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December 16th 2022

The role we play in mergers and acquisitions

By Fiona McKenzie | Managing Director

In the technology sector, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are often the reason that clients seek support for their brand strategy. While 2023 is likely to see fewer mergers and acquisitions than in recent years due to market uncertainty, the trend is set to continue. Why?

Because companies will continue to look to M&As to accelerate their digital agendas, adoption of cloud-based services, and the commercialisation of technology such as IoT, robotic processes, and virtual reality (VR) [Deloitte, 2022]. It’s also likely that we’ll see more M&As happening in the IT channel as it moves increasingly to as-a-service and value-added advisory models.

So how can marketing help as we go forward? Due to confidentiality considerations, careful crafting of an M&A strategy behind closed doors, away from every business function not directly involved in the process, including marketing, can seem the safest approach to take. But this leaves marketing teams on the back foot, scrambling to support announcements and comms around the M&A with no time to properly consider or prepare for what comes next and when.

Asking the right questions

Marketers are already seeing their roles grow in responsibility and complexity as we navigate digital transformation and changes in business demand. New goals inevitably follow a merger or acquisition and with these come a need for a fresh approach. So brands considering M&As as part of diversification or growth strategy now need to be asking:

What role can marketing play in our M&A?

How can we get clear division of marketing roles and responsibilities during the M&A process?

Leading the evolution…

In fact, the role of marketing in M&A integration and success is vital. Marketers really shouldn’t be last to be invited to the party. Marketing teams, with their inherently customer-obsessed mindset, have an incredibly valuable, strategic role to play in the M&A process. And they’ll inject this crucial perspective into the development of a new brand strategy.

… with marketing on your side

Devising a new value proposition as two distinct brand stories come together can be an emotional journey for all parties involved. When leaders and managers have had ownership of a single-minded purpose and vision for some time, it can be hard for them to bring their people on board, while simultaneously managing a change to (what may feel like) a whole new mission. And letting go of that ownership can be even harder.

We’re seeing this in discovery workshops where stakeholders are vocal about the aspects of a brand that must be retained. While these elements are sometimes supported by sound rationale, more often than not, they’re just complexities that can be overcome when leaders champion brand values and communicate that these are not being binned, they’re evolving.

Externally, customers are going to need to hear clear and confident communications spoken in a unified voice as quickly as possible. It’s the marketing function within the organisation that’s best placed to lead the business and spearhead this strategy.

The ‘big bang’ approach to M&As is not the norm. 75% of M&A changes proceed gradually. Change arising from mergers and acquisitions often takes several years to trickle down into action. As M&As continue, in line with today’s ambitions for growth and continuous pressure on results, it’s only with strategic involvement of marketing that you can accelerate what can be a slow and cumbersome process.

‘Mergers cause a strain on both businesses, with an effect on internal employees’ morale/negative cultural effects/managerial energy often absorbed by change management. [Deal Room]

Restoring order

To maximise growth opportunities fast, all businesses involved need to align behind the M&A and quickly win the hearts and minds of their teams. Only then will everyone know where to win and how – together:

  • The potential for negative cultural impact has to be managed
  • Efforts must be focused on a clear go-to-market (GTM) strategy that is completely customer-obsessed
  • Output needs to be broken down into clear and simple deliverables that arm teams with the knowledge they need to explain to external parties and – more importantly – make them feel part of the journey

Baby steps are the key to success here. Based on my experience, if I had just one goal to keep front of mind it would be this – keep the ideal customer profile and buyer personas front and centre. In every workshop. Every discussion. Really. I wholeheartedly recommend having them, quite literally, in front of every team member, every screen.

And because, all too often, discussions in meetings can turn to historical, internal perspectives, the developing strategy needs to promote clear narratives. Brand stories following mergers and acquisitions need to emphasise how the evolving strategy is driven by goals that address both internal and external areas of need.

Baby steps are key to success. Based on my experience, if I had just one goal to keep front of mind it would be this – keep the ideal customer profile and buyer personas front and centre.

Embracing the change

The opportunity to reset perceptions and disrupt the market is also exciting. So it can be necessary to meet any negativity head on. Organisations need to be honest with partners or suppliers about how the M&A will help to overcome current obstacles. But they’ll also need to keep it authentic: if a brand says one thing and fulfilment shows another, consumers will vote with their feet.

A word of warning: simplifying the message can lead to a lack of depth in a proposition. So, balance is key. Everyone needs to be equipped with the information they need to respond when they’re asked questions. Customer retention is crucial, of course, so rapid reassurance is critical. Then, and only then, can growth and exploration of new market segment opportunities commence.

Businesses should allow marketers their moment to shine during the M&A process. A strategy driven by customer intelligence and market insight will provide the upfront rationale to bring everyone along on the journey. This way, it’s easy to outline and advise how the full portfolio of products, services, and solutions will better meet customer needs with evidence based on fact rather than conjecture.

Allow marketers their moment to shine during the M&A process. A strategy driven by customer intelligence and market insight will provide the upfront rationale to bring everyone along on the journey.

Rollout is as important as the strategy itself and uncertainty is the enemy of energy. People can feel completely blocked until a way forward is agreed. Reset and re-group to achieve impactful communications. With creative and innovative use of formats and channels, marketing will be able to connect the overarching message of the M&A to audiences in brilliantly effective ways.

Making it happen

77% of senior marketing execs believe the marketing function needs a stronger voice in setting corporate strategy as owners of the customer journey. [Harvard Business Review, 2022]

So, there’s only one thing for it. It’s up to you and me. Let’s demonstrate the value that marketing can bring to the M&A process. Let’s make sure the voice of marketing is heard loud, clear, and early.


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