February 23, 2015

Branding is critical to M&A success

In mergers and acquisitions, particularly in the tech sphere, perception is a huge part of the game. On this blog, we've talked about ways companies can position themselves for a boutique merger and how winning earned media and startup accolades can help enhance value for buyers. One of the ways smaller firms can make themselves most attractive to companies looking to buy is harnessing the power of strong branding. Brands represent not just the identity of a company, but symbolize a contract with consumers and business partners that requires great consistency and uniqueness. 

"Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark," writes Scott Goodson in Forbes. "Products have life cycles. Brands outlive products. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable. Many companies put the value of their brand on their balance sheet."

An emphasis on brand identity can be helpful to arranging a merger or acquisition but will serve your company in the long run whether those deals are closed this year or five years down the road. In order to compete, firms need to establish a clear point of view and a three-dimensional presence in their respective industries through branding. Those elements can represent a call to action for employees, partners and prospective buyers. 

"[Branding] is a driving factor for the transaction and a key to successful cultural integration," according to MetaDesign. "Brands are meaning carriers. They show the vision and goals and motivate employees to get actively involved in the transaction process and see it as an opportunity rather than a threat."

Here are some of the branding areas your company can focus on to help attract buyers. 

Websites. Investing time, money and creative capital in devising the best possible website is crucial. It doesn't matter how accomplished or impressive a company is on paper if its direct line of presentation to the outside world fails to live up to expectations. What do prospective buyers see when they look at your website: an emerging powerhouse in full command of its identity or an amateur operation that's not yet ready for primetime?

To engineer the best website to represent your company, you may require outside help. Hiring a firm to develop your content, user interface and other website features might make the most business sense. Some key areas to look out for are a continuously updated blog or news section, coding that is responsive to mobile platform and other touches that show your web presence matters to the business. 

Public-facing apps. These might not be essential for every company, but many in the tech industry rely on mobile applications that immerse users in an experience. If you need one, develop one. If you have one, ensure that it's free of bugs and technical glitches. From ecommerce to document processing software, functionality on mobile devices has come to be expected of emerging firms. 

This extends beyond the app stores for Apple and Android devices. When thinking about engagement, determine whether your company makes effective use of its email list. Are you sending updates or newsletters at a steady, appropriate pace?

Logos and other visual branding. The most successful tech brands can be summed up in one word or visual cue. If your imagery is too clunky or your copy too cluttered, clean it up with an in-house brainstorm or the help of a creative third party. 

Social media. It's not just important to have social media accounts for your company but to update them frequently. Engaging with followers gives companies the opportunity to hone their voices and thoroughly establish themselves.