Cisco Blogs

Creating a Strategic Asset

September 13, 2007 - 4 Comments

Many people across our industry believe that the role of an effective Analyst Relations function is to get the industry analysts to say and write nice things about their company and its products. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.Hey, don’t get me wrong -having analysts opine (that was for you, Jim) on the fabulousness of your products and technologies is a good thing, and it’s definitely an expected deliverable from my program here at Cisco. [Disclaimer added for my supervisor’s benefit.] But, that’s the hoped-for result of my team’s efforts; not its role.Another thing I’ve never subscribed to is the saying that the ends justify the means. If my objective was to get analysts to wax eloquent on the virtues and brilliance of Cisco, there are any number of ways and shortcuts -most a bit unsavory -that we could pursue to achieve that result. But that would belie the very nature of AR, which is inherently about relationship building, trust and honesty.I see our responsibility in AR as twofold. First, we have a responsibility to inform the analyst community about our products, technologies, customers, markets, strategies and overall corporate direction. It’s critical that the analysts have a clear understanding of our offerings and strategies as well as accurate product data and technology information when doing their research and analysis for their clients. While the analysts will not always agree with a direction we taken or support our product and technology strategies, it’s important that they at least understand why we’ve gone down a certain path and have the correct context to put our activity in perspective.The other half of our job is to take the analyst feedback, input, views and criticisms we receive and bring it back into the organization so we can validate or challenge our messaging, positioning, roadmaps and strategies. When used effectively, analysts can be a critical piece of a company’s strategic planning process. The earlier you get them engaged in a development effort -whether it’s for a new product, positioning around an industry-level issue, or messaging for a key campaign -the more they can help you craft something that will be successful and impactful.This approach allows us to utilize the influencer community as a corporate strategic asset; and not simply as an extension of the media. Additionally, if we execute both aspects of the job effectively, then we put ourselves into a good position to have nice things said and written about us.And while that may not be the role of my Analyst Relations program, it’s sure nice when it happens!

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  1. One area where AR can partner most effectively with the analyst community on behalf of their mutual customers is the area of market education, especially pre-launch. This is especially important in advance of pre-chasm types of technologies, many of which see slow adoption and even premature demise owing to a lack of general market understanding of their value. The last thing a vendor really wants is to have to start educating customers cold, from scratch, the day after a launch–the sales & adoption cycle then take far too long to provide the validation required to sustain the business. If engaged early enough in the process (often a year or more)–even at a conceptual level–good analysts will recognize the promise, identify any cross-technology dependencies that may hinder successful adoption, and get their user clients thinking practically about how to position themselves to take advantage of upcoming developments, without giving away the specifics of a given (future) product.Often AR is the function best positioned to lead and shape this process, since the early output is vendor- and product-independent, and hence the value is often not *immediately* apparent to their own marketing and R&D stakeholders. OTOH, analysts tend to understand that this is where some of their real value-add lies–to vendor and user clients alike–and it also provides fodder for name-making ig idea”” research; analysts therefore typically embrace it, and are more likely to view their AR contacts as partners rather than PR-focused irritants.”

  2. Good site! I’ll stay reading! Keep improving!

  3. Thanks Skip for the clarification! I am honestly not sure if Marthin misspoke or I am just very bad at understanding his accent. Either way, this group is beginning to look like the example to follow!

  4. Tangentially related, the webcast for the Emerging Technologies Group breakout session gave me a sense of how cisco is going to move in this Phase II direction and keep a full head of steam all the way to Phase III. But when SVP De Beer explained his group, he said that moving the idea through the leadership training program takes 6 years!?! Did anyone else attend that session and hear differently? Got to be an explanation…