So many analysts; so little time! It’s a challenge that many analyst relations (AR) professionals contend with — especially when their companies have products and services across multiple different markets and verticals. In fact, it’s not uncommon for hundreds of industry analysts to be relevant to a given organization.

But how do you service, engage with and tap into such a large group? It’s all about prioritization and tiering, shares Dan O’Brien, director of analyst relations at IBM — and also about leveraging technology to alleviate some of the back-and-forth in analyst communications. An analyst “self-service” option can be a boon for your AR program: When analysts can access a central, easy-to-navigate site that lets them get the info they need, you can keep more analysts in-the-loop and scale your outreach… all while saving time.

This Nov. 10, at our User Forum in Burlingame, California (also held virtually), Dan will share how IBM does it, with an analyst portal. He’ll also discuss other AR strategies, including how AR pros in large-team environments can stay in sync. That is, when multiple team members across product lines are in touch with a single analyst, how can you know who’s said what, avoid stepping on each other’s toes, and give the analyst a coordinated, cohesive experience?

We were thrilled to catch up with Dan recently to discuss all this and more. Read on to get his advice and IBM’s AR best practices (and join us at User Forum for additional details):

Q: Can you please describe your role?

Dan: I have a dynamic role that allows me to make an impact across the IBM business. I oversee IBM’s corporate AR, IBM Research AR and Global Markets AR teams, as well as our AR operations team. So I get to work at the brand and regional levels, and with our emerging technology — getting a front-seat view to the amazing work my colleagues drive across our product teams. 

And with our operations teams, we’ve really created an AR program infrastructure (tools/technology, analytics, reporting, content/communications, digital/social, enablement, vendor management) with a team of domain specialists who support our AR pros, so they can concentrate on analyst relationships and being experts in their part of the business. 

I love my job; every day is new and exciting and allows me to exercise lots of different muscles.

Q: What is the mission of your AR team? 

Dan: Our mission is to maximize the business value that the industry analyst community can bring to IBM. That includes using insights from analysts to build better products that more tightly align with client needs; leveraging analysts as a channel to reach target audiences including clients, partners, developers, media and investors; and driving favorability around the IBM brand, our products and services to fuel continued company growth.  

Q: What AR challenges does your organization face?

Dan: We are one of the bigger teams in the industry — certainly not the biggest, but at the point where scale becomes a challenge you have to deal with. IBM competes in many different markets, and finding the right balance of where we choose to focus our analyst conversations — as well as ensuring that analysts have the right context on IBM’s business, beyond their immediate coverage areas — is also a challenge. 

We work with analysts across our software, consulting and infrastructure teams who may engage with 20+ AR professionals over the course of a year. Driving continuity across a relationship that is that dynamic is hard, but our team does a great job in meeting that challenge every day.

Q: How do you use people, process and technology to solve these challenges?

Dan: ARchitect is our system of record in IBM analyst relations. For analysts that traverse markets and work with multiple AR professionals within our team, ARchitect really helps keep everyone on the same page — allowing our team to deliver continuity to our analyst conversations. It really sets our team up well to collaborate and ensures that the analysts we work with have a good experience and that we connect the dots from one conversation to the next.

Q: What is the title of your User Forum presentation? What’s the most important thing people will learn from it?

Dan: My presentation is called “Scaling AR Impact Through Digital Channels.” I think people will learn that there are lots of ways to engage and reach the analysts you want to work with, and that not every analyst or analyst firm can command the same amount of investment — you have to segment; you have to prioritize. We think that there are over 3,000 analysts that cover the markets IBM competes in (according to ARchitect). Our team has the capacity to support maybe 20% of those analysts with a personal, 1-to-1 relationship, where we truly engage in two-way dialogue on a regular basis. 

But we can’t ignore the other 80%; there is A TON of value in that group! So we’ve found new ways to scale our reach and engage, such as with the ARchitect Analyst Portal, and really let the analysts self-serve from a curated library of content that is most relevant to them. Saying “no” to an analyst is really hard when you value that relationship, but realistically we can’t respond to every request — so being able to say “no, but..” and offer a compelling alternative leads to much better outcomes.

Q: In two sentences or less, what’s your best piece of AR advice?

Dan: AR is a long game and it’s a small world; act accordingly.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at User Forum?

Dan: I’m most looking forward to learning from my peers. The AR community has a lot of bright and talented people, and I always walk away from an event like User Forum with new ideas on how IBM can improve our AR program, how the analyst landscape is shifting and so on. 

But most of all, I’m looking forward to showing off what our team has done in partnering with ARInsights to solve a real business problem. And selfishly, I’m hoping to convince a few more AR programs to join us and set up analyst portals, because I really think everyone using the portal wins when other vendors get on the platform. There are some big shifts happening in the analyst world around how vendors exchange information with analyst firms, and I see ARInsights’ Analyst Portal as a great solution to a problem that vendors and analyst firms alike are both trying to solve.

Want to hear more from Dan and other AR pros? Join us in-person at ARchitect User Forum on Thursday, Nov. 10, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. PT, at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California  (or sign up to attend virtually if you can’t make the trip). It’s an opportunity to learn new AR strategies, listen to real-world success stories and network with other AR practitioners across the globe. We hope you’ll register and join us!