When briefings, inquiries, and interviews can only get you so far, we know you use strategic advisory days to understand an analyst better, influence his or her perception, and ideally, get leads on new customers.
But, you know these days have to be done right. Advisory days are a huge investment in time and money, and nothing is more important than getting the day just right.
That’s where the prep comes in. Preparing for an advisory day is a critical step in making it a win-win for both parties – the analyst should leave feeling the time was valuable and your executives should think the day was worth the investment.
At Spotlight, we help our clients prepare for advisory days, and they have had the most success using our 3-step process.
Step 1: Start with simple questions
Recently we worked with a global financial services technology firm who had a challenge: They were ranked as a “lower left” Niche player in a Gartner Magic Quadrant report, and they saw shortcomings in how they were ranked. Their goals were to 1) understand the ranking and how to improve their position, but more importantly 2) share their vision for the future and position themselves as a leader in this industry.
The result was a strategic advisory day with their most influential analyst, the author of the Magic Quadrant. To prepare, we started by asking simple, but very important questions:
- What do you want? In terms of what you and your leadership want, influencing your position on a ranking report is a no-brainer. But what do you think is needed to move the dot? Where do you need to dive deep? What are you missing? What is the best way to have that influence on the analyst without hard-selling? As the AR pro, your job is to identify what you want the analyst to think or do when the session is done. Know what’s critical to discuss and what’s not. Ask yourself, “If I could have the analyst walk away with ONE conclusion, what would that be?”
- What does the analyst want? Even though you’re paying for the day, this is a day for the analyst to benefit as well. If an analyst feels “sold,” you’ve lost the game. Analysts look for the latest thinking, and crave best practices and case studies that make a vision a reality. How are you helping them do that? What future publications are they authoring or influencing? What’s their opinion on your market and how can you better inform their views? This should be a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Where is the intersection? Align both parties’ wants and find the areas that overlap. An exercise we’ve found effective is writing both yours and the analyst’s questions on sticky notes and posting them on a whiteboard. Chances are, you’ll see the intersection between the two when you visually compare them. Now, you’ve got the sweet spot: better engagement, better problem-solving, and the starting point to design your day.
With the financial services firm, we realized the sweet spot for the advisory day were questions about how new technologies are being deployed to solve customer issues in a whole new way. They realized this insight and made it part of their roadmap. And they knew the analyst would benefit from this point of view as well.
Step 2: Design the day
You now have your sweet spot. From here, you can design your advisory day with confidence, starting with the sweet spot and branching out from there:
- Start with your clear goals. This is not just an agenda, these are the goals. Be upfront with everyone about where you’re headed and why. Make sure these goals are mutual, not just yours. Reinforce them at mid-day and end of day. For the financial services client, our goals were to understand (and ultimately improve) their ranking position in the Magic Quadrant report; and to understand the characteristics of leaders in that industry and thereby better position themselves.
- Assemble the best team. A typical approach to an advisory day is to invite everyone who’s interested. A better approach is to assemble the best people: the true experts who know the material and can ask the right questions to advance the discussion. A tight team of “A Players” is much more effective than a large group. Quality over quantity rules the day.
- Cover foundational topics. If your premise is based on foundational knowledge or assumptions, start there. This lays the groundwork for the meaty discussions later on. This includes material you provide and also key information from the analyst as well. It should set the stage for mutual discussion as peers.
- Dive into the sweet spot. Go deep on your key topics early in the day before fatigue sets in. Capture related topics and questions in a parking lot. Always keep in mind your goals when you prioritize what comes next.
- Be flexible. Build in flexibility for the second half of the day. You should have an orchestrated agenda, but be willing to flex if the discussion warrants it. Revisit your goals with the team. It’s a best practice to get people on their feet after lunch in a whiteboard session or problem-solving exercise.
- Conclude with your clear goals. Be sure to revisit your goals before the day is done. If they’re not met, use the end of the day to bring them to conclusion as best you can.
Step 3: Prep the players
Chances are, you plan to invite a number of key stakeholders to the session – general managers, IT experts, product specialists, marcom pros, and others. Inviting them is one thing; prepping them is another.
Prepping your players means that you review your goals with them before the advisory day. They should know the “rules of the game” in working with an analyst, and they should have a full background on the analyst. Help them understand their role in the day, and what potential speed bumps could occur.
Sending them this information via email is “okay” if you can’t align everyone’s calendars for a full prep – but know they may just glance at what you’ve sent. A better approach is to actually meet with them and discuss the goals, the flow, and their hot buttons. They should understand the analyst’s hot buttons too.
Preparation also includes pulling together the right materials, both from your team and the analyst. Provide guidance on the content, length, and how the materials advance the goals. Same with the analyst: Provide the context for the day and the business questions you’re trying to address; this allows the analyst to be much more targeted in his or her approach.
As we work with clients, this is what we call “finesse.” A personal discussion with your key players provides greater context and builds rapport and alignment much better than a detailed email.
Remember, you are the conductor
Your role is conductor of this orchestra. Everyone has their part to play but at the end of the day, it’s your job to ensure a harmonic performance.
With the financial services firm, all parties left the advisory day with a clear, mutualunderstanding of their position in the ranking report. They knew where they had to go next. And they also left the day with innovative new thinking that was shared with the analyst who used it in his next publication. It was a win-win, both short-term and long-term.
By thoughtfully going broad and deep – while staying true to your goal and sweet spot – you will be strategic in planning your approach to a perfect advisory day. Plus, in the process you’ll build credibility with the analyst that matters most.
And you’ll all know the session is worth the investment.
How do you prepare for advisory days? Leave a comment below to join the discussion.