James Governor's Monkchips

Researching Is Their Job, Not Yours: On Analyst Relations

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Some back and forth about whether or not analyst firms are within their rights to ask vendors to fill in a questionnaire before carrying out a briefing. ARonaut says:

“researching Is their job, not yours”.

I see. Isn’t the purpose of a briefing to provide information? Isn’t the job of an analyst to collect information? As it happens RedMonk doesn’t insist vendors fill in a form before we take a briefing, but I have considered it as a time-saving mechanism.

Often in a briefing the first five to ten slides are “set up” about a company- its goals, revenues, capabilities and so on. The kind of thing that could potentially be bypassed by a set-up questionnaire that looks something like this (which caused David so much pain):

Company Overview:
– Core competence:
– Value proposition:
– Organizational structure:
– Financial performance:

Market Position:
– Market environment:
– Drivers & Business issues:
– Target markets:
– Profile installed base:
– Competitive differentiation:

– Products & Services:
– Sales Channel:
– Customer benefits:
– Success stories:

Vision for the Future:

Is filling out this information really such a pain for analyst relations professionals? Isn’t providing information a key part of the role? I must be missing something. I have received far more intrusive questionnaires from major vendors before they deign to brief me.

It seems to me that the purpose of a briefing is to get under the skin of a subject rather than skimming the surface. With that in mind a little prep is a good thing – why shouldn’t the vendor help at this point?

And while we’re on the subject – one of AR’s jobs is surely to research the analyst market, and analyst in question, and prepare an executive before he briefs an analyst, isn’t it? Research is a two way street, a conversation, not a broadcast. With that in mind I think questionnaires are probably acceptable.

The advice from ARonaut does seem a bit high-handed:

“AR Managers should push them back to their corporation’s web site and let the analyst do their homework”

All I can say is that if you take this advice you may well find the analyst becomes less interested in your client. Time is the analyst’s most important asset, and making extra demands on their time, especially for a briefing (remember this is not a client call) is not a great basis for a smooth relationship. Should an analyst know their market already? Absolutely. But do we need to be confrontation all the time? I think not. Obviously a lot depends on context, and the degree of depth asked for in a pre-briefing questionnaire. But a blanket refusal doesn’t make sense to me.

Finally there is the question of follow up, after a briefing, where the AR person has to go and find information that wasn’t available during the call, which is surely quite time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be better to get that out of the way first?


  1. My problem with these types of forms from analyst companies is that I am certain the analyst never reads the information. It just feels very bureaucratic.

    I hope Redmonk never makes me fill out a stinky form; next up will be an anonymous e-mail address [email protected]. 🙂

  2. Agree with James on the research role of AR on *initial* briefings–that it’s important both executives and analyst are well aware of background on one another. What gets REALLY tedious is when analyst firms who have been engaged with vendors for years repeatedly ask for the exact same basic corporate details in dozens of research requests, some of which have up to 200 questions. For these types of inquiries to vendors the simple solution is to keep vendor profiles that prepopulate forms for update/correction on information fields–e.g. on company size, target markets, key products, etc.

  3. Not having ever been on either side of this table, I wouldn’t know, but it also seems like having time to compare/contrast between what the company thinks of itself as being, and what the rest of the ecosystem thinks of the company as being, would be useful.

  4. I have to agree with James. In my capacity as AR Manager for a Software Group of 13 companies, I do counsel our companies to save as much time as possible pre-briefing by providing the Analyst with all the information they ask for. I do believe that the exercise of filling out the form each time brings value to the companies also since these things do change over time. I also would stress the importance of investing time in making the information interesting enough to catch the analyst’s attention and hopefully generate more questions on issues that are important to the companies.

  5. James,

    Good post but we don’t agree with it all…
    Our response was getting too long for the comments so we’ve posted it there:

    Who’s sloppy? AR or analysts? [ARmadgeddon]

  6. Seems to me that it’s a question of importance and prioritisation.
    If you think the analyst is important to your business – then providing this information shouldn’t be too much trouble, and could save time in the brieifing to focus on the actual important stuff. To be honest is pretty easy to find and should be top-of-mind for both in-house and agency AR folks.
    If you don’t think the analyst is important or influential enough for you to provide this information it begs the question why are you wasting an hour of your time/your spokespersons time talking to them anyway.
    Tip for agency folks – why don’t you ask your clients to provide you with this info upfront, then just cut and paste it into the questionnaire as needed.
    Tip for in-house folks – why don’t you ask your agency to provide you with this information to see if they’ve been paying attention!

  7. Good stuff everyone. Thanks for the clarification ARmadgeddon people. Quite aggressive about the “naughty” companies, which is fun.

    Ian- right on. We’ll get that email address right after we staff up our office of the CEO…

    Nancy- thank you so much for your feedback. That makes makes a lot of sense.

    Amy – as ever, right on the money.

    and Tim your advice is awesome. Maybe you should be looking for a role as an analyst.

    Luis – a bit of compare and contrast never hurts

  8. I agree with the person who said that a lot depends on context. Like Amy, I have received questionnaires that are so long they’re more like fill-in-the-blank books. If those come to me out of the blue (rather than as a result of my requesting a briefing), I tend to be suspect. I can’t name the amount of times I’ve been asked to essentially provide fodder for a paper being funded by a competitor.

    My advice to AR people is, if YOU request the briefing, be prepared to require whatever the analyst wants. Don’t like filling in forms? Don’t ask that analyst for his or her time. If THEY are approaching you, you’re well within your rights to question how the information will be used and, based on what your impression, participate or decline. You can always just send the analysts to your website, however, in my opinion, even if it might be the most logical response, it’s not really polite and the word “relations” is in your job title after all.

    To analysts – you can only claim that your only relationship is with the clients if you don’t take funding from vendors. Asking vendors to do your work for you might save time, but could hurt you next time the client -sorry, I mean, vendor- has a project they need done (they might pick someone who has a more original approach).

  9. Aronaut’s response had an idea – a ‘briefings’ blog … does this build on the idea of ‘blogs as RFPs’?

  10. Simple solution – since the required information is pretty much canned – have it available on an AR web page. Job done. If incompletely.

  11. The one point in the original post that made sense to me was frustration over using briefing requests to feed the sales pipeline. This is a proven business practice for reducing long term revenues and/or brand reputation.

    Catherine touches on another business practice that challenges 21st century common sense — an analyst sending out a survey (or requesting a vendor briefing) without coming clean that it’s part of a custom research contract. Now, there’s a black list worth publishing because it’s about naming individuals — not just companies — who abuse trusted relationships.

  12. Actually Barbara you appear to have raised a slightly different issue from Catherine’s. As I read it Catherine was talking about the fact analysts use “client” as a handy shorthand which allows them to not say they get paid by vendors. Vendors of course fall into this trap all the time – “tell us what your clients are saying”. we always have to stress that while we have many enterprise, service provider and grassroots conversations, the root of our paid client work is vendors.

    Also- i don’t know about other analysts but the majority of briefings at RedMonk are push rather than pull.

    Ric- I was going to do a briefings blog a long time ago. we never filled it in. Maybe if we got vendors to fill in a form beforehand, we would.

  13. […] Relations — deladequacy @ 4:06 pm I’m not sure who started this discussion, either James Governer or ARmadgeddon,  likely it was David Rossiter on who is responsible for providing information […]

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