The most successful private equity (PE) firms buy good B2B companies on a bad day and turn them around for the benefit of all involved. They make it happen with engineering, manufacturing, operational and financial expertise. But the importance of brand value and differentiation to the success of an acquisition is just as crucial. Over decades working with hundreds of manufacturing companies and their owners (in many cases PE firms), we have gained unique insights on launching, growing and engaging B2Bs.
Beware of viewing the sales channel through the same lens as manufacturing operations.
Often B2B sales channels are seen as antiquated and slow. Dealers, distributors or reps may be viewed as living off the manufacturer, providing no value. While the temptation may be to eliminate the sales channel after a company is acquired, it seldom works. In most cases, it is best to re-engage the channel and, at the same time, raise the level of expectations and performance. An engaged sales channel can be a company’s greatest asset.
Don’t let operational efficiency destroy B2B brand differentiation.
We’ve seen it happen with B2B acquisitions. Efforts to make the organization more efficient dilute or even eliminate its uniqueness. When operational efficiency goes too far, it can have disastrous effects on a brand. A brand or product that loses its personality and differentiation not only loses loyal customers, but also the confidence of employees as it is no longer a point of pride. A balanced focus on operational efficiency and brand differentiation delivers the best of all worlds.
Use trade name license agreement challenges as a springboard to brand rejuvenation.
When license agreements prohibit the continued use of a name after a company is acquired, a new name must be created that retains the brand’s equity. At the same time, customers must feel the brand they love is still alive and well. Renaming a company can become part of an overall strategy that includes a brand re-launch—the perfect opportunity to celebrate the brand and re-engage employees, customers and the industry. Done well, it will reinvigorate the brand and staff like never before.
Discover and promote what makes a brand unique.
We’ve seen it time and again. A manufacturer has been successful for decades, but when asked how they’ve done it, they may not know the complete answer. It could be a unique process or design, an innovative technology or piece of equipment. Often these hidden differentiators significantly impact a B2B’s success, yet they aren’t branded and promoted.
Discovering, branding and promoting differentiators adds value to any B2B brand, making it a competitive force. These unique elements also become points of pride for employees and distribution networks, increasing their engagement.
Communicate acquisition messages and plans to employees first.
When the deal is done, it’s time to start the work of fixing the operations. It should begin with employee communication. It’s no secret acquisitions often breed rumors and fear among employees. What will change? Will they still have jobs? Those companies that face questions with transparency are more likely to see a successful transition. One of LABOV’s 12 Truths is, Whenever there is a lack of communication or information, people will fill that void with negativity. Avoid the void with transparency.
Avoid DIY branding and marketing
There is no lack of brilliant, talented leaders who have successfully turned around acquired companies. It takes a great deal of confidence and expertise. However, that confidence can sometimes lead to a do-it-yourself approach to marketing and branding. Truly maximizing the value of an acquisition, takes identifying its differentiators and listening to what customers, the sales channel and employees say about the company and brand. That helps separate perception from reality and builds the foundation for informed brand strategy.
Just as much thought should go into brand value and differentiation as what is given to revamping the operations of an acquired B2B. Any acquisition can be a tumultuous time for all involved. Amid all the changes and efficiencies, it’s important to maintain sight of the brand and uphold its value throughout the process.
Interested in discovering more B2B insights and how we can help you make the most of your acquisitions? Our team is ready to help!