Every merger or acquisition is different, but one thing is common to them all: the essential role of marketing in determining how the new entity will be portrayed and received. Get your post-merger marketing strategy right and the M&A has a better chance to achieve its full potential. Get it wrong and sales will drop, brand reputation could be damaged and employee engagement will almost certainly fall, with obvious consequences for the bottom line.
Complicating matters further, the strategy usually has to be built and implemented while many aspects of the M&A are still unfolding. Senior managers may be more focused on operational issues–such as process, structure and personnel–than external, customer-facing issues such as marketing. It might not be clear which brands, products or services will be offered by the new entity. And the marketing teams (and cultures) from the original entities need to become aligned and integrated while at the same time developing and rolling out a new strategy.
That’s why it’s important to be agile and keep an open mind when developing your post-merger marketing strategy. What worked for either company before the merger might not be appropriate for the new entity. When Ceridian acquired Dayforce in 2012, the differences between the two companies and their approach to marketing could not have been more pronounced. Ceridian had been around since 1932 and was heavily siloed by products and country along with a rigid operating structure, whereas Dayforce had a classic start-up mentality and culture that emphasized innovation and agility.
The solution wasn’t to simply impose one company’s approach on the other. Instead, we restructured our marketing organization to be a true center of excellence and revenue driver for the company. We aligned our teams with our products, developed strategies for individual products and lines of business, and created ways to collaborate. We’re now more flexible and open to new strategies, with more ability to adapt to change.
You also need to understand the value the new entity delivers to its customers. An M&A often sows confusion and concern among customers, investors and other stakeholders of both entities. Competitors will seek to take advantage of this, trying to entice away your customers and your best employees. Marketing plays a key role in dissipating confusion and allaying concerns in a way that is honest and credible.
Before the acquisition, customers approached Ceridian and Dayforce for different reasons. Ceridian customers knew they could trust the company as an accurate payroll provider, while Dayforce customers were inspired by the ways its technology could transform their companies. We needed to find a way to convey these combined values. Our solution during the transition was to create a new tagline–Trusted Results. Transformative Technology–which communicated our combined value.
Today, Ceridian’s brand promise is to "Make Work Life Better." It conveys the value our company provides now that our transformation is complete, and demonstrates another key part of a post-merger marketing plan: simplify the message. After you’ve understood the benefits and strengths of the new entity, boil it down into one powerful and inspiring message that all audiences will find relevant and easy to understand. Then communicate that message to those audiences, over and over again.
With agility, open-mindedness and simplicity of messaging, you can create a successful post-merger marketing strategy, even if all the pieces of that merger aren’t yet in place.
Kristina Cleary is the Chief Marketing Officer at Ceridian. She leads the global marketing organization and is responsible for demand generation, market leadership and positioning, content marketing and events.