Marketing through an acquisition with Jason Bradwell, Senior Director, Group Product Marketing and Communications at Deltatre

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast for B2B tech marketers, we talk about marketing through an acquisition, which requires both an internal and external communications strategy. Marketing should be deeply involved in an acquisition as it aligns the two brand narratives before, during and after the merge.

Today we talk to Jason Bradwell, Senior Director, Group Product Marketing and Communications at Deltatre, a sports entertainment solutions provider.

Jason also hosts his own podcast B2B Better, and he publishes a weekly newsletter called B2B Bite. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonRBradwell.

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Listen to the full episode here:

And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

Full Transcript

Alex (00:07):

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of the FINITE podcast. I’m excited to welcome Jason Bradwell on to the episode today. Jason is Senior Director of Group Product Marketing and Communications at Deltatre – A really innovative technology business, providing solutions to the sports and entertainment industry. I’m talking to Jason about marketing through an acquisition, which is a really niche but interesting subject. 

We all know the technology landscape moves quickly with companies being acquired regularly, and Jason shares some great tips on marketing through an acquisition based on some firsthand experience. Jason also runs his own B2B marketing podcast called B2B Better, a newsletter called B2B Bites, and if you’re on Twitter, I’d definitely recommend following Jason @JasonRBradwell, as he shares some great insights there too. We’ll drop links to all of these below, but for now happy listening.

FINITE (00:58):

The FINITE community and podcasts are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast-growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

Alex (01:20):

Jason, thank you for joining me.

Jason (01:22):

Hey Alex. Thanks very much for having me.

Alex (01:24):

I’m looking forward to talking. I know we’ve had this episode in the pipeline for a little while I feel, but we finally pinned down a date.

Jason (01:29):

Yeah, it has been a long time coming. You know, I think we first started talking about it when I had you on my podcast. And you were one of the first guests and I launched it back in August. So yeah, very glad that we managed to make this work.

Alex (01:42):

So we’re talking about a really interesting subject today: marketing through an acquisition, which I think is one of those things that as you pointed out, there’s not a huge amount out there around acquisition. At least not from a marketing perspective. I think there’s plenty of top level business acquisition related content out there, but very little that dives into a real life case study of some of the stories and the experiences you’ve had of going through an acquisition. 

So I’ll let you in a sec explain a little bit about, from what perspective you’re looking at the subject, but before we even do that, I’ll let you just explain a little bit about where you’re up to at the moment, tell everyone who you are and then we can dive into the subject.

About Jason’s experience in marketing through an acquisition

Jason (02:19):

Yeah, of course. I think it’s a really interesting subject and I think we have a lot to talk about. And as you say, I think there is a lot of material out there for leaders of organisations, CEOs, people like that who are having to make some very complex decisions that encompass the entire organisation. But very few materials I’ve come across that talk to it from a marketing perspective. 

But to answer your question, I’m the senior product marketing and communications director for a tech organisation called Deltatre. And Deltatre operates on what we call the field to fan spectrum. So they have a hand in everything from the production of content, particularly sports content on the field, in a stadium, putting cameras down, that kind of thing, and then all the way transporting it through to the end consumer so that they are seeing it on a screen in their hands or in their living rooms and everything in between. 

So match data collection analysis and distribution, building websites and apps, doing broadcast graphics, OTT services, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s a bit of a cliche, but we think of ourselves as the industry’s best kept secret. It’s been going for 34 years and works with many of the top tier/tier zero/tier one sport entertainment organisations around the world. We like to say sometimes that if you were to pull the plug out of Deltatre, the world of sports and entertainment would come to a crumbling halt, but maybe that’s a little bit overkill. And we’re a big enterprise tech organisation, long sales cycles, big deals and a complex value proposition. 

And I actually came into Deltatre through an acquisition in 2018. I worked for an organisation then called Massive Interactive. It was a user experience software company that had a tool that allowed OTT providers over the top video streaming providers to very quickly and seamlessly change the user experience on the front end of their apps without touching any code and Deltatre acquired Massive to build out its OTT portfolio of products and services. So, what we’re going to talk about today comes from firsthand experience in some cases, but also I always try and have these conversations where I can with marketing leaders, who’ve gone through a similar experience to me, either on the buyer or the seller side and get their take on it as well.

Alex (04:33):

Interesting. So let’s approach it chronologically in terms of an acquisition process. I guess the very first thing that comes to mind for me is even before digging into the getting ready to sell side of things, how early on in this case, did you even know that you were being acquired? 

And I always wonder whether it’s something that a couple of the C-suite know about and then suddenly it’s announced to the rest of the company the next day? Or obviously in certain marketing and comms roles I think there’s more need for someone on the team to be involved, but is it still just some of the team and not everybody?

So what was the kind of timeline and run up to even the pre-acquisition stage of okay let’s start planning, getting ready to sell. Was it an open secret and that the plan had always been to sell and the CEO was very open about that or was it more of a discrete process?

When to announce the acquisition to employees 

Jason (05:24):

Yeah, it’s an interesting question. And I think that leaders of businesses like to think that they are giving their teams lots of time to plan for a potential acquisition. But to be honest, I don’t think you can ever have enough time because I think if you really want to do it well, then you’re looking at something like a three year runway to a point of actually signing a contract and being acquired. 

Because I like to think of it as pre-acquisition you’ve got two goals from a marketing point of view, one it’s about putting yourself in front of a suitable potential buyer and making sure that the right organisations that you want to be acquiring you have got their eyes on you. And two that you’re doing everything you can from a marketing point of view to raise the perceived value of that organisation, of the organisation that you work for and that you want to sell. And that is a big brand exercise, right? 

Particularly for companies that I’m familiar with, which is what I call sleeper organisations, where perhaps marketing has never really been a core element of business growth, much as something like sales has. When you’re talking big enterprise sales, typically it’s who you know, rather than the blog posts you write or the white papers you produce, and that’s a big mindset shift for these kinds of organisations. They’ve decided they want to be acquired and they need to suddenly stop putting in the legwork from a marketing, a branding point of view, to position the company to the right buyers and also to raise the perceived value of that organisation. And that takes time. 

So I like to say that it should start three years before that process. Obviously that is a big leap of trust for an owner of a business, for a CEO to open that conversation up to the wider team. And I think what it really hammers home to me is why it is so important to have a marketing representative in the leadership team, because if your business is somewhat hierarchical and at the top level, you’re in a need to know basis, but the level down you don’t need to know, that’s where suddenly you start seeing a disconnect, right? 

And there’s obviously an ambition from the leadership team to make this move and sell the company. But marketing is kept in the dark up until the contracts are being printed out. So I think having that representative in the leadership team who can strategically start positioning the organisation well in advance without necessarily telling their team directly, this is what we’re going for, but can start setting the objectives and setting the strategy. That’s going to position the company in that way. I think that’s why you need a marketing representative in the leadership team to be able to enact that.

Alex (08:12):

Reminds me of the book, I don’t know whether you’ve come across it, Built To Sell, which takes your three-year window and basically says well actually, never mind a timeframe, that we should just be operating businesses if they’re getting ready to be sold at some point from the very beginning, which I think is an interesting framework. 

But I think one that is easy to say but not so easy to do in practice, when the day-to-day gets in the way of things, but on a more tangible level was that a bigger investment in PR? And engaging with industry press? And was it pretty multifaceted in terms of just covering all of the basis of increasing the perceived awareness of the business?

When and how to begin marketing a business for acquisition 

Jason (08:52):

That’s an interesting question. And I think for a lot of B2B organizations, particularly ones that are going into a period of, we’re going to be selling this organisation in the next three to five years, a huge focus gets placed on revenue, right? And things like EBITDA and making sure that the financials stack up and the knock on effect of that is that things like lead gen activation, getting pipeline, growing pipeline suddenly becomes, if it hasn’t already been, the primary focus. And it should be a focus, but it shouldn’t be the only focus. 

There’s a great report that came out a couple of days ago, you may have seen it from the B2B Institute, which I think is from LinkedIn and it’s called 2030 B2B marketing trends or something like that. And they talk about how the B2B businesses that are going to be winning in 10 years time, the ones that are devoting 50% of their time to that activation part of their marketing, bringing in leads, growing pipeline, and 50% to building out brand and building brand equity because that brand equity, cementing yourself in the minds of your industry as the go-to provider of your solution of choice, that is what’s going to contribute to your long-term success. 

And I think particularly in an acquisition environment during the due diligence process, where the financial entity, the legal entity, the acquiring company have given a statement of intent and they’re now lifting the hood of the car and checking that the engine’s running as it should do, that is such an intense process. And it covers so much of the organisation beyond just the financials. It involves employees, it involves customers, it involves partners. You know, they’re doing that to get a true picture of what the business is all about. 

And I think that’s why an investment in brand and making sure things like your customer experience, your employee experience, your partner experience is as good as your marketing is making it out to be. That’s why it’s so important because if you’re at the early stage saying, look our financials are really healthy and we’re on such a great growth trajectory, but then they actually get into the business and they can see that it’s, this may be a little bit intense, but rotten from the inside, it’s two different pitches. And ultimately that can then impact the sale journey. 

So yeah, I think press, it’s what all CEOs want to see. They want to see their names on the Financial Times. And then in the Wall Street Journal, they want to see leads coming in. They want to see pipeline growing. All of that is incredibly important, but don’t discount the investment in building out your brand experience across all touch points. That your potential customers are going to be experiencing when working with your business, because that is what’s going to contribute to your long-term success.

Alex (11:46):

Yeah. Some really good advice. And I think marketers can really think about, I think as you’ve alluded to, any of these acquisition processes are heavily driven and owned by finance people, right? Whether that’s investors or MNA advisors, whoever it might be, no matter how you look at it, there’s always going to be a heavy waiting to, multiples against EBITDA or whatever the things are that matter. But as you pointed out, when the due diligence gets a little bit deeper stuff can come out of the woodwork.

Jason (12:15):

And if I can say, I think from a marketers point of view, I consider it our responsibility to be equipping the people who are sitting in the room with the private equity firms or the bankers or whoever, it’s a marketer’s responsibility. If they’re not in that room, having that conversation to be equipping the people that are in that room, the CEO, the CFO, whoever, to be able to tell that story. So, that’s also a very important part of this process. 

Don’t just focus on what you’re putting out into the market and what you’re putting into your press releases, but how are you equipping your team who are having these very long and often intense conversations with financial institutions that there is value in marketing and brand development, brand equity.

Alex (13:12):

I want to talk a bit about the acquisition process itself. And so you’ve made this big investment in marketing brand. You’ve hopefully got the business out there a bit more, people are more aware of you and the industry, and then it appears there’s an opportunity for two businesses to come together. 

At what point do you start looking at the alignment and integration piece in any shape or form? Is it once everything’s been signed and “we’re being quiet, let’s start working together” or is there some conversation earlier on? Give us a sense of that side of things.

Aligning the two brands from the outset of acquisition

Jason (13:46):

It’s dependent on the situation, but it kind of goes back to my original point, which is having a marketing representative in the leadership team on both sides. Because if that’s the case, then you can start having these conversations very early on. The contract doesn’t have to be signed. These processes, there’s always a statement of intent from the acquiring company that, yes we’re going to go and make that purchase. And then we move into that due diligence process and all things going well, we are going to make this happen. And we were just negotiating on price and things like that. 

So as soon as that has come in, as soon as the seller has identified a single buyer, narrowed down the list of potential buyers to just one, in theory you can start having that conversation. And I would probably suggest that you do right? Because the worst thing that can happen is it’s 4AM in the morning and you’ve got the FT on the phone who are like, are you making the sale or not? Cause you’re hovering your pan over the contract and trying to negotiate the final few pounds and pennies that you’re gonna make. And only then the marketing team are getting involved. Right? 

So I think as soon as you’ve narrowed it down to a single company that’s going to be acquiring the other, that’s when you should be having the conversation with one another. The marketing leads from both organisations need to be coming together and communicating and sharing ways of working and equipping each other with each of their respective stories. You know, what is the organisation about? 

Also USP, what are our points of leverage in the market? How do we bring those together into a coherent narrative that we’re going to be putting into the PR that’s going to be announcing this thing? Everyone needs to be well in advance of the actual announcement and signing of the contract. 

Everyone needs to be aligned on what the goal is. And it can be a tricky one when you’ve got three sets of leads, potentially. Acquirer, seller and a financial institution somewhere above that. It can be a little bit tricky to get those aligned if you haven’t had the time to communicate and whiteboard it out in advance, of what a launch would look like.

Alex (15:58):

I think that the finance institution is an interesting one because I think I mentioned to you I recorded an episode earlier this week with a VC. We were talking about what VCs look for from a marketing team and things that matter from marketing, from a VC perspective. When they’re looking at funding rounds and all those kinds of things, I don’t know what the situation was in the specific acquisition that you went through, but I think those financial institutions can be a really interesting persona that marketing have to think about, sometimes more than might be obvious.

How can marketing work with the VC 

Jason (16:27):

Yeah. I mean, they’re a very important part of the equation because as the ones that are effectively bankrolling the deal, they need to be instilling confidence from the private equity world. They need to be instilling confidence in their backers that they’re making the right choices and they need to set the tone of what the next five, 10 years is going to look like as they maximise the value by extension of the company, that’s acquiring the value of the asset that they have acquired. So they will have an agenda. And I don’t say that with negative connotations, but it’s just the nature of what this situation is. 

And making sure that their input is included as part of a launch marketing campaign, and then ongoing communications are vitally important. All goals need to be aligned. And in our case, we were very lucky that we have a communications counterpart at the private equity firm that’s involved with Deltatre and he does a fantastic job. We get on the phone every single week and every single week we’re brainstorming ideas and we’re batting around concepts with one another on, how do we continue telling this story? And we found him, and by extension the private equity firm that he works for, incredibly useful in helping elevate our positioning in the market and also opening doors for us. 

I said the world’s best kept secret earlier when I was talking about Deltatre before we were talking to our communications counterpart over the private equity firm, things appearing in the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times. Those were just barriers that we weren’t able to overcome. So I would say to anyone listening to this podcast that’s in this situation, don’t discount the value that your private equity partners can bring in terms of just opening doors and sharing ideas because ultimately what’s in your best interest is in their best interest.

Alex (18:27):

You’ve touched on a few times now, the narrative and the story that comes with an acquisition. And obviously both sides will have the kind of the story that they want to tell them, the story that matters to them. And I’m sure there’s some personal preference worked in, and I was going to say the word ego, which is maybe a bit too much.

I think founders and CEOs and everyone has their own story that they want to tell, of why they’ve sold and what it means to them, and what’s next and justify that decision-making to everybody around them. I guess there’s a number of different perspectives that need to be aligned. How do you approach that side of things in terms of packaging up the why this is happening?

How to explain to the public why the acquisition is happening 

Jason (19:06):

I mean, no company buys another company unless there is a why. You’d like to think when you’re talking about some of the numbers that you see in private equity, it would be awful to think that anyone was just doing it for vanity. But getting to grips with what the why is, and wrapping this in a compelling narrative that you can take to market is just so important because if you get it wrong at the beginning, it does set the tone for the future. You only get one chance at making a good first impression and otherwise if you miss it, then you’re just fighting against the tide. 

And I think it’s important that you set the tone. It’s not just about going out and winning new clients, but also instilling confidence in your existing clients that this is the right move. Because you’ve got to remember that on the acquired side, on the seller side, they will have customers that will be reading a press release saying, am I still being served by the company I thought I was being served by?So getting that tone right where this acquisition is going to mean that we can be more than the sum of our parts and we can deliver value in ways that you haven’t even thought of yet. You know, that is super important. 

My advice would be just to keep it simple, because there are going to be a lot of unanswered questions across so many different things. You know, once the contract has been signed obviously you’d hope a lot of it has been figured out. But inevitably as two organisations come together, there are going to be questions that arise. What’s going to happen to this product when there is crossover with this product? What are the rules of engagement around territories for our two respective sales teams? They’re the only questions that you can really start figuring out as you bring the two organisations together. 

So keeping your narrative simple in your announcement campaign is I think the key part of that I would focus in on a single kernel. That’s what I like to call it, of where the businesses obviously compliment one another. So whether that is filling a product gap that exists, that didn’t, that existed on either side, that now is solved, with two companies coming together. Whether that is “we can expand into a new territory or new market or a new segment that we weren’t able to previously” by bringing these two companies together. 

Just push that single kernel of your message, right to the forefront and that’s what you should hang your communications hat on. Because, I think that serves two purposes, one, it helps the market frame and understand that that’s what this acquisition is all about. I can get that. And it’s not like this kind of 10, 15 point list of things that I have to remember. But two, there are going to be people within your organisation, a lot of people within your organisation on both sides that are going to have to be answering questions on a day-to-day basis. From customers, from partners, from their teams within the organisation. 

And if you can equip them with just one single message that no one can question, this is why the acquisition was made, and this is how it’s going to deliver value in the market, that buys you some time as you’re figuring out the rest of this stuff. So I know this is marketing one-on-one to a degree, but please just keep it simple. 

A press release doesn’t need to be a novella about how these two companies were written in the stars, that they were going to come together. Just focus on one thing that’s going to demonstrate the value of the acquisition, and then just give that to everybody. And it will be fine.

Alex (22:41):

I think that’s great advice. And you just mentioned the internal comms part and employees and things coming together. Were there any other bits that came up for you? Or that you’ve come across since in terms of making that easy for people to communicate internally? Communicate to partners and suppliers and everybody else. Maybe when we move on to the next bit around post acquisition, can you talk a little bit more generally about culture and different cultures coming together? 

But more generally just in terms of, because we talked at the start about this cadence of when do certain employees know? And I assume that a certain number of employees on both sides knew and then suddenly others found out on the day that it was announced. And did you have a flurry of like what’s going on messages on Slack? Or was it managed to the point that people knew by that point?

Two company cultures joining together 

Jason (23:25):

I mean, it’s kind of that old saying, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you leave things right to the last minute, when it comes to employee communications on what’s happening, you are going to suffer no question because inevitably questions start coming up in people’s minds. What does this mean for my job? If you’ve got two teams that are, by all accounts performing the same function within both organisations, do you still need to? And it does obviously quite rightfully stoke some concern within employees when they start seeing things like acquisitions. 

And that’s why making sure that you are prepared so that you can go out, if you choose to leave it this late on the morning of the acquisition, with a message from the CEO, either recorded or live, an FAQ, a set of materials that you can give to your management team that they can then have those kinds of one-on-one conversations with their teams. 

You need to be putting in the legwork upfront to make sure that you are not just focusing on how am I getting the best deal for me, the owner of this organisation? But also how are we instilling confidence that this is the right move for our team? And I guess I would sum it up in four parts. It’s about presenting that compelling vision of what the future is going to hold. 

Now that you have this combined value proposition, I would say that it’s about ensuring that you’ve got those regular communications at the start and also ongoing. And that the points of access for your employees to speak to their leaders and the leadership team in general are very clear. Like what do I do if I have a question? Who do I speak to? As I said, I think it’s about equipping those managers to lead through change. 

So making sure that all the way down the hierarchy of the management structure, they have that level of information to be able to answer questions on the fly and also find ways to involve your employees in the process. For instance, if you’ve got two offices in London, find ways to bring those offices together. Get the people together. In my experience where acquisitions have been successful is when you don’t just continue to have both sets of people siloed from one another, but you actually bring them together and you integrate them. 

And you know, that could be coming into one office, that could be something as simple as hosting a barbecue, right? And you get people talking to one another and they’re establishing those connections with one another. Obviously in a virtual environment it’s a bit more difficult, but I think the main takeaways find ways to involve employees in that process and get them talking to one another. Because by forging those links, that’s what’s going to be the foundation on which our success is built.

Alex (26:16):

So you’ve signed on the dotted line, acquisition complete, you wake up the next day, first Monday, day one of new colleagues, new brands to consider. Everything is probably a little bit different. What’s next? What do you do next?

What to do on day one of the acquisition

Jason (26:30):

Oh, that’s a good question. Once you’ve done the announcement, if you haven’t already you need to start thinking about what is going to be your first splash moment post announcement? Because you want to reinforce that kernel, that message that you had in your announcement of why this is happening as quickly as possible with a piece of storytelling that isn’t the announcement. Because the announcement is just, it’s just words, right? It needs evidence.

Alex (27:01):

So it’s proving and demonstrating the kernel.

Jason (27:05):

Exactly. So for instance, say that the kernel of your announcement story was the fact that, now that we’ve brought these two companies together, we can really go and kill it in the US. That’s going to be our new target market. Being able to follow that up, a few weeks, a few months later with we’ve just won this amazing new client in the US and it’s a joint win basically, which leverages both sides of the equation. 

That’s a great splash moment that demonstrates to your industry, to the media, to your clients, to potential clients, that there’s some juice in this idea and it’s already proving itself. And also obviously it shows value to the financial institution up at the top. 

So I think as soon as day one, after the contracts have been signed, working on what is the next splash moment of the two organisations that have now come together as one, what is going to reinforce this idea of the why the two businesses have come together? That should be the number one priority.

Alex (28:11):

And would you say that’s a fairly ongoing thing? And we can talk a little bit in a sec about how two different brands might stay in the market together or how they might be merged and stuff. But it’s a consistent reinforcement across the next year, 18 months, beyond even, do you think it needs to be thought of as a bit of an always on narrative that needs to be done?

Jason (28:32):

Yeah, absolutely. It does kind of segue into the question around what happens to the sole brand? Because I think ultimately that is going to influence a lot of what your ongoing communications is going to look like. But yeah, of course you need to be, just like with any marketing strategy or communication strategy, sitting down on day one after the contracts have been signed and mapping out these hero stories, these anchors, these splash moments that are constantly reinforcing that kernel of why this deal has been made, they’re super, super important.

 But I would caveat that and say, you don’t want to set in stone too early what that is going to look like because it’s a very volatile situation once an acquisition has been made. And I didn’t say volatile again with negative connotations, it’s just the word that came to mind. But it’s a very fast moving situation. It’s a very dynamic situation, lots of answers are coming out of the woodwork on some of these big questions that existed pre-acquisition and you, as a communications team, need to give yourself the room to be able to adapt to an emerging narrative as the two organisations come together. 

So while you may have two to three storylines or threads within your storytelling that demonstrate the widest acquisition has come together, new opportunities will present themselves as time goes on. And you want to remain nimble and agile and flexible to be able to accommodate those in your communications while the dust is starting to settle.

Alex (30:12):

The brand piece is really interesting because like I said most acquisitions, eventually the brand that’s being acquired, will be phased out in some form or another. In some situations for whatever strategic thinking has been done, it makes sense to maintain a brand. And that brand would always exist even though it’s got a different parent company. 

But I think probably in the majority, I don’t know how much hard data backs that up, but I think generally speaking, the acquired brand will gradually disappear with time. Albeit with a phased integration piece, and it might be wrung out with all the different complexities in the background. How do you approach that? I don’t know whether you can talk about specifically the case that you went through and what happened to the brand side of things? But in broad terms as well, what does that process of phasing a brand out look like?

Phasing out the acquired brand 

Jason (30:58):

Yeah. So one of three things is going to happen: either the brand is going to be absorbed immediately, the acquired brand will be absorbed later, or the brand will be kept in market. And I think kept in market you think of like Beats for example with Apple, right? It’s still in market, even if it’s owned by Apple. In our case, Massive the company I worked for that was acquired by Deltatre, fit in that middle category where the brand existed for a period of about six, 12 months following the acquisition and then slowly was phased out. 

And to give you a tangible example of how we manage that transition, there’s a very important trade show in our industry that happens every September in Amsterdam called IBC. And for years, Massive had had a huge exhibition booth right in their eye line of people walking through the front door. So you walked through the front door and boom, the Massive booth and our brand colour was orange so you couldn’t miss it in a sea of blue and grey. And it became a bit of a centrepiece for people walking around the whole, because if you needed to orientate yourself, just peek your head up and find the big orange booth, and you know where you are. 

And having that booth was a really important part of the transition process. We knew that the brand of Massive was going to eventually be phased out and we could use our presence at IBC, at the event, and the booth to reinforce the value that was going to come from having been acquired by Deltatre. So what we did was after the acquisition, which happened in November of 2018 and the event was the following September or something, which was towards the end of that phase out process, we were just doing really simple things like just having the Deltatre logo across all of our materials. Where you had the big Massive logo at the top of the booth, which was then mirrored next to the Deltatre logo all across all of our marketing communication materials. 

We were slowly starting to adopt the brand colours, the style guide, things like that. And also with our sales team, we were making sure that they were confident when they were giving demos and they were talking to their prospects, what the combined value proposition of the two organisations coming together was and how they could effectively sell that to their prospective customers. 

So on one hand, it’s the fairly visual light touch elements in terms of just swapping colours, swapping brand marks, things like that. But then that’s counterweighted with a very important part, which is equipping the people on the ground to go and tell that story. And then we phased out the Massive brand in the new year, in January of 2019.

Alex (33:50):

So what was that timeline overall? And I must ask from a more personal perspective for you as a marketer, how was saying goodbye to a brand that you’ve been involved in and building up? To really drive to get it’s value recognized in the industry, to help with part of the sale and then eventually kind of saying goodbye to it?

Jason (34:13):

Well, I think personally it’s a very rewarding experience to go through this, right? I think that being able to live and work and successfully see-through an acquisition, personally and professionally is a very rewarding experience because not everyone can experience it. And especially in a position that I was in where I was able to directly contribute to the ongoing strategy of how these two brands are going to come together. That was a very rewarding experience. 

Of course it is a little bit like saying goodbye to a love interest when you have to let go of a brand that you have worked so hard and building up, but it kind of goes back to what I’ve been saying about the value that these two companies coming together is going to bring. An acquisition is being made because there is a belief that the two companies will be more than the sum of their parts. And I think as a marketer, you should look at it as a new opportunity to go out there and continue developing your skill set and work with an exciting new property. So personally I’ve found it a very rewarding experience that has certainly molded me as a professional and as a marketer.

Alex (35:21):

I want to wrap up by talking about the coming together of all the different systems, tools, infrastructure, processes, project management, softwares, all the different things that ended up coming together. And side by side, we talked a bit about the cultural element and potentially roles and team structures. The team structures change a lot. 

Did you find that you were saying, we use this tool for that and we use this and you have to merge things together. And I guess that’s probably part of the integration piece and it doesn’t have to happen overnight. But I’d be interested in how you approach that side of things.

Merging different tools and processes 

Jason (35:56):

Yeah, it’s an interesting one. And inevitably two organisations that are coming together are going to have very different workflows and tools that they use to manage their processes. And it can be a little bit of a shock to the system. If you’re using HubSpot for example, and the company that’s acquiring you doesn’t use that, it’s not just the tool, it’s all of the workflows and the processes and the mindset around using that tool that needs to change. 

I think what we did in our case, we looked at it as a marketing team, as an opportunity to forge new ground and establish a new set of tools and processes together as a brand new team. So one of the first major projects that we looked at was relaunching our website and that facilitated a very interesting conversation, a series of conversations around how do we want to run as a team? And what does our content production workflow look like? And how do we want to manage digital marketing? 

And so we were fortunate in that regard that we had a leadership team that was ready and willing to facilitate that part of the journey for us. Yes, we’re assigning budget to you so that you can effectively start from scratch and build out the processes you want to run as a team. So having that central project that we could all get behind, I think was really important and it’s contributed to our ongoing success to this day. But yeah, concessions will have to be made. I would just end on that. 

If this is going to work, you need to be ready for change and willing to accept change and tools, adjust ways to implement ideas. Ultimately, the more important thing I think is as a team and as a culture within that team, how can we come together and most effectively create the best ideas that are going to get our story to market? And the tools are just a way that we’re going to get those out into the world and they’re kind of insignificant in that regard.

Alex (38:05):

Yeah. That resonates with me for sure. I think I always talk about the people in the process being far more important than the tools. I don’t know whether you saw there was a really great Google documentary about how search works. They released it on YouTube a few weeks ago, maybe a month or two ago now. And it made me laugh cause it followed one of the engineering teams as they worked on releasing a new update to Google and they went into this final, big meeting and there was this final review as to whether or not these new algorithm updates would get deployed. 

And once it’s approved, all that somebody does is go into a Google sheet and change a drop down in the cell. It made me laugh because in particular, for me being in the agency world some of the time, how many tools and platforms and things that we all want to use and the latest bit of SaaS for absolutely everything. And there was Google, literally project managing Google itself out of a Google Sheet. And, it really made me think about how overkill some of these tools are. And if you’ve got people and processes aligned then the tool is just a vehicle.

Jason (39:09):

Absolutely. Instead of spending a day arguing about whether you’re going to use HubSpot or not, spend that day going for a walk and just talking and brainstorming ideas and having fun. You’ve got these two amazing companies that have now come together, we had five brains, we’ve now got 10 brains. 

How can we bring those together as a team and do something that the industry has never seen before and really hammer home the fact that this was an acquisition that was made for a good reason? And as you say the tools are just implementation, it’s much more important to focus on how do I get people working together efficiently, but also creatively?

Alex (39:51):

Definitely. Well, I think there’s been some awesome advice that I think this is going to go into the archive of anybody that’s going through acquisition needs to listen to this. Because there’s some really tangible tips, which as we said, there’s not a huge amount there. So for you to share all of this, your first hand experience, is super valuable. So we will wrap up there but we’ll finish by saying a big thank you for sharing everything as you have done.

Jason (40:15):

I appreciate it Alex and I thank you very much for having me.

FINITE (40:19):

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