How can you align your investor relations (IR) efforts with your overall corporate strategy and messaging? How do you balance IR activities with other demands on your time as a management team? Here are several tips from the Westwicke team to help ensure that the strategic investor relations plan you create at the beginning of the year delivers the desired results.
Annual review. Start with a thorough review of the previous year. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what you could and couldn’t accomplish. Document all of this, and keep it top of mind as you plan for 2014.
Define your goals. Identify the outcomes you want to achieve. Decide if you are trying to increase your visibility, broaden your shareholder base, or increase sell-side coverage. Be specific with your goals, and create metrics to evaluate your effectiveness.
Balance your efforts. Strive for balance when planning outreach and exposure. While investor meetings and conferences serve an important purpose, over-emphasizing meetings not only distract management from executing on their business plan but also remove “scarcity value.” Having a reputation for constantly asking for meetings can be perceived by investors as overly promotional and leave the impression that there is no need to hear the story today, as another opportunity will come around soon.
Assess your corporate news flow. Aside from quarterly financial reporting, what other opportunities will likely exist for generating company news? Do you have product development milestones (e.g., clinical trial results), new product launches, or business development transactions in the works? Consider the timing of these events to ensure your corporate communications milestones and IR activities will align.
Develop a calendar and balance venues. Plan out your IR calendar in advance of the year. Steer clear of earnings seasons and quiet periods, and be aware of investor conferences and key medical meetings. Try to avoid scheduling a non-deal road show during those events. Also make sure to balance the quality of non-deal road show meetings with the quantity of meetings at conferences. Regardless of your venue, you need to work hand-in-hand with the sponsor of the meeting to ensure you are meeting with the accounts that interest you most.
Target by geography. Identify the geographic regions of the country where your institutional ownership is below average relative to peers. Make these your top-priority destinations for non-deal road shows, and communicate that to sell-side analysts who offer to take you on the road.
Improve internal processes. Producing a news release, conference call script, or revised investor presentation can sometimes be too complicated, take too long, and involve too many people. By the time the process nears completion, everyone involved just wants it to be over and will sometimes settle for a sub-optimal finished product. Identify the bottlenecks and implement a more streamlined approach. By taking time to think through processes in advance, the quality of your IR program — not to mention your quality of life — will reach new heights.
Re-assess guidance. As both your financials and your analysts’ models move forward to the new year, it’s critical to start thinking about how your business has evolved and whether the forecasted metrics and guidance you plan to give are still in step with your story. 2014 may have only just begun, but it is not too early to think about how guidance later in the year and for 2015 might be refined. Adopting a new guidance policy or deciding to message a change in guidance does not happen overnight. Get a head start now, and your investors and analysts will thank you later.
Court incremental analyst coverage. As you plan your institutional marketing trips for the year, consider offering to schedule a trip with an analyst who doesn’t currently cover your company but you believe may be contemplating coverage. There are several benefits: 1) The analyst gets to hear you tell the story several times; 2) The analyst gets a better understanding of how the buy-side thinks about your story; 3) You build a rapport and establish credibility by spending a day with the analyst; and 4) It may accelerate pulling the trigger and launching coverage.
Consider “special” events. These events can provide investors and analysts with a more in-depth view of your company, your present and future products and your management team. Many companies will choose to host an analyst/investor day. (For more on this, see our related post, “Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Analyst Day.”) Alternatively, you could provide tours of your company’s booth at an upcoming medical conference, or host a small dinner. Some companies will also facilitate access to customers or arrange for investors to view a medical procedure.
Try a new IR initiative for 2014. Most companies realize they need to court and nurture both sell-side and buy-side research analyst relationships, but few management teams realize they should also establish relationships with key salespeople at leading investment banking firms. In many circumstances, institutional salesmen have a 20-to-30-year relationship with the buy-side and can be a powerful advocate on your behalf. When traveling on non-deal road shows, get to know salesmen, and remember that these folks spend 10 hours a day speaking with portfolio managers and analysts who buy stocks for a living. Why not try to ensure that they are saying great things about your company?
Taking the time to plan now — early in the year — and following this advice will help you execute your investor relations program in a strategic, methodical way. For more information on investor relations planning and execution, subscribe to our RSS feed, sign up for Westwicke Wisdom (our email newsletter), or contact us to start the conversation.