Whenever you started in analyst relations, inquiries were likely one of the first offerings you heard about from analyst firms. Included in most firm subscriptions, analyst inquiries are uninterrupted time to ask an industry expert about questions specific to your business. But making the most out of analyst inquiries requires us to take a step back and hone in on the foundations of this offered service.
An inquiry is:
- An opportunity to access expert opinion on a topic of interest
- A focused opportunity to interact with an analyst around a specific, relevant topic
- An opportunity to create memorability through a genuine peer-to-peer interaction
An inquiry is not:
- An opportunity to just “touch base.” Yes, consistent communication with your key analysts is critical for any successful AR program. But having an inquiry just to have one defeats the purpose. Inquiries should be productive, and both parties should leave feeling like they had a worthwhile discussion.
- An unstructured or personal conversation. If you start an inquiry without a plan, you’re not doing anything to help foster that analyst relationship. Sure, some chit chat about personal lives is a nice way to break the ice, but an inquiry is your (paid) time to talk business. Be friendly with analysts, but show them you value their expertise by maximizing your inquiries to talk about more than just baseball or vacations.
- An opportunity to brief the analyst or “pitch” your company. If briefings are not the place to give your sales pitch, inquiries are definitely not either. Of course, if you need to explain a piece of your business in order for the analyst to give the right input, then do so during an inquiry. But do not try to sell or showcase parts of your business here. The focus should be on learning from the analyst, not teaching them about you.
Components of a successful inquiry:
Now, let’s build on our foundation. Analysts sit through hundreds of inquiries a year, so you want to make sure the ones they take with you are enjoyable and productive. Trust us, this goes a long way in fostering great relationships and building advocates. We’ve found that the best inquiries are comprised of four simple tenets: be authentic, friendly, goal-oriented, and prepared.
- Be authentic: Only ask questions your firm is genuinely invested in having a conversation about. Inquiries use valuable time from both your spokespeople and the analysts. While it’s important to start with pleasantries, it’s equally important to not dance around the heart of what you want to talk about. Dive into your questions early to maximize the analysts’ value.
- Be open-minded: Inquiries are your time to hear new perspectives, so stay open to what the analyst may say. You or your executives may not agree with every answer the analyst gives, but keeping the dialog open and friendly will go a long way in uncovering their rationale and building a strong relationship.
- Be goal-oriented: Before you even schedule the inquiry, discuss with your executives what you hope to gain from the call. Are you looking for the analyst’s input on your product and roadmap? Do you have a question about what they wrote in their latest research? Are you curious about how they view the market in light of recent events? Each of these questions requires a different set of inquiry questions. Without a goal in mind, your inquiry can easily get off-track and off-time.
- Be prepared: Capitalizing on the value the analyst can bring to the table is predicated on doing your homework. Reading analyst’s recent research will provide insight into their current and future point of view about the market. Building on that foundation will enable the conversation to move beyond the basics to richer, deeper intel faster. Put together a list of thought-starter questions that you and your spokespeople can use to direct the conversation towards meeting your goals.
Setting the right goals:
Authenticity and friendliness are important qualities your spokespeople should bring to the table for inquiries. But AR pros can add value by setting goals for every inquiry we plan. Goals rally the team together and give your (often harried) spokespeople a true north for the discussion.
In order to have a successful inquiry, identify your goal and align all of your questions to it. What are you hoping to get out of this inquiry? Do you want to learn something, gain clarity, or inform a decision? Reaching any of these goals requires a different approach, and as AR pros we should drive the delineation.
With your “why” clearly identified you can help guide your spokespeople towards having a focused, productive call. Here are a few of the most common goals we have when conducting inquiries:
- Changing course: Are you open to thinking differently about your market, message, or industry’s future? Are your executives seeking fresh ideas or alternative perspectives that may spark inspiration? Inquiries can be the perfect place to ask questions that may lead to new thinking.
- Finding clarity: Are you seeking intel on your competition or on how the analyst views the market? Or are you wanting to better understand the perspective of the buyers and the challenges they face? Inquiries can be used to validate a hypothesis or provide new insight.
- Making decisions: Maybe your company is torn between which security solution is the right investment. Or maybe you’re not sure where you need to prioritize in your roadmap. Analysts can weigh in on important decisions like these and offer an outsider’s perspective that you may be looking for.
- Taking Action: Sometimes it happens to the best of us – the market changes before we’re able to keep up. An inquiry can show you the areas where you’re falling behind and analysts can provide recommendations to move forward. If you ask the right questions about what steps you need to take next, you can make your next action the most effective action.
Analyst inquiries may seem like something you’ve mastered from the beginning of your time in AR. But just as it’s important to maintain the foundation of a house, it’s important to revisit your inquiry best practices from time-to-time to make sure you’re keeping your AR foundation strong. When delivered correctly, inquiries are worthwhile conversations for both analysts and your spokespeople – and you can take credit for making the most of their time.
We’d love to know what tactics you use to make the most of your inquiries. Or, shoot us a question! Leave a comment below.