through a recommendation or as a result of help given by analysts to position a company more effectively within its target market. 

In a successful AR programme, marketing and sales teams work closely together. They involve analysts in the different steps of their mutually supportive strategies and ensure analyst feedback is shared internally with specific action resulting in more competitive positioning and compelling messaging, with customer focused products and services.

Give your AR programme a health check

Diagnosing of an ailing AR programme, does your AR programme suffer from any of the following?

· Lack of strategic direction, looking only for the endorsement or quote;
· Focus is on one-off engagements rather than building a relationship;
· You are deprived of the time, expertise or resources required to run a measurable programme;
· Lack of synchronicity with briefings not timed around analyst research or events;
· Analysts are treated in the same way as press when they are quite different creatures requiring an entirely different approach;
· Lack of preparation and training before speaking to analysts;
· Analyst feedback is not shared internally;
· Your AR programme is detached from other lead generation and sales activities.

Resulting symptoms of an ailing AR programme,  have you noticed any of the following struggles in your organisation?

· Difficulty forming an approach for new target markets as lack of independent insight;
· Outdated knowledge of key business or legislative drivers;
· Assumptions have to be made of what drives competitive success without independent testing;
· Limited ideas for possible partnership strategies;
· Limited channel knowledge and insights into where prospects look for information resulting in no new routes to market;
· Poor understanding if company messaging are resonating due to an absence of message testing strategies.

Check list to get your AR programme back in shape:

It’s really a matter of setting out your AR campaign with the same amount of diligence you would any other key engagement programme:

· Be clear what you want to get out of an AR programme. Raising awareness is all well and good but if it does not result in more leads or better client retention, then you need to change it;
· Get stakeholder buy in. Train spokespeople and teams about the value analysts provide;
· Develop proper metrics. Measuring briefing numbers and report mentions, running perception audits or getting placed in various analyst rating scales is all good. However, if there is no positive impact on the bottom line then you need to change your rethink the metrics you use;
· Define and target the right experts. Think about individual analysts and not just the firms they work for. Find out how they get information and influence decision-making processes. Don’t forget analysts from small or niche firms as they may have a unique market impact that you could leverage;
· Plan regular engagements to gain trust instead of one-off jobs every year, such as at events. Be prepared to follow up with information that actually helps an analyst with their research.

In the next post, we will start looking at the impact AR can have on various marketing tactics. and in  part three, we’ll look at some thorny marketing problems AR can help solve.

Post script: These three AR posts have proved pretty popular. So we've put them together, ripped out the fluff, given it a bit of structure and turned them into a whitepaper, which you are welcome to download here:

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Out Of Office - you can do it

With Elli, Zante, Summer 2013
As a freelancer, can you ever possibly take a holiday?

So I'm comparing tans and my friend ( the puny one) says, ‘So how come you keep taking all these holidays?’
 ’Cos my boss said I could.’ I smirk.
My pithy repost was met with a sigh of exasperation.

Obviously what my mate meant was, ‘So how on earth do you manage both to afford and to maintain client service levels when you are away for much of the summer and you are just a humble freelancer and therefore at everyone’s beck and call 365 days a year?’ 

With Mum and Elli, Devon, Summer 2013
But one of the main reasons I went freelance was to get closer to a good work/life balance. And I'm guessing that's why you did too and spending time with the people that matter most is a big part of that. I can't imagine you turned freelance to earn loads of money - so once the bills are paid, ‘affording’ to take time off is really just a matter of priorities. New bike, or a cycling holiday? New wardrobe, or a tan? It does help that I usually share the work I have got, so it's easy enough to ask one of the collective to be at the other end of the line if a client needs urgent advice while I'm away.

WIth Moby, Cornwall, Summer 2013

I fear that some freelancers just enslave themselves to their desks due to lack of faith, both in their own worth and the proverbial uncertainty of the future, rather than any real concrete reason. Do your best the rest of the year to look after a good client and a good client will look after you - afterall who needs a bad client?

With Lynne and Elli, Italy, Summer 2013

It should be remembered that the proverbial lament of the self-employed, ‘If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.’ Can be flipped on its head to also mean, ‘If I’m ok with not getting paid, I can take time off.’ 

So this year I did. 

Time off in search of half term sunshine on a farm in Greece, country house coddling in Snowdonia, the annual 50 miles trek around another bit of the Cornish Coast, armed with a dongle, we holed up in Devon for weeks and then went quite AWOL on a vast eating tour of Puglia. 

With Elli and that buffalo steak, Italy, Summer 2013
Ok so the blogging, the marketing, the banking, and the admin, the networking, the reading, erm they are in need of tending - but the clients and I are back on track and the house hasn't been repossessed, theres plenty of time for filing when it's cold.

Never lose focus on why you went freelance. It’s all too easy to constantly be hunting down your next job, but the people (and animals) you love are right here, waiting for you to switch off that laptop..

For more blogs on the freelance work/life balance:
Freelance Glorious Freelance - how to survive the feast and famine diet
Happy freelance birthday to me - I am two
Happy freelance birthday to me -I am one