Starsight’s five drills to ensure you’re getting value from analyst firms.
How many times have you auto-renewed a gym membership, only to never walk through the door again? As our partner Thomas Otter says, analyst firm subscriptions are like gym memberships: use it or lose it. You won’t get any money back at the end of the year if you only go to the gym once, and you won’t get money back if you have 10 inquiry hours leftover either.
It’s easy to buy into the dream that sales teams sell, but it’s your job to make it reality. You should schedule regular assessments of the value being delivered through your subscriptions. If there is none then it’s time to reevaluate your strategy.
Our five Starsight analyst research subscriptions drills below ensure you will get bangs for your bucks from industry analyst firm research subscriptions.
drill #1: Establish a timeline.
Find your subscription sweet spot –this will be the date you aim to have completed your renewals and purchases. Consider your own fiscal year, key AR calendar milestones and, ideally, align with the fiscal year of the analyst firms you are dealing with. Understand when firms change their subscription pricing and take into account which incentives sales teams have to close deals at the end of quarters and financial years to reach their targets. And of course, find out how your sales reps are compensated –for instance on TCV, renewals or retention? Ask them outright if they can offer any incentives for early renewals or multiyear contracts. Armed with this information, pinpoint when it makes the most sense for your contract renewals and purchases –and for which contract duration.
Work smart with a workback plan –contract renewals and purchases take time, you can expect to spend a couple of months on this. You have your end goal to complete the contract renewals and purchases by a specific time, start from there to create your workback. The step just before the sale is locking down your budget, so consider your company practices and understand when you will need to submit your budget request to meet your end goal. Before you submit your budget plan, it’s best to have a proposal to be approved by your management and it’s good to have some time to discuss and adjust with them. What this means, is that you will need to start discussing with the analyst firm sales team your subscription options roughly 6 months before your end goal date.
drill #2: Understand what’s on offer.
What’s included in a subscription varies by analyst firm and the offering you sign up for. The FIGs for example, Forrester, IDC and Gartner, have a host of subscription styles, from reader seats to AR seats to management seats to companywide access. Smaller firms may have a one-size fits all offering, like KuppingerCole. To assess your options, have the sales team explain all offerings and the benefits they come with. Ask about the research, topic coverage, inquiry hours, analyst access and if there are any other value adds.
Shop outside of the sales team to get more insights into the offerings. For a deeper understanding of a subscription, have the analysts themselves pitch it to you. This is who you are really paying to access and so understanding what they cover, their research style and their client base will help you evaluate their relevance to your business. You can also ask for a reference call with another client. They can tell you the benefits they have seen from working with a specific firm or team and they may have ROI data points that you can use to back up your budget plan. Be sure to have this call without the account rep to allow the client to give you their candid opinion.
Work towards a win-win deal. The above doesn’t mean you should circumvent your analyst firm sales team -and they should not either. By treating your sales reps as partners you will gain a precious ally and be able to work towards a win-win deal –and a relationship that delivers value and satisfies your internal stakeholders (aka internal clients) in the long term. True, some firms are harder to work than others with but understanding and respecting everyone’s redlines is key to a satisfactory agreement. But if you find sales people going around your back to your constituents, “abusing briefings with egregious sales pitches” (sic), then those are clear signs AR is seen a gatekeeper acting like a PR agency and not a partner seeking to add value.
drill #3: Assess your needs.
Base your subscription choices on the business aspects you require intel for. Don’t fall victim to the pay-for-play myth and assume that by buying a Gartner subscription your dot will shift to the leaders quadrant. Think beyond vendor ratings and focus on value added through insights. Look at company-wide goals and assess which subscriptions will help you meet them. Survey business units to investigate and understand their needs to align your subscriptions and how those will deliver ROI into the business. Create a subscription scorecard to understand where relevant value is being added, identify gaps in key topics and highlight less useful areas.
Streamline or scaleup based on your current usage. Analyst research subscriptions are often underused –with users consuming less than a report a month and not engaging in any other ways. Audit your existing subscriptions to understand if they are still delivering value and if they are actually being used. Normally, if you have 20 people with access, then 80% of your company’s usage will be by 20% of them. Furthermore, 20-30% are likely inactive. Ask your account team to share usage statistics of your current subscriptions. Ask those with access to honestly assess their usage of them and churn those that are underusing, typically we set the benchmark at reading <3 reports per month. Streamline your subscriptions to save money and if subscriptions are being used well, consider scaling up to deliver even more business value.
drill #4: Sweat your stakeholders, not your money.
Bring all stakeholders involved in the purchasing process to the same table and plan for subscription success from the outset. It’s not always the analyst relations team that funds research subscriptions; marketing intelligence, knowledge management, product teams and any other business unit that benefits may decide to purchase a subscription to an analyst research firm. While centralised buying benefits from economies of scale, it is not always politically feasible.
Ensure everyone with a licence is educated on how to exercise it. Often, stakeholders will adopt a birthright argument to an analyst firm subscription. Make sure to remind these stakeholders that they still need to commit to exercising the licence. With the subscription comes all the tools that they will need to get value from an analyst firm. They can schedule inquiries and uncover business insights, relying less on AR to keep them in line. If they aren’t using it effectively, then don’t be afraid to re-allocate it elsewhere.
drill #5: Set-up subscriptions that deliver value.
Making your subscriptions deliver takes bandwidth, commitment… and a good workout. A firm will not provide a packaged solution that automatically delivers your exact needs. The key to growing muscle is consistent training, you need to put the work in to see results. The key to growing your business with analyst relations, is regular touchpoints and successfully extracting value from your subscriptions. Put the work in to read the research you pay for and schedule the inquiries with the hours you have. Take the time to translate your actions into insights that deliver business value.
Build and maintain systematic mechanisms to internalise learnings from analyst firm subscriptions. Assign owners to research subscriptions to maximise value from them and ensure you utilise all of your benefits. When scheduling inquiries, have a system in place to gather questions across business units to glean useful and relevant insights from the analyst. Importantly, make sure it is clear how and where these insights will be shared to leverage all four business impacts of analyst relations.
Bottom line: work out your analyst firm subscriptions and advisory to accelerate your success.
At Starsight, we think analyst relations should be insights driven. Subscriptions are pivotal to delivering this, but they can use up a massive chunk of your budget. AR teams with poor subscription hygiene will end up eating their budgets with poor ROI. To successfully and strategically deliver insights-led AR, make sure you audit your existing industry analyst subscriptions and build a research portfolio serving your business needs –not just geared towards delivering exposure or AR engagement. If needed, enlist the help of experts for your audit. It may seem like an unnecessary extra cost, but some of our clients have saved up to 50% of some contracts whilst maximising returns from analyst insights.
Our takeaway: aim to progress along the maturity curve towards using analyst firms as trusted advisors where both research and live analyst advisory delivers market and competitive insights at the right time, to the right stakeholders and help accelerate business decisions.