The role of culture is central to a successful merger. Leaders from firms large and small agree it is one of the few things that can stop a deal in its tracks. Culture becomes the common touchstone of managing partners when exploring a possible merger. However, values can be tough to discuss and quantify early in the courtship process. This is where marketing can assist. Culture is a tangible expression of values and a key indicator of whether two firms will be a good fit. Marketing’s role in M&A is to communicate their firm’s culture and demonstrate how the two firms are a match.
“If we don’t have the same belief about how we service clients and how we treat employees, there’s nothing to talk about,” said Martin McCarthy, managing partner of McCarthy & Company PC of Lafayette Hill, PA. McCarthy’s firm of 30 professionals has merged in five smaller firms during the past 20 years.
Sell the Idea to Employees
Top firm leaders generally hold the earliest discussions about whether to combine firms. Bringing marketers into the process as soon as possible is key to moving a deal forward.
Marketers assist with communicating firm culture and building excitement. Even at an early stage, marketing can convey the brand and culture of the acquiring firm. This helps to ease fears and uncertainty.
At Armanino, a Top-25 firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, marketing is called in when discussions have matured to a point leadership believes a letter of intent is in the near future, said Lori Colvin, partner and chief marketing officer.
“We immediately go into the process of interviewing stakeholders from both sides and start to develop talking points for clients and a plan of how to transition the brand,” Colvin said.
Bring the Firms Together
Once the terms of a merger are reached, Prager Metis sends a due diligence team that includes Chief Marketing Officer Diane Walsh to meet with the acquired firm. As part of her due diligence, marketing’s role in M&A is to discuss:
- What they currently have
- What they want to have
- Where her team can bring value
At this stage of the process, marketing must also work closely with human resources, IT, and finance.
Communicate Job Security
Internal communications focusing on job security and continuity of benefits must happen before any external communication. All marketers and firm leaders interviewed stressed that their mergers never trigger layoffs. This is a key point that reassures merged-in firms about the cultural fit of the deal. Above all, partners of selling firms want to protect their people.
Develop a Client Outreach Strategy
Once the internal communications and sharing of assets are underway, the focus turns to external communications. Partners in the selling firm should be provided talking points for clients and influencers, such as attorneys and bankers. This is a time to build belief and trust in the new identity of a firm and to reinforce the message that relationships will remain intact. Marketing’s role in M&A is to prepare and distribute these vital communications.
Create a Transition Week Plan
A plan needs to be created for meetings between leadership and employees at the acquired firm. Additionally, plans on how to merge marketing assets and perform media outreach will be needed. Press releases and advertising can be key to sharing the news. Additionally, marketing’s role in the M&A process is to assist with branding the workspace. The firm may also want to consider providing swag bags of branded content to the new employees.
Continue Announcements Post Merger
After announcing the merger, the integration work continues with co-branded advertising. This helps reinforce the message that the merged-in firms will continue servicing their clients.
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About Dana Bottorff
Dana Bottorff is a Principal at Anadon Marketing/Communications. She helps CPA firms and professional services companies create a distinctive voice in the marketplace with marketing messaging that conveys a unique brand.