I’ve seen a growing interest recently from clients and prospects in the role of influencers with regards to a broader communications strategy. Firstly, by influencer, I do not mean spray tanned, selfie-obsessed teens with a penchant for free swag who "just wanna make everything better u guyz #ad". I mean people who can be considered as key influencers to a business, whether key media, industry analysts, or consultants, as well other business partners and customers. Basically, I’m talking about people who are key to shaping the thoughts of decision makers and subsequently making deals happen.

Technology vendors rely on a variety of influencers to make deals happen, and it can often be difficult to devise a strategy when one person could be key to connecting two different companies to create a whole new partnership or customer deal. How does one plan a strategy around nepotism, after all? And where does Analyst Relations fit into that?

Firstly, and key to every discussion I have about AR, it’s important to note that industry analysts should be seen as key partners to your entire business strategy, not just advocates who occasionally say nice things about your product. Please see my thoughts on treating AR as a strategic business function and not just a marketing function here. So, putting that huge discussion to one side, how do industry analysts fit into a broader influencer strategy?

For that to be understood, there needs to be a decision made on qualifying analysts and influencers. Not every vendor uses every single analyst firm for market intelligence and guidance, and I’ve seen analysts often qualified by vendors as influencers when I would still consider them as analysts. Just because you haven’t used them for market intel yet doesn’t mean you won’t in future, and treating them only as a potential influencer will inevitably have an effect on your approach to interactions with them. Be careful not to waste opportunities to leverage their considerable market knowledge.

The potential pool of influencer targets is almost infinite, so it is important to understand your own specific business needs when prioritising. There has to be some kind of balance between the ability to simply get the message out there and the direct ability to influence deals, followed by a necessary conversation over who should own the relationships – it might make more sense for your business to have multiple people across business verticals owning the relationships specific to their niche, rather than lumping it all with the AR owner just because you’re not sure where the responsibility should sit.

The biggest takeaway, for me, in all my discussions has been the fact that regardless of who and how a business prioritises influencers, industry analysts are still crucial to a strategy and are often seen as some of the most effective influencers available. Almost all your prospects will likely seek analyst counsel when shortlisting solutions, especially when getting approval from a board. Analysts are known and respected for their objectivity and deep market intel, which makes them a unique proposition in the influencer landscape. Not all other influencers can also provide feedback and guide you on product, strategy and marketing.

Resourcing is a constant challenge, and AR professionals often spend much of their time having to prioritise specific analyst firms, so adding to their plate by asking them to own other influencer relationships might not always be the best strategy. That said, influencer relations is clearly here to stay, so an integrated approach, of which Analyst Relations should be a key element, is likely the best approach to prioritising resources and setting expectations within the business. Industry analysts are understood and highly valued by internal stakeholders and external prospects, and should thus be key to both your market intelligence and external advocacy strategies, regardless of which other influencers are deemed appropriate to your business needs.

Hotwire has dedicated Analyst Relations expertise, so if you’re interested to know how AR could best work for you, please drop me a note at any time – graham.westrop@hotwireglobal.com