With key elements in place and the team poised to bring the emergent brand to life in the marketplace, the company can focus on external activation. That means defining a “Day 1” — the date around which externally-facing launch planning will center, and the moment we “go live.”
Pre-Day 1 — Reassurance
While we may wish for Day 1 to be a huge milestone and opportunity for the company to express its vision, customers will have short- and long-term questions about our approach. Initially, they may be less concerned with the company’s future vision and more focused on immediate blocking and tackling. For example, they’ll want to know if their account rep will change, if their favorite products will be supported, or if their billing process will change. For this reason, the company should ideally have an ongoing conversation with customers that starts when the deal is announced.
During the integration period pre-Day 1, reassure customers that the team is on top of what matters most to them while beginning to express how the company will make life better for them in the long-term. This is best accomplished through an integrated communications plan that covers the pre-Day 1 period. That way, customers will be ready to listen (and celebrate) when Day 1 comes around.
Planning the work
Depending on the size and structure of the business, the M&A customer communications plan can be a pretty meaty task. While a range of team members and sales and marketing touchpoints disseminate the message, it is important to achieve messaging and design clarity and consistency. The task will seem manageable with a regular, high-energy cadence that begins before the Day 1 deal announcement all the way to and through launch.
This plan will be highly variable based on the company in question and will include customer and prospect communications for all companies in the deal. It is likely a mix of press releases, update emails, leadership update videos, social media posts, integration update blog items, and more. The goal is to be transparent, reassuring, and positive so that customers know support is available to them even as plans are underway for an ever-brighter future of new opportunities for the company and its customers.
Maximizing Day 1
Then comes Day 1 itself — the actual launch of the “new” brand. This need not track exactly with the formal legal or regulatory consummation of an M&A transaction. In fact, companies sometimes take unnecessary risks by racing to match brand Day 1 with legal Day 1, short-circuiting a best practice-driven M&A branding process. As long as the communications plan is well-executed, it is usually okay for brand Day 1 to be a date of the company’s choosing, such as to coincide with a key trade show, new quarter, or other milestone events.
Typical Day 1 activities include a new website going live, an earned media press push, wide dissemination of new brand content, virtual or live events, or some form of account or sales contact to each customer. The goal is to maximize the spotlight that comes with something new and noteworthy, which is what M&A creates.
Day 1 itself should be momentous, but it need not be a complete “flipping of the switch.” The marketplace is understanding of an orderly process to update downstream elements such as collateral, business cards, signage, and other artifacts. Consistency ultimately matters a great deal, yet it’s okay if it takes a little while to achieve. The brand rollout plan can, for instance, cover pre-Day 1, Day 1 itself, and Day 1-100.