One of the things that happens when you’re a developer focused analyst firm these days is that you talk to a lot of companies. The conversations analysts have with commercial vendors or developers about their projects are called briefings.
Whether the company or project is large or small, old or new, there are always ways to use our collective time – meaning the analyst’s and the company/developer’s – more efficiently and effectively. Having been doing this analyst thing for a little while now, I have a few ideas on what some of those ways might be and thought I’d share them. For anyone briefing an analyst then, I offer the following hopefully helpful suggestions. Best case they’ll make better use of your time, worst case you make the analyst’s life marginally easier, which probably can’t hurt.
- Determine how much time you have up front
This will tend to vary by analyst firm, and sometimes by analyst. At RedMonk, for example, we limit briefings with non-clients to a half hour, a) because we have to talk to a lot of people and b) because very few people have a problem getting us up to speed in that time. It’s important, however, to be aware of this up front. If you think you have an hour, but only have half that, you might present the materials differently.
- Unless you’re solving a unique problem, don’t spend your time covering the problem
If the analyst you’re speaking with is capable, they already understand it well, so time describing it is effectively wasted time. If there’s some aspect of a given market that you perceive differently and break with the conventional wisdom, by all means explain your unique vision of the world (and expect pushback). But a lot of presentations, possibly because they originated as material for non-analysts, spend time describing a market that everyone on the call likely already understands. Jumping right to how you are different, then, is more productive.
- If you’re just delivering slides and they’re not confidential (see #4), do not use web meeting software
If you need to demo an application, web meeting software is acceptable. If you’re just going over slides that aren’t confidential, skip it. Inevitably the meeting software won’t work for someone; they don’t have the right plugin, a dependency is missing, their connections is poor, etc. The downtime while everyone else is waiting for the one meeting participant to download yet another version of web meeting software they probably don’t want is time that everyone else loses and can never get back. Also, it’s nice for analysts to have slides to refer to later.
- Don’t have confidential slides
If you’re actively engaging with an analyst in something material, a potential acquisition for example, confidential slides are pretty much unavoidable. But if you’re doing a simple product briefing, lose the confidential slides. It makes it more difficult to recall later – particularly if a copy of the slides is not made available – what precisely is confidential, and what is not. Which means that analysts may be reticent to discuss news or information you’d like them to, due to the cognitive overhead of having to remember which 5 slides out 40 were confidential. When it comes time to present confidential material, just note that and walk through it verbally.
- If you spend the entire time talking, you may miss out on the opportunity for questions later
It’s natural to want to talk about your product, and the best briefings are conducted by people with good energy and enthusiasm for what they do. That being said, making sure you leave time for questions can gain you valuable insights into what part of your presentation isn’t clear, and – depending on the analyst/firm – may lead to a two way conversation where you can get some of your own questions answered.
- Don’t use the phrase “market leader,” let the market tell us that
This is perhaps just a pet peeve of mine, but my eyebrows definitely go up when vendors claim to be the “market leader.” This is for a few reasons. First, because genuine market leaders should not have to remind you of that. Second, what is the metric? Analysts may not agree with your particular yardstick. Third, because your rankings may not reflect an analyst’s view of the market, and while disagreement is normal it can sidetrack more productive conversations.
- Analysts aren’t press, so treating them that way is a mistake
While frequently categorized together, analysts and press are in reality very different. Attitudes and towards and incentives regarding embargoes, for example, are entirely distinct. Likewise, many vendors and their PR teams send out “story ideas” to analysts, which is pointless because analysts don’t produce “stories” and are rarely on deadline in the way that the press is. What we tell clients all the time is that our job is not to break news or produce “scoops,” it’s to understand the market. If you treat analysts as press that is trying to extract information from you for that purpose, you may miss the opportunity to have a deeper, occasionally confidential, dialogue with an analyst.
- Make sure the analyst covers your space; if you don’t know, just ask
Every analyst, whether generalist or specialist, will have some area of focus. Before you spend your time and theirs describing your product or service, it’s important to determine whether or not they cover your space at all. Every so often, for example, vendor outreach professionals will see that we cover “developers” and try to schedule a briefing for their bodyshop offering developmental services. Given that we don’t generally cover professional services, this isn’t a good use of anybody’s time. The simplest way of determining whether they cover your category, of course – assuming you can’t determine this from their website, Twitter bio, prior coverage, etc – is to just ask.
- Asking for feedback “after the call”
In general, it seems like a harmless request to make at the end of a productive call: “If you think of any other feedback for us after the call, feel free to send this along.” And in most cases, it is relatively innocuous. Another way of interpreting this request, however, is: “Feel free to spend cycles thinking about us and send along free feedback after we’re done.” So you might consider using this request sparingly.
- Don’t ask if we want to receive information: that’s just another email thread
There are very few people today who don’t already receive more email than they want or can handle. To make everyone’s lives simpler, then, it’s best to skip emails that take the form “Hi – We have an important announcement. Would you like to receive our press release concerning this announcement? If so send us an email indicating that you’ll respect the embargo.” As most analysts will respect embargoes – because we’re not press (see #7) – asking an analyst to reply to an email to get yet another email in return is a waste of an email thread. Your best bet is to maintain a list of trusted contacts, and simply distribute the material to them directly.
Those are just a few that occur off the top of my head based on our day to day work. Do these make sense? Are there other questions, or suggestions from folks in the industry?