The Vital Role of Marketing in Mergers & Acquisitions
Remember that time in your 20s or 30s when all of your friends were getting married? Your social calendar was full of weddings, showers and bachelor parties, and your bank account was nearly empty due to all the outfits you had to buy and travelling you had to do.
Well, now we have entered, or more accurately are neck deep in, that season for many professional services firms. It seems everyone is merging, creating larger firms from smaller ones, or simply watching businesses get absorbed and disappear. You can’t pick up an accounting publication without seeing articles on this trend, why it is happening, how and when to plan for it, and even speculation on what the next big merger will be.
What you don’t see is much discussion on the role of marketing in this process. That could be because communication in many of these deals is unfortunately an afterthought. That’s something to do once all the details are worked out. Call the marketing person and get a new logo drawn up, with just a week to go before the news goes public.
While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it isn’t too far off from reality in too many cases. A lack of carefully planned and executed communication can have a very detrimental impact to these deals. I watched this happen at a firm recently. The rumor mill got started and whispers of acquisition talks spread in the firm quickly. Instead of addressing this issue and sharing what they could, the firm leadership remained quiet, hoping the speculation would simply stop. It didn’t, and soon key members of the firm were finding new jobs. When others started seeing their colleagues leave, they started looking themselves. Clients started following their main point of contact to their new firms or looking at other potential providers. In the end, the firm that was acquired was much less valuable than when talks began. And, those that remained still felt a sense of suspicion about the whole process.
I realize that there are things that you can’t share publicly when these types of deals are being discussed. But, the repercussions of saying nothing can turn a deal sour, too. It is important to include branding, marketing and communication strategy in the discussions, along with the financial and logistical aspects. Here are just a few ways someone with the right marketing skills can help:
- Research and articulate the value of each brand in the equation and help determine what makes the most sense for the newly merged firm.
- Discuss whether the competitive landscape will change, what types of new clients you’ll want to target, and help identify the new firm’s differentiators and messaging early on.
- Look into pricing models and evaluate if it is time to move toward value pricing, which can impact financial projections and the services the firm can offer.
- Plan the appropriate and positive messaging for all your audiences, including staff, clients, referral sources, press and others.
- Make sure all digital and print materials are updated and ready to go on the date of the official announcement. Ideally, everyone should have new business cards, email signatures, stationery, collateral and PowerPoint templates ready to go. Both firms’ websites need to be updated, which can be a huge undertaking by itself. All social media pages will need to be changed, including direction for team members to update their personal LinkedIn profiles. And, this is just scratching the surface. It takes a great deal of planning and time to do this right and present a cohesive message to all your audiences.
Being a part of a merger or acquisition is both exciting and stressful for all parties. Make sure you ease the anxiety and avoid a mass exodus by keeping communications and marketing at the forefront of your discussions from the beginning.