Marketers: Watch for these common M&A culture pitfalls

This month’s guest blogger is Jennifer Fondrevay, the Founder of Day1 Ready.

This month’s guest blogger is Jennifer Fondrevay, the Founder of Day1 Ready™.

As a new year approaches, I frequently see a litany of growth projections for the coming year. I’m always amused when these forecasts and undermining practices contradict one another.

Take, for instance, the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), an area where I specialize. Even in the face of geopolitical and global recession fears, companies are expected to continue pursuing M&A as a growth strategy. Why? Because regardless of whether you are a global, Fortune 500 company or a small to medium size business, it is becoming increasingly difficult to go it alone and succeed in business.

I’m seeing a trend that M&A can undermine—and marketers often ignore at their peril. Glassdoor’s recent job and hiring trends for 2020 study predicts that 2020 will “usher in a culture-first decade for employers…. as growing numbers of companies come to rely on the individual knowledge and creativity of their people as their core business asset.”

During my research for my  M&A handbook, NOW WHAT? A Survivor’s Guide for Thriving through Mergers & Acquisitions, “poor cultural fit” was the most consistent challenge I heard from executives as the reason for M&A failure. In my experience, both sides usually believe their culture is best and stay stuck in their old way of doing things. And today’s ongoing frenzy of M&A deals only make this impasse worse!

As marketing leaders, you know that a strong company culture cultivates a workforce of powerful brand advocates who enhance marketing efforts. What can marketing do to navigate the culture war that ensues in the face of increased M&A activity?

Here are three rules of thumb to consider as you evaluate an M&A deal on the horizon, and when you are in the throes of a post-deal journey:

  1. Come to the union with respect for the other side.
    There is a reason an M&A deal happens – both companies need each other to survive. To find success post-deal, both sides need to come together looking for what the other side is good at– not fixated on what you are good at. You can’t create a stronger marketing plan if you are stuck in how you have always done things.
  2. To appreciate another culture, learn their language.
    In my first acquisition experience, my company, NAVTEQ, was a B2B player while Nokia, who acquired us, was B2C. We had different marketing approaches and consequently, a different culture and language. At the beginning, we spent too much time trying to convince each other our respective language was best. Had we each spent time learning each other’s language rather than trying to force people to “speak our language,” we might have achieved success sooner.
  3. Check your ego at the door and work back from what serves your customer best.
    Staying stuck in your old way of doing things blinds you to the opportunity to create something new and stronger together, something that best serves your customer. When we worked back from what best served our B2B customer, we recognized that it was a combination of Nokia’s consumer research coupled with our expertise on what delivered an exceptional B2B navigation experience.

Checking your ego will likely be the hardest for you to do. As marketers, we tend to be exceptionally proud of what we have achieved. And we should be. We’ve typically put our blood, sweat and tears into making our marketing efforts a success. But you need to always remember, your success in the marketplace post-M&A deal hinges on how well you can work together. Check your ego, bring the best of your strengths to the union, and find common ground.

About the Author:

Jennifer Fondrevay

Jennifer J. Fondrevay is the Founder of Day1 Ready, a consultancy that advises forward- thinking business leaders, owners and C-Suite executives on how to prepare for the human capital challenges of M&A and business transformation. She shares her expertise as a contributor to Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Thrive Global, American Marketing Association, and Middle Market Growth. She is also a frequent podcast guest and keynote speaker.

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