This episode is for all you small-to-mid-sized tech firms out there. You’d love to get in front of some analysts, but maybe you don’t know how. Or you think you’re way too small or too niche for analysts to care about your business.
Wrong, friends! Our special guest, Nicole Baker, is an experienced senior public relations and media relations analyst who has helped small tech companies get audiences with and recognition from industry analysts.
Listen in as Nicole:
- Discusses the common misconceptions that smaller firms have when it comes to starting an AR (analyst relations) program
- Talks about finding the right analyst to talk to — they may be Gartner or Forrester, or they may be more specialized, niche players
- Tells listeners how small and midsized firms can get their foot in the door with an analyst and a few tips on building and maintaining these relationships
- Reminds us that you need to think beyond features and marketing-speak when talking to analysts and home in on the problems your solution solves
- Gives some insight into how AR, PR, and marketing teams can work together
- Advises marketers to push for the budget to bring in an AR consultant
- Reveals her dream job if she weren’t doing what she does today
Want to learn more about Nicole or reach out to her? Head on over to LinkedIn to connect with her: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicoleabaker/.
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Episode 18 Tweetables & Transcript
Alanna Jackson: Welcome to the B2B Mix Show with Alanna and Stacy. Each week, we'll bring you ideas that you can implement in your own marketing strategy. We'll share what we know and advice from industry experts, who will join us from time to time here on the show. Are you ready to mix it up? Let's get started.
Hey, hey, I'm Alanna Jackson, and you may notice my voice is a little bit deeper than normal because I am sick. So forgive me for my rough voice today.
Stacy Jackson: This is Stacy Jackson. Alanna and I are co-founders of Jackson Marketing. In case you didn't know, we are sisters, and we're bringing you episode 18 of the B2B Mix Show. Alanna, what is today's topic about?
Alanna Jackson: If you are a small organization and want to start working with analysts, this is the episode you need to pay close attention to. We're going to be talking about analyst relations with small tech firms. Stacy, why don't you go ahead and introduce our guest?
Stacy Jackson: Today we want to focus on a topic that's important for listeners who are with small to mid-sized B2B tech brands. We're discussing analyst relations and how to get an AR program started. We have Nicole Baker from Baker Consulting joining us. Nicole is a senior public relations and analyst relations consultant. She provides clients with expertise and advice on their analyst relations, media relations, and corporate communication initiatives. She has a proven history of professionally managing media relations in several organizations, and she is an accomplished industry analyst relations expert who has generated high-impact and results-driven analyst relation programs. She is strategic in guiding clients with implementations and the most effective programs for their organizations. Nicole, welcome to the B2B Mix Show.
Nicole Baker: Well, thank you very much for having me. I'm really happy to be here.
Alanna Jackson: We are excited and happy that you're joining us. So Nicole, can you tell us a little bit about what a public and analyst relations consultant does and a little bit more about your company and how you started it?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, absolutely. So I've been doing public and analyst relations for a couple of decades and a lot of it to do with smaller tech firms, so getting the word out there about those firms, either through media relations, so making sure that media organizations, both trade press and business press, are aware of them, and that's also grown for me into the analyst relations side of things. So those industry analysts that you hear about, some of the larger firms like Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and some of the smaller boutique firms as well, getting those smaller tech companies in front of them and getting the message out to these analysts who are influencers in the industry.
So, for me, it's really exciting to work with these smaller organizations who are so passionate about their products and really want to get the word out there, but don't have the bandwidth themselves or are not sure how to do it themselves, to be able to work with them to help them out in that capacity.
Stacy Jackson: When you and I spoke, Nicole, about doing this podcast, we did want to hone in on those small firms. What do you think the biggest misconceptions are that they have when it comes to starting their AR program?
Nicole Baker: A lot of it has to do, honestly, because they are a small organization, with costs, and we know that. With these larger organizations, they're able to invest a great deal of money and time, and they have a team who can go out there and talk to the Gartners and the Foresters and make sure that they're well positioned in some of their research reports. So for smaller organizations, they're thinking to themselves that this isn't something I can do. I don't have the capacity. I don't have the dollars at this point. We're investing in developing our product or investing in other types of marketing initiatives, and so we really don't have the bandwidth and can't get out there in front of the industry analysts.
So what I try to do is go in there and say, "You can start small. You just need to get ... because you do have a technology that's interesting and unique and you do have customers who are buying your technology and you're addressing some of their pain points, there are other organizations who need to know about that. So let's get in front of the industry analysts and start a program where you can just be out there, talking about your technology."
The thing that a lot of small organizations don't realize is these industry analysts, these experts in the various technologies and markets, they want to know about your technology. They want to be informed so that if a client comes to them and says, for example, "What does the market look like for CMS products, for example, or a sales engagement product?" They want to know about the different technologies that are out there and what the different options are for their clients.
The other thing, too, is that they don't want to be caught off-guard, where somebody comes to them and says, "What do you know about X company?" and they don't know anything about it, because they hadn't heard anything about that organization. So, to me, it's really important for these small organizations to start out not at the very beginning, but once they do have their product established and once they do have those customers in place so that they can get the word out there to the analysts.
So I start them off small, talk to them about "Let's do some briefings," and those are free. Those are something that any organization can do. If there's an analyst at a specific firm who is talking about their technology or their market space, they can go and they can book these briefings and do 30 minutes to an hour with an analyst. It's all outbound. So it's all the organization, the company talking to the analyst about who they are, what they do, what pain point they're solving, who are the customers, who are their target audiences, that sort of thing, and really kind of get that message out there. They can do that to a number of different analyst organizations and just start to build those relationships with industry analysts.
Alanna Jackson: Do you find that most of those companies, where they're smaller and don't have the money to really go full-on, do you find that they are surprised when you share that information within the ... They actually want to know about you?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, they absolutely are. They oftentimes think, "Well, I'm too small" or "I'm a very niche player," but there are other niche players who may be in that same market space. You're perhaps solving a different pain point than those other technologies are. So yeah, absolutely. They're very surprised and very surprised that there are things that they can do when they are in that smaller stage to get the attention of the analysts.
Alanna Jackson: So kind of along the lines of what we were just talking about, when these companies hear the name Gartner or Forrester, they immediately start thinking, "How do I get in front of these analysts?" I think for those smaller brands, those names are just kind of intimidating. Maybe they think, like we talked about, they're too small. They don't have the money to do that. What's the right approach for them, and should they be thinking about those big boys or looking at those more niche firms or research companies? So kind of like what you were just talking about, are there other ways besides that that they need to be getting in front of these companies and really getting the name out?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, absolutely. You know what? Oftentimes maybe Gartner is not the analyst firm that you need to get in front of. If you're focusing on small to medium-sized businesses as your customer, maybe Gartner is not the right route for you, because they're more focused on sort of the enterprise size, the big guys, the enterprise-size customers. So you maybe want to focus on some of those niche analyst firms, those Tier 2 analyst firms, you might say, who are focused in more on those small and medium-sized businesses or are focused in on your specific type of technology.
So there are analyst firms, for example, who are based strictly on security software, so various types of security software, but they're very, very focused on that area or other types who are focused solely on sales and marketing technology, for example. So those are the analysts that you want to get in front of.
You may want to talk to the Gartners at some point as well or the Forresters or those bigger guys, but I think starting out with those smaller organizations as well really gets you to hone your message, too, because you're able to talk to those smaller firms who sometimes will give you a bit of feedback in those briefings, which is great for these smaller organizations who think, "Okay, I'm just going to be able to talk about my product, but not get any feedback." But sometimes those smaller firms will give you a bit of feedback on your messaging or your target audience or that sort of thing.
Alanna Jackson: Hey, folks, let's take a break to hear about today's sponsor.
We are back. What's the best way to find those smaller firms, just a Google search, or is there a place that they can go to to kind of get an idea of where those are?
Nicole Baker: A lot of it is searching on Google. You can bring in a consultant to help you find those analysts.
Alanna Jackson: There you go, like a Nicole Baker.
Nicole Baker: That's right. That's right. But yeah, a lot of it is research, and it's oftentimes looking at your competitors. So when I come in to work with a company, I'll look at their competitors, and sometimes they're already talking to some analyst firms and perhaps have done a webinar with an analyst or have done a joint paper. So you can see from their website who those analysts are that are covering that specific industry.
So yeah, it's just a matter of research and finding out who they are. A lot of times, too, and this is another way to build those relationships, is some of the events, so the conferences or trade shows or events that your organization is attending. A lot of times, the analysts are going there to find out who the technologies are in that specific industry that they should know a bit more about.
So if you're getting the distribution list or the list of attendees prior to the event, you can look through there and go, "Oh, there's a Forrester. There's somebody from Ovum. There's somebody from 451" and try and reach out to those folks and get on their radar at the event. But also, you'll know who they are if you want to follow up and try and book those briefings or have those relationships post-show. So there were little things like that that you can do just to figure out.
The other thing, and I'm a huge advocate for this one, is social media. So who are the industry analysts who are talking about your technology or your market space on social media? Start following them. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and then you have this list now of folks that you should be talking to.
Stacy Jackson: So when a company wants to get started with something like this and they reach out to a consultant like you, Nicole, what would that relationship look like? What would the first steps be? How does a program like this unfold?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, a lot of times, it's me coming in and having a chat with them. Let's talk for an hour and figure out, "What are your specific target audiences? What's the market space that you're in? Who are your competitors?" so that I can do a bit of that research for them to figure out who are the analysts that they need to be targeting. So that's kind of the first step.
From there, we look to what their messaging is. So the messaging for the analysts is a bit different than you would take out to the media, for example, or to potential investors and more targeted on the technology, the pain points that you're solving, who are the customers that you currently have, because the analysts really, really want to know that you do have a viable product that organizations are purchasing and want to know that you do have a customer base and, down the road, may want to talk to some of those customers. So you, when you're developing the messaging that you're going to bring out to the analyst, want to make sure that that's a component of it as well.
So, again, it's sitting down, doing that research, and then pulling together that PowerPoint deck, that messaging that you want to get out to the analyst, making sure it's really targeted and tailored to the different analyst organizations that you're going to be reaching out to. I, from there, would go and help them to set up those calls. So here are the analysts that we could brief, and, again, reiterating we can do this for free, which is often a surprise to these organizations. So setting up a schedule of those calls, getting in front of the analysts, helping the organization on those calls to make sure that they're messaging things correctly and answering all the questions.
Then we just go from there if they want to continue on and perhaps continue having those conversations with the analysts, setting up calls with their customers to speak to the analysts as well. Sometimes once the analysts know who the organization is, there's a bit of inbound requests that come in. So an analyst firm is working on a research report on a specific area, and now that they know about you, they maybe want to include a bit of information about your organization in that. So it's answering some of those questions that the analysts bring back to the organization as well.
Alanna Jackson: Do clients ever have a misconception about what you come in to do? Do people ever think, "Oh, well, Nicole is just going to do everything, and I don't have to get involved"?
Nicole Baker: Sometimes. Absolutely. I mean, that's education as well, because I'm coming in as a consultant. The analyst wants to talk to the expert. So they want to talk to the person who knows exactly what your technology is, where this company came from, how you set this up, what you did. So I'm there to help facilitate that, and I'm there to help you answer the questions and message things in the most appropriate way. But certainly somebody from the organization needs to be a part of that as well, because they're the ones that are passionate and can tell that story and can really get those key points across.
Alanna Jackson: So do you ever find that there's some pushback when you start working with smaller companies, especially maybe marketing or the founder of the company, where they feel almost threatened? You're going to come in and take over some things that they're doing or what they're doing. They feel like, "Well, we're already marketing. Marketing is doing a great job of this." Do you see, like I said, especially with smaller companies, because we see this a lot with smaller companies, a little bit of a threat when you bring in a consultant? Do you ever see that and pushback?
Nicole Baker: For the most part, no. I think that this is something that falls to the side of somebody's desk oftentimes, and it's not something that anybody has the time or the bandwidth to focus on. So they're happy to have that bit of a push and that bit of education as to why this is important and why they should be pursuing it and why it's something that they need to spend a bit of time on. But they have somebody coming in, a consultant who can help them, who can spend that time on it for them so they don't have to take it away from other things.
Alanna Jackson: Right.
Nicole Baker: So no, I haven't seen a lot of pushback. There are some people who have a misconception that they're going to get feedback right away from the analysts.
Alanna Jackson: Right.
Nicole Baker: I mean, that doesn't always happen, and, obviously, you're not paying for a relationship with them at the very beginning. So you may not get that feedback from the analysts. But for the most part, I think it's new to a lot of these organizations, where they don't realize that this is something that's important and something that they can do pretty easily at the beginning.
Alanna Jackson: What's a typical timeframe for that turnaround then? Do you have to do typically X amount of touches before you get a response, or have you noticed any kind of pattern there?
Nicole Baker: It depends. With the analysts, is that what you mean?
Alanna Jackson: Yeah, especially for smaller companies that maybe don't have the money to really get in there and get those responses right away.
Nicole Baker: Oftentimes, with that first touch, it's relatively easy if you have a technology that they cover. I mean, that's certainly an important point. You need to be targeting the correct analysts, and some organizations may start out themselves and say, "Okay, we want to talk to Gartner. We've heard of this analyst before, so we'll reach out to them," and that's not the correct analyst who's covering your specific technology. So you really need to do that upfront research to make sure you're reaching out to the right people.
Once you do that, oftentimes, and not every time, because the analysts are busy or there's a certain time of year where they're writing reports and they're just slammed with doing that or going to events, so it may be harder to get them certain times of the year than others. But oftentimes, if you have a compelling story, like I said, and a technology that they cover and you just want to get that information out to them, more times than not, they come back after the first touch and are willing to have that initial conversation.
They may not, and it's good practice to ... With my clients, I often recommend this, to do a briefing once per quarter so if there are new things that have come up, as far as customers or new components of the technology or new enhancements, you want to make sure the analysts are aware. Sometimes that interaction might drop off a little bit if you aren't a paid client. But if you do have really interesting things that have been added into the product or really interesting customers that you want to talk to them about or even get those customers in front of them, then that ongoing relationship is a bit easier to keep going.
Stacy Jackson: Do you think it's easier to get in front of analysts if you've got a totally brand new kind of product or concept or if you're working in a market or a niche that's already established? I'm thinking of iPod. I know Apple was huge even when they came up with that, but if it's something groundbreaking like that, is it harder to get analysts to wrap their heads around it?
Nicole Baker: If you're Apple, no.
Stacy Jackson: Right.
Nicole Baker: crosstalk back to you.
Stacy Jackson: Exactly.
Nicole Baker: Yeah. I think, again, it depends. If it's an offshoot of something that they're already covering, then it's easier to kind of get in front of them. The harder thing about brand new technology, and I haven't had the experience of working with something that's out of the ordinary, really new, and that sort of thing, is finding the analyst who would cover it. So you really have to, again, make that compelling case as to why your technology is new and innovative, why this specific analysts or analysts would cover that specific area.
Stacy Jackson: As far as analyst relations and then there's public relations and the marketing team, and I assume ... You do public relations and AR too, right?
Nicole Baker: I do. Yes.
Stacy Jackson: How do you recommend the company get all those disciplines that sometimes people throw under the marketing umbrella to work together, especially if it's a small marketing team? How do you work so that everybody's singing from the same hymnal, so to speak, and supporting the right messages?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, absolutely. It's a pleasure when there is a marketing team to work with, because oftentimes I'll go in, and there isn't. This is brand new. I work with one organization that's seven people.
Stacy Jackson: Wow.
Nicole Baker: Yeah, so it's working directly with the CEO to take on this initiative, and he's absolutely keen and willing to do that. Very, very keen actually. So happy to be in front of the analysts, but it's working on the messaging that's already there. So if you have a marketing team, it's great, because you can actually feed off of some of the information that they have brought already brought to the table, some of the messaging that they're already using for marketing, and the same with if you have somebody from public relations or media relations in there. You can work off some of that messaging as well.
A lot of times, too, with organizations, it's not just working with the marketing team, but working with product management, because you're wanting to figure out what are the next things to tell the analysts? What are the next big product enhancements, or when's the next release, and what is new in that release? What do we want to tell the analysts about? So it's really working in conjunction with that part of the organization as well and then making sure that the newest things are out there to the analyst community, even sometimes prior to publicly announcing it so that if some of the analysts' clients come back to them and want to know a bit more about a certain technology, the analyst has a bit of a heads up as to, "You know what? You want to look at X company, because in the next month they're going to be putting these features out, and that's really going to work for your organization."
Alanna Jackson: For those companies that have a marketing department, maybe it's just like a one-man show, do you think that they should try to tackle the AR program on their own, or should they fight for the budget to at least get to work with a consultant like yourself?
Nicole Baker: To be honest, fight for the budget to work with somebody, to bring somebody in, simply because it's time-consuming and it's not something that you want to start and then stop and then a year later go, "Oh, yeah, I need to get back in touch with those analysts," and you haven't done anything over the course of the year to maintain those relationships.
So, for me, I think it's really important to keep this as an ongoing program and to even just do some briefings, but have other touches with the analysts as well, as far as meeting up with them at events or interacting with them on social media or doing a quarterly newsletter that's strictly focused on the analyst community. Trying to push that to somebody on the marketing team whose plate is already full with 14 other things just makes it really difficult to maintain that.
Alanna Jackson: Right, and you're trying to talk to more than one at the same time, right?
Nicole Baker: More than one?
Alanna Jackson: So there's that to consider. Research firm.
Nicole Baker: Yeah. So it's maintaining a number of different relationships and continuing with research, too, into who else should we be talking to? If the company is expanding into Europe or Asia-Pac, who are the analysts in those markets that we should be talking to as well to introduce the company to them so that they're aware when the company is moving into that market space who this new company is?
Alanna Jackson: I don't even think about that. I imagine working with an outside person, too, gives a different set of eyes, because I could see a marketer or the CEO or the founder who created this great thing going in and just talking features or whatever, being totally product-focused instead of the message they should be sharing with the analyst.
Nicole Baker: Yeah. You want to make sure that that full story is there. So talking about the background of the company and why you came up with this technology and not just the features, but why it's solving a problem that you saw out in the marketplace, and this is the reason that you brought it to market. So it's kind of expanding that message, and sometimes that's forgotten a little bit. Somebody wants to focus on, "These are the 12 features that we have, and this is why our customers love us," where it's no, they want to really know about the problem that you're solving.
Alanna Jackson: Right, and I would assume you also have relationships already with a lot of these research firms that you're working with. So to bring someone in like you, you already kind of have a foot in the door to getting heard, right?
Nicole Baker: That's right. That's right. It's just knowing who the analysts are and what the best way, best tactic is to reach out to them. That's always helpful for organizations as well who are starting from ground zero and don't even know, what is the first thing I should be doing? So yes, having that background and having a consultant who can come in and share that little secret sauce with you is important.
Alanna Jackson: Just another reason to hire Nicole, guys.
Nicole Baker: Right.
Stacy Jackson: What's the most important advice, if you could only give one or two points to a smaller company that maybe they haven't even considered this, or they feel like, "Oh, we're too small" or "We don't have the money"? What's the most important advice for starting an analyst relations program or why they should start one?
Nicole Baker: Well, the most important reason to start one is because the analysts are the people that clients, that potential customers are turning to for advice. So if the analyst doesn't know who you are or what you do and somebody comes to them asking for their advice on X technology for their organization, they're going to give a few names, but yours isn't going to be in there, simply because they don't know who you are. So, to me, that's key, that's important, and that's one of the key things that I try to educate potential or clients on who are potentially going down the analyst relations route.
But, again, even if you're a small organization, if you have those key things in place, if you have a technology that's solving pain points for your customers and you have those set of customers that you can talk to who are using your technology, the analysts are going to be interested in hearing a bit about that.
Part and parcel with that is targeting the correct analysts, so finding those key analysts who are covering your space and making sure you're talking to the right people. It's not enough to just, "I'm going to talk to Gartner." You need to talk to those analysts who are definitely covering your space.
Stacy Jackson: I have another question, but I don't know if it's something that you would know the answer to. So Gartner owns Capterra, and then there's G2 crowd. What do people get out of advertising or placing paid profiles there versus talking directly to analysts, or is there another way to phrase that question?
Nicole Baker: So what's the relationship between the kind of customer ... What's the term for that, customer review sites? Is that the correct term?
Stacy Jackson: Yeah. Since Gartner owns it, is that a foot in the door, or is that just their way to make money on review site?
Nicole Baker: Gartner has two, actually. So they have Capterra, but they also have their Gartner Peer Insights, which is actually being used more and more by the analysts to get more information on different technologies. But Capterra is more small and medium-sized business space, whereas Gartner Peer Insights is more enterprise.
So, to me, it's not a foot in the door. It's great to have that and great to have those customer reviews, but for Capterra particularly, I think it's a bit removed from what the analysts are looking at. With Gartner Peer Reviews, they do tend to look at those reviews, but they're not going to call you based on, "Oh, somebody did a review on a certain technology."
Alanna Jackson: So we do have one final question that's a fun question. But before that, is there any other advice that you feel like we haven't covered that you want to give out to everybody?
Nicole Baker: We've covered a lot, which is great. I think it's just making sure that even if you're a smaller organization to consider doing analyst relations. It's really, really important to get out to the analyst community. The other thing, too, is a lot of organizations lump media relations and analyst relations together, and it's absolutely different messaging for each of those two markets, so making sure that with the analysts, you're more in-depth with the technology and the customers and just giving them a lot of information about how you're different from the market, whereas media relations, it's a separate beast, and you can't just go out with the same messaging to both of those publics.
Alanna Jackson: All right. Stacy, you want to throw the fun question out?
Stacy Jackson: This is one we've been asking everyone. So if you have a more fun question, we're open to that, too. But if you weren't doing what you're doing now, what would your dream job be?
Nicole Baker: Oh my goodness. That's a good one. Well, you know what? I love traveling. So you know what would be the most amazing job? Would be a travel blogger and somebody paying me to travel and to write about different places. I know that's an actual job, but I have kids, and I'm not going to do that. But I think that that would be amazing.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. My other fun question was going to be if you won the lottery, what would you do? I think that you probably just answered that one, too. You'd travel, right?
Nicole Baker: Yeah, I'd totally travle. Absolutely.
Alanna Jackson: Okay, people. So now you have the information you need to go out and get these relationships going and how to get the most out of them. Nicole, if people want to get in touch with you, how should they reach you?
Nicole Baker: Best way is through LinkedIn, actually, to find me on there.
Stacy Jackson: We will include that link to your profile in the show notes. So if you missed that or you didn't catch Nicole's full name, just look in the show notes, guys, and you'll be able to find her on LinkedIn. If you want to get in touch with me or Alanna, you can hit us up on social. On Twitter, you can find me at stacey_jax. That's S-T-A-C-Y-underscore-J-A-X. You can find Alanna at A-L-A-N-N-A-underscore-J-A-X. We're all, all of us, all three of us today on LinkedIn, and you can find our profiles in the show notes.
Don't forget, if you would like to leave a voicemail for us, you can use the Anchor Mobile app to do it, and we might include it on next week's show. Thank you for joining us today, Nicole. We appreciate it.
Alanna Jackson: Yeah. We appreciate it.
Nicole Baker: Thank you so much for having me. That was great. I really enjoyed it.
Alanna Jackson: The B2B mix show is hosted by Stacy Jackson and Alanna Jackson of, you guessed it, Jackson Marketing. If you need help with your B2B inbound marketing efforts, visit us at jacksonmarketingservices.com. Yay.
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