Analysts are important to closing deals. Some big buyers want their validations before pulling the trigger. Some buyers use analysts during the research or active evaluation phase of the buyer’s journey. And some buyers look to analysts to find a short list of vendors that will solve their business problems.
All of those things will remain true in a post-COVID-19 economy.
What’s about to change is that we are in the midst of an economic reset. Buyer expectations are about to change. The way we work may dramatically change. The conversation is about to change.
Analysts will be a critical part of that conversation in the months following the COVID-19 fallout. Per some inspiring and optimistic writings of our CEO, Bret Starr:
COVID-19 has already changed the world of work. It’s impossible to know all the ways that Work Tech will evolve due to coronavirus, but it’s important to know that a new organizing principle will certainly take root and that will lead to massive turnover in Work Tech solutions.
And here’s another important thing to know — the new organizing principle will just be an idea that people coalesce around. And the idea will definitely emerge from industry discourse and people will definitely start to organize around it. The trick is to be part of the conversation so that you can help shape the idea. Otherwise, the idea is going to shape you.
The brands that help shape analysts’ thinking around the new organizing principles will be the brands seen as relevant and worthy of company spend. Companies turning to analysts for recommendations will also start shaping that thinking based on their business use cases, frustrations in the market, and new expectations of workplace technology in a new world of work.
If you want the phone to ring again when we all return to the office, you have to be a part of the conversation that defines what’s important in our new reality. The brands that remain engaged with analysts will shape that thinking coming out of the crisis. If you think they have trouble now shaping category thinking or helping analysts understand your solution’s value to the market, just wait until shit completely changes for everyone.
Here’s what to do:
- Analysts take briefings with work tech vendors all the time. Sometimes they’re part of a paid relationship (always a valuable mix to your marketing strategy) so the analysts can serve that vendor’s needs as a strategic advisor and help the business thrive. The other conversations are unpaid briefings: get-to-know-you conversations that put you in their pipeline — and analysts often survey or interview vendors before they publish a report, ranking, or grid that compares vendors and defines what criteria are important for a specific solution category.
- Remember that analysts also hate attending conferences. Here’s why: If they go to an HR or workplace technology conference, they pretty much have to schedule as many briefings a day as possible. It’s important to their sales pipeline, paying clients want to talk with them while they’re in attendance, and brands that are just getting started with analyst relations want to introduce themselves to key analysts. That means back-to-back-to-back 30- to 60-minute briefings from sunup to sundown with barely a break in between. Hell, I’d hate that too. Increasingly, analysts are attending user conferences, customer conferences, and vendor conferences because they get the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations with vendors and buyers to see how work technology is really working (not just getting the aspirational marketing messages).
- Let me share a secret: These analysts are really smart because they’re talking to brands like yours. They’re hearing firsthand what’s working, what’s not, and what buyers’ expectations are of work technology. That shapes their thinking. Analysts don’t have dark powers that help them predict the future — they have you. Analysts are seeing where the market is heading by tapping into what you’re learning in the market and by seeing your product road map. (To be fair, they’re also hearing from buyers asking for work technology that delivers certain features, benefits, and outcomes.)
Because we manage analyst relations, we hear from work technology vendors all the time — whether a startup or a top 10 category leader — their complaints about how analysts did not include them in a grid, ranking, or research report, or that the criteria they used to evaluate their category wasn’t fair or missed out on some important features and capabilities. “Don’t they know we have a lot of enterprise buyers?” “We’re a better solution than some of those included in the quadrant rankings!” “Our integrations and partnerships make us a stronger brand than some of those in the leader grid!”
I was on a call with an HR tech vendor and Ray Wang, founder and CEO of Constellation Research, when Ray was asked “What role does an analyst really play in all this?” His response: “We are out there evangelizing concepts. The question is: Do you want us evangelizing your concepts or your competitors’?”
We are certainly at a pivotal moment for workplace technology. The game is going to change. Buyers’ expectations are going to change. Vendors are going to have to change to thrive, or even survive.
Analysts will help shape the conversation about what’s most important in work technology in our new reality. The question is: Are you going to be part of the conversation or let the conversation shape you?