Mergers and acquisitions present challenges to even the most seasoned leadership teams. Executing a strong and organized communications plan—one that delivers the right messages to the right constituents at the right time—can help a merger or acquisition go smoothly and establish unity and profitability. Yet, despite the best-laid plans, change management is always hard and you’re sure to encounter challenges along the way.
With all of the market consolidation over the last few years, especially in the photonics industry, we've seen a lot of different M&A strategies. Those who've realized the full potential of the deal have prioritized:
- Internal communications - a clear plan and timeline that prioritizes employees need for information
- Corporate positioning — defining the future company's value proposition
- Cohesive go-to-market strategy — understanding current marketing and sales processes, addressing gaps, and implementing best practices for a robust and synchronized plan
- Organizational culture and employee engagement
Here are just a few situations we’ve seen in recent years along with M&A strategies to help you through these changes.
Challenge: Who should we involve in the merger or acquisition process and when?
Solution: Create a transition team made of leaders who bring different perspectives to the table. Outside of the c-suite, HR, and IT, consider including managers in charge of engineering, sales, marketing, investor relations, and facilities. The sooner you create the team, the better off you’ll be as activities heat up. Their involvement will ensure a comprehensive roll-out plan and announcement schedule. Segment your audience and establish the timing. At a minimum, you will need announcement dates and times for employees, investors/stakeholders, suppliers, customers, prospects, and the public. Consider building a communications matrix of multiple channels for multiple stakeholders. It may sound obvious, but clear accountability and action items are critical — check out these best practices for effective meetings.
Challenge: What’s the best way to organize all the moving pieces in a merger or acquisition?
Solution: Develop a roll-out plan and use a visual aid to help your transition team see the big picture. Use your project management software or even Excel so it’s easily shared across the two organizations. It doesn’t have to be beautifully designed — it just has to be flexible. Want to get it down on paper? Download and print out this roadmap. This is also a great time to do a brand asset inventory — round-up everywhere the various brands appear, from departmental signage to trade show booths; assess what's working and identify any changes needed aside from brand, and prioritize by exposure.
Challenge: We don’t have time to fully re-brand in a merger or acquisition.
Solution: That’s okay, but if you do nothing else, know your why. Simon Sinek's classic Ted Talk makes total sense in the M&A landscape. By clearly communicating your why, you give others a greater level of understanding, confidence, and trust in your leadership. Why does this merger make sense? What value can our combined forces bring to our customers? How does this benefit our employees? Why is this important to our investors? Why should the public care? Change is uncomfortable — you need to give both employees and customers a reason that resonates. Consider company positioning — define the competitive advantage the new entity is looking to deliver on in 2-3 years.
Challenge: How will this affect our sales and marketing strategy?
Solution: M&A can reinvigorate your sales and marketing team. Consider the following:
- Evaluate your sales process.
- Redefine sales territories if needed. Define things like - who will handle an account that was a customer of both companies?
- Decide on a sales technology platform and migrate leads, data, and pipeline. Reassign leads and train your people.
- Look closely at the existing funnel/sales pipeline and identify opportunities for cross-selling and account-based marketing.
- In your market strategy, does it now make sense to go deeper into existing verticals or explore wider into new markets?
- Train the sales teams (both outbound and inbound) on the company’s new capabilities and don’t leave out your why. Make sure everyone is prepared with a succinct answer to the question of why you completed this deal. Creating an FAQ document for public-facing employees to use is a good idea.
- Update digital marketing campaigns that include emails, social media, sponsorships, paid search campaigns, and the like. It's a good time to re-evaluate your marketing mix.
- Make a plan for your websites and social media accounts. You may need to update your DNS and set up redirects.
Rebranding with a new name, logo, or color palette? Consider updating the following assets:
- Online system templates: ERP, CPQ, website, CRM, marketing automation platform, and intranet
- Email templates/signatures
- Brochures, sell sheets
- Trade show booth(s)
- Onboarding materials
- Building signage (internal and external)
- Letterhead, business cards, shipping labels, badges
- Phone system recordings
Additional Suggestions: How to Run a Successful Merger or Acquisition
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Develop a SWOT analysis for each entity, and your combined company to fully understand the drawbacks, synergies, and opportunities, giving you a more informed evaluation of your overall position. Armed with clear sense of purpose, you’re ready to craft your announcements.
Develop a refreshed positioning statement for each of your defined audiences. Positioning is where many teams get stuck; it's difficult to reach a consensus. Consider preparing statements in advance with a small sub-committee that represents both companies. It can help to bring in a third party who can see things from the outside and challenge your thought process. Present three options for your transition team to react to. It’s more productive than starting from a clean sheet. Need help? Download our positioning guide. It works for product launches too.
Create an FAQ document for each constituent group and use that to help craft announcements. You may want to identify things that cannot be said as well as things that can be disclosed.
Decide how to deliver the announcements. For example, with careful coordination across time zones and facilities, an all-hands employee meeting may be ideal. After your employees are in the know, approach your existing customers and supply chain partners before announcing it to the public. Consider a personal phone call with follow-up email and list a point of contact in case they have concerns.
Remember that your employees will have trouble focusing on taking care of customers if they are in a state of uncertainty about their future. Answer employee questions as soon as possible. Be ready with an employee FAQ as soon as they are told about the change. Presenting this in person goes a long way towards setting the right tone.
Download our M&A Best Practices by downloading our eBook to learn how to plan for a smooth integration.