Consider Custom Research Now
Welcome to our latest Analyst Relations Clubhouse recap. If you’re new to this space, we’re glad you found us -- AR professionals have so much to learn from each other.
Every two weeks, independent analyst relations experts Beth Torrie of Torrie Communications and Wendy Shlensky of Canopy Communications & Marketing host a 45-minute Clubhouse dedicated to sharing lessons learned from the field, proven master moves, and candid commentary about the unique challenges of being an analyst relations expert. Whether you’re supporting a global enterprise, mid-size company, or start-up, read on for ways to create high-impact results using analysts, research, and business practices and ideas from the industry’s best #analystrelations professionals.
This week we went all-in on custom research and what every analyst relations expert should know before getting started.
Custom research creates real business impact
Contrary to what you’ve most likely heard, custom research is much more than a vehicle for lead generation. When conducted with the right partner and with a goal that aligns to the differentiation of a company or product, custom research provides an opportunity for organizations to improve brand perception, challenge a competitor issue, define differentiators, validate a value proposition or product, learn more about a target audience, create compelling marketing and sales material, and strengthen relationships with analysts.
Custom research can have a healthy impact on an organization’s bottom line, but why are so many companies hesitant to invest? The top three factors are: cost, perceived complexity and investment of internal resources.
The cost of custom research
First, let’s address the elephant in the room -- custom research isn’t cheap, but the enduring value can be priceless. Our Clubhouse attendees reported well over $200,000 for a TEI from a powerhouse firm and anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 from an independent analyst. The Big Three are obviously effective, but choosing an independent provides some unique benefits. They’re not only deeply ingrained in their industry and possess intimate market knowledge, but they’re also hungry for their customers. You’ll receive 1:1 attention that isn’t possible at a larger firm and high-quality research as a result of that close relationship.
Custom research creates value
Understanding the multifaceted business value of custom research will help your organization enter the engagement with a healthy attitude about budget. I don’t mind paying extra for the right answers, especially from independents. Their deep market knowledge of specific trends and personas will yield elegant research that can yield compelling thought leadership content. This is especially valuable given our new world of working. Business travel has slowed/stopped and so have many of the in-person opportunities for netting new leads. For a lot of organizations, reallocating budget from events to custom research has become a powerful product and marketing tool.
Prepare: How to navigate the custom research buy-in and scoping process
There are two parties to consider when kicking off custom research -- your internal stakeholders and the analyst conducting the research.
Before determining how the research will be done with your analyst, you need to internally discuss why it’s being done at all. This exercise will ensure expectations for the custom research are defined and the necessary internal resources can be secured, setting up the investment to be seen as a win. Internal alignment is also important as it’s your responsibility to protect the integrity of your analyst relationship. Presenting a unified effort to your analyst will help cultivate confidence in your company and market positioning.
I am actively managing a custom research project and was recently reminded of how important the internal buy-in process is. The team determined that the analyst would conduct in-person, open-ended question interviews that would result in qualitative answers, but I hadn’t confirmed with the business owner whether this met her expectation (thankfully, it had). This is a valuable tip: Ask the internal business stakeholder to envision their ideal results and prompt them to define what the final product should look like.
The internal buy-in process should also include defining who is responsible for what. As attendee Rachel Lamont notes, “Custom research is time-intensive and it is important that the person leading this effort has the bandwidth. Consider when it makes sense to loop other team members in to weigh in on the research objectives or to strategize how to leverage the research in marketing campaigns, for example.”
That said, custom research is more than a revenue and branding opportunity. It’s also an effective way to tighten your analyst relationships. As Sunder Sarangan explained, “Custom research done strategically can be a great way to influence how an analyst thinks about a market without making them feel pressured or under the influence. especially if you scope it to something that reshapes challenges a current belief. You’ll not only receive high-quality research but also gain an opportunity to tweak the market perception through the influence of such analysts and plant seeds for the criteria through which an analyst looks at a market and its participants."
Maximize marketing from custom research
If the primary goal of your custom research is to inform product strategy, then the secondary goal should be thought leadership and marketing collateral. Ideally, your organization should be able to upcycle the research findings to elevate your brand, create value for your customers, and with some advertising budget, generate new leads.
There are two simple things you can do to maximize your marketing and sales ROI from custom research. 'TD' Tathagata Das Sarma recommends "identifying at which point of the funnel your analyst’s research findings will be most impactful. Deciding this in the buy-in process will help guide your collaboration with marketing and ease any potential friction post-research. Project management, expected outcomes, and timeline mapping for six months should be defined upfront. "
The other thing you can do is confirm all the types of deliverables your company would want or need. To strengthen your negotiating power with the analyst or firm, Wendy Shlensky recommends, “Do this before work gets underway. For example, consider if you’d want a webinar with the analyst or a report reprint wrapper to help promote the validity of the research -- it’s a lot easier to negotiate pricing before the work has been delivered.”
As event budgets are still up for grabs, I hope you’ll consider investing in custom research. Have other tips to share? I look forward to hearing your feedback and ideas.