EXPERT ADVICE

Save the Customers, Save the Acquisition

When two companies merge, there is a seemingly endless list of factors to consider. However, while companies are committed to dedicating ample time and resources to align the operational combination of the two entities, it’s all too easy to become overly engrossed in the nitty-gritty and lose sight of what matters most — how the merger will serve the customer.

While the company takes so much care to ensure it remains fiscally healthy, shouldn’t marketers put equal thought into how the merger will be received by the true determiner of the company’s success — the customer?

Brand Perception and Acquisitions

For marketers, the clear place to start building the planks of a solid, renewed platform is to consider the singular value proposition of the two companies. Successful marketers will place the customer at the forefront of every decision. They will examine what the combined company can do for the customer and use the customer’s view of the combined operations as the framework for their marketing efforts.

Disregard for the customer’s perception of the joint venture can be detrimental to the customer’s brand perception — even among the most dependable customer base. For example, when Macy’s acquired Marshall Field’s, a more than century-old brand in the Midwest, Macy’s came off as not considering what the customers wanted.

Everything from the much-unwelcome name change to the vastly new and different merchandise left a bitter taste in the mouths of its customers. The result? Customers boycotted the store — going as far to protest outside — yielding less-than-stellar sales and severed relationships with once loyal customers.

We can only presume that the Macy’s/Marshall Field’s acquisition would have been much more successful had Macy’s taken a more customer-centric approach in its branding efforts.

Accordingly, if Macy’s made a stronger commitment to truly listening to the needs and strong preferences of its new customers, it’s safe to say that Marshall Field’s strong customer base would not have been so vehemently disapproving of the venture.

Branding Is Not Enough

Still, establishing a customer-centric branding platform is not enough. Once the combined company has taken the time to understand how the customer will view this merger, the true keystone to a successful venture is the ability to execute and roll out the new brand quickly.

Once the company has done its homework — and taken the time to truly understand how customers will view the combined company — the most successful ventures will avoid an “in-between” state of change by communicating the new message to market as quickly as possible.

However, while a quick brand roll-out is imperative, it’s nevertheless important for companies to be patient with the needs of customers to change slowly. Without keeping the customer’s needs in mind, they will have no reservations about quickly changing their allegiance to another company, as was the case with the Marshall Fields/Macy’s acquisition.

Enterprise Marketing Management

It goes without saying that mergers are so often completed in less-than-ideal situations — making time even more precious and the need to be well organized and efficient all the more pivotal.

How can marketers successfully stay on top of the laundry list of marketing initiatives that go hand-in-hand with a successful, swift brand roll-out?

Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) tools offer companies combining forces the resources to effectively and successfully automate and streamline marketing processes. Companies that have already invested in an EMM tool can use their existing solution to help fold in the new processes under the umbrella of the old, while new users can use the tool to help create a new process that helps establish approval processes and determine how work is done.

New users will benefit the most by working with a consulting organization or train internal support staff to ensure that processes are properly enabled and ready to meet the needs of people who work in marketing.

For example, EMM tools can:

  • Offer users a marketing calendar: During mergers and acquisitions, marketing departments can become a revolving door for creating new collateral and other materials; EMM tools can manage the project schedules for all types of marketing campaigns, activities and channels to provide a complete picture of resources that are available and work that has been done and still needs to be completed.
  • Provide a platform for creative review processes: As new collateral is being constantly developed, EMM can allow multiple reviewers to escape tedious, time-consuming paper-based review processes and allow individuals outside the company’s firewall to provide annotations to marketing collateral.
  • Create a centralized library of digital assets: Companies going through a rapid merger or acquisition can use an EMM solution to quickly create a database of new branding assets to help maintain brand consistency and solve brand standard challenges.
  • Align combining sales forces: Companies combining sales forces during a merger or acquisition experience amplified challenges, increasing the need for EMM tools to automate sales delivery channels — empowering combining sales forces to quickly learn new messaging and collateral.
  • Combine financial marketing-related investments: Merging companies can transition such investments to one overall investment portfolio to create one financial strategy to drive down the multiple activities, campaigns and brand communications that go to market.

EMM solutions offer a multitude of tools that can be tailored to fit the unique needs of every company — whether the organization has plans to merge or not. Marketers can take comfort in knowing that tools exist to maximize efficiencies and improve productivity.


Michael Emerson is chief marketing officer of Aprimo, a developer of an Enterprise Marketing Management product.


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