A Day In the Life of an Industry Analyst: Advisory Projects

I made a promise to be transparent with the mysterious industry analyst job, in fact, I didn’t completely understand all aspects of what the job entailed until being here for a few months. I realize that the public usually doesn’t understand the research industry business model, or how we help our clients make decisions. So in an attempt to explain what I do (read other posts tagged analyst to learn of other aspects) to understand one important part of my job: advisory.

Make Leaders Successful
Last week, I wrapped up another project with a technology client where we helped them develop a social media strategy based on actual research –a powerful way to ensure your efforts will be successful. Although Forrester has a consulting arm, I really consider our services as ‘advisory’ where we help clients understand the different choices they can make, make a decision based on research and data, and then suggest the appropriate course of action.

Project: Social Media Strategy
In this project, we helped a technology company enhance and expand their existing social media strategy. They had read the Groundswell book and understood the POST methodology, they understood how important it was know their customers before choosing social technologies. We kicked off with scoping discussions, understanding the needs of the business, and learned about their marketplace and customer base. Next, we then created a survey which was fielded to their market of influencers and decision makers where we asked questions about their: Demographics (who are they) Psychographics (what do they care about) Media Consumption (What do they read, and from where) and Technographics (how do they use social technologies.

Assembling the Team
Scientific surveys are a tricky beast, so we lean on our data experts like Cynthia Pflaum who helped to design, field, process and analyze the data from the survey. We have folks from traditional consulting backgrounds, and if you work with me you’ll likely meet consultant Nicole Belanger, who ensures we’re meeting the needs of the client, and we stay on target. My role as the subject matter expert is to make specific, make sense of the data, make specific recommendations, and provide a clear course of action for the client. To be quite honest, making recommendations becomes very easy once you have all the information in front of you –research is a very powerful tool.

Research Helps Reduces Risk and Increases Success
We had several meetings with the client, to share initial findings, discussion the different paths, and ended things off this past week with a presentation to the entire marketing team. Nothing pleases me more than to see the impacts I’m making with clients, in this case I learned that the client had already started with some of the newer recommendations based off the research. In some cases, clients are seeking clarification for their existing plans, so in addition to directional guidelines, we also help our clients with best practices (the report on community best practices, is very popular) and vendor selection, that’s why the upcoming Wave report on community platforms will really change buying behavior.

Full Circle: Client Feedback
Of course this story is incomplete, it doesn’t include the feedback from the client themselves! I know they are readers of this blog, so they’re welcome to review this project process in a transparent manner, either as a guest post, either anonymously or disclosed, or they don’t have to disclose at all. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll revisit their social media activities in a few months to track progress, I certainly hope the data and recommendations sets them up for success.

Fail Fast: I make mistakes too
In the spirit of transparency, things don’t always go well with clients, about once a quarter I stumble with a client engagement, or a client complains about my performance. I’ve learned where I’m challenged, such as: freaking out when I’m overwhelmed, making sure I’m prepared, checking my ego, and setting expectations with clients, I can’t say I’ve mastered all these, I’ve still got a lot to learn, but like everyone else, I stumble too. The key thing I’ve learned from making mistakes is to fail fast, and try to quickly get back up after licking my wounds. We all must grow.

11 Replies to “A Day In the Life of an Industry Analyst: Advisory Projects”

  1. Can you elaborate on how you track progress with client in terms of measurement? Can I assume you identify up front what measurements you are going to look at and develop baselines to be measured against? Any info you can share would be great.

  2. Measurement is a topic all in it’s self. There’s is no single metric to define social media activity.

    Essentially, I teach clients that they should measure depending on what the objective was. For example if your goal is ‘energizing’ (word of mouth) then you should measure the attributes that indicate that. That would be spread of information over time.

  3. You make excellent points about the process you go through to support a client engagement related to social media marketing strategy and tactics development. I am sure you also make them aware that social media marketing efforts take much longer to have an impact. They should see this as but one part of their overall, integrated marketing program and that it is likely it will take the longest to get to a measurable impact. However, they should also see it as the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with key, influential and new consumers. Also, there are some results that may show up faster. For example, you may be able to “fail faster” with a product launch, learning about flaws in product or service instructions, consumer understanding or consumer frustration faster, adjust and relaunch. You may also find out, relatively quickly, that your marketing message is not resonating with your target consumers.

    Also there are some benefits from social media that may not necessarily have a direct relation to sales, but are more closely tied to customer support and satisfaction.

    Also, your being open about some client engagement failures is great to see. Not everything works as planned in the social media space and as this area is so new and we are all still learning, there will be failures both big and small. Failing faster should be seen as successful learning opportunities, change and try again.

    Thanks for the post, as I am a Forrester customer, it is always nice to know about how you work and approach your customers and consulting engagements.

  4. Great post Jeremiah!

    You mention that the client was already familiar with POST, etc.

    I would like to hear how you work with clients who haven’t yet been convinced of the value of social networking.

    In my experience, the hardest part of the job is convincing an executive that social networking can be more than “poking” someone on Facebook.

  5. Bert

    Good points, I encourage clients to put into their plan that flexibilty and rapid response to market changes is part of their strategy. As a result, a plan, resources, and expectations are set to make iterative changes.

    It goes without saying, we’re very glad to have you as a client.

  6. I was interested to see that your methodology still relies on ‘traditional’ research methods, i.e. surveys rather than observational methods, i.e. social media monitoring. Given that the focus was on developing social strategies wouldn’t it have made more sense to start by monitoring/listening to what people say who don’t know that they are being observed? The mystery shopper model expanded to global conversations on the web. The real strength of research in social media is the discovery of what you don’t know. Constructing a survey methodology and specifying a target audience for that survey distorts the probability of discovering the wider conversations, IMHO.
    This is a big change in research and represents a big opportunity to learn through listening rather than design.

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