5 Merger Strategies and How to Maintain Success After
Business expansion can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Everything from hiring new employees to finding a larger working space costs money, and the risk involved is considerable. One way to expand is through a business merger with an equal-sized or smaller company. Collaboration between businesses in a merger enables two small companies to become medium-sized overnight. It can be seen as a shortcut to expansion.
Merging might allow a business to enter previously unexplored markets without hiring an entirely new department of employees.
Imagine two marketing agencies coming together, one specializing in SEO, the other affiliate marketing. Such a merger brings together all the existing resources from each company.
There’s also the added bonus of inheriting new systems, such as meeting collaboration software, that your business may lack. Instead of investing vast sums of money in getting your existing platforms up to scratch, a merger can open the doors to business-changing new resources.
What’s the Difference Between a Merger and an Acquisition?
A merger is simply two companies coming together on an equal standing to form one larger enterprise. By comparison, an acquisition is a takeover.
Let’s say a large marketing agency buys a lead generation business, taking over all of its assets. Given the negative connotations of being ‘bought out’, the company being sold may refer to the deal as a ‘merger’ to save face and inspire confidence amongst its customers, employees, and shareholders. But the two are entirely different.
Acquisitions may have negative connotations for some companies, but for others they can open new doors. A small business may not be at a level where it’s able to expand on its own, nor even contemplate a merger.
Being acquired by a larger company can provide access to new – and usually bigger – markets. There’s also the larger company’s resources and experience to potentially take advantage of. Growth may become a possibility instead of a pipe dream.
Whether a merger, acquisition, or neither is the right thing for a business is very much dependent on individual circumstances and long-term goals.
5 Strategies for a Successful Merger
Merging with another business may sound tempting in theory, but the process is complicated and far from failure-proof. Follow the strategies below to ensure that any merger your company undertakes is as smooth and problem-free as possible.
1. Plan, Plan, & Plan Some More
Before finalizing the deal, the merger should be thoroughly mapped out. You should treat it like any other project, assign stages in the process to specific individuals, and add deadlines. It’s much easier to foresee the challenges and potential issues ahead if every task is broken down in detail. You’ll thereby be able to anticipate and clear a lot of hurdles before they present themselves.
This step is also essential when it comes to assessing your compatibility with your future business partner. Any plans should be shared across both companies, with input sought from employees at all levels of the company hierarchy.
A fully realized transition strategy should be agreed upon by all concerned before any significant commitments are made. Get to know your potential partners face-to-face and conduct as many conference meetings as necessary.
If both parties are unable to get the required details ironed out, it may be a sign of incompatibility. It’s far better to learn this before any merger, considering the cost and risk involved.
Branding decisions should be part of any roadmap. Consistent branding has been shown to increase revenue by 23%, and merging two established brands together can obviously have a detrimental effect on all the hard work you’ve done so far.
What will the new brand look like? Your roadmap should establish the new name, logo, tone of voice, and brand philosophy.
Your customers come in here too. Correctly managing a merger can work wonders for your brand in terms of growth, but a flawed merger can wipe out a considerable percentage of your existing customers overnight. You may need to invest in sales team development to ensure the new branding is crystal clear and enable better alignment in working methods.
In advance of making these decisions, gather as much information from your customers as you can through feedback surveys and thorough market research. Making sure your existing consumers stay onside following any merger is vital to the future of your business.
2. Know Your Goals
As we’ve seen, there can be many reasons for a merger, but these should align for both parties. The cause needs to be defined, as it will directly influence the future goals of your newly combined business.
Every member of staff should understand the philosophy behind the merger and be on the same page. Mergers can be a time of great uncertainty for employees, and sharing a clear vision of the future can provide reassurance, boost your company’s human resources team efficiency, and allow business to continue as normal.
3. Research Your New Market
Even if two virtually identical businesses from the same industry are joining together, it’s essential to research the new market you’ll be part of. Any merger is likely to mean that your new company is of a much larger size, opening the doors to new types of customers, whether at home or overseas. Your new market may mean competing with different rivals in a much bigger world.
- How will this affect your existing business setup?
- Are your current processes wide-ranging enough to deal with such challenges?
- Should you be considering the likes of intelligent automation to empower your staff and manage your operations more efficiently?
- If you’re expanding into a new city or country, how do people within that geographical location shop?
These are just some of the questions worth asking about the new world you’ll be working in, and it’s best to answer all of these in advance to avoid surprises along the way.
4. Don’t Let Marketing Slip
It’s easy when going through the process of a merger to lose track of the day-to-day. Ensuring your marketing techniques continue ‘business-as-usual’ is integral to retaining your existing customers, as well as attracting new ones.
In our first strategy, we detailed the importance of keeping your brand identity intact. Your newly-merged business should have a marketing strategy that’s ready to go from the offset. This should naturally include your typical marketing methods and additional tactics, perhaps regarding email list building or text messaging, all aimed at growing your customer base.
You should have a series of great content pieces prepared and consider the value of covering the merger as part of this first wave of new information. Plan this like any other form of content – seek to answer as many potential customer queries as possible. These can be influenced by the feedback surveys you launched prior to the merger’s execution.
You’ll need to inform existing customers about the merger directly, maybe in your email newsletter. You could also use this as an opportunity to introduce your new brand.
Take advantage of the influence of social media by launching a campaign on the platforms most popular with your current demographic. Organize a competition with prizes or rewards for getting friends to sign up for future newsletters.
Given that the size of your business has likely doubled, you could also consider implementing new tracking tools to expand on the data you’re able to collect. This, in turn, can help influence your future marketing strategies.
5. Be Honest
Both sides of any merger should run a full company audit before a deal is agreed upon. And any declarations should be honest and open.
Include an in-depth review of your whole business, from conducting a customer experience audit to finances, processes, and strategies. It should contain the same kind of insights that you’d expect if, say, you were paying an expert to recommend the best enterprise network security products, following a review of your current setup.
Examining the strengths and weaknesses of both businesses before a merger makes it much more straightforward to decide on the processes and systems you’ll be using. For example, one side may use a more accurate inventory accounting system, like FIFO – adopt this for the new business, and both sides are playing to their collective strengths.
There’s simply no point in papering over the cracks of any of your business failings.
Firstly, there’s no such thing as a flawless operation.
Secondly, you’ll only get found out later, making it a difficult start to the marriage. If both sides can honestly share their successes and failings, it builds an excellent foundation for business success moving forward. Everyone can immediately see the areas that need to be built upon or simply reworked from scratch.
It’s critical to plan beyond the day the deal is made – Only time will tell if the union has been a success or not.
Every employee needs to feel they have a purpose within the new organization. It’s a scary time for many, and any merger can quickly fall prey to the office rumor mill. This can cause a poor working atmosphere and a drop in employee performance, right at a time when you need everyone to be at the top of their game.
Ensure the new company’s structure is planned and shared well in advance of it being announced to the world. Lower-level staff need to know their jobs are safe and the new conditions they’ll be working in. You’ll need to appoint a senior management team with clearly designated roles. New positions may need to be created, which may – or may not – benefit from new appointments.
Keep all employees informed and create opportunities for staff from both sides of the merger to meet socially – the quicker you can get the two businesses to act as one, the better for all concerned.
A Dedicated Transition Team
You could also consider appointing a specific team to deal with the transition and manage the merger as a whole. Even if you plan the process perfectly, challenges will crop up that no one will have foreseen. Some of these may occur months down the line, just when you think everything’s going swimmingly.
At these moments, it’s beneficial to have experts on board who have the time to deal with crises as they unfold. A dedicated transition team may need to be in place for the first few years of any merger, and they can also act as a sounding board for any employee concerns.
2. Don’t Forget Your Customers
Even if the merger period has seen no significant drop-off in customer numbers, don’t get complacent. There are elements of running a merged business that are similar to running a start-up, and failure constantly threatens.
Keep customers informed even after your new business is established. Continue to survey customers and seek to answer potential queries with your content and advertising.
3. Plan For the Future
Even when a merger is completed with little disruption, guard against future failure by having a clearly defined set of plans in place for the next step…and the next, and the next. There should be two types of programs in place.
One should focus on integration between the two companies. Both businesses will likely have a myriad of structures and processes in place. Naturally, it will take time to replace these and have all employees working harmoniously within a new system.
The second should enable you to carry on ‘business-as-usual’. Of course, a merger would be much easier to undertake if both businesses could simply shut down for six months, but that’s not an option.
As well as managing transitional factors, all the usual promotional work needs to continue. How will you raise capital for your new business? Where should the business be in a month, six months, and a year? What can you learn from your new competitors? How can you improve your customer assistance offering?
Considerations such as these are essential to maintaining success following a merger. Keeping up with changing times is a must – no industry on Earth will wait for you to catch up.
Taking on a merger is not for the fainthearted. It can be a lengthy process that can cause a lot of unrest for your employees, customer base, and brand as a whole. Following our strategies, though, can give your business the very best chance of success when undertaking any merger.
If done at the right time, with the right partner, a merger can become the shortcut to expansion you’ve been dreaming of.