With so many firms undergoing mergers and acquisitions as part of their overall growth strategy, knowing how to handle these brand transitions smoothly is a critical component of a firm’s long-term viability.

Many firms focus only on the financial and logistical aspects when they approach a merger or acquisition, leaving marketing and branding as an afterthought. That’s unfortunate, because leaving these crucial elements out of the equation entirely, or bringing them to the table late, often leads to disappointing results from a deal that looked quite rewarding at the outset.

Marketing should be an integral part of M&A strategy right from the beginning to achieve the most positive results. From pre-expansion research and choosing a new name for the expanded firm to communications, planning the rollout and implementing the transition, so much of M&A activity demands a marketing perspective that approaching an expansion without considering this aspect is almost guaranteed to end poorly.

Here are just a few of the areas where giving marketing a voice will help make your M&A more successful:

• Early planning: At this stage, it’s important to have someone asking the questions others can’t and playing devil’s advocate as you toss around options. Your marketing team can help you articulate advantages and challenges to anticipate, and provide a reality check on the timing to expect for each phase of the process.

• Strategy: What will change (or need to change) regarding your practice areas, differentiators, clients and competition? Will your rebranded firm occupy the same space in the competitive landscape and serve the same types of clients? Assessing the many questions related to these areas before the merger or acquisition will help you plan for success and prevent problems that negatively impact future profitability.

• Pricing: After the expansion, your old billing model may no longer serve your clients or your firm to best advantage. Should you implement value pricing, or will you be in a position to charge more for services due to additional expertise? Questions like these must be considered early to ensure any changes are factored into the financial projections and implemented appropriately.

• Communication: You’ll need to communicate the merger or acquisition to clients, staff and others. How will you present the change to create positive feelings in everyone affected, and what’s the best timing strategy for internal and external announcements? How will the new brand affect the number of referrals you get? A keen focus on marketing at this step is critical to ensure a smooth expansion.

• Collateral and other assets: Updating your website is a must, but that’s not all by any means. Social media, email signatures, business cards, stationery, brochures, presentations…updating every single piece of marketing collateral—both digital and physical—is a massive undertaking, so it’s important to establish new brand standards and approach the job in an organized, cost-efficient manner.

Expanding your firm through M&A is exciting, but also stressful for everyone involved. Make marketing an early and consistent part of the process to keep everything on track, avoid problems and reap all the potential benefits of your firm’s expansion.

Bonnie  Buol Ruszczyk

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of bbr marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, training and tactical implementation for professional services firms.