The Marketing Director’s M&A Survival Guide
Are you the marketing director of a recently acquired company? Did your company do the acquiring? Perhaps it was a merger that consolidated a couple brands. Regardless of the circumstances, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve already been given your marching orders, or maybe you’ve been left in the dark. If the latter, you’re likely feeling a little uneasy about the role you’ll be playing going forward. Or in the worse case scenario, not playing a role at all. I get it — I’ve been there. My first suggestion? Try to breathe. Marketing’s role has never been more important than at this particular moment. Trust me, you are needed, and there’s a lot of work to do. Now, more than ever, is the time to demonstrate your worth. So let’s get started.
In this blog post, I describe several areas where marketing teams can make a difference right out of the gate. You can think of it as a roadmap to help marketing leaders like you navigate a merger or acquisition. So you can get some sleep at night.
- Don’t be shy.
With new companies in the mix, there are a few new names and faces you’ll need to learn and, with luck, you’ll be able to lean on them, too. Start forming relationships, but just as important, start setting an example. Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) can create friction, especially among employees. Reach out to your new counterparts or teams and let them know you are there to help. As soon as you’ve forged those relationships, other departments will start taking notice. This internal relationship building is critical — and the first step to creating a unified brand culture.
- Know your resources.
With mergers and acquisitions come pre-existing resources. From equipment and technology to news subscriptions and CRM systems, identify those resources that can be consolidated. Remember, leadership is focused on numbers, which often means cost-savings. You’re likely to be stuck with a few tightly bound vendor agreements, but now’s the time to start negotiating your way out of them before you find yourself caught in a riptide of automatic renewals. Leadership will thank you later for being proactive.
- Get organized, get going.
In the days immediately following the acquisition or merger, no one expects to see a fully developed marketing plan that speaks to the company’s overall growth strategy. But you would be wise to start working on a post-acquisition plan that outlines the necessary steps it will take to integrate marketing groups, resources, cultures and, most visibly, the brand(s). Your goal is to develop a short-term solution that will help you “get organized” both internally and externally.
Think about the main channels that form the infrastructure of your marketing and communications, prioritize them and start updating. Maybe it’s a new tagline or logo on the website (if so, put those first), additional services pages or new bios to the leadership section. Did the merger introduce new social media channels? Which ones need to be consolidated and which can be left alone? No matter the details of your plan, making a comprehensive to-do list will feel like the greatest achievement of all.
- Listen and learn.
To accomplish all these tasks quickly, inter-company learning is critical. That Board of Directors presentation isn’t going to make itself, and I haven’t met a company yet that didn’t ask Marketing for updated statistics on employees, locations, and certifications. There’s a lot to learn, but do your self a favor and start gathering the stats now. Those last-minute requests will be much easier to turn around.
Depending on whom you acquired, you may have a lot more content to organize and manage. Are there new issues and topics to work into your editorial calendar? Know what the new company brings to the table. What is their area of expertise? Do they have pre-existing downloadable content? Who are their subject matter experts? What events do they attend, and what speaking opportunities are in their pipeline? Answering these questions early on will help you develop your new content marketing strategy — and enhance your firm’s reputation in your particular space.
Learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Keep an open mind to new ideas and strategies. Maybe the new company’s email campaigns are yielding great results or their social media strategy is making waves. Understanding how the new kids operate will be vital to integrating functions and unifying cultures.
- Take a hard stand.
It’s critical that you align external communications across the unified firm from the beginning. As I mentioned, mergers and acquisitions can be traumatic. The last thing you need is an unhappy employee blasting off on social media or an over-eager employee speaking too much to the wrong person. It’s a minor detail but one that can have a lasting impact on the external perception of your company. If reputation management is your responsibility, make sure new employees are aware of all media and social media policies and procedures. That way, when crises happen (as they often do), all new parties will know how to react. Set the standard and tone for corporate communications now and avoid potential crisis situations in the coming months ahead.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
You can’t over-communicate in an M&A situation. But if you are out of the loop, it can be challenging to be prepared. Nine times out of 10, mergers and acquisitions are completed in a vacuum and those who know are silenced by non-disclosure agreements. You might be just as surprised as the rest of the company to hear the acquisition news. Then again, leadership may have placed you “in-the-know” from the beginning (good on them!). If you are in the former camp, however, building a relationship with the CEO or president should be a top priority from here on out. That way you will have access to the information you need to communicate with clarity to your internal and external audiences. How you communicate now will play a direct role in unifying cultures — and, ultimately, in how your newly unified brand is perceived from the outside.
- Start thinking big picture.
Most likely, your leadership has developed a vision for your firm’s future, and the acquisition or merger was a means of getting there. Start thinking about how to support the acquisition, as well as the strategy behind it. It’s paramount that organizations going through mergers and acquisitions present a unified brand that aligns with their new business and acquisition strategy. Your website, or even your whole visual identity, might need a refresh. Now is the time to develop a rationale or arguments for any changes you believe will move the strategy forward. When the CEO swings by your office for a chat, you will be prepared. Remember, management is focused on numbers. Do your research and know your budget. Don’t make recommendations without the proof points to back them up.
If you are a marketing executive going through an M&A process, you can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of the initiative. But a little preparation can go a long way. I hope this primer has provided at least a few insights you can use — and the confidence to bring your expertise to the table at a critical time. Good luck!
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