Climbing Jacob’s Ladder of Analyst Briefings

In the Old Testament, Jacob’s Ladder refers to the connection between earth and heaven that Jacob dreams about during his escape from his brother, Esau. Healthcare tech companies dream of a similar ladder – the connection between the grounding of their value proposition in the market and the steps up and to the right of their competitors in the Magic Quadrant, MarketScape, Wave or Market Trends Reports.

In last week’s post, we talked about why and when you should do briefings with industry analysts such as GartnerIDCForresterFrost & Sullivan and Chilmark . Other analyst firms who may benefit from a briefing with your organization throughout the year – and not just before HIMSS – include OvumIHS and Alterum.

This week our focus is on the next steps up the analyst version of Jacob’s Ladder – the ethereal briefing itself.

One Step at a Time

There has been an explosion of healthcare technology companies seeking to mine the gold rush started by the Affordable Care Act. And there has been a corresponding growth in the number of analysts and analyst firms covering the healthcare IT market.

Unfortunately, many tech marketers and executives today do not have a clear view of which analyst influencers they should be briefing, nor what story they should be telling, nor how they should tell that story.

Analyst firms add credibility by providing independent, third-party validation to IT buyers in healthcare and several other vertical industries, including financial services, pharma and consumer goods. They also provide deep expert insights on the market to vendors during briefings – sometimes only through a paid relationship, but often as part of the discovery process for their industry market reports.

The Gartners, IDCs and Frost & Sullivans of the world have scores of analysts who at first glance you might think should all be interested in your company and technology. However, usually only up to four analysts participate in briefings – it is much more likely that only one or two analysts will attend the briefing.

That’s where your PR firm can help. If your PR rep has a strong track record in working with the industry analysts, that person will be able to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff – both in terms of which firms will have the greatest impact, and also when it comes to which analyst(s) within those firms are the best target(s), based on their coverage area(s). Firms often have several analysts focused on different points along the HIT horizon for payers, providers, pharma and consumers – so you may need to schedule multiple briefings for the different target market segments.

Why is it important to take the first initial steps one at a time? If you think back to HIMSS 16, everyone seemed to be locked in to positioning themselves for population health, patient engagement or care coordination throughout the hall. Those topics cover wide swaths of the HIT landscape. Your PR rep should first drill down within those broad categories to target the most relevant one to four analysts at each firm, and then submit a compelling briefing request through the analyst bookers to secure briefings.

This usually involves creating a brief synopsis explaining your company, its HIT solutions, and your target market, as well as background on the healthcare IT experience of the executives presenting the briefing. Other information that may be requested includes revenues (past and projected), market size and competitors (more on that later).

Getting the briefing, the first steps up the ladder, is actually the easiest part. The steps get a lot more difficult as you begin to shape your vision, market position and messaging for the analyst influencers.

Tighten the Knots

There are several reasons to brief analysts – it may be just to introduce them to your company, review your go-to-market strategy, or provide an update (we recommend updating analysts at least once or twice a year). You may also have a new product launch or significant corporate news, such as a merger or acquisition. Or the analyst may be doing research for a report that you want to be included in.

To have the most impact on the analyst and subsequently the tech buyers they are advising in the marketplace, it’s important to tighten the knots on the story that you tell. Usually, analyst briefings last no more than one hour. So the story your team tells has to be compelling, concise and complete – all while still leaving plenty of time for you to tap into the analyst team’s market insights as well.

What makes a compelling story? First and foremost are client success stories you can share with the client. Yes, you want to provide a brief history of your company and a brief overview of its most relevant products, but don’t get lost in the weeds for either of those topics. Analysts are looking for proof points, so just like working with the media, the more compelling success stories you have to share, the more weight that will carry with the analysts.

We recommend organizing the presentation in this format:

  • Make Introductions
  • Encourage Analysts to Ask Questions at Any Time
  • State the Desired End Result (“If you get only one thing out of this briefing, it is…”)
  • Preview a Success Story (should reinforce the one “get” for the briefing)
  • Provide Market Overview (targets, size, challenges, competitors)
  • Share Company Background (history, size, locations, top executives, number of employees)
  • Provide Solution Overview (with demos and product roadmap)
  • Share Key Partners (if applicable) and Customers
  • Highlight Customer Impact (cost savings, improved outcomes, streamlined processes, success stories)
  • Request Analyst Input (questions, feedback, market insights)
  • Confirm Next Steps (schedule next update, discuss pending reports, meet at upcoming conference)

Who’s Climbing the Ladder?

Frequently, there is an internal debate that may occur when it comes to who should be included from your team for the briefing. There is no hard and fast rule – it really depends on the knowledge level of the person or persons who have the most insights on the target market, your solution and the competition.

However, Amendola usually recommends that no more than three members of your team sit in on a briefing – a senior healthcare business executive, someone from product marketing/development, and/or a CTO or VP of technology (to cover the more geeky questions). More is not necessarily better. One really good executive briefer is better than three mediocre briefers.

The call should be hosted by your analyst relations or PR agency rep, who should then become a (mostly) silent partner who starts the call with introductions and finishes the call with a brief recap of the information covered and a summary of the next steps. This person should also serve as the scribe for the call, so the other participants can keep their focus on communicating their key messages to the analysts and probing them for market insights from the analyst’s perspective.

Lighten the Load

One of the biggest mistakes made in analyst presentations is trying to cram 100 pounds of company/solution/market information into a five-pound rucksack as you climb Jacob’s Ladder. You do not – repeat, do not – want to fall off the ladder because you tried to pack too much into your PowerPoint presentation.

The ideal length for a presentation is 10 to 15 slides – no more. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it should leave them hungry for more, so it gives your analyst relations rep or PR firm a reason to follow up with additional information such as white papers, case studies or data sheets (if their questions are more technical in nature).

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be prepared to expand in detail about your slides. While you want to send a clean deck to the analyst firm, use the Notes view for your team to have information they need readily available for questions you anticipate from the analysts.

Second, most analyst firms request that the presentation be sent to them for review at least one day in advance of the briefing. The reason for this is that the analysts want to cut right to the chase in the call. By being able to review your briefing ahead of time, the hour can be spent in a more productive way than just reciting bullet points on a slide that their own two eyes have already seen. That is time better spent on exchanging insights on the market opportunity, competitors in your space, unique differentiators of your solution, or the seaworthiness of your corporate strategy and value proposition.

Also, if you are doing a demo, it is critical that the demo has been rehearsed, tested and aligned with the story you are telling in your presentation. Ideally, the demo is reflecting a real-world situation, walking the analyst through the process of how your solution solved the challenge and benefitted the customer.

Please note: demos should not go on for more than five minutes at the most. Again, this is an opportunity for your rep to set up an additional call down the line for a more extensive demo, if the analyst is interested.

The Next Rungs

Once the briefing is over, your work is not done. It is important to follow up on the action items summarized by your analyst relations or PR agency rep at the end of the call. This provides multiple opportunities to continue on up the next few rungs of the ladder – influencing the influencers, so to speak, as they evaluate your climb up and to the right in the market they cover.

The next rungs could be in the form of regularly providing relevant content such as press releases, white papers, case studies or research reports; insights on the market you can share with the analyst; reviewing the relevant section of a market report that includes your company and its solutions; or providing an update in advance of a milestone event, such as a product launch. In order to sustain your relationship with the analysts, it is important to be in touch with them throughout the year, and not just in the month before HIMSS.

Tim Boivin
Managing Director - Amendola Communications
Tim Boivin is a seasoned PR strategist with experience across a dozen vertical markets including healthcare, technology and supply chain. Tim's diverse skill set includes leading accounts, managing teams and budgets, developing and implementing communications strategies, as well as hands-on, results-oriented public relations and social media programs. Tim’s career in media and public relations began in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning journalist and public affairs professional. Prior to joining Amendola, Tim spent 12 years at Tech Image, Chicago's leading independent high-tech public relations firm, where he managed agency operations and led an award-winning team.
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