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Under the Influence

Explaining the Value of Analyst Relations to Salespeople (Part 2)

Will industry analysts speak directly to a sales prospect?

Industry analysts are usually willing to speak directly to prospects in the middle of a purchase decision. After all, this is their bread & butter business …not us vendors! This is easiest when the customer or prospect is already a client of the analyst firm – i.e. when the vendor and the analyst share a common customer. These interactions are truly frictionless.  Unfortunately vendors can’t officially broker these discussions.  Analysts find it unseemly to have a vendor broker a call with a prospect, or even to pass along a prospect’s contact information. The prospect will have to call them. Of course there is inherent risk in having any prospect talk to an analyst – even one hedged to be favorable – because the vendor can’t be on the call to hear exactly what the prospect says.  One thing is for sure, analysts will never blindly endorse one vendor over another in any case – but can help a prospect “sharpen their thinking”.  (Find out what OTHER firms the prospect may be a client of already, and pursue those pathways too).

Who do our target analysts want to speak with?

More than non-client sales prospects or the vendor itself (naturally), industry analysts do want to interview customers. Obtaining customer references willing to speak to industry analysts is tough, but it’s generally a lot easier than getting ones willing to speak to the press! Salespeople need to understand that, when talking to analysts, customers need never go public with their support – one dramatic difference between analyst and press requirements. There are a few conditions here – so proceed cautiously. You as a vendor should be confident that the requirements of the customer’s project played directly into your areas of strength or competitive differentiation. That way you can be reasonably certain what the customer will tell the analyst. The customer and analyst will have to talk directly, without vendor representatives listening in. The AR team should partner with Sales to find out which analyst firms advise its best customers (analysts will not reveal their client lists to anyone). Matching common customers is the most frictionless way to schedule reference interviews for analysts, as it usually puts the customer at ease and eliminates any need for the analyst to sign an NDA agreement.  Do not assume just because your customer is also a research client, they have already spoken to your target analyst(s) about use of your solution.

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Explaining the Value of Analyst Relations to Salespeople (Part 1)

Industry analysts play a critical role in the sales cycle.  From their unique vantage point, sitting between vendors and end user organizations, they foster an important dialogue between the vendor’s lofty vision for the market and actual user needs on the ground.  Their influence in helping buyers short-list vendors according to product requirements should not be underestimated.  While industry analysts will never blatantly endorse one vendor’s product over another, they can validate the choice of a particular vendor for a specific application or scenario when advising their clientele.

What does sales enablement through AR programs look like?

The real power of effective Analyst Relations comes from maintaining and actively employing analyst references for the sales field to employ with any and all prospects to speed the sales cycle. Salespeople should get in the habit of passing along to PR or Marketing the names of any current favorable analysts by whom their prospects are being advised. AR people should package and make available to Sales any supportive quotes from analysts from published reports or media coverage on the market. (Note: distribution rules of most analyst firms forbid vendors from emailing whole reports to prospects.) Finally, after sale win/loss analysis should be used to determine which analysts advised which deals, favorably or negatively. The total value of closed business can be used as a metric to determine the ROI of AR program spend.

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Headed to Content Marketing World 2013, a Changed Agency

As I get ready to attend the 3rd annual Content Marketing World (CMW) conference next week (hello Cleveland!), it seems the appropriate time to think back at the worthwhile road that me and my little company have traveled. When I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the inaugural CMW way back in 2011, we were a different kind of firm.

My marketing career is staring down its third decade, so I’ve long ago learned the importance of staying relevant. Serving enterprise technology marketing clients, I’ve evolved (gracefully?) from the client/server computing era through the dot-coms to SaaS and cloud computing. In Cleveland that fateful September two years ago, CMW’s sheer amount of information and insight blew my mind. What’s more, the show had a great energy, like all 625 of us were in on a secret. The party at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was a blast, Joe Puluzzi proved a great host, and the entire show was branded a bright orange!

When I returned to San Francisco and processed what I’d learned: it was clear. What had once been “marketing communications” had become “content marketing”, as traditional marcom practices collided with journalism, social media and digital marketing. I realized pretty quickly that the software startups and enterprise technology companies that are Influential’s client base could benefit from this new approach. Why shouldn’t they have all the same advantages as the major tech vendors with their huge marketing budgets? Continue Reading →

An Outsourced Marketing Department Delivers for Hot Mobile Enterprise Startup

Influential Strategies has just wrapped up an eight-month engagement for Armor 5, a software startup based in Silicon Valley.

Armor5 logo smallThis enterprise mobile security company provides a cloud service addressing the challenges of bring-your-own-device (BYOD). It’s a crowded, noisy market packed with vendors providing Mobile Device Management, dual identity mobile devices and a lot of hype. Armor5 was emerging from stealth mode and needed to come out the gate strong, announce its seed funding and launch its product with some positive buzz.

Mike as VPM

Deploying an integrated seven-person team, Influential provided a complete “outsourced marketing department” to Armor5’s CEO comprised of strategic planning, content, design, web development, lead generation, inside sales and PR. Michael Teeling was appointed Vice President of Marketing. Our objectives were to promote a free trial of the on-demand service via a company website that hadn’t been built yet. The race was on …and we only had six weeks!

Longer term, our team knew that we had to leave Armor5 in the best possible position to close its first few critical customers, before its initial funding round ran dry. That meant spinning up the marketing infrastructure necessary to run programs and events, filling the sales pipeline with interested companies and resellers, and hopefully attracting a few venture capital firms interested in Series A investment.

Read the full Armor5 case study to see how we did.

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Mobile Security eBook Helps Veracode Use Humor to Cover Some Serious Subjects

Influential Strategies completed a content marketing project for Veracode, a leading application security testing company based in Boston. Our team produced an informative but whimsical ebook to educate mobile workers on the need for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security. The resulting campaign was one of the most successful in the client’s history, resulting in 1000s of downloads and returning many times its cost to Veracode’s sales pipeline.

Download the Veracode eBook    Veracode eBook cover

Who was this content marketing project targeting?

Veracode offers an on-demand software security testing platform to Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) at large enterprises. With the evolution and growth of the enterprise mobile market, CISOs and IT managers are struggling to confront the challenges of BYOD security as they work to protect company data in the mobile environment.

What was the content strategy?

Veracode approached Influential looking for an education piece on mobile security that could help its enterprise IT customers and partners teach their employees about the importance of keeping their personal devices, and their employer’s data, safe. Mobile app testing was to be a new market for Veracode, so it wanted to seed the market and generate awareness in the months leading up to the launch of its new mobile app testing service. The call-to-action was a free seminar or webinar on mobile security for up to 250 attendees.

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