As we approach 2022, the time has come not only to reflect on 2021 but begin planning your IR program for the coming year. And to help with this, Mike Coffey, VP and Head of Global Partnerships & Alliances, sat down with a few industry leaders to discuss the dos and don’ts of quarterly earnings calls, what investors and analysts look for in a business and a management team, and their predictions for the future of investor relations technology.
This conversation featured Darrell Heaps (Founder and CEO, Q4), Mark Mahaney, (Senior Managing Director & Head of Internet Research, Evercore ISI., and author of New York Bestseller “Nothing But Net”), and Alex Wellins (Co-Founder & Managing Partner, The Blueshirt Group, LLC.)
The interview began with Mark sharing his insight and expertise on trends he has encountered throughout his 25 years of experience in investor relations. Throughout his tenure, he has not only witnessed companies with incredible wealth creation, but the occasional wealth destruction as well, and he noted a pattern—four characteristics that he believes increase a company’s ability to be successful:
- Companies that face large Total Addressable Markets (TAMs)
- Companies that have powerful value propositions to consumers
- Companies that are exceptionally good at product innovation
- Companies with excellent management teams
A WINNING MANAGEMENT TEAM
Although last to be listed, good management teams are a high priority for Mark. He lists characteristics he looks for when it comes to management from an analyst point of view:
- Founder-led businesses (with some exceptions, such as Uber)
- Great industry vision
- Executives that are relentless (constantly investing and finding new avenues of growth)
- Long-term orientation and patience (they are willing to ignore short-term fluctuations and focus on the long term)
DIGITAL STRATEGIES AND ENGAGEMENT
So, how do you engage with them once you’ve got your management locked in and your team ready to face analysts and investors? Alex explained how he coaches his clients and what tips he would give newly public companies before heading out into the world of investors. He cautions that speaking to public investors is much different from the audience they are used to. They are no longer speaking to employees, customers and their teams–but people with very different objectives and inquiries.
To start, you need to have a plan and know your audience–where they are coming from, their knowledge base, and how they have previously dealt with companies outside or within your sector. You also need to have a clear pitch and be as transparent as possible. Lastly, he tries to advise clients on digital strategies for investor engagement.
Speaking of digital strategies, as an expert on IR digital communication and technology, Darrell shares his predictions on where the future of digital engagement with investors is heading.
The relationship between corporates, the sell-side and the buy-side has shifted dramatically over the last 10-15 years. Most notably, the era of IR teams being primarily inbound has largely shifted to a more proactive approach to engagement with investors. In today’s market, proactive engagement helps IR teams to understand who their shareholders are today and who they want them to be going forward. Data and analytics can help with this and get you thinking about targeting and communication in a much more sophisticated way.
QUARTERLY EARNINGS CALLS
Virtual earnings calls are gaining popularity as they allow you to be proactive, more engaging, and transparent with your audience, and of course, COVID-19. They help you highlight your long-term goals and plan-of-action, something Mike says should be one of the most critical priorities in your quarterly earnings calls.
He explains that a constant reiteration of your company’s long-term goals is vital because some listeners may have never heard them before or don’t know who your company is. They view thousands of stocks daily, and you want to make sure your overall goal and values stick with them. It also helps analysts and investors to overlook or not stay focused on short-term fluctuations because those are inevitable, but see what you’re doing to reach your overall goals.
What else should you keep in mind during your quarterly earnings call? Alex, Mike and Darrell have some dos and don’ts that you can use:
1. Retell your company’s story
Don’t assume people know who you are or your company’s values and goals. Remember that at a typical IPO roadshow, companies see around 1000 investors–so make sure you remind them who you are and what sets you apart.
2. Take a few extra minutes to introduce your CEO and CFO
They should reiterate the financial principles of your company and how your revenue models work.
3. Take extra time for your first call
These become transcripts for future investors, so it’s essential to take your time and share all of the information that you deem relevant.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Be confident. Mark warns that you do not want to sound nervous on your first call. If you are anxious, consider pre-recording your call (but not your Q&A segment).
5. Always have a live Q&A
Remember that analysts and investors want to hear the Q&A and get a glimpse into how your management team thinks. But don’t spend too much time on this, as it can derail you from your main message.
6. Use your time wisely
If you’ve set out an hour for your call, use the entire hour. But, be sure to leave time to reiterate your message and long-term goals–you can still talk about quarterly earnings, but the long term is most important.
7. Keep your management team aligned
Your management team should have 3-4 core values aligned with your script, press release, and shareholder letters.
8. Be transparent
If something unusual happened, especially inflection points–like revenue growth, acceleration, deceleration, dramatic changes in margins, etc.–your audience will want to know what happened and how results came in versus expectations.
9. Choose the metrics and data you want to share wisely
Once you have decided and disclosed your key metrics, you will have to continue doing so in the future. If you stop sharing a key metric, people will assume that the numbers are poor, and you are purposely omitting details.
Whatever platform you decide to host your earnings calls on, remember that it is no longer a one-way communication and that through the web, there are now data and behavioural insights within these calls that can help you drive a more successful IR program.
Darrell explains that your investor website is the single largest communication channel to tell your story, and is the 24/7 voice of your company. He suggests asking yourself if your website tells the same story you tell investors and analysts on your calls. Regardless, there is always room for improvement. You can increase your site’s effectiveness by reusing content from across your business, like presentations, YouTube videos, press releases—and yes, you guessed it, quarterly earnings calls.
To wrap up, Darrell speaks to a new way to think about your IR website; not only as a tool for communication but also to facilitate engagement. For example, making “request a meeting with management” functionality available directly on your site. Investors can request a meeting, those requests would be verified against Q4’s capital markets database, and the request is passed on to the IR team to facilitate a meeting.
Utilizing your company’s IR website for communication but also as an opportunity to facilitate engagement is a great opportunity for IR teams to provide additional value as we head into 2022.
You can check out the full webinar here.