Event Recap: Marketing for an Acquisition
The Marketing Alliance (TMA) held its second event of the year on March 20 with featured panelists Brian Reed (BoxTone, now Good Technology) and Derek Johnston (MobileAccess, now Corning MobileAccess ). The Hear From Your Peers style event had the two members sharing their experience leading a strategic marketing initiative with an ultimate goal of a successful exit for their startups.
Before we continue, here’s a bit of background on each of our panelists.
Reed is a journeyman entrepreneur, marketer and product guy. Formerly CMO of local Columbia-based BoxTone, he is now Chief Mobility Officer at Good Technology, which acquired BoxTone in March 2014. Reed has helped grow more than 10 early/mid stage businesses and turnarounds driving successful high value exits, often using marketing or product as the leverage point for acquisition. He is also one of the founders of TMA and a long-term board member.
Johnston has more than 15 years of marketing and sales leadership experience in the telecommunications industry. As the Senior Director for Global Wireless Solutions for Corning MobileAccess Inc., he has led strategic marketing initiatives for the past 5 years from brand transition through the acquisition to delivering an award-winning strategic product launch. In 2009, Johnston joined the MobileAccess leadership team to drive marketing and market development that assisted in the doubling of revenue for the late-stage interest in two years. Prior to Corning, Johnston led product management and marketing for Aptela (SaaS Provider), in addition to holding various leadership positions at Sprint/Nextel including managing the field marketing transition during the multi-billion dollar merger in 2005.
Both men were intimately involved with their company’s acquisition strategy and had the following tips for others who may find themselves in the same position.
Market to investors. For Reed this meant making sure the website reflected value to the investors and used language that would resonate with them. Phrases such as, “We’re #1 because…”, “We can help you solve these problems….” and “Fastest growing with recurring revenue…” play well with investors who are looking to better understand the company. Reed also spoke about bumping up the About section of the website and adding pertinent information to executive bios.
Keep analysts informed. One tactic that both men employed was making a point of leveraging their relationships with industry analysts. Keeping analysts informed enabled them to be a possible resource for investors.
Show the value of the sales force. This was a tactic that Reed had employed previously and found to be very successful. At BoxTone he made a point of marketing the value of the business to the sales force inside the potential acquisition organization and focused on telling customer stories, and how they sold their product to their customers, instead of product stories.
Determine what role PR can play. One of the biggest differences in Reed and Johnston’s strategies was that Reed found that PR wasn’t really moving the needle for BoxTone and chose to wind down their PR activities. For Johnston at MobileAccess the focus was on ramping up PR activities and brand awareness. Competitive analysis revealed that the company’s competitors weren’t talking about their large scale wins and this provided an opportunity for MobileAccess to highlight and showcase some of their marquee customer wins. Johnston also used this opportunity to demonstrate how MobileAccess was different than the competition.
Other topics discussed during the panel were the internal communications process – both companies kept their plans pretty quiet internally though there was some trickle down of information and the integration process – went fairly smoothly for both but there were a few hiccups here and there, which is to be expected.
It was a lively discussion and everyone in attendance seemed genuinely interested in learning a bit more about the role of marketing in an investment/acquisition strategy
Were you at the TMA event? What were your big takeaways?