Tread Lightly with Acquisition Announcements

Several years ago, a client acquired one of their competitors. We were responsible for executing the email announcements. Notifying our client's employees, vendors, customers and prospects was a straightforward process. But explaining the purchase to the customers and prospects of Company B – the company our client acquired – did not go smoothly.

Our client crafted the message. It was beautifully written. The one-page email highlighted the strengths of bringing together two industry leaders, and shared how the unified organization was capable of delivering exceptional performance and leadership. Customers and prospects of Company B were assured by our client that service would be uninterrupted. They also were told of the wide array of services now available to them.

Unfortunately, the email campaign to Company B's audience didn’t go over well. Our client received more opt-outs, negative comments, and spam reports than ever before. The open rate was lower than usual, too.

The problem was that the announcement was sent from our client – not Company B. The email settings featured our client's name and the name and email address of their CEO. Apparently, the customers of Company B weren't keen on this approach. This was big news and the acquisition would have a significant impact on their business. Their interpretation of the message? "We're your new vendor now, and you'll love us." Well, they weren't going to automatically love our client, let alone automatically give them their business.

The upshot of this announcement was that our client had to work harder than expected to win over the customers of Company B.

There were additional consequences, too. All those opt-outs, negative comments and spam reports raised the red flag with our Email Service Provider (ESP). After a lengthy discussion, the ESP's compliance team determined that our client did not own the email addresses of Company B's customers and prospects. They stated that our client was in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act, and froze the email account until the list in question was removed. (We had a workaround, but it entailed a lot of work. But that's another story.)

At the time I wondered if Company B's customers would have been more receptive to the announcement had it come from the company they had worked with for years. My guess is yes. Sending the announcement from Company B would likely have generated a higher open rate, too.