For many clients, analyst relations are a crucial element of the communications mix. Firms like Gartner, IDC and Forrester employ thousands of analysts who engage with top level management, experts and the market community. And they are certainly influential.

The analyst community was often sidelined in the past, but a growing number of companies are now recognising the importance of building relationships with the people who can be their strongest advocates and have a major impact on their customers’ buying decisions, especially when it comes to major IT projects. Above all, their ability to compare and rate your products and services against tyour competitors means that analystsare impossible to ignore. Many companies are now investing as much in their relationships with analysts as they are on media programmes. Indeed some spend virtually all their marketing budget on analysts.

But there are some important differences in the way you communicate with analysts and other target audiences such journalists. Both write about current issues in their industries and both influence your decision makers. But here the similarities end.

In a nutshell, journalists are looking for news. They need snappy soundbites, good ideas for stories and concise commentary to enable them to write quickly and knowledgeably. Analysts have a different agenda. Instead, their focus is on developing more in-depth knowledge of what your company does and putting you in the context of your industry and competitors. This detailed information helps them to write comprehensive reports about the marketplace as a whole; information which is taken very seriously indeed by potential buyers of your products and services.

The key to fostering strong relationships with analysts is – quite simply – to give them what they want. Make sure your company stays on their radar by keeping them personally briefed on all relevant news, from your latest corporate announcements and new customer wins to new products. That means phone calls, personal emails, meetings and lunches. It’s a long drawn out process building good relationships with analysts and sometimes the return on all this effort can be hard to see. But it does pay off in the end.

One final tip. Don’t try and build relationships with all the analyst firms. Be selective; it’s much easier and ultimately more productive to concentrate your attentions on a few rather than to try and conquer them all.

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