Kathy Floam-Greenspan is the President of Pomerantz Marketing, a full-service B2B agency supporting regional, national and global SMBs.
The merger and acquisition (M&A) process can be an exciting opportunity to grow a business and expand opportunities. They are also incredibly popular: M&A activity soared in 2021, reaching near-historic highs and surpassing $3.6 trillion in total value exchanged.
Despite inflationary headwinds, rising interest rates and fresh economic uncertainty, this year more than half of business leaders say they are looking to M&A deals to diversify their commercial portfolios, while 60% are considering M&A opportunities to expand access to new products, services and technologies.
While M&As are a common way for companies to expand their reach, capabilities and market share, the process can be challenging, fraught with conflicts and decisions that must be considered to make the process a success.
Marketing is a significant part of that equation, supporting organizations and facilitating communications throughout the process. For leaders looking to maximize the impact of a merger or acquisition, here are five crucial best practices to consolidate brands, unite employees and safeguard customer trust.
1. Start with a strategic planning session.
M&A deals come with a lot of baggage. Each company is bringing years of branding, logos, content and other collateral that must be analyzed and leveraged for optimal success. Effective marketing strategies start with a strategic planning session that includes all stakeholders to determine:
• Renaming, branding and logo plans.
• Brand positioning.
• Key differentiators to highlight in marketing collateral.
• Marketing and budget allocation.
• Client retention strategies.
Starting with a strategic planning session ensures that decision-makers and marketing teams are on the same page, optimizing processes and messaging to help facilitate an effective transition.
2. Address immediate needs.
Developing long-term strategic plans often takes months to materialize, which is helpful for prolonged outcomes. However, many companies forget to account for immediate communication responsibilities, ensuring that customers, employees, partners, recruits, vendors and markets know how to interpret and respond to a merger or acquisition.
This early communication is an opportunity to explain the move’s strategic rationale while conveying potential implications for various stakeholders. Companies only have one chance to address immediate needs, so they should resist the temptation to pursue an ad hoc, improvised strategy at this critical juncture.
3. Account for internal and external communications.
M&A announcements are often comprehensive and all-encompassing, involving reports, analysts and interested stakeholders. Too often, marketers forget to incorporate the separate teams coming together to form a new cohesive whole.
As a result, it’s easy for “us vs. them” thinking to proliferate, making it more difficult to establish a company culture, execute priorities and grow together. As the Harvard Business Review helpfully explains, “When mergers are not done correctly, the end result can be at best uncomfortable, and at worst devastating to both companies.”
By accounting for internal and external communications, both companies align their trajectories, helping their teams, supporters and customers become more unified.
4. Evaluate existing resources.
A company’s website is outfitted with various marketing collateral that once served a strategic purpose. It also comes with a litany of SEO elements that took years to establish. Therefore, don’t just discard existing content. Instead, evaluate all assets for value and identify holes in an existing content strategy that can inform future decisions.
More specifically, analyze digital resources for traffic, including direct, organic, referral, social, email and other access points so that all assets are leveraged to maximize future outreach and engagement.
5. Equip everyone to carry the message.
Press releases, white papers and social media posts are important tools to carry M&A messaging to the masses.
In addition, a company’s employees and interested stakeholders will also conduct important word-of-mouth and interpersonal communications that will extend and amplify marketing materials. Therefore, equip everyone to carry this message by providing clear, consistent and concise communication throughout the processes.
By keeping everyone in the loop, they can become powerful brand ambassadors that carry the message forward, simplifying and enhancing the M&A process for all parties.
M&As are an opportunity when planned appropriately.
As businesses pursue M&A opportunities in the months and years ahead, they are looking to grow their businesses and expand their opportunities. M&As can provide these outcomes, but success isn’t guaranteed.
Marketing teams play a pivotal part in this process, managing messaging, assessing assets and facilitating brand transitions. Simply put, don’t assume that M&As alone will achieve their desired outcomes. Only when paired with careful planning and excellent execution will they be a success.