The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

How To Give The Best Briefings Ever

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Like all analyst firms, RSR takes briefings from vendors of all kinds.  Our business model is unique in that we don’t provide analysis of vendor capabilities for sale to the marketplace, so briefings are actually something of a less risky proposition with us than you might find with other firms – there is no research alert or preface to a vendor comparison that will result from a briefing with RSR.  If you bring us a great customer story or something that we feel is truly unique, we might (with your permission) share the story via our weekly newsletter, Retail Paradox Weekly, but briefings for us are more about keeping our finger on the pulse of developments in retail technology.  The benefit is that we happily take briefings from all comers, with no expectations beyond learning more about your company and keeping you top of our minds when we talk about different capabilities in a specific space.

However, it also means that we see all kinds of briefings.  The good, the bad, the inspiring, the ugly.  So, while we readily agree that we would love to hear what you have to say, here are some guidelines on giving a good briefing.  For those of us that have worked at other analyst firms in the past, we would say that these guidelines generally apply to what ALL analysts would like to see, though there are definitely some differing perspectives out there.  Here is our take:

Slides.  Please have them.  While people often ditch slides because they “want an open discussion,” when we’re not sitting face to face it is very difficult to stay engaged in the discussion without something common to look at.  It could be a graphic of your application footprint, a list of your customers, a list of the processes your solutions enable, or even pictures of your team.  Something.  It really does help, and good images really help us remember you – we do talk to a lot of companies, and it takes either multiple interactions or some really compelling images to make it stick.  And share your slides afterwards.  We don’t care if you take out all the NDA stuff, or even scrawl “NDA” across a pdf’d version of your slides – review helps us remember, and that’s part of what you’re looking for anyway, right?

Content.  Here is how the best briefing goes, but creativity in delivery gets extra points:

  1. Overview of your company and your leadership. How long have you been around, where did your management team come from, and how big are you today (whatever you’re willing to share – revenue, number of customers, number of employees).  This sets context – are you a startup just entering the market, someone who has been around awhile, someone with chops in another industry that is now targeting retail?  It helps us understand some of the reasons behind your approach to your go-to-market strategy.
  2. The industry challenges you address. Now, this can sometimes be up for debate, because how many times do you want to hear about the same challenges over and over again, right?  So keep the big picture issues brief – for us, it’s a validation point that you understand the larger trends that are impacting retail today.  For large companies entering retail from adjacent spaces, it’s often an issue, getting this part right, so don’t skip it entirely, but watch the time – you don’t want to spend 40 minutes of a 60-minute brief on industry challenges.  More important is to quickly drill down into the specific pain points that your solution addresses.  So a digital marketing solution might spend a few minutes talking about the death of traditional media, but it is merely the transition point into, say, fractured digital channels – the real issue the company addresses.
  3. How you solve these challenges. Again, this is up for debate, but our preference is to see your ‘standard’ pitch to retailers.  We want to hear how you take your solution to market – how you talk to retailers about what you do.  Sometimes it’s educational for us too, and sometimes it’s educational to see the level of sophistication you can or can’t use in talking to the market.  For example, we once saw a very remedial presentation on video analytics, but the discussion that ensued was great because we focused on the fact that the market is still very much stuck on basic education on the technology, rather than how to drive value for their own businesses with the solution.
  4. To demo or not to demo. Another tricky question.  Given the briefness of the time allotted (it is called a ‘brief’ after all), we would suggest that a couple of key screen shots, if you want to go there, are plenty.  We don’t need to see that it’s live and it works, and anyway, there is a lot of administrative overhead in a live demo – logging in, navigating to the right screens, waiting for them to load, etc.  Show us the screens that get retailers in the room to stand up and point at it and say, “I want that!”  You can even annotate them if you want, to show us what we should be looking at and help us orient to your user interface – remember that it’s rare nowadays to conduct an in-person brief, so your slides or demo have to convey a lot of the stuff that gets lost by not having the person in the room.
  5. Your go-to-market strategy. We rarely get to this part in a brief, because so much time gets wasted on industry trends, but honestly, this is really important. How do you go to market?  Direct?  Through partners?  What are you doing to educate retailers or get your message out there?  How do you expect that to change over time?  And how does your business model work?  This last question didn’t used to be important because pretty much everyone operated on a straight license model, but times have changed, so help us understand how you match your solutions’ costs against the value you deliver.
  6. Fifteen minutes at the end. If your part of the brief takes up 45 minutes, we will happily spend the last fifteen giving you feedback on what we saw.  You’re also welcome to take up all sixty, but we have been on many a brief that ended right at the end of the hour where you could sense the disappointment on the other end of the line that we didn’t have time to provide feedback.  Sometimes it comes naturally anyway, where we jump in and ask questions right from the start, so it’s moot – but we’ve also been on briefs where the presentation got completely derailed by questions and we didn’t get off of the first half of the slides, and that is frustrating too.  On the flip side, don’t race through your slides and leave 30+ minutes at the end to pump us for free advice, either.  Feedback is one thing.  If you want to validate our expertise on a topic as part of exploring an advisory relationship with us, we’ll happily set up a separate call for that.  The retailers you meet with (hopefully) don’t show up with a USB drive full of data and say, “Solve this problem for us” at your first meeting, and if they did, you would be taken aback by it.  Don’t do that to us.

Follow-Up.  A brief is not the end, it is the beginning.  Even if you never become a client, you have an impact on the industry, and we want to keep up with what you’re doing.  Put us on your press distribution list (don’t have one?  Start one).  Touch base with us more than once a year.  What is the right number of briefs?  It really depends on the company.  Large companies with multiple solution areas need more briefs than single-note companies.  Generally, 2 per year is good – frequent enough to generate familiarity, but not so frequent that nothing has happened in between.  Quarterly works if you’re a larger company.  And any time there is a major announcement – a new product offering, a major customer coup, an acquisition – these all count as “major.”  Unfortunately, while enhancements may be major to you, those can really just come in during a regular brief.  However – past the first brief, it’s important to include progress as part of the content, so that we can see how you’re growing and succeeding.  Believe it or not, that is what we want for you, too.

 

Interested in briefing RSR? Contact Linda Wolfe at lwolfe@rsrresearch.com.

Vendor Newsletters January 17, 2020
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