AR needs analysts, but could IfR expand to other industries?

Read this post on Tuesday and had a few thoughts:
Collective Conversation » ARcade » Blog Archive » Is Analyst Relations a prisoner of its own success within the IT sector?

There are, IMHO, 3 kind of business models for IT analysts:
– the prescribers (á la Gartner or Forrester)
– the number crunchers (IDC is the king of the hill there)
– the “vendor facing” analysts (it’s a very wide category, including specialised firms such as ESG, sales/CI focused firms like Current Analysis, pundits like Robin Bloor or custom research outfits)

The last 2 are funded by vendors, the first by end users.  There is definitely some overlap between the those categories (IDC does custom research, Gartner’s Dataquest (for lack of a better name 🙂 does market shares and forecasts, and while funding for the “vendor facing” analysts comes from ICT vendors, they all offer quite different services -from papers to strategy, from GTM advice to lead generation, etc…

Now, in other industries than IT there simply isn’t the same kind of ecosystem, which explains there’s no AR per se: when there are no analysts, you can’t have analyst relations.

There are other kind of influencers though:
– academia
– consultants
– SI’s, ISV’s, integrators, VAR’s, etc
– and many shades of opinion makers and “experts”

Take transportation for instance. Is there any “expert” that’s paid by users (rail companies) on how to by high speed trains?  I’m told it is the case but not as formalised.

In the energy business, there are actually lots of experts (just type in this into google) who may influence (directly or not) investment decisions and public opinion via the media. There are also firms, some probably not unknown to traditional AR practitioners, who sell market data for that industry. I can also think of market research firms for retail, automotive, etc…

The idea has been floated many times (see links at the end of that post) that AR should morph into Influencers Relations. Turf wars (with PR for instance) and politics are going against this trend at IT vendors but agencies have embraced the trend already, though many stopped at social media only.

In theory, there’s no limit to apply AR best practices to other industries and transform PR into Influencers Relations. Some companies already do social media well, embracing the communication with customers gracefully and lobbying successfully.

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5 Responses

  1. If you back into what AR really is, at its core, it is influencer releations. We are taking a group of folks that are able to heavily influence our customers and coming up with strategies to ensure our brand and products are positively represented.

    From this angle, you could apply AR to any industry. This could be a school district or state hiring someone to interact with a group like the PTA, or a state’s Parks and Recreation comittee hiring someone to work with environmental enthusiasts.

    The key point here is we need to stop focusing on the first letter of our acronym, and start focusing on the latter.

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  2. Thanks Ludovic nothing like a good old vertical sector debate. From my experience it comes down to understanding the purchasing and decision making process by the customer and working back from there.

    After that its all about relationships and identifying who influences the purchasing decision. For the IT AR or ITIfR (whatever you wish to call it) IT is complex/mysterious enought to merit a relatively simple influencer model, social media has changed things a lot recently but net net its relatively simple (doing it well is another strory ;-)).

    I have experience in healthcare, retail, FS and a little in energy the great thing about running any form of non PR based comms programe is the challenge is in working out the ecosystem not the execution.

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  3. The I agree totally with the general intent of this post – that analysts are only one element of the influencer spectrum. Indeed the work of firms like Influencer 50 is challenging the weight and influence analyst firms really have and exposing the weight many non analysts have in terms of influence.
    However I am not sure your 3 categories are quite right – in so far as your funding statement goes. In reality there are firms that are near totally funded by vendors that have quite a substantial influence on sales. Who funds an analyst firm does not particularly equate to their impact on the sales process. You state that Gartner and Forrester are funded by buyers – they are but they are also heavily funded by vendors. Some smaller firms are funded by vendors but then sell big (relatively) advisory/consulting deals to buyers.
    I shan’t get on my usual soapbox about how this needs cleaning up, this time 😉
    But I think your post is one that deserves wider discussion around who really influences the market, and who simply claims to. Though many might like to dispute the fact, influence is measurable.

    All the best
    Alan

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  4. Hi Matthew,
    Agree with you, it’s more a question of who reports to who and corporate turf wars. And also whether the comms management is strong enough to make the case for Influencers Relations as this doesn’t directly contribute to the top line.

    Alan,
    I agree with you those categories are arbitrary but they work in practice as they imply you work dfferently with each. On your points:
    – both Gartner and Forrester’s revenues are >60% coming from users
    – what example do you have in mind of “firms that are near totally funded by vendors that have quite a substantial influence on sales”?

    So, it seems we agree we need a better debate on the influence landscape!

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