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The sweet & sour of tech marketing

By Pete Hendrick on 11th October 2018

We’ve had three clients acquired in the space of a week. Victims of our own success! Acquisition is part of the terrain when working in the tech sector with fast growth brands, large and small. We typically have half a dozen or so clients get acquired each year, it’s just that this month, they’ve done the ‘London Bus’ thing and all showed up at once. Data shows that M&A is very buoyant in 2018, making the topic one to watch as we head towards year end.

Acquisition in today’s market means lots of different things and, more frequently, is not just a case of shutting up shop. We’ve thought about the sweet and sour of the M&A world from our view as an agency to create a useful insight for any marketing directors, CMOs or CEOs that are exit-bound.

The Sweet – it’s incredibly rewarding to see clients that we’ve worked hard with be rewarded as part of acquisitions. Great acquisitions are delivered by very ‘driven’ leaders and the event itself is often a stepping stone to more growth and new opportunities. Some execs skip off into the sunset with a Rolex or a Cunard voucher, but that’s not a reality for most entrepreneurs in the tech sector. For us, we’ve made a friend for life, learnt from a great company and get a case study for Octopus Group!

The Sour – it’s always a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, we’re always told of the ultimate objective once we’ve signed the NDA at the outset, but once we get into the heat of battle, we sometimes forget that the more successful we help make a client, the more likely it makes it for somebody to rip them from our warm embrace. So it’s often when we are at record-breaking levels of momentum and client high-fives are giving us blisters that we get the news. Another interesting anecdote is that of customers seriously investing in marketing in the final stages of M&A, rather than stripping it out as an overhead. This is especially true when the marketing investment is clearly driving lead generation. The business needs to drive sales harder than ever in its newly acquired shoes. 

Of course as an agency, we take a long-term view, given agency life is so dynamic and the only thing you can predict is change. So it’s far from doom and gloom. Clients stay in touch, inevitably move on at some point and ask us to come in for a chat at their new place. As Elton John once said, it’s the circle of [agency] life.

I’ve include some pointers for those entrepreneurs, growth marketers and hot shot comms directors on how to accelerate their journey to a capital event. I could write ten, but I’m off to see a fast-growth client shortly and I’m writing this on the move (praying no typos) so I’ll pass on three:

  1. Messaging: be as bold as you possibly can with your messaging and content around your value prop. Investors and senior directors can often be conservative and want to water down the bolder campaigns and mission, vision and value prop statements you want to make. Bring them into the process so they understand the critical need for it. So much money can be wasted on the spending on the right channels delivering weak content
  2. Investment: it’s very tempting for pre-profit brands to be laser focused on the impact of marketing comms as a cost in the P&L, and rightly so – they need to manage their overheads. However – investing half the budget does not still give you half the results. There’s a definite law of diminishing returns in marcomms investment and we see boards that drip-feed budget into marketing for pilot projects more often than not under-whelmed by results which dents confidence in marketing and slows everything down. For those brands that are risk-averse, spend time and money on great planning and creating confidence in your go-to-market strategy (plus speak to some customers to stress test your approach) and then go as big as you can with your marcomms campaigns
  3. Reinvention: So often clients as us to devise new creative and content in order to accelerate demand generation – when often they have some great assets already, but they’re ‘camouflaged’ by dull creative or slightly ‘woolly’ copy. For brands with a sense of urgency about gearing up marketing, comms and demand gen, be sure that you’ve comprehensively reviewed your existing bank of thought leadership content before spending money and time on net new content and campaigns. It’s quicker, cheaper and easier to get approved by the board

To any Octopus Group clients reading this, thanks as always for your support. And to those newly acquired clients – can’t wait to see your new timepiece 😊

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