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Mergers: getting the marketing and business development right

As many of you have been experiencing over the last year or two, there are a lot of mergers going on! In the legal field especially, but also in other professional services and in the wider business world. Whatever the strategic reasons for them, there are some immediate things which the marketing and BD teams can help with.   I am not, here, going to include the ‘people’ side of things. This is not to underestimate it; there are all sorts of challenges here to resolve. It is a big topic though, so my thoughts here will concentrate on some of the operational and strategic priorities, on a few of which the success and benefits of a merger can depend. From my experience of three mergers:

  1. Name and logo. May seem mundane – and it can certainly generate some interesting discussions – but name and logo need to be sorted quickly. It takes time to sort stationery, signage, website, and other places where the firm’s visual brand appears. Deciding with less than a month to go before a merger date and you’ll be struggling.
  2. Understanding the thinking and strategy behind the merger. It will need to be articulated internally to staff and externally to clients and others, so there needs to be clarity about objectives, reasons and benefits.
  3. Get people together, and working together, as soon as possible – whole firm, different offices, teams. The sooner you can facilitate this and start building relationships the better. Capitalise on the energy around a merger and the synergies, find some early ‘wins’ on cross-selling, introductions or collaborative projects between the constituent firms.
  4. Great internal communication is crucial – before and after. From interim or new procedures, what’s happening, who the ‘merger integration team’ is, to who to ask questions of, encouraging openness and sharing plans and successes.
  5. Help to bring focus to the firm’s future direction – vision, values, structure, goals, business plan – and then use that to revise all the marketing/BD plans in line with that. You’ll likely need to prioritise here; it won’t be possible to revise all plans in the first month.
  6. Communication to clients. Preferably just before it is publicly announced. And make sure you’re calling key clients to let them know implications, if any and reassure them it’s business as usual.

My final thought – it is hard to do your day job as well as be part of a merger team. See if you can be ‘released’ to concentrate on merger integration issues for a while; if there are two really important things to do, it’s to focus on these and leading/managing your team.

This was written by Rachael Wheatley, for PM Forum Magazine and published as a leader in the March 2014 issue

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