When asked about analysts and analyst relations the reaction of technology vendors seems to be divided into two main groups. Those that believe that analyst relations is something a vendor is supposed to work on and those that believe that analysts are an external force – some kind of godlike alien species – that works in a complete vacuum and that will sometime in the future knock on their door to take them to a better planet (or alternatively blast them to hell by putting them in the bottom left corner of a market study).
My favorite quote from the second group – one which is actually a more common example of mindset than you would believe – is the following:
“Dear XXX, we currently do not have any budget for this kind of things. At the moment we do not care too much about analysts, once they can’t ignore us they will write about us anyway. And influencing analysts is fooling yourself. Better to have clear results they can’t deny, right?”
Now obviously this vendor is a strong believer in what in economics is called a “perfect market”. This perfect market implies a 100% availability of all information for all market participants at all times. It also implies that there is no effort associated with gathering information and making sense of it. In reality however it is quite unlikely that an analyst will be able to find, interpret and analyse all the vendors and information that is available at any given time. So providing information for (or withholding it from) an analyst is a kind of influence that is quite real.
Relying on the analyst community to do all the work for you is a dangerous thing because in many cases there will be more than one vendor in any technology space that can solve a customer problem. Now if one thinks about it this isn’t so different from what is happening all over the market. Every buyer tries to spot the perfect solution in the market by gathering information about what is available. Now I wonder if all the vendors that are subscribing to the earlier quote also agree that doing any marketing targeted at all those buyers out there is a waste of time because by some miraculous means they will be able to spot the perfect solution anyway.
Of course an analyst is supposed to have a more comprehensive understanding of a market and will probably spend more time analyzing what is available than an ordinary customer but then again he has to deal with a global market and he cannot narrow down the field by simply deciding that a number of features is not relevant for his specific use case. In addition most analysts are simply really busy people and it might not be a good idea to base your analyst relations strategy on the assumption that they will make the time available to notice you right at that moment when you happen to reach the pinnacle of your efforts.
Analyst Relations isn’t about having one interaction at that one magic moment when the alien space ship comes to pick you up. It is more apt to think of it as a kind of SETI project where you listen for messages and where you help guide your alien visitors to a landing space right in your backyard. This process requires skill, dedication and patience and this is also why it is a profession and why there are professional service providers out there to help you. Now wouldn’t it be cool to have “first contact”? Maybe once you start talking to them you will find out that they aren’t so different after all.