Are you a long term unemployed professional in this crummy economy and need a way to make yourself relevant again? Maybe you just feel that you need to improve your personal brand, or actually want the flexibility of running your own practice.
Through my experience as a frequent observer, customer, and consumer of content from IT industry analysts, I have come up with a step by step list of how anyone can become an analyst in any industry. In fact, I came up with the idea for this blog while counseling an extremely intelligent long term unemployed friend about how to market themselves. Here is my recipe:
Find a problem in an industry and develop a message around it. You don’t need to have the solution, but that helps too.
Develop an organizing doctrine of sub points and sub topics related to your message
Find an analogy that visualizes your message
Conduct a survey with 100 of the most relevant populations you can find that characterizes the scope and how people cope with and solve the problem you are messaging about
Publish exclusive research based on your survey and sell it, or get it sponsored by industry vendors that stand to benefit from awareness generated by your message.
Write blogs, articles, and give conference speeches that give out tidbits or derivative ideas from your core research.
Issue press releases, Tweet, Facebook, and do whatever verb applies for Linked In about the blogs, articles, and conference speeches you give.
The “value” you generate is basically a function of: how big is the problem (pain x the amount of people with the pain) + how well do you communicate it + how big of an audience do you create.
How well you execute the above is the determining factor of your success. Maybe you have deep expertise, but if you can’t communicate your expertise and have no audience, you might as well not exist. And, you won’t be nearly as successful as someone with shallow expertise, but excellent skills in communication and audience acquisition.
Now, it might seem that I’m calling all analysts to be BSers, but that’s not really the case. I think of analyst research as a kind of “infotainment”. The customer won’t buy research or pay for conference attendance unless they have a desire and need to hear what the analyst has to say.
Why become an analyst?
So what are the reasons why you’d want to become an industry analyst?
Make money as an industry writer – I don’t have any facts to back this up, but it seems to me that only the top tier analysts make a rich living. Lesser known, less successful, and newer analysts scrape by while working very hard.
Make yourself credible – If you’ve been out of work for a while, especially in IT related trades and industry, you rapidly appear to be obsolete since you don’t have the latest buzz words on your resume. Executing the above recipe is a way to educate yourself again and generate credible resume work to help you get your next job
Find consulting work – This requires some additional expertise beyond what your analyst research is about. In such a case, your analyst work is really marketing for your consulting services, providing awareness, lead generation, and a perception of value. Your consulting can be directly related to solving the problem you publish research about, or simply related services that your research consumers would need. (i.e. analysis on HR trends, but you do payroll and benefits consulting).
Find (or keep) a job – here you are applying the marketing benefits of your analyst research to the company you work for. The hard part is balancing being “independent”. I’d be interested in hearing from others how they achieve this.
Start a movement – I’m considering this to be the most altruistic of motives. Maybe you are really passionate about your problem and its message. Then execute the above recipe to try and bring about real change for the benefit of your industry or the world in general. I suspect this same recipe could be used to launch a new religious order.
And now some quick words on executing the recipe…
Finding your message
If you don’t have the expertise, then just talk to a lot of people and be observant. Try to pick an emerging trend, or agent of change in an industry and study that closely. For example: consumer adoption of electric cars and the effect on electric power industry. Or, find some big name analyst that covers “everything” and go deep and narrow on some bullet point on their power point slides
Develop your doctrine
OK, I list this second in the recipe, but in fact it’s an evolving “asset.” This is your story that you tell - your intellectual property. As you get deeper into your topic and talk to more people, your story will continue to evolve as you flesh it out with people’s personal experiences with the problem, ways to solve it, and if possible, analytical facts from your or third party research. But, you need to start with an organizing framework for the details of your message.
Find your analogy
Probably one of the biggest benefits an analyst can bring is a way of simplifying otherwise complex Gordian knots. An analogy to the familiar is one of the best ways to do this. Now this often goes counter to the previous point as some IT analysts tend to overcomplicate problems in order to justify buying more research and hiring them for strategy consulting, and to provide more reasons for vendors to sponsor them. At the same time, you don’t want to gloss over real issues with a simplistic model. A good analogy provides the anchor point for people to be able to deconstruct difficult problems and begin addressing them. This point by itself probably deserves a long blog about different devices analysts use.
Conduct your survey
This can be serious, or it can be fluffy. Unless you have the resources and knowledge to do a statistically relevant study, all you are really doing is creating a “thing” you can write about, and maybe a way to garner some pithy quotes and stories for your doctrine.
As far as choosing your population, consider this to be an opportunity to improve your network if you are job or gig hunting. First, just start with the groups and people you already have access to.
Publish exclusive research
Again, I don’t have any hard facts here, but I consider this to be a marketing device more than an actual serious revenue source. In the IT industry, it seems that IT analysts make more money off vendors that benefit from their research than actual customers that purchase rights to read it.
By pricing your research at hundreds or thousands of dollars, you create an appearance of value and exclusivity. If your independent research is at least marginally favorable to a vendor, you might get them to buy redistribution rights. Or, the vendor may sponsor you to write a research report that does favor them. Example: if you write a research report on how golf equipment improves golf swings, you might find some golf club manufacturer that will sponsor research that says equipment like theirs might be useful if the right conditions are present.
Blog, write, give speeches, make videos and podcasts
This is your core marketing for proving your value to your consumers. As you get more advanced, this can be revenue generating (google ads on your blog site, book royalties, conference speaking fees), all of which also help increase your credibility.
But, you have to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid of giving away goood ideas in free writing. Just don’t give away everything in a single interaction. Maybe your writings and speeches will help you sell your research, but again, I don’t consider research sales to be the biggest revenue source for analysts.
More advanced analysts develop a community for consumers of their writings and research. They may augment their communities by encouraging other analysts to contribute. Such a community provides a way to maintain a one to one relationship with your consumers. If the community gets enough critical mass, it will become its own asset, and can potentially provide a revenue source through web traffic. I’m curious how much social media will be changing this however, since many users will want to interact via Linked In or Facebook.
Which leads me to the final point…
Acquire new audience
In the dark ages before social media, this was done through the press, email campaigns, and otherwise limited to word of mouth. Now you can Tweet, Facebook, and post on linked in about your articles which significantly lowers the barrier to acquiring an audience. What’s more, social media lubricates the process of word of mouth, so your posts can be cross posted, liked, forwarded, and retweeted to gain a wide audience very quickly (“going viral” to use an early new millennium marketing buzzword).
Doing this right is an evolving art, and as mentioned before, is the subject of research for a lot of analysts.
Consider social media to simply be a value multiplier. You need to be at least adequate in the other steps of this recipe for audience acquisition to be useful to you at all.
This is an iterative process
Did I make it sound too easy? The devil is in the details, and how well you execute. The good news is, this is an iterative, learn-as-you-go process. You’ll learn and get better as you follow the steps of the recipe above. Your expertise and value to your consumers will increase. The awareness and size of your audience will increase as you iterate. And the best news is that the overhead for getting started today is only the time you invest.
Finally, remember the goals you are shooting for. Is this going to be your business? Is it just marketing to get the jobs or gigs you want? Are you trying to change some aspect of the world? Not everyone will be a top tier Gartner analyst, or have the following of Ray Wang. But if you keep your eye on your goal as you iterate your way through the recipe, I suspect you’ll start generating measurable success.
What is your opinion?
What’s your experience trying to get started as an analyst? How did you go about executing steps of the recipe above? What did I miss, or what am I completely wrong about?