While there’s no substitute for strong financial performance, there’s also no avoiding the need for a powerful and compelling company story for your investor relations. Many IROs and executives make the critical mistake of confusing brand narrative for company story. Although they may have some overlap, unlike a brand narrative that is meant to sell your product or service, a company story is used to convey your purpose and economic value to investors.
It takes real skill to draft an investor story that effectively communicates the value in your company that draws the right investors at the right time. Not only do you need to know what to lead with, you also need to tell your story in a sequence that flows soundly and succinctly establishes the long-term vision of your company. You need enough detail to frame your company as a compelling opportunity, but not so much detail that you obfuscate the things that matter to investors. Read on to learn how to craft your story to differentiate yourself and appeal to the right investors.
Before diving into the technical aspects of a good company story, we want to clarify that data is only one part of the picture. While it would seem logical that the best financial profile always wins, the truth is that investors are also interested in the human elements of your company. Humans are hardwired to respond to storytelling. This isn’t to say numbers or data are irrelevant, obviously, your story needs to be backed by financial performance.
A good story without a compelling reason to invest is just a story. Your story should be a succinct introduction into what your company does, why, how, and for whom. This introduction is meant to capture interest and create opportunities where you can deliver a real pitch to investors. Use only as much data as you need to in order to entice investors, but keep your focus on the narrative.
Your investor story should focus on what makes your company different. Especially if you have dozens of peers in your industry, it’s imperative that you showcase what makes your company unique and that you have a competitive edge. There are a few factors you can consider that can help elevate what makes your company different:
Everyone loves a story born of humble beginnings. People often cite Jeff Bezos building Amazon out of his garage or childhood friends Ben and Jerry starting their ice cream business with a single parlor in a converted gas station. Countless companies from Disney to Spanx got their start in a garage, dorm, or living room. Other companies rely on the family angle, such as Mattel’s famous Barbie doll being named after the founders’ daughter Barbara. People connect better with personal stories.
If your company is a family business or has a good bootstrapping story, investors will want to hear about it! Perhaps your founder or CEO was working in the industry for years before being inspired to launch their own business to address industry shortcomings, or built from nothing with their college roommate.
For example, before founding Irwin, David Whyte spent ten years working in investment banking and sales and trading at Credit Suisse. While there, he recognized that regulatory and industry changes in capital markets were outpacing the technology available to issuers. The day he left Credit Suisse was the day Irwin was incorporated.
It’s possible that where your business is headquartered or operating gives you an edge. Perhaps your business is uniquely positioned to serve an underserved market, or maybe unique relationships allow you to access untapped resources. Whether you’re pioneering a new business landscape or nestled in the heart of the action for your industry, location can give investors insight into how your business might perform. This is especially true for resource extraction companies where location can be an important factor in your company’s success.
We might frame our own geography like this: Irwin is headquartered in Toronto, just steps away from the TSX and Canada’s largest Financial District. Toronto’s fintech ecosystem is thriving, and its international recognition as an innovation hub helps us access top talent and opportunities.
If innovation is where your company shines, this should come out in your story. Whether you are developing or using state-of-the-art technology, investors will be interested if you can dominate in your vertical thus offering better returns than your peers.
Tesla has done an exemplary job in differentiating itself as an innovative company and that has been a significant factor in its success. Although fully electric vehicles (EVs) date back to the late 19th century and Toyota introduced the hybrid Prius in 1997, Tesla Motors differentiated itself in 2006 with the goal of producing fully electric vehicles. Since the first Tesla car was sold in mid-2010 other manufacturers jumped on the EV bandwagon, but none were considered innovators and none garnered the same investor interest as Tesla.
Find what makes your company unique and innovative so that you can highlight that in your story. Differentiators like “first”, “best”, “largest”, and “only” will help your story stand out.
For example, Irwin prides itself on streamlining the investor relations experience with easy to use software and it also has the most accurate and comprehensive shareholder monitoring capabilities on the market.
Is your team composed of the best and brightest in your industry? If your management team is stacked with high achievers or you employ skilled and respected researchers it’s worth bragging about in your company story! Especially in tight knit industries where investors are likely familiar with top performers or serial entrepreneurs, it’s a strong selling feature to have the best people to showcase.
The option to namedrop doesn’t stop at team members; any other partners or references you can provide can help elevate your company story and build repute with investors. It’s also extremely valuable to be able to get good references from your customers, distributors, or other investors. Glowing testimonials and high customer satisfaction scores signal longevity in your company and can be quite appealing to investors.
For Irwin, not only are we very proud of what our customers say to our faces, but we’re also very proud about what they say behind our backs. Our positive track record in the industry has allowed us to become the top rated Investor Relations Software on G2 Crowd.
If your company can lean on award winnings or other achievements, you should! Including industry recognition and other accolades helps boost your profile among investors and helps industry outsiders understand your competitive edge a little better. Awards for workplace and culture are good, but if you have industry specific awards and accolades these are the ones you should highlight in your story.
Filmmakers use awards and accolades very aggressively to promote interest in their films. Nominations and awards for talent, directors, and even audio production go a long way in influencing producers in which films they want to make. While your industry’s awards and achievements may not be as iconic as an Oscar, they can still be used to attract investors.
As a fairly young company, Irwin is incredibly honoured to be listed as a top 100 company on the Globe and Mail’s annual list of fastest growing companies in Canada.
Sometimes your company happens to be in the right place at the right time, and that can also be a powerful storytelling tool. Regulations, technology, and even attitudes change all the time, and a first mover advantage can go a long way to investors.
One shining example of timeliness in business was Netflix’s decision to offer streaming in 2007 well ahead of its competition. The timing was perfect as laptops were becoming smaller, cheaper, and more widely popular around this time. YouTube had just been released and there was instant demand for streaming, but no high quality competitor. People with TVs and computers had more options than ever before to access on demand content at an affordable price, and Netflix has cemented itself as the leader in streaming even against competition from media giants such as Disney.
When we tell our own company story, we discuss how when we launched Irwin in 2017 we were able to help a market coping with the major regulatory changes in Mifid II. This timing helped us establish our reputation as modern IR providers and has kickstarted incredible growth in a short period of time.
These storytelling fundamentals can help you pinpoint which areas your company shines so you can craft your story accordingly. It’s ok if your story doesn’t include every aspect above, but these should help you highlight what is really important. That said, in order to use your story effectively you should be tailoring different iterations of it to specific investors.
Obviously, every iteration of your story should still be entirely truthful; it should go without saying that the truth always comes out eventually. Don’t be afraid to discuss areas of weakness in the business. Every business has weakness, however highlighting them demonstrates awareness and facilitates trust with your investors. You can also use weaknesses to monitor and demonstrate improvements made over time.
The biggest mistake IROs and CEOs make is telling just one generic version of their company story to every investor. No two investors have the same investment criteria given that some weigh certain factors differently. Apart from investors who restrict themselves to certain industries or geographies, many investors have different preferences and processes. Doing your research before reaching out will help you tailor your story to investors and avoid wasting time with those that might be a poor fit.
You can find out what individual investors care about by using investor targeting software. When searching for investors, you can see which companies they currently hold positions with and get insights into what drives them. Additionally, you can also filter potential investors by a number of factors, including geography, average investment size, style, preferred market cap, peer investments, and more. For the best results, combine investor targeting with your IRM to seamlessly get in front of investors so you can tell your story.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative in your retelling. While it’s important to tell only the truth, you can elevate your story by adding visuals or multimedia resources. Having a variety of resources for different mediums can be helpful in capturing investor interest and adding depth to your story without compromising factual information. For example, your website might benefit from a short video while a slide deck may benefit from pictures or charts. Make sure that you package your story for multiple audiences and channels, including retail investors who may be more apt to viewing your story through social media. By adding another level of depth with creative mediums and channels you can increase the impact your story makes.
With corporate storytelling, it’s important to iterate on your story as new details or information becomes available. Everyone in your company from entry level contributors to top executives should be able to articulate a basic version of your story, and your investor relations team must be able to dynamically adjust your story to capture investor interest.