By Alexandra DeFelice
What role does the marketing department have in a merger? Does the team get to be part of the pre-agreement strategic discussions or are they brought in at the end of the process to quickly cobble together a press release or come up with a new logo?
Unfortunately, the latter is often the case as the people (partners/stakeholders) making the decisions are focusing on other parts of the deal (money, staffing, etc.) and not necessarily messaging.
"Marketers can have an impact, but we come in at the eleventh hour", said Alicia Olesinski, marketing strategist at New Angle Marketing, during a panel discussion put on by the New York chapter of the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) earlier in June.
Instead, they need to get involved much earlier in the process. They should sit in on executive meetings and be kept in the loop.
But how can marketers get a seat at the executive table?
"See if you can make their jobs easier", suggested Michael Mattia, Principal at EisnerAmper. "If you bring them information, they'll involve you early."
This could mean analysis of potential merger targets and their clients, competitive landscape, or anything else to help those partners and stakeholders make more educated choices.
"Don't wait to be asked", said Lee Eisenstaedt, partner at L. Harris Partners. "[Ask] if you can present to management. Once you prove value, they'll invite you back."
Once the merger happens, marketers have huge opportunities to make a difference.
Here are areas in which panelists and audience members suggested the marketing department be involved:
Have meetings with partners and other staff in various niches, making them repeat back messaging. Role-play the parts of partner and client. Create interactive videos or a Facebook-like intranet so staff can learn about what their colleagues do. Don't allow staff to answer media inquiries; funnel them through marketing to craft a consistent message.
Work with Staff of Both Firms
Get staff in similar service lines to work together vs. in silos. Panelists agreed that one of the biggest mistakes firms make is acquiring a small firm and letting it operate as business as usual, almost as if the merger never occurred. Employees have to think of themselves as working for one big firm in order to get to know the culture. One effective way to achieve this is by ensuring leaders in both firms swap offices on occasion to have a physical presence and, therefore, perceived investment in the other location.
One audience member, whose firm had recently been acquired by a larger firm, received an electronic survey about her on-boarding experience. One of the survey questions asked if she would recommend the acquiring firm as a good place to work. She said it was difficult to feel as though she was part of that larger firm because the offices remained separate.
Make sure employees from all business units (HR, technology, operations) are working together to understand their individual roles and how they are contributing to the collective success of the organization.
Mattia participated in an "integration oversight committee" to break down the departmental silos. "Groups talked to one another. A lot of things got done and didn't have to get redone", he said.
Come up with preventative measures by creating buckets of what could go wrong, how to prevent it from going wrong, and a contingency plan of what to do if it does go wrong. It doesn't have to be too detailed. For example, Eisenstaedt held an event in which the group was worried about rain, so the team selected umbrellas with the firm logo as the swag for the event.
Give partners talking points early. It will allow them to call their top clients a day or so before the announcement so they feel like they are getting the inside track.
- Management Essentials: Five Merger Tips to Help You Seal the Deal
- Seven Golden Rules to M&A Success
- The Seven Risk Factors in Successful Mergers
About the author:
Alexandra DeFelice is senior manager of communication and program development for Moore Stephens North America, and a regional member of Moore Stephens International, a network of more than 360 accounting and consulting firms with nearly 650 offices in almost 100 countries. Alexandra can be reached at [email protected].