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The Inside Track: Make the most of earnings calls

November 17, 2020

Numbers tell a story. In the world of business, quarterly earnings calls are a chance for investors, employees and the general public to hear that story straight from company leadership. 

Inside Track13_ Top Tips for Earnings Calls

Let’s be clear: These transcripts are not a light read. They are dense and complicated and, to the untrained eye, a deluge of updates — some important, some not. But for our team at Boardroom Insiders, earnings calls are a treasure trove of insights into how a company is doing, where they’re headed next and how certain executives are shaping that journey. We review earnings call transcripts every day in the course of compiling our deep reservoir of C-suite executive profiles. 

Here’s more on why we do it — and how we pull valuable nuggets of insight from the noise. 

Earnings calls matter

Quarterly earnings reports and their accompanying calls provide an important snapshot of how a publicly traded company is doing here and now. In many cases, earnings calls are the only window into company initiatives that is free from spin and sales pitches. Shareholders don’t need to be sold anything; they already own the place. Executives have to tell the truth or risk potential securities fraud. 

That said, you don’t have to be an investor to benefit from them. Review transcripts and you’ll find executives sounding off on their key strategies and priorities — a gold mine for B2B lead generation, business development and recruitment. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, these calls have offered a clear play-by-play of how companies have made the digital pivot and what initiatives they have prioritized and accelerated. That’s an opportunity for enterprise software providers to propose valuable solutions to very real and pressing problems. 

Know when calls are happening

Wall Street relies heavily on earnings reports, so financial media outlets such as MarketWatch and CNBC post rolling calendars of expected releases, which generally happen before or after market hours. 

Twitter can also be a resource for keeping track of earnings calls, and some accounts regularly tweet out the companies on the docket for each upcoming week. Mark your calendars for the calls that interest you, so you can check back later to learn more. 

Access the transcripts

Public companies have shareholders across all continents and time zones, so fear not if you cannot make a live conference call or webcast. Usually, transcripts are made available after the fact. Some companies host transcripts on their websites. Transcripts can also be found on Seeking Alpha and The Motley Fool.  

Look for actionable hooks

Once you have a transcript in hand, it takes some serious business acumen to understand what is being discussed. Since the audience consists of mostly shareholders and analysts, these calls are the very definition of inside baseball, with many technicalities and industry-specific nuances. So, avoid delegating call reviews to interns or entry-level employees. 

If you’re reviewing a call, listen closely when executives speak about the future. Watch for shifts in objectives and priorities. This could be the purchase of a new production plant, changes in capital allocation or the development of a new channel. Maybe someone just earned a promotion because of their rare and unique skill set. 

Each priority discussed presents a possible opportunity for you. After all, it’s much easier to convert a customer when your objectives align with theirs. 

What they’re saying

We are laser-focused on and diligently working to address the bottlenecks in our supply chain, including labor shortages, capacity constraints and scarcity across many key materials and components. We have made significant progress over the past few weeks addressing these challenges. As an example, we have already onboarded new Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers and vendors who are allowing us to better meet strong consumer demand across our multichannel distribution platform while adhering to our high levels of quality control to preserve the value of brand and reputational equity. At the same time, we are implementing redundancies across key supply chain points and better inventory planning, which bring improved forecasting and inventory management. In addition, we are actively building safety stock that will help protect against further disruption. Put succinctly, while we are disappointed in our third quarter results, we believe the worst of our supply chain disruptions are behind us and that we are well positioned going forward to both grow the top line and further preserve the growth to the bottom line and achieve adjusted EBITDA profitability." – Philip Krim, Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of Casper Sleep, Inc. [November 2020]

“We have embraced our position as a home essentials company, and instead of pulling back in the face of COVID-19 challenges, we're continuing to lean forward and improve our operating model, add talent, strengthen our brands through marketing and advertising and drive innovative product introductions. The plans we outlined on our third quarter call to invest an incremental $20 million in advertising and promotion remains on track.” –David Maura, CEO, Spectrum Brands Holdings, Inc. [November 2020]

"We are seeing enterprise continue to pick up in terms of their adoption of cloud. And I think we’re going to be in a good position to continue to invest behind that. I think we’re going to look carefully at the productivity of our sales teams and look to continue to add where we think that makes sense. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity in front of us in terms of the enterprise opportunity.” –Charles Meyers, CEO Equinix [October 2020]

“I think we're in 80 countries now, but that is truly scratching the surface. And so if you think about our sales team here and our broker network and all the relationships we have with whether it's Costco or Kroger or Whole Foods, we're still building those globally. And so I think that is really what is speaking out in those numbers is that we just don't have a mature sales organization globally yet. That is something that you'll see us investing in, and we have been investing in.” – Ethan Brown, Founder and CEO, Beyond Meat [November 2020]

“We continue to believe physical stores are and always will be an extremely important part of our ecosystem. From a sales standpoint, our stores are highly productive, and they enable so much more than simply the purchase of apparel by our guests. Our stores are our local hub and communities across the globe, gathering spots for our ambassadors and our connection to local studios, facilitate e-commerce transactions via our ship-from-store and buy online, pick up in-store capabilities and are a portal to bring new guests into our brand, particularly men. This year, we plan to open 30 to 35 net new stores while also accelerating our seasonal store strategy.” –Calvin McDonald, CEO of Lululemon Athletica [September 2020

Your Next Steps 

We all need to be aware of how executive priorities are changing. Marketers should be focused on bringing the latest information to their account teams as it develops. Given that we employ a small army of really smart people to read and parse corporate earnings call transcripts and CXO interviews all day long, we can help by feeding you the latest. 

What do you do with this information? Do what you have always done — align and support. Here are the four questions you should try to answer about all of your top accounts:

  • How has their strategy/priorities shifted post-COVID-19?
  • What are they cutting?
  • Where are they investing--or doubling down?
  • What can you offer that supports their current focus?

Now we want to hear from you. What’s keeping you and your team up at night, and how can Boardroom Insiders help? Let us know at info@boardroominsiders.com, with the subject line “INSIDE TRACK.”

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Sharon Gillenwater

About the Author

Sharon Gillenwater

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.