B2B and M&A: How marketing can demonstrate value at this make-or-break moment

A merger or acquisition is typically a pivotal moment for any B2B organisation, with success or failure determining the future of both corporate success and individual careers. The role of marketing in enabling success of this process cannot be understated – but how should marketing leaders best engage with it? What do they need to do to maximise their contribution? These were key questions that we sought to answer in our recent Propolis roundtable

Mergers and acquisitions are very much in vogue in B2B marketing right now, driven (at least) in part by economic circumstances. But at our recent Propolis marketing leaders roundtable, I was staggered by the number of community members who were currently going through some kind of M&A (either as acquirer or acquiree) or had recently just done so. It seems like a topic that is perennially relevant… or even omni-present in B2B marketing.

That being the case, I was also surprised and disappointed to understand how often marketing is marginalised in the M&A conversation – or at least not brought in early enough to maximise the value that it can deliver. B2B marketing has come on leaps and bounds in terms of being recognised as a strategic discipline in recent years, but in this respect at least B2B companies are missing a trick, and may be suffering as a consequence in terms of badly considered, planned and/or executed mergers. Given the extraordinarily high failure rate of M&A, this would seem to be a big mistake.

This negativity aside, the roundtable did highlight the value that marketing can deliver throughout a merger or acquisition, and more importantly identified a number of key lessons for marketing leaders about the embark on the process – or watching from the sidelines but eager to get involved. This was designed to unveil and showcase an excellent framework developed by Shane Redding and Georgie Gilmore, showing how marketing can contribute (and be instrumental to) successful M&A activity.

This framework, as well as a detailed checklist developed from the roundtable conversation, is available on Propolis, B2B Marketing’s community intelligence platform. If you’d like more information on Propolis, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Meanwhile, here are some of the key points covered in the checklist.

  1. Marketing MUST contribute to, or participate, in due diligence prior to any deal being agreed – and helping to determine whether it should go ahead. Marketing’s contribution to the DD process will not only benefit marketing itself, but more importantly the business as a whole by providing a vital perspective and insights that otherwise would likely not be available. As a marketing leader, if you’re not involved, build a case with helpful suggestions about how you’d like to contribute to the discussion and what value you can add. Not involving marketing in due diligence was cited by Propolis members as being their number cause of significant problems at the point of integration.
  2. Keep the internal marketing team informed at all times. Arguably a marketing leader’s biggest risk is team churn, and any uncertainty around implications about redundancies will be magnified in their minds and informal conversations. The one question they will want answering at all stages of the integration, before, during and after, is: ‘Is my job safe?’
  3. Don’t assume the acquirer’s approach to marketing is the best way. Often it isn’t, even if they are vastly bigger, and/or more successful. Smaller companies often have better, more sophisticated, or more nimble ways of doing things, which larger acquirers can learn from and the resuilts it produces are often the main reason for the acquisition! Such things could be the unexpected benefits of an integration. Losing this knowledge could be a key reason why so many mergers fail. If you’re a marketer from the acquiree, use evidence and build cases to demonstrate why your approach remains valid, and shouldn’t be side lined.
  4. Don’t ever lose sight of Business As Usual. Many mergers take far longer than expected to formally agree, let alone enact. Marketing teams that sit back in that time and await further instructions will likely see their revenues atrophy. Assume business usual and continue to plan for the future, unless and until told otherwise. 
  5. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Don’t kid yourself that it will be possible to manage highly specialised and labour intensive tasks yourself – including things like CRM integration. Specialists will ensure a better result and prevent marketers from getting bogged down by things that are likely to be outside their core skillset.

Propolis members get access to regular roundtables, plus associated models or frameworks, access to topic Experts and an exclusive network of marketing leaders with shared challenges and experiences with which to share challenges. If you’d like more information about Propolis, please send me a message.