As AR pros we often get pressure from our key stakeholders for insights into how our key analysts feel about us, especially compared to our competitors. We get questions ranging from how our messaging is resonating to if prospects are asking about us. These questions are wide and varied, so one best practice we use at Spotlight is to help our clients conduct an annual perception audit with their key analysts to find some of these answers. Analysts are proxies for the market, so perception audits also help vendors collect perceptions from their customers and prospects.
What is a perception audit?
A perception audit is a formal investigation of how your company is perceived by the analyst community. Depending on the analyst firm, these audits are often executed via a simple survey or written inquiry questions. You can engage with all of your key analysts to evaluate your company’s analyst relations program as a whole. The feedback you collect can be used to inform the business as well as your AR program strategy. If executed on an annual basis, you are able to examine year-over-year benchmarking to help gauge the impact of your team’s ongoing efforts. Here are four key areas that you can address:
- Differentiation: Analysts want to help your business succeed and are open to providing feedback on repositioning or new messaging. Ask analysts how they describe your offering to prospects and how you fare compared to your competitors. This will reveal what they believe you are best known for and will surface any common misperceptions that need to be addressed.
- Advocacy: We know analysts often shortlist vendors, so ask them on average how often and in which context they recommend or mention your company to prospects. This can be used to show leadership an indication of your program’s success.
- Relevance: You can make sure the analysts you’re engaging with are interested in learning more about you by asking about the frequency with which buyers ask about you or your competitors via inquiries. This will help you determine if you’re targeting the right analysts.
- Opportunities: Take a moment to check-in on the work you’ve shared with analysts and see if there are areas that could be further enhanced. You can ask specific questions on how to improve your market position and where to focus your efforts moving forward.
How do I conduct a perception audit?
Start early. The process itself can take some time, so if a perception audit seems like it might be a good fit for your company – get started now. Evaluate the questions that you would like to ask the analysts: familiarity, differentiation, competition, frequency of mentions during client inquiries, improvement opportunities, etc.
Input those questions into your favorite survey tool and submit your written inquiry requests to the analyst firms you engage with the most. Work with the respective firms on the best process for completing the survey, as preferences may vary based on your agreement or level of analyst access. If you’re new to the process, a good place to start might be your account representative to identify the dedicated analyst survey function by firm.
A few perception audit tips
This process can take more time than you would expect, so start circulating your audit script internally well before your results may be needed. Make sure that the questions you are evaluating are actionable and keep it brief, ideally under 10 questions. Analysts want to generate meaningful relationships and to help you, so they will welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on how to best engage moving forward. If you think your survey will take more than 20 minutes to complete, scale it back to be respectful of analysts’ time and input.
Making use of the perception audit data
Once analysts respond to your survey, you will have a clear picture of where your company and AR program stands. Perception audits can also help you gauge how well relevant analysts actually understand your business. Sometimes the analysts are unfamiliar, and that can inform your first interactions with those analysts.
The analyst perception audit allows you to gather positive and cautionary insights that can be used to impact business decisions and outcomes, sharpen your focus with analysts, and develop a thoughtful engagement roadmap. They’re a great way to reveal basic info about your business that tees up more engagement between your company and the analysts. You may go into them expecting specific results, but make sure that you look at any responses as ideas for future interactions.
Perception audits can be a great first step in a larger Insights-Driven AR strategy. To learn more about how you can use perception audits to establish a baseline understanding of where your company stands with analysts, check out our recent webinar or contact us for guidance.