“The analysts are projecting your revenue for next year” — a year in which you have not provided guidance — “at $50 million. Are you comfortable with this projection?”
Most CEOs and CFOs of public companies have heard a question like that — a “trick” question for which it seems any answer you give can potentially cause you problems. If you say you’re not “comfortable” with that revenue number, for example, do you risk projecting weakness to the investor community? On the other hand, do you want to effectively provide guidance before you formally release it?
In investor relations, credibility is everything. When your authority is damaged, everything you tell the Street will be filtered through the jaded minds of professional skeptics who remember your past failure to deliver, or a time they felt misdirected. That’s why it’s vital to maintain a constant focus on sustaining and growing your level of trust with investors.
Often in meetings, investors will ask a CEO or CFO about a competitive product. Doesn’t the other drug work faster? Aren’t there fewer side effects? Isn’t it cheaper? I hear those questions all the time during road show presentations and meetings. Usually management’s first response is to take a defensive position. While they may not totally “bash” another product, they seem to quickly start listing all of the negative attributes.
That’s not the right approach. Instead, when asked to compare your drug, product, or service to the competition, you should do two things: First, know why the question is being asked. Then turn a negative question into a positive response. Let me walk you through my thinking and how the positioning can actually be shifted in your favor.
Few will deny that analyst research still plays a key role in any investor relations strategy. And every time one of us sees a stock getting a healthy bump in the markets following an analyst upgrade or initiation, we can easily be tempted to believe that analysts wield an enormous amount of influence over a company’s valuation and success.
Should you make expanding research coverage your top IR priority? Have you found yourself pre-occupied with making the cut with analysts and adding more research coverage to your ranks?
However, before you potentially find yourself off course with a misguided plan, let’s consider a few perspectives.
When I started working in investor relations (IR) more than 25 years ago, little did I realize that “creative writing” would often boil down to finding clever synonyms for words like opportunity, growth, and transition — rather than drafting colorful, superlative-rich descriptions of corporate events and milestones. Is it possible to find a new way to express year-over-year financial comparisons or do the numbers in the financial tables mostly speak for themselves?
We are often faced with management teams that seek to fill their perceived “air time” and make their conference call stand out from the hundreds of other calls taking place. If this sounds familiar, and you find yourself wondering how much creative leeway to take with your own quarterly earnings calls, then keep reading as I explain where it’s possible to truly add value, and where it actually detracts from your objective.
Once you’ve made the decision to host an investor day, there are a few critical things to accomplish before announcing it publicly — namely, selecting the date, location, and speakers. A well-planned event is much more likely to be a well-attended event. How can you avoid mistakes and plan an effective investor day? Below, I share a few strategies.
Select the right date.
No one wants to send out a “save the date” announcement only to find out that most of your anticipated guests have a conflict. Be careful to consider Wall Street conferences, previously scheduled investor days by companies your covering analysts also follow, and religious holidays. All of these have the potential to prompt an investor to make the tough decision to skip your event and just listen to a replay of the webcast.
The buy side is structured in many different ways, and knowing the set up and style of your audience is critical both to your pre-meeting preparation and to the level of detail you provide when you answer questions — and whether you take a more quantitative or qualitative approach.
The general buckets to understand are portfolio manager and analyst, but the roles and focus areas of these key players can differ, depending on the institution. So start by asking these questions:
An investor day is a perfect opportunity to get the public up to speed on your corporate story, but compiling the appropriate guest list can be tricky. Having coordinated nearly 100 investor days as a firm, we know exactly who you should be targeting to attract the perfect audience for your event.
Current shareholders and covering analysts
First, and perhaps most obvious, you should invite your current shareholders and your covering analysts. These two groups have a vested interest in understanding every aspect of your business and will be most engaged and active in the discussions during the event. Additionally, given their relationships with your company, this group will show the highest attendance rate.
While most of Wall Street is focusing on second quarter earnings and squeezing in vacations before Labor Day, it’s never too early to begin preparing for the J.P. Morgan 33rd Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this January, the premier healthcare investment conference of the year. If you are planning to attend but haven’t started thinking about logistics, you are already a little behind. Much of the meeting space and hotel rooms are already spoken for, so the time to start making arrangements is now.
You spend considerable time creating a professional investor presentation that tells a comprehensive story of your company. Yet aside from the analyst/investor due diligence meeting, few opportunities exist for you to deliver the entire presentation from start-to-finish. How, then, can you tailor your presentation to the time and opportunities at hand?
Let me give you a brief overview of the most common investor encounters, the opportunities and challenges they bring, and what you can do to prepare. I’ll also share some strategies to help you leverage your investor presentation to articulate a compelling story in time-sensitive situations — one-on-one and small group meetings at investor conferences, the investor conference presentation, and even the quick chance encounter that can happen anywhere.