How To Maximize Your M&A Marketing Strategy
Marketing should be a core component of all mergers and acquisitions (M&A) strategies. Throughout every phase of a transaction—from due diligence to the announcement, and the deal close to integration—marketing plays a critical role in minimizing uncertainty and getting all stakeholders excited for the future.
The best way to combat fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding an M&A transaction is to develop a marketing plan focused on proactive, transparent communication. When all audiences get the information they need and their questions answered quickly, they can focus on moving forward and executing.
The following areas are the four essential ways to ensure you adopt an effective M&A marketing strategy:
1. Develop a thoughtful brand transition plan.
Rebranding after an M&A transaction is about more than updating the logo. It’s a highly visible change that demonstrates the new direction of the combined company. The decision to keep independent brands, use one existing brand or create a completely new brand should be based on market research that accounts for each brand’s awareness, loyalty and equity.
Customers, employees and the general public have surprisingly strong reactions to even the smallest logo changes. When announcing the rebrand, be clear about the rationale and how it sets the new direction for the combined company.
Put together a rollout plan for executing the brand transition. Determine a phased approach for tackling all marketing assets, starting with major public-facing channels like your website and social media profiles, then focusing on other external digital assets like landing pages, digital ads, blog content and help centers.
Partner with IT and HR to update internal branding (e.g., email signatures, the intranet and presentation templates), and physical assets like banners, brochures and company swag. Finally, don’t forget to update the product itself, working with engineering teams to rebrand software and hardware. It’s hard to catch every single instance of legacy branding in the wild, but as Deloitte suggests, avoid a “‘Frankenstein’ brand that dilutes the power of the legacy brands.”
2. Engage and motivate employees.
M&A announcements can cause anxiety among employees, who may wonder, “What does this mean for me?” Top concerns include job security, changes to their benefits, updates to the org structure and future career growth opportunities. Marketers can partner with HR to garner employee support and help team members feel valued, heard and excited for the future.
Develop internal communications plans for each phase of the transaction. At the time of the announcement, emphasize that nothing changes today and employees should continue to execute on their current goals. At the deal close, provide clarity on employees’ roles going forward, and highlight career growth opportunities for top performers—who are at the highest risk of attrition.
During the integration, make sure that employees of the acquired company feel welcome, and be transparent about any changes in leadership or organizational structure. Throughout all phases, set up systems to gather and respond to employee feedback, working closely with HR to create a culture of transparency and trust.
3. Build trust and excitement among customers.
For a deal to be successful, customers of both companies need to be on board. Develop customer messaging that clearly outlines the new value proposition of the combined companies: how products, pricing and support will or won’t change, and timelines for key milestones.
Emphasize how the merger or acquisition benefits customers: perhaps they’ll get access to an expanded suite of products and solutions, improved customer service, simplified pricing or faster innovation. After close, communicate changes in advance and provide tools and support to minimize any potential disruption.
For top customers, develop a white-glove strategy to ensure retention and drive loyalty. In addition to a comprehensive sales enablement program (more on that below), brainstorm ways to entice key accounts to stay—for example, you could allow them to pilot new products, get access to senior executives or influence the product road map.
4. Empower customer-facing teams.
During an M&A transaction, sales, customer success and support teams will be on the front lines with concerned customers. Marketers can develop sales enablement materials like FAQs and scripts to help customer-facing employees deliver a consistent message and confidently provide reassurance. Establish a customer “war room” to quickly resolve issues with key customers, and encourage sales reps to escalate at-risk accounts.
As the deal closes, work with sales leaders to understand which products will be available to each customer segment and identify cross-sell opportunities. Prepare playbooks so reps can highlight the value of the combined product offerings. Achieving quick wins through incremental revenue will help to demonstrate the deal’s success to investors and analysts.
Harness the power of M&A marketing.
M&A provides an opportunity to reach new customers and increase market share—provided there is a strong marketing strategy behind the deal. Bringing marketing leaders into the M&A process early on will help ensure consistent messaging to internal and external audiences, thoughtful brand transitioning, and comprehensive sales enablement programs that help to create a bright future for the combined company.