Your CEO and CFO know why your company acquired another firm. They’ve assigned a number value to it. Now it is your job to explain it to your customers and employees so that the value is fully realized. How best to tackle? Excellent brand integration is how. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or cumbersome if you follow these top 3 tips below.
#1 Crisp Executive Decision Making
All transformation projects require a clear chain of command and executive sponsorship. Brand integrations are no different. (“No it is not as simple as just changing out logos.”) Make sure there is an executive committee tasked with the rapid decision making that will be required during a brand integration.
The first key decision is to keep the acquired brand or retire it. If the acquiring company has a stronger brand in the marketplace and the purchase was made to add customers and marketshare, then the decision is simple – retire the acquired brand. If the acquired brand had a stronger market presence in key segments make sure the brand value transfers to the new owners before retiring. Develop a brand transition plan and assign a clear owner.
A brand integration is likely to influence or uncover other complex business decisions such as … product and feature integration, product roadmaps, organizational roles, timing of client and marketplace communications, legal entities and tax implications aligned with brand changes on contracts, invoices, buildings and employee branding. Having an ability to raise these issues to an executive body charged with resolving issues quickly is critical to success. There is a very real cost of not having this decision making body in place from the outset —- customer attrition and higher internal expenses.
#2 Clear Communications Delivered at the Right Time
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Don’t make the mistake of Cool Hand Luke. Communicate and if necessary over-communicate. The larger the organization, the broader the internal communications plan should be. Client communications are often the center of focus in an acquisition, but if the employees are not singing from the same sheet of music, you will sow seeds of confusion in the marketplace and lower the brand value of the acquisition itself.
Items to consider when forming your internal communications plan.
- Regular Working Team Project Communications
- Project plan
- Open items / Issues list
- Key decisions list
- Brand guidance (for what to change and when)
- Employee Communications
- Tailored messages for key client facing teams (Sales, Service, Marketing, Operations, Finance)
- Broad communications that let everyone know what the key milestones are and FAQs on company messaging
- Corporate wide and manager level reinforcements
- Client Communications
- At Acquisition: Tell your clients what value this deal delivers to them
- Post Acquisition: Tell your clients what benefits they should now see
- Mid Acquisition – (Optional) If the client will see changes to their products or services prior to acquisition completion, let them know selectively and reinforce the value proposition of the change.
Be creative in your outreach to both clients and employees. For clients your marketing may include transitional brand messaging such as “Acme Brand now a Roadrunner company.” Employees also require guidance and reinforced messaging. (The marketing Rule of 7 says to get your marketing messages across you need to connect at least 7 times and in today’s noisy world, maybe more like 17.) Leverage any and all of these communications vehicles as appropriate:
- Emails / snail mail
- Public website callouts
- Social media
- Client community or product portals
- Marketing collateral and assets
- Outlook reminders to employees
- Employee portals
- Broadcast voicemails
- Internal chat channels (e.g. Slack)
- Manager briefing decks / FAQs
- Training / on-boarding
- Post project audits & follow up
#3 KPIs: Set Goals and Report Against Them
An acquisition is typically done to be financially positive to the acquiring business. Typical measures of M&A success include:
- Customer retention
- Increased (additive) revenues
- Increased profitability
- Increased market share
- Account expansion / better cross sales
- Employee retention
- Better ability to attract talent
Often brand integration and overall acquisition goals may be the same. Make sure the goals are aligned and that you fund a baseline measurement at the early stages of an acquisition in order to determine where your firm (and the acquired firm) stand on these measures. This will enable comparisons to post brand integration metrics. These metrics will be critical in telling the story of the success of the brand integration and the acquisition itself to executives, investors and employees as you move forward.