|Earlier this year I spoke with renowned industry analyst Francisco Jeronimo, AVP, Devices at IDC (pictured left) about his experiences with vendors at industry events such as MWC, IFA and CES. In this, he noted the lack of dedicated AR expertise and the need for some vendors to move away from a transactional approach to AR, whereby it is treated as an add-on to PR, and move instead to a more regular cadence of engagement if they want to see genuine value from analyst interactions.
With that in mind, I followed up with Francisco recently to get his thoughts on how AR can deliver true value to technology vendors and what the effects of mature AR programmes can have on a business.
Are you going to IFA this year?
I won’t be attending IFA this year but my team will. My role is a lot more management and business development these days, but MWC remains the big one for me.
How much of your work with vendors is genuinely part of an ongoing programme of regular contact versus ad hoc invites to secure your time?
99.9% of the brands I interact with are those with whom I have a regular cadence of interactions. Most of them have some kind of AR programme in place. I tend to decline most ad hoc invites, especially for big events, because I can’t take the brand as seriously as the ones who understand my research agenda and feed in on a regular basis. Building that relationship is essential. If a vendor is regularly in touch with me, it is much easier to get my attention and my knowledge of that vendor is likely to be much higher so my feedback is likely to be much more valuable. I can’t prioritise somebody getting in touch with me out of the blue because there is no value in that interaction – I’m simply unlikely to know enough about the vendor for it to be valuable to me or the vendor.
For those vendors who do engage with you regularly, how far in advance would you expect to be briefed ahead of an announcement?
It’s normally a combination of engagements over a long period of time, with the nature of the briefing changing as the announcement draws near. Vendors obviously don’t want to disclose too much in advance as things might change a lot, but the feedback we give to those we have good relationships with is valuable to their development. So for example, vendors might invite me to their annual showcase events where they hint at what they’re working on in the future. They get immediate feedback from all the analysts and can take that back to product development teams. It’s usually a case of them hinting at where a product design is going and gives us an idea of what is coming without us knowing exactly what it is. Then in the months and weeks leading up to the announcement I’ll be pre-briefed on the exact details as they get finalised. I’ve already been briefed multiple times this year on products that won’t be released until next year.
What this means is that we know what will disrupt the market ahead of time. Over a year ago I was briefed from a vendor on foldable phones, so I knew this would come in 2019. Those insights helped me understand the vendor’s thinking and helped me understand a new form factor coming to market. Prior to that briefing I knew the tech was there but wasn’t able to understand of how soon it would be commercially available, which consequently affected the forecasts I wrote. Knowing that information a year in advance was important for me and the industry because we were able to drive the discussion of that technology without obviously mentioning that vendor.
Where do you provide most of your feedback to vendors?
Most of my feedback is provided in those pre-briefings. It’s not about them having a subscription with my firm or anything like that, although if they do we’re able to take that feedback further and arrange deep dives based on how our services can help contribute to new ideas and strategies. In those kind of situations, we’re also very familiar with the whole organisation, so we know all the product managers and so forth. Like I say, that’s mostly for mature relationships. The majority of my feedback to vendors is provided during regular briefings.
How do these briefings affect the way you speak to customers and does that influence their buying habits?
If we know a development is happening, take for instance my earlier example of foldable phones – I wrote last year that it would be the big topic in 2019 – we as analysts start talking about these developments as soon as we know that the industry players are working on them, without of course mentioning them individually. This really influences the buying habits of customers as they see where the market is headed and start to plan accordingly.
Do you speak to the investor community and how does that affect vendors?
Absolutely. Most of the investment banks are our clients, for which I have quarterly meetings both here in the UK and in New York. What is important for investors is to understand where vendors are headed and how we as analysts view their strategic trajectory over the next year or two. If they’re considering whether to put their money on Vendor A or Vendor B, they want to know what the future strategy is. The recent US ban for Huawei has really been driving conversations recently as the investors want to understand our opinions of what will happen over the next 12-24 months, the impact on other companies and component suppliers and also in the smartphone market in general, so we speak to them regularly. Investors also give us valuable insights on vendors which in turn shapes our understanding. I think it’s fair to say that our insights help, along with other information sources, shape their model readjustments and subsequent investment decisions.
How important are regional proof points to your research?
Regional context is really important – I have to have local knowledge. If I want to understand something about what is happening in Europe, there is no point putting me in touch with a US spokesperson who doesn’t understand the local nuances. I often ask to be put in touch with somebody relevant to the region I’m looking at. Sometimes my experience with smaller US-focused vendors is that they only want to discuss their market or the industry more generally, which isn’t really as valuable to me. For briefings to really be informative, I need that local knowledge.
Does it matter if the AR team handling your interaction is based out of region?
Not at all. What matters to me is the quality – I need to work with people who understand my research and can put me in touch with the right spokespeople as needed. I don’t care if that person sits somewhere else in the world. In fact, many of the AR teams I work with are not necessarily based in the region for which I am briefed on, but the information they give me is correct to that region and of course relevant to my work. These teams provide excellent support for me and it is crucial in getting me access to the right people.
Finally, what do you think is the challenge for vendors who are not familiar with Analyst Relations programmes?
I think the biggest struggle is that they do not fully understand the value of AR. They don’t understand how analysts directly influence everybody from customers and partners to investors and the media. Those that do understand this value inevitably have quite thorough AR programmes and are a delight to work with.
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 – email@example.com