There are so many factors to consider when one B2B brand merges with another — how it will impact sales, operations and finance. And while those are important, what is most fundamental to a successful integration and, subsequently, the future success of the company is the brand. The brand is a story and a visual identity, but it is also a culture — a way of doing things. It is that thing that inspires loyalty from your customers and gives your products or services instant credibility. It can unite or polarize your most valuable audiences — including employees.
This involves having frank, one-on-one or small-group conversations with key divisions on both sides of the merger — from leadership to sales, operations to human resources. It should also include external stakeholders — customers, partners or investors. You will start to see some recurring themes that reveal gaps in alignment between the acquired and legacy brands, whether related to business vision and go-to-market strategies or how customers interpret the brands and what the merger could mean to them. It’s worth noting that short-form surveys can be deployed to gain additional insights and/or substantiate qualitative research, but they are no substitute for organic dialogue.
Your newly merged brand will be closely scrutinized by competitors that want to thwart and/or mimic the company’s sales strategy (to say nothing of poaching employees). What’s more, your peer landscape may have shifted based on new services, products or markets that the merging brand has brought with them. Taking a fresh look at your competitive landscape is critical to uncovering differentiation opportunities, whether related to brand position or product architecture, visual identity or recruiting. Through a digital audit, we can also address how peers are approaching UX, SEO and paid search, ensuring your new and current customers find your brand — not a competitor’s.
Maybe your business didn’t change industries with the merger, but that doesn’t mean your current industry isn’t changing. In fact, your business might be leading the change. Analyzing what has shifted in the industry over the last several years can not only help you understand where and why customer expectations have shifted, but also where the industry needs to change. By anticipating changes to regulations, material or supply chain issues, or consolidation (no indictment), the company can shape the brand messages your stakeholders want to hear and those you need to communicate as an industry leader.
Through the aforementioned customer interviews, you’ve learned how prospects make decisions and where the company might influence their thinking. You have also identified differences in your customer base. Integration offers an ideal opportunity to revisit your customer segmentation strategy. This may not be as clear-cut as it’s first interpreted. Many companies segment based on need, grouping customers into product- or service-oriented segments that easily translate into current sales operations or a slightly modified website journey. But this strategy has blind spots. Sometimes a market or industry segmentation is more appropriate to demonstrate specialized expertise. One must also consider how the full complement of the business’ newly augmented portfolio might change the customer profile to whom the brand appeals. Or perhaps the new offering has brought with it a higher price tag that has expanded the number of decision-makers the brand must satisfy. All these elements impact your business and sales strategy, which influences — at minimum — your brand story and targeted messaging, and likely the digital journey and content strategy.
Unveiling a Comprehensive Strategy
Now that you understand the process and value of evolving brand messaging, it’s time to look at the visual brand identity. Read part two in this three-part series: Assessing the Post-Merger Brand Image.
AvreaFoster has significant experience and interesting case studies to share with brand and marking leaders interested in understanding more about managing brand momentum post M&A. Let’s talk.