A thoughtful M&A plan should not only set the goal posts, it should identify the specific initiatives and tools you’ll need to carry it out. The most successful mergers and acquisitions anticipate and plan for every detail. Here are some things to think about as you develop your plan:
Consider overall ROI: What if your firm has been growing through M&A but has skipped the step of integrating or absorbing the brands? In this “house of brands” scenario, businesses may be left to operate profitably with relatively little obvious influence from the purchasing firm. Keep in mind that there is a cost to maintaining separate brands, and doing so does little to enhance the reputation of the purchasing firm.
Based on Hinge’s industry research, smaller firms typically spend a higher percentage of revenue on marketing and business development efforts for the same return. When multiplying this higher relative cost across brand, there must be a strong case and value attached to maintaining individual, specialized brands that must remain specialized (consider Proctor & Gamble’s house of brands, for instance).
Source: 2018 High Growth Study: All Professional Services Edition
Position clearly: Maintaining a clear positioning strategy anchored by compelling firm-wide differentiators is crucial for any professional services firm. But it can be even trickier for firms going through the M&A process. In an M&A situation, the positioning strategy of one or both firms may change — potentially radically. So make sure you can come out of the process with clear and compelling differentiators.
Incorporate employer branding: Attracting and keeping top talent is critical during and after the M&A process. Opportunities for professional growth, team mentorship, investment in personal branding and company culture will continue to be important factors, so don’t overlook them.
Build an M&A friendly website: A professional services firm’s website is one of its most visible and engaging brand assets. And it should support and reflect your firm’s growth strategy. A website that supports M&A fueled growth should be easy to update and flexible enough to support incoming teams and brand assets.
Lean on social Media: Your firm’s website might be the hub of its online presence – but what about the spokes? Social media and backlinks from qualified publications are powerful visibility builders. During times of transition, these networks can also help educate audiences on new capabilities, teams and the ongoing evolution of your brand.
Build M&A friendly collateral and pursuit systems: Just like your firm’s website, collateral and pursuit tools like qualifications decks, proposals and interview kits should be designed with flexibility in mind. A well-designed system will accommodate new content, teams and transitional branding without a lot of help from outside vendors.
Have a plan for CRM and automation tools: Move to quickly incorporate business process that involve CRM and link to automation tools. Effective training processes, regular reporting and encouragement are key. The reward is real-time feedback on the impact of brand integration efforts. New teams bring new ideas and exposure so it’s important that information flows both ways during the training process and your CRM and automation tools are flexible enough to adapt new naming conventions business development stages.
Keep your ear to the ground with analytics: Online analytics tools like Google Analytics and SEO research tools like Moz and Ahrefs allow you to measure and adjust during the M&A process. Pay close attention to engagement metrics and user flow to understand friction points. While analytics are always valuable to any business, they are especially important to get right during brand transitions.