Whether you’re an armchair investor or a professional venture capitalist, you should consider leveraging industry analysts as part of your investment strategy.
Not to be confused with financial analysts, industry analysts (who work for firms such as Gartner, Forrester Research, HfS Research, and Blue Hill Research) analyze market forces, explain emerging trends, and predict future opportunities through published content and direct consulting. These analysts write for and advise the majority of the Fortune 500, but they also pride themselves on highlighting startups and small cap companies that are poised to create innovation or disruption.
Given their purview, analysts can have substantial knowledge of and influence over the markets they cover. With this in mind, technology vendors — from software platforms to digital agencies and everything in between — brief analysts in an effort to educate them about their capabilities. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s never too early to get on analysts’ radar. If you’re an investor, it’s fair to tap analysts’ expertise and expect the firms in your portfolio to do the same.
So how can you best leverage analysts to inform your investment strategies? Most analyst firms gate the research their analysts produce. You can buy individual reports, which can be a great way to test the waters to find the right analyst for your needs, but these reports won’t deliver the best bang for your buck over time. Once you’ve determined which analyst firm’s content best suits you, consider drinking from the fire hose by signing on for a subscription, granting you extensive access to reports and phone calls with the analyst (in most cases).
Whether a subscription is right for you now or later, you’ll want to identify a handful of analysts best connected to the topics you follow and gradually foster rapport with them. Analysts are human, after all. Those who know you and understand your goals will become thorough, inspiring resources.
That said, it can feel daunting to decipher which few (out of thousands of analysts) can best help you discover new opportunities and vet potential investments. An easy way to start your research and initiate conversations is via analysts’ public footprints on their blogs, Twitter, Inc. (TWTR) and LinkedIn Corp (LNKD) profiles, etc.
Ask the Right Questions
As you scout for analyst options, keep these two questions in mind:
How well does the analyst help his or her clients solve problems?
Industry analysts possess wide, deep, and specialized knowledge about topics ranging from programmatic buying to mobile application development to customer journey analytics. You want to find individual analysts with expertise in the areas that matter to you. Even better, find analysts who research real-world problems tackled by the firms you’re considering. The better an analyst understands the pain points of a given market, the more likely he or she is to know the full landscape of vendors occupying that market — and the better he or she can evaluate your would-be investment’s potential to create disruption.
How well does the analyst identify what’s next? Can he or she translate emerging trends into forward-thinking strategy?
You’ll want more than facts – you’ll want an opinion or a prediction. The more analysts are plugged into and trusted by their markets, the more they can help you.
Know Their Research
The best analysts promote their work through a variety of channels, as well as have their reports promoted by vendors. You can Google (GOOG) your way to free downloads of client-exclusive reports (especially ranking-style research such as Forrester’s Wave and Gartner’s Magic Quadrant). Search for an analyst’s name with “download” or related vendor names. You’ll be surprised by how much proprietary research you can find in exchange for your contact information.
Next, look for analysts’ blogs, which will help you hear their unfiltered opinions. Whereas reports normally are co-authored or edited by peers, a blog allows more freedom for an individual analyst’s voice and ideas.
Also, look for analysts on social media, from the standard networks to more specific, contextually relevant networks. You will find links to webinars and other free ways to read the analyst’s work, as well as thoughts on in-progress research. Analysts who are truly immersed in their industries have active social media conversations with the players in those ecosystems; they’re also quoted in B2B media. Analysts who lack such activity could be too isolated.
Get to Know Them Personally
Liking, retweeting, sharing, or commenting on the aforementioned content can be a great way to connect with analysts — most of them are watching, and many will take the time to respond to questions.
Over the course of your travels, odds are good that eventually, you and an analyst will attend the same conference. There are also the analyst firms’ conferences. Many research firms offer attendees the chance to book one-on-one time with analysts. Wherever the setting, a short but relaxed (and contextually relevant) face-to-face conversation can go a long way toward building rapport.
Talk to Analyst Firm Sales Teams
Effective sales professionals for analyst firms will go beyond the sales pitch. They share information to provide value to you with the hope of moving you toward a subscription. The best salespeople will occasionally send you free research and make introductions to familiarize you with their firms.
Overall, patience will pay off with quality results. Researching analysts is a discovery process not unlike assessing a potential investment. Over time, you can build a circle of industry analysts who will provide a wealth of insight that helps you stay ahead of the curve.
Andrew Hsu is the co-founder and managing partner of Spotlight Analyst Relations. Spotlight connects digital agencies and technology vendors with influential industry analysts to create meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. Find out how they make it happen here.
DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer