When communicating your story to investors, it’s important to identify how you are being perceived and who you want to communicate with. By understanding this, the chance of successful investor engagement improves significantly.
Understand Your Value Proposition
Have a clear understanding of your value proposition. By using internal data or other analytical tools, you should be able to comfortably answer questions about:
- Your company and management – how do you approach capital allocation, have there been any big changes to your team, what is your short and long-term strategy?
- Your industry and peers – what kind of industry are you in (e.g. what micro or macro trends are affecting you), who are your competitors, what are your unique differentiators?
- What kind of stock are you – growth, value, GARP, etc.?
- What are key data points that need to be communicated in your sector – are there unique KPIs, technology developments, or even ESG metrics that are relevant to investors?
Align Your Messaging
Once you have performed an industry and peer analysis, assess your takeaways in-house. Discuss how you are positioning your company and your investment thesis with your Management team before embarking on an outward communication strategy. Internal stakeholder agreement is an integral part of the process and sometimes there are disagreements that need to be ironed out. It is clearly better to address these internally before risking misalignment on an investor call or presentation.
Formulate an easy-to-understand value proposition and investment thesis that explains who you are to your investor targets – are you a small-cap, mid-cap, outperforming the market, growing quickly etc. Even though your investor target groups may be different and be interested in different aspects of your company, your overall positioning should remain consistent.
Before embarking on an outward communication strategy, discuss how you are positioning your company and your investment thesis with your Management team.
Consistent and transparent messaging is the foundation of successful corporate communications and investor engagement. When the message lacks consistency (or even focuses on inconsistent KPIs from quarter to quarter), you run the risk of putting investors on high alert.
A recent example of good practice. During Apple’s quarterly earnings call on November 1, 2018, they announced they would no longer provide iPhone, Mac, and iPad unit sales reporting, a move away from previous company practice. Though analysts were initially jarred by the inability to calculate certain ASPs (and could have taken this as an indicator of stagnating sales), Apple communicated their desire to create more alignment with their industry peers, who were not publishing these figures. This was also accompanied by an explanation of industry shifts from focusing on unit sales to installations and other products as a means of assessing company health. By taking this time to align with peers and communicate clearly, they were able to control their narrative and the PR associated with the change.
Who Are You Talking To?
Your communications should not default to “one-size-fits-all”. When performing targeting and outreach, understand your audience – are they retail or institutional investors, hedge funds, the sell-side, etc. Your story may need tweaks based on their respective needs. This requires research on your part, and then, the development of a clear message. Understand what in your investment thesis creates value for whom.
- Adjust your pitch based on the investment strategy of your potential targets: are your targets sensitive to geographic exposure, industry, size, or have a defined approach to their investing (e.g. only investing in cash flow positive companies)? Demonstrating awareness of investor requirements when communicating your value will show that you have done your homework.
- Be direct and control your story: investors will value a candid dialogue with your management team and “real talk”. Investors have a wealth of information at their disposal and will do their own research on your company. Misalignment between data points and company narratives can cause more harm than good and could signal opaqueness. Don’t leave yourself exposed to speculation, investor activism, or even lost opportunities due to a poorly-communicated story.
- Communicate what’s important: depending on your company size and history, you may have to employ additional measures to make your investment thesis resonate. Do you need to educate investors on your differentiators or unique technology? Have you recently undergone significant strategy, management, or product changes? Are there industry trends or new regulations that may be on the minds of investors when speaking with you?
With MiFID II, many companies may experience a decrease in sell-side coverage and story touchpoints. Do you need to do more legwork or try a new strategy in the face of industry shifts, or budget changes? Assess if there are alternative methods to gain traction with desired investors, i.e. conferences, meetings, or non-deal roadshows.
Don't forget to track the success of your narrative and targeting strategy in practice.
Next Steps for your Investor Communication StrategyYou have your message and you have your targets. As a final step, it’s important to track the success of your narrative and targeting strategy in practice. Don’t forget to record your activities and use data to hone your outreach. Track your contacts and engagement, gather feedback, and follow up with your team to benchmark performance over time. If your Management needs additional persuasion on market sentiments (or proof of “story” performance), engage a partner to perform a perception study. These tools can be a great way to optimize your storytelling and get a sense of your ROI in IR outreach.
At the end of the day, reflect on the following points:
- After meetings, published press releases or investor pitches: How was your “story” perceived? Was there any noted misalignment between the “narrative” and “facts”?
- What meetings were most fruitful (and which ones were disappointing)? Why?
- Are there additional geographic regions/investors/conferences that you need to target (or re-target)?
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