Analyst briefings are an important component of any well-rounded communications strategy. If analysts understand your client’s technology and the value it provides, they can recommend it to their own customers, include it in industry research like the Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave, and mention it in their blogs and contributed columns in other tech media. Analyst outreach is especially important for B2B tech companies targeting the enterprise market because Fortune 1,000 companies rely heavily on analyst recommendations for IT technologies. Because of this, I recommend arranging briefings between your clients and relevant analysts at the major firms twice per year.
Once you have a briefing scheduled, how do you make sure your client’s spokesperson is prepared to make the best use of the short time they have with the analyst? As a PR professional, your goal is for the analyst to come away with a clear understanding of your client and their product or service. The key to success is preparation – anticipating what an analyst is going to ask and preparing your client’s spokesperson ahead of time. I’ve hosted hundreds of analyst briefings with all of the major firms and various technology companies. Here are some of the most common questions they’ve asked and my advice for answering them.
1. Who are your competitors? Why do you “win” or “lose” in a competitive situation with them?
Many clients will try to say ‘We don’t have any direct competitors’ in response to this question, but don’t let them get away with that! That answer doesn’t give the analyst any useful information and makes your client sound like they don’t understand their space very well (or are a bit too caught up in their own success). Instead, coach your spokesperson to name companies that are adjacent to them, and then explain the differences between them. For example, “Our focus on mapping Attack Paths within Microsoft Active Directory is unique as far as we know, but there are other companies addressing different parts of Active Directory security including XXX and YYY.” And, if your client does have direct competitors, be honest about that – the analyst will find out one way or another.
2. What attracts your customers? What “breaks” that your company can fix?
This question is a good opportunity to reiterate the value of your client’s product or service. Consider dedicating a presentation slide to address common problems or challenges faced and the solution your client provides.
3. What is your average deal size and what industries do you focus on?
An analyst might specialize in SMBs, enterprise technology or focus on a certain vertical. Asking this upfront helps them understand how your client fits into their coverage area. Your client’s answer will help the analyst recommend them more accurately, or to connect them with other analysts at their firm that might cover the specific space they’re in.
4. What is the deployment of your product like? What does it involve?
Your client spokesperson is probably prepared to talk about how their products work and the value the provide, but analysts usually want to know how it is deployed as well. Make sure they’re prepared to speak to this. This is especially important for spaces like information security products or network monitoring products where the deployment can affect network performance or application security.
5. Do you sell directly, or do you work with resellers, partners or system integrators?
Make sure your client’s spokesperson knows the answer to this question and can discuss their relationship with these partners and what value each of them brings to the table. It’s also good to share information on your channel program if it’s relevant. This is important information for the analyst, so they know how to direct clients to your products and services. A strong channel program can also be a competitive differentiator.
6. Which teams within an organization are interested in your product/services?
A good answer to this question will explain which team at an organization is most interested in your client’s product or service, who at the organization has decision-making power to purchase it, which budget it comes out of, and who manages and uses the product once they’ve purchased. And, keep in mind, the answers to each of these questions may be different. It can also be helpful to share any survey data on customer perceptions around how teams use certain solutions.
Practice Makes Perfect
There are several ways you can prepare your client’s spokesperson to answer these questions. The first is to anticipate them and include them in briefing docs as a list of “Expected Questions.” To go the extra mile, write up talking points for how to answer each of them (you may not be able to do this depending on your client, but it makes you look proactive if you can!). If you have a new spokesperson, consider setting up a prep call where you can walk them through what to expect from the briefing and have them practice answering questions. This usually makes it clear what they need to practice before the briefing. You can also review the presentation deck at this time – consider incorporating the answers to some of these questions into the deck.
During each briefing, take notes on what questions the analyst asks and how your spokesperson answered it. Track any answers that were particularly good or ones that need work and share that feedback with them after the briefing. If you got unexpected questions, prepare for them before the next briefing. Don’t be afraid to revise the deck and rework parts of the presentation between briefings.
It should go without saying, but don’t let your spokesperson exaggerate their answers. It could affect your relationships with the analyst if they find out or lead them to recommend your client to customers that aren’t a good fit for them. Make sure your spokesperson knows that if they get hit with a curveball question, they can always tell the analyst they’ll get back to them with an answer later. That gives the two of you time to research an exact stat or wordsmith a tricky point after the briefing. Make sure you track these and follow through with what was promised to the analyst.
Keep these questions in mind, do the work to prepare for briefings in advance, and your analyst relations program will be set up for success!