Working with companies that have been acquired by multinationals or have perhaps acquired another company, is something we are very familiar with here at IMS. We are involved regularly in helping companies to manage communications and brand integrations following an acquisition process.
Here’s what we have learned…
It’s never too early to begin planning for a future transaction – whether you are looking to make an acquisition or become acquired. There will be branding, positioning, marketing, IT, social media, and database implications that should be considered before a deal is on the table. Many SME’s lack senior strategic marketing resources and often look to an outsourced partner with transaction experience to guide them through the process.
Despite concerns about letting too many people know about a potential sale, the fact remains: marketing needs lead time and cannot be left to the last minute. Start drafting NDA’s or specific contracts now that can be shared with any external providers and get the ball rolling.
With any change in ownership, there are a set of considerations that need addressing and planning to ensure a successful transition:
If you are already in the purchase process, chances are you will have a timeline of key deal milestones. Marketing needs to keep abreast of this and adapt quickly to unforeseen changes.
How will the sale affect the names of the companies on launch day and overtime?
If the name isn’t changing, will there be some association between the two companies? For example, when Advant Medical was acquired by UFP Technologies, it retained its name but added “A UFP Technologies Company” underneath its logo. Even subtle changes like these require rebranding work, and it’s important to get any branding guidelines from the purchasing company ASAP to avoid having to backtrack.
A significant name and brand change requires more lead time to produce a quality result. For example, CXV Global was born from the consolidation of the global capabilities of Crest Solutions (Ireland & UK) Xyntek (USA) and Vistalink (Belgium). The CXV Global group required a brand identity and strong value proposition that encompassed the essence of all three founding companies and its global reach. We helped them to rename and brand the newly combined enterprise, CXV Global.
Once you know how the company’s name and brand will be impacted, you need to consider the expectations on timing of the rebrand. Will everything, including all print collateral, need to be rebranded for announcement day, or will there be a transition period?
Buyer & Seller Websites
How will the transaction affect both companies’ websites? Since websites serve as the hub for most companies’ brand presence and communications, it’s very important that they are not taken down on the announcement date or even within weeks afterwards.
Consider some of the following questions as you plan for the future of both companies’ website:
- Will both companies retain their websites and for how long?
- How will the transaction be communicated on the websites?
- A banner on the homepage?
- A press release in the news section?
- A video on the homepage?
Many SME’s are using marketing automation software and CRM systems that must also be considered in the transition process. It’s important to assess both companies’ marketing stack and the contracts/renewal dates related to those technologies.
As soon as it is legally feasible, a call should be scheduled between each company’s marketing and IT departments or outsourced providers to discuss the various platforms and how they are being used to further business growth. One of the goals of the call should be to ensure minimal to no disruption in external communications.
Social Media Platforms
It is critical that your loyal social media followers aren’t a casualty of the transaction. Most platforms, including LinkedIn, don’t enable company pages to be merged or completely rebranded. You need to consider how this will be managed into the future.
Businesses that are being acquired and will eventually be rebranded, should get a plan in place to consistently encourage existing followers, customers and employees to follow the acquirer’s page.
What About your Customers?
“How do we want the transaction to be perceived by customers and how can we alleviate their potential fears?” The beauty of engaging marketing early in the purchase process is to map and define clear and positive communications for your customers. Marketing should craft a message or at a minimum outline messaging themes to be communicated at all levels of your buyer’s purchase journey.
Consistent and proactive communications are the key to keeping customers aligned with you and prevent them from looking for a similar service elsewhere. For some clients we have worked with, their customers wanted reassurance that they would be working with the same people and under the same SLA’s.
In several instances, we developed a customer FAQ series that we shared with all customer-facing employees. This ensured they had the right answers to customer questions regarding the company sale.
Employees Are #1
It’s important to keep the news about a merger or acquisition confidential until you have an approved message prepared, however finding the right level of transparency and the right tone will see a positive perception rather than one of concern. Marketing needs to define, “How will the transaction impact various employees and what potential fears will it evoke?” and “What do we want the employees to think, feel and do with regards to the transaction?
HR and marketing should work together to develop employee FAQs that will be used to ensure consistency of your message. Marketing should also be responsible for planning the employee announcement and perhaps a branded gift for each employee.
Media Communications & PR
Your PR will vary according to whether the sale is public or private. In the event you are being acquired by a large multi-national firm, their global communications department will most likely look after the development of a press release and its issuing to suitable publications, channels, online, etc. It is important your marketing team has time to review in advance any planned publications and that as the seller, for example, the Managing Director or CEO, you are given sufficient presence for comment in the final release.
Strategy Always Before Execution
Taking a planned strategic approach to marketing through the sale or purchase of a business is what will set you apart in the marketplace. Customer and employee retention and future growth are highly dependent upon having a comprehensive plan and delivering the right messages at the right time, to the right people. Brand consistency reinforces your communications regarding the sale.
If you have a transaction on the horizon, we would love to help guide you through the process. Email [email protected] for a discreet chat and a more detailed understanding of our approach to projects such as this.