The COVID-19 pandemic is a real game changer for all businesses in every sector. It is unlikely that you can find any business or area of life that has not been affected. As we claw our way out of this economic setback, mergers and acquisitions will accelerate and create even more changes for businesses globally. Merger and acquisition (M&A) activity will play an important role in our economic recovery.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s) are designed to drive cost reductions across a business. Executives leading the charge look for cost savings with staff reductions, office space lease eliminations, and consolidations of administrative and support processes. One big item generally missing from their checklist is a thorough marketing assessment. When two companies come together it is important to account for not only business process redundancies but also reputation and both internal and external communication.
A December 2020 NASDAQ article projected that M&A activity will increase in 2021 due to low interest rates and the increased availability of capital. According to PwC, M&As will lead the post-pandemic economic recovery. Its November 2020 US Pulse Survey revealed that 53% of U.S. executives plan to increase M&A investment in 2021.
This creates an opportunity for marketers to participate in the critical planning processes before, during, and after an M&A. At any scale, they are intensive initiatives to tackle. There are at many areas of marketing communication that need to be on the M&A planning radar before, during, and after a consolidation. Here, I will address four of them.
Start by building a smart communication plan that includes messaging to your external clients and your internal staff. Support for implementation starts at the top, so be sure to have your executive leadership on board with your communication plan strategy early on. If we have learned anything during the Covid-19 pandemic it is that communication transparency and accuracy are necessary to mobilize support for your cause and facilitate a smooth logistical rollout.
Frequent and transparent communication seems like common sense, yet it is often a major deficiency in most businesses. This also includes messaging externally to the marketplace. Do not provide an opportunity for your competitors to sow seeds of doubt about your stability. Your company’s silence allows competitors, clients, and prospects to fill in the blanks with a different story than what you might want out there.
Tell your employees and clients clearly and often your plans to allay any fears they might have about billing increases or interrupted customer service. A merger or acquisition might cut expenses, but another purpose is to increase revenue by retaining customers of both organizations. Not communicating with existing clients on both sides can leave you with costly client turnover and issues with employee retention.
Various technologies will allow you to standardize and drive efficiencies. If you don’t have a digital Newsletter, then create one and use it to communicate effectively and measure engagement by monitoring open rates. Be sure to repeat that concise messaging prominently on the websites of both companies and across social media. Send press releases to organizations in which you have membership and to your local business publications. If needed, place ads to communicate one message that clearly establishes the values and mission of the newly merged company.
If you are not currently automating your marketing, this is a good time to start. There are many excellent apps and platforms available today to help you consolidate, schedule, manage, and measure the effectiveness of your communication. It can be a small investment with a big payoff. You’ll gain valuable insight into both companies and establish a baseline for return on investment (ROI) for your marketing spend. Combining budget expenses for advertising and marketing will be important, and data that helps you measure ROI will help you understand where you need to spend and where to trim.
Use collaboration software to keep on track with your checklist and timeline. Video conference as needed to keep everyone on track. Microsoft Teams and Google offer solutions, as well as apps like Monday, Asana, and Trello. You can find many more options by doing an online search.
Organized your communication plan with an exhaustive checklist of all of your online presence including websites and social media platforms, media lists, logos, sales and marketing collateral, signage, bios for managers to executives, promotional product inventory, memberships in organizations and associated listings. This can be an extensive list, so prioritize it smartly.
It is important to set stringent timelines for consolidating social media sites to retain followers, editing and redirecting the websites, updating all online company listings, rewriting bios, transitioning all employees to the new combined social media sites with easy to follow standardized descriptions (e.g., LinkedIn About and Headline sections), and ordering promo inventory. You will need lots of lead time if you are facing the creation of a new logo and website.
Excellent planning and organizational skills are of paramount importance throughout the merger and acquisition processes. Embrace these four marketing tips, and you will pave a smoother overall transition throughout a merger or acquisition:
- Build a communication plan that top leadership will support.
- Communicate frequently and transparently.
- Use technology to standardize and drive efficiencies and enhance team engagement.
- Get organized with a timeline-driven checklist.