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For my first blog of the New Year, I thought I would look at the topic of merger marketing. After a few relatively quiet years, last year saw law firm merger activity kick up a gear and I’m guessing that this year we will see many more firms looking to tie the knot.
In a flat market with little differentiation between the players and intense competition, mergers are often the obvious strategy for management teams to pursue; they either do so defensively to save costs or strategically to grow international networks or strong sector positions. Firms in financial difficulty also seek merger partners purely to survive and we are certainly seeing some of this currently in the legal market.
But from a marketing perspective, how should a merger be handled to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts before, during and after the merger has happened?
In my experience, having been through two major mergers as a senior in-house marketing professional, keeping a lid on merger discussions is vital if the firms wish to do a deal without the hassle of public scrutiny – by which I mean the aggravation of having the legal press and legal recruiters rampaging across your business unsettling everyone.
If a merger is on the Board’s agenda and a ‘green light’ has been obtained from the wider partnership, a small number of people should have been tasked with sounding out possible targets which match the required strategic profile for a merger partner. Until an approach has been made, and the other side has indicated a willingness to proceed, it is best to keep the identity of any possible merger targets from the wider partnership.
Law firm partnerships are notoriously ‘leaky vessels’ and I have seen partners deliberately scuppering merger deals that they do not like the look of by leaking information to the press at an early stage in the discussions.
At this point, the marketing challenge is mainly an internal communications issue, but not before the rationale for
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Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all
aspects of marketing and business development for nearly 30 years. As a
consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well
as to win new ones. As a certified coach with WABC he works with
partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.
0330 161 1234