Episode 14

Revenue Rebels: Why Successful Acquisitions Need Marketing at the Forefront

Navigating acquisitions from the marketing and customer engagement perspective

Lauren Weiner, Executive Director, Marketing at IHS Markit has navigated two complex acquisitions at her current company. In this episode of Revenue Rebels, we explore what happens in the first hectic months after an acquisition and how marketing can smooth the transition. Host Rhoan Morgan and Lauren discuss:

  • How marketing should prepare for an acquisition

  • How to pivot and adjust the brand on the fly

  • Collaborating with the right business teams

  • Integrating marketing technology across businesses

  • Overcoming challenges to achieve success

About Our Guest

Lauren Weiner, Executive Director, Marketing at IHS Markit

Lauren drives marketing and strategic planning efforts for IHS Markit’s Private Markets and Corporate businesses on a global scale. She is also responsible for enhancing client relationships through network affecting experiences and ensuring that client-facing sales and service professionals are able to communicate and deliver the unique value that IHS Markit’s products and services bring to clients and business partners. Lauren joined IHS Markit through the acquisition of Ipreo in July of 2018. Prior to Ipreo’s acquisition of iLEVEL, Lauren held the role of iLEVEL’s Head of Marketing. As a leader with nearly 15 years of experience, Lauren has a well-rounded marketing background in both B2B and B2C.

Listen to the full interview below:

Unable to listen? Read the full interview transcript below:

Rhoan Morgan: Hey, everybody, it’s Thursday and I’m excited to be back for another episode of Revenue Rebels. Welcome, listeners. I’m really looking forward to today’s show because we’re going to be talking with a longtime client and friend, Lauren Weiner. She’s the Executive Director of Marketing at IHS Markit. Super excited to have you on the show today, Lauren.

Lauren Weiner: Thanks for having me, Rhoan. Great to be here.

Rhoan Morgan: Cool, so by way of introduction, Lauren drives marketing and strategic planning efforts for IHS Markit, private capital and corporate businesses on a global scale. She is responsible for enhancing client relationships through network-affecting experiences and ensuring that the company’s client-facing sales and services team are able to communicate and deliver the unique value that IHS Markit brings to their clients.

Just a little bit of background for our listeners, Lauren and I have actually worked together since about 2013 I think, probably mid-year when she was back at iLEVEL and we’ve been able to continue our work with her through 2 acquisitions actually from iLEVEL, into Ipreo and now into IHS Markit. And, you know, that’s what our topic is today, right? Navigating acquisitions from the marketing and customer engagement perspective. I’m really excited to have this conversation with you Lauren and I think there’s a lot that you’re going to be able to share with the teams. So why don’t we just dig right in.

Lauren Weiner: Awesome.

Rhoan Morgan: So, you actually have been through four acquisitions in your career, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on your experience navigating the acquisition process?

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely, and I’m not going to spend too much time on the first two acquisitions as they were with late-stage firms with about a thousand employees that just switched ownership from one private equity firm to another. I may have only had to update boilerplates for our wet press releases and some links on the website. So to tell you the truth, I really wasn’t well prepared for the two acquisitions that we’re going to talk about today.

The first one was a private company with about 55 people, they had no HR, no communications department, I was basically the main point of contact with the acquiring private firm which held about 1500 employees. This same company I joined was later acquired by a public firm that held 17000 employees, so I’d experienced acquisitions of all shapes and sizes and definitely all different levels of participation for my part.

Rhoan Morgan: So, that was a totally different experience I can imagine going from 55 to 1500, 1500 to 17000 worldwide, I mean you guys are, this is an international company with a lot of different business units.

Lauren Weiner: Yes, you are correct.

Rhoan Morgan: Can you talk a little bit about the important moving parts that you and your team needed to consider once you knew that this acquisition was coming?

Lauren Weiner: Sure thing. In the first acquisition, my firm was the third company acquired to create a new line of business with which I gained a new direct report. So when you’re asking what steps my team took, it’s important to know that the team changed overnight, we needed to get acquainted before we could actually begin the transition. So we had three instances of Salesforce to merge, multiple websites, different people, new stakeholders, creative agencies, different marketing tools, multiple offices, you name it. We obviously had to take it in stride, be really flexible, put the clients first, so that’s what we did, we prioritized client communications so that they could feel like they were the first to know, it’s very important that your clients feel like they’re not being bombarded by a press release that your company is changing and what does that mean for them.

We took an inventory of what was external-facing; we prioritized that to limit confusion with all of our brands and we re-skinned our website and marketing materials within about a 3-month period, we then merged our CRMs and marketing tools that combined tracking and reporting which I think was most important to executives. And we moved quickly. We’re all focused on one mission which was becoming one company.

For the second one, it was, as you mentioned, a very large company with about 17000 employees so the transition looked and continues to look, very different than the one from the 1500 people. It’s all just, increased numbers of systems, the employees, the product lines, the office locations, which just makes integration take a bit longer. We followed a lot of the same processes but due to the nature of the public company, we’re tasked with finding more synergies with resources and you know, less autonomy to make decisions on the fly.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, well you just went through this huge list actually, there’s quite a lot in the last forty seconds, every word sort of describing and walking us through that. A lot of those things I think are pretty key. The team changes, having to get to know folks really quickly, whether it’s a direct report or certainly somebody that you’re now newly reporting to, technology, integrations, which of course is something that we’re really, really interested in and have worked with you guys on quite a lot. Brand, client communication, all of that, so, with so many moving parts, what stakeholders did you prioritize partnering and collaborating with?

Lauren Weiner: Great question. At the new firm, the first acquisition, I am immediately connected with the CMO. I mean, I knew that this was going to be my future manager so I obviously wanted to build inroads as soon as I could. So through her, I was really able to get connected with a lot of the stakeholders at the new company, specifically in IT, HR, finance, sales, account management. I was able to get to know a lot of the players at the new firm through her, which added a level of credibility first and foremost, but I was also able to establish relationships early on and I took the time to get to know them, get acquainted with their teams. I took people out to lunch, I, you know, went to the new office often, I really took a lot of time to try to acquaint myself so that I could know where I could turn to get a better understanding of how the puzzle pieces come together at a later date.

I made sure to do the same in the most recent acquisition, just on a much larger scale. There are a lot more people to get to know obviously and my CMO is no longer with us which is pretty normal for acquisitions where a lot of the management may not stay with you and so it was really up to me this time and I didn’t have her to do all the introductions. So it really took a village, there were representatives from every team on both sides that were involved, from, like I mentioned before, from sales and account management to product, IT, legal, all of it.

Rhoan Morgan: You know what I think is really interesting is your focus on building relationships, you know, breaking down perhaps any silos that might exist. It’s totally different culture, moving from one company to another, oftentimes, and you really have to get to know those internal partners. What I really, really like is that you were talking, I think you listed these first, was IT and finance, which isn’t necessarily something that, I think some marketing folks might think about, right. Well … “I need to know everybody in marketing, I need to know everybody in communications on the digital side,” but, you’re really smart to immediately connect into the IT group and the finance group because you’re going to be trying to drive a lot of change and then also, incorporate into what they’ve already got and to understand their systems, their culture is critical, so very smart. Very, very smart.

Lauren Weiner: Thank you. Right, I mean, also they’re the people that are going to be merging, you know, the systems that you have and also they’re going to be the people that are making those decisions so hopefully if they like you better, maybe they’ll actually leave the systems that you’re using, I mean that’s just my little theory, not sure it’s necessarily truth behind it.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, well I know that you guys did a lot of rigorous work around, with every acquisition in terms of, you know, being the acquired and participating in that so there’s a lot of objective work there but, I think, subjectively yeah, relationships help, for sure.

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely and I think people make the mistake of, that the acquiring firm is going to be the end all, be all of all the systems, that you’re going into and you’re going to lose all your systems as the acquired company and that’s not true. Very often they may look to you to see what you guys are using and see if it will better enhance the systems they use today.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, actually, with that, I would love for you to be able to talk to us a little bit about the role that marketing played, or continues to play during the acquisition and during the transition. What was the role that marketing sort of took the lead on?

Lauren Weiner: Sure, with both acquisitions I inserted myself as part of the integration team. So, generally when an acquisition’s happening they put a committee together, and I wanted to make sure that I had a seat at that table, because I wanted to ensure that my team and their efforts were also well represented and thoughtfully considered. We all work so long and hard to build the brand. We just wanted to make sure that the brand equity was preserved, fairly represented and accurate overall.

So with the first acquisition, there was little to change with our tech stack and we functioned like a business within a business. And with the most recent acquisition, there’s a much larger tech stack to integrate. The enterprise teams are reviewing closely which tools we should move forward with and they aren’t just migrating us to everything that they use because it was always done that way, as I mentioned previously.

Mergers and acquisitions, they give companies an opportunity to adopt new tools, workflows, processes that you may not have benefited from previously. And while they’re surveying the tools, I want to be involved obviously so I can, you know, make sure that they know … these people are making decisions on what I’m going to use and they don’t use them everyday so they don’t know the features and functionalities. So I wanted to make sure I had some piece of the puzzle that I could bring to the table and say this is what we need, and why. We worked really quickly and we did what we could control. So as you know, like I said, I can only make suggestions with the tools and stuff but it was the website, our promotional materials, we moved quickly so that we could inform our clients and prospects of our new look, our feel, our brand name. Our clients did not need to know whether our systems were connected and everything was working together but we did want to ensure that they had a smooth transition and user experience across all of our IP, so it had a cohesive feel.

We really wanted to also make sure that the external facing teams like sales and account management felt comfortable about what they were bringing to their meetings and that they had everything with brand consistence. Whether or not we were still in transition, we at least came up with temporary looks and feels that they could use for, I don’t know, a 6-month period until we figured out where we were going to land. So we just continued producing content, conducting case studies, using marketing to bridge the gap with the new firm. And then, our clients, they’re no strangers to M&A, we’re in the private world, my business is actually serving private companies and corporate companies that are constantly doing M&A. So, we just wanted to ensure that continued receiving top-notch service and support.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, yeah, well it sounds like, a couple of things there, tools, these are the things driving your business, driving your success, it’s how you’re reporting on the accomplishments of marketing. You don’t want to lose those but, you also need to be flexible and know that change is inevitable. But really making sure that upfront you have a seat at the integration table is critical. But I think also, it’s an interesting new balance that marketing or marketers have today which is thinking about the technology that you’re using day to day and wanting to retain that and any of the data that you’re leveraging but then also really focusing on the customer journey and engagement. So, it goes all the way from technology, into brand and everything you’re providing your sales enablement team, services teams and that sort of thing. It’s actually quite a lot more to juggle, I think.

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely. People underutilize marketing as part of this integration. We’re the ones doing the communication, the rebranding, the stuff that everybody sees, so I think it’s really important that marketing doesn’t belittle themselves and think, “oh I’ll let the management make those decisions and just let me know.” Get a seat at the table.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. All right, so with that, it’s time for us to take a really quick break, stay tuned, we’ll be right back with Lauren Weiner from IHS Markit to continue the conversation.

[Commercial break]

Rhoan Morgan: Thanks so much Paul. Okay, we are back here with Lauren Weiner, Executive Director of Marketing at IHS Markit and we are talking about her experience, successfully navigating multiple acquisitions.

So Lauren, you mentioned managing the integration of your tech platforms was a big part of these acquisitions, getting a seat at that table and talking about the marketing tools. How did you handle the integration of multiple CRM instances and your other marketing and sales tools?

Lauren Weiner: With 3 Salesforce instances, we chose one, and we merged everything else into it. I mean, it was a pretty easy decision; I think you look at which one is going to be your golden copy and I think, which collects the most data. So that was the way we went, and we took our time and we partnered with best-in-class third-party firms to ensure that we had no lost historical data from any of those instances and I think that’s huge. It’s being more conservative in your approach, I think is the better way you don’t know what you’re going to need as you get down the road so you don’t want to lose all that great historical information that you had from anyone’s instance and you also don’t want to put down any of the companies and say some of their past data isn’t important. So, I think we took a very democratic approach and just picked one but merged all the data from every single thing and made it work. We don’t know that it’s made the data as clean as it could possibly be but it definitely got it in one place.

With our agencies, we had multiple agencies and even considering which one was going to help was obviously a major concern and again, we’re democratic in our approach there too. We brought them in, they came in and pitched and we as a team just voted for who we think we should keep. Same thing with the marketing tools, but it was a little bit easier at my first acquisition where they both had Marketo. So the thing that we did there which I don’t think was the best and I’d recommend to all marketers, don’t have multiple instances at your firm. If you’re both on Marketo, having two instances on Marketo definitely causes a lot of concern, just even with GDPR and compliance issues.

So, in our instance, we kept both instances of Marketo so, that’s a learning for me that I wouldn’t do in the future rather than merging.
My team was able to influence the acquiring companies use of marketing automation and BI tools to better support lead gen, thought leadership and competitive positioning because they really didn’t make the most out of their use case. They would really just kind of use it as an email machine, not realizing lifecycle management and how you could really up the entire website at functioning through Marketo for lead generation and tracking purposes. The firm I’m referencing was extremely brand oriented, they just had less mature use of their Marketo instance and so we really became the subject matter experts within the marketing team with regard to marketing automation. So, in turn, it positively affected all of the marketers and it brought us together a lot closer for mind sharing.

Rhoan Morgan: But there must have been some challenges with this process, can you give us some examples of, you know, maybe a few challenges that you experienced through the integration process?

Lauren Weiner: I’m laughing just because, I mean, it’s so cliché to say this but change is so hard and it is for every aspect of our lives, obviously. More than any of the technical aspects of the integration, I would say a lot of the challenges just came from the fear of unknown. I have to say one of my biggest challenges was pushing back, like when I believed strongly in something, there were new executives at the table that I had no credence with. So you want to push back you also don’t want to be the difficult one, so I think it’s a hard balance. And I think staying to true to what was best for the business and not just being a yes person, is extremely important. I also just didn’t dig in my heels when I thought I wanted something or preferred something because I was scared of change. Patience is key when you’re joining a larger company as there are more decision processes in place in general.

And culture, I cannot emphasize enough, culture is a huge thing. Going from 55 to 1500, to 17000 employees, the culture is constantly evolving but you really want to maintain the culture that you once had while taking on the positives from the new firm, because you don’t want to be viewed as resistant to change in any way or that you’re not being a team player. You need to be flexible, understand that you’re working for the greater good of the whole, not just your own department, and it’s truly a balancing act. But in the end, I think a lot of the thinking and planning, it just needs to be done very quickly to ensure that short-term decisions meet the long-term goals, but we are certainly not as nimble as we once were when we were 55 people, but we’re managing okay. But you also can look at it as I have more resources than I did when I was 55 people. So I think there’s pros and cons to each side.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and you know, I think that … we talk about this internal a lot, when we’re working with very large enterprise companies, it’s very different experience than working with an SMB in terms of being able to move quickly and that sort of thing. But, it’s a culture shift but being flexible I think is absolutely key though. That makes a lot of sense to me.

You did actually mention pushing back with some of the new executive team and I think that can be really hard for a lot of people in these situations. How did you work on gaining executive buy-in? And this is something we talk a lot about, you know, with clients, with just folks that we meet around, the space, gaining executive buy-in is obviously critical to being able to move forward some initiatives so, what did you do?

Lauren Weiner: Honestly, it was all about relationships, combined with a bit of persistence actually. By inserting myself early in the process, getting to know the players, making of suggestions based on previous experience and learning from past acquisitions, there definitely was a level of trust that already existed that would not have been possible if I had not made those inroads with key stakeholders, early on. There was a respect for each of our specialties through the integration process which that committee that I referenced earlier, there was representation from every team. So I think, you know, that they trusted that if I was persistent on something that could negatively affect our clients or our prospects, employees, and brand, then it was my job to raise it and essentially, fight for it. As long as I had the data or experience to back it up.

Rhoan Morgan: I also think that, you know, the folks that make it through multiple acquisitions as you have, you’re creating your own personal brand inside the company and so you’re building that out over time which can make a big difference as well, in terms of trust. Right?

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely, well and also I say persistence but also saying things with conviction. When you are an expert in your space, believe that and know that you know what’s right for the business that you’ve been, or the brand that you’ve been representing for that long, you are the voice as marketing. So it’s important that you maintain that voice whether it’s outwards to the clients and the prospects that you’re trying to reach or inwards to the executives, I mean, that voice has to be consistent and I needed to make sure that I was heard, it was not always easy though, I need to make that clear. In the end, I feel like a lot of decisions are being made with marketing being considered now, which I don’t think would have happened if I didn’t make those inroads early on.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, now one of the things that I think was really interesting and also an exciting challenge through acquisitions is keeping the marketing machine going while you’re going through major change. You can’t stop the day to day to leisurely take care of these other things you kind of need to do off the side of your desk while you’re going to market and meeting your goals. Can you tell us a little bit about how you managed to do that?

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely, we divided and conquered, as easy as I could say. There were three marketers in our business unit on that first acquisition, well originally two and then I told you I immediately gained another one. So we decided upfront, who was going to drive in which lane. I was focused on integration and strategy, as I should be, and another team member focused on the rebrand efforts of all the IP, the website, the collateral, our client communications. The third team member focused on events and kept the schedule up and running.

Emails still went out as planned and we really made sure that we could make sure events took place as scheduled and content continued to be created and published. So we chose the website with the highest traffic to move forward with and sunset the others and redirected all to one site that had the best lead generation machine behind it. That way we could still drive inbound leads while we’re navigating our integration. We partnered, collaborated and closely communicated all day, every day with each other while the integration took place, it could make it or break a team I could say.

We got a lot closer, we learned our strengths, our weaknesses during this time and while we were integrating with a new team member, I think it really did help, you know, fast forward that relationship and it just helped with the organic structure of the team when it all settled down because we knew where our strengths lied.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, I mean I can say that I did personally witness a lot of that and it’s a pretty exciting time I think, for people that are up for the challenge. It’s not an easy thing to go through but certainly very exciting and cool to be able to accomplish so much with a tight team.

So, we’re actually just to the end of our time and I’d love to ask you to share your perspective on any critical factors that marketing should be aware of if they also want to take the lead or take the leadership role in a successful acquisition effort.

Lauren Weiner: I think I’ve really kind of said this in a lot more words previously, but it’s identity, identity, identity from a marketing standpoint. And I don’t mean your personal identity, I mean the brand identity. I just don’t think there’s anything more important than company’s identity and brand because some tough decisions need to be made prior to the deal being finalized of what is happening with the company’s brand overall as well as each of the products. Like, are we keeping the name? Does the product name stay? Are we taking on the new company? Are we just keeping the current company as it stands and functioning as a business within a business? Or are we completely ripping the brand away overall?

And so, I think that we all felt really strongly about our own interests, so obviously from a marketing standpoint, it was the brand identity for me. So unless these things are decided as part of the deal, it can become a power struggle later. And, so to be fair, I know that they can’t always work that out while they’re worrying about money, going back and forth and I know that they’re probably not thinking about logos and brand names and products, but if they could start those conversations as early as possible, and if you as a marketer know, that an acquisition or a merger is coming down the pipe, if you could remind those executives that are sitting at the table, that these conversations are important, the longer it takes to make these decisions, the more confusing it is to your audience and your employees at a later date.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, all right and finally, what tips would you offer to teams that are preparing for the acquisition. Any last few tips, tidbits?

Lauren Weiner: Sure, but not to sound repetitive but you should really start conversing with those relevant stakeholders and make connections with the new firm. And make the decisions on the future identity of the overall brand as soon as you possibly can. And the same goes for the technology. And stick to your objectives and plans, like business does not stop, just because you’re acquired and now you have eyes on your performance than you did before, so it’s very important that you keep it going, not only for your internal teams, but your clients need to see that their business isn’t overhauling just because you’ve been acquired. Stay flexible, people do not like change but it’s inevitable so just do not fight it because you’re just going to make it harder for yourself.

Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, great points. Great points and I really appreciate that. Lauren, thank you so much for joining us today, it’s been a great pleasure to be able to talk to you in this format and can you tell us, what is the best way for our listeners to reach you?

Lauren Weiner: Absolutely, by email, LinkedIn, whatever they prefer. I’m on LinkedIn under Lauren Weiner, they’ll find me as Executive Director of IHS Markit just like you mentioned in the beginning. And I’d be happy to answer any questions along the way because there will be a time.

Rhoan Morgan: Thank you for that offer and, the spelling of your last name for our listeners?

Lauren Weiner: Sure, it’s W E I N E R, so if anyone would like to email me, that’s Lauren.weiner@IHSMarkit.com.

Rhoan Morgan: And a big thank you for our listeners joining us today on Revenue Rebels. I’m your host, Rhoan Morgan and you can find me on LinkedIn by looking up DemandLab or visiting our website at demandlab.com and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter and check out our resources including other podcasts as well as tips, tricks and how-to guides that are all over our resources on the website.

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