How to Lead Your Marketing Team Through an Acquisition

CMO Spotlight: Judy Hackett, D&B Credibility Corp

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Few phrases can put a marketing team's nerves on edge like "we're getting acquired." It's enough to compel even the most weatherworn marketer to reach for his or her resume. Those of us fortunate enough to work under a leader like Judy Hackett, however, can breathe a sigh of relief. As CMO of D&B Credibility Corp, Hackett recently helped her company thrive through an acquisition like a pro. The CMO Club recognized her with an Officers Award for her work late last year, after which I spoke with her about the experience. Here are a few of Hackett's illuminating and truly inspiring insights for newly acquired novices.

Judy Hackett
Judy Hackett

Let your performance to speak for itself
When Hackett and her team were ushered under the umbrella of the larger Dun & Bradstreet company, she immediately set to work on priority No. 1 -- demonstrating value. "We focused heavily on the success of our sales teams, which resulted in beating both our top- and bottom-line targets for our division," she says. Hackett led her team through an impressive 30-day rebranding, the launch of a new concierge service for Hoovers and several product relaunches in the first full quarter. Aside from being a fantastic financial success, says Hackett, "The sheer magnitude of what marketing and product accomplished in demonstrating value in our first quarter was impressive."

Know how to navigate the new environment
How could her heretofore-agile team step in and operate so nimbly, given the challenges in efficiency inherent to most large organizations? Think "meeting hell," the clumsy tediousness of PowerPoint decks, red tape galore. Admittedly, Hackett says, it wasn't easy. "It's really important to mentor your teams through that change," she says. "Setting clear goals with a focus on revenue success helped the team to prioritize what was truly important" and avoid the aforementioned sand traps.

Hackett also offered advice to guide those working on cross-departmental projects for the first time. First, on assuming a position: "If you are going to pitch something, defend something or oppose something, make sure it has strong business rationale behind it." Second, she says it's important to always have a backup plan and be prepared to compromise. Lastly, and this is important for all of us in marketing, "Try to remember that marketing is in a position of serving the rest of the organization. Put on a service hat."

Positively engage your employees
A little bit of internal motivation (and fun) helps, too. Hoping to make a fast sales impact after assuming the Hoovers business for D&B -- we're talking about taking a new service to market within two months -- Hackett pulled together a team from across the organization, many of whom were happy to take on new responsibilities. "We got sales teams excited by creating a huge Formula One racing event and themed everything 'off to the races'" to spice up the push, and along with ambitious direct marketing efforts, the campaign electrified all involved. "When the first sale was made," says Hackett, "you could hear the celebration from Austin to Malibu."

Looking ahead, Hackett hopes to lead the rest of the organization by example and positively affect the culture at Dun & Bradstreet to "one that resembles a more agile approach to product launches and go-to-market." It's certainly an ambitious goal in a company so large, global and public, but I have no doubts that Hackett is up to the challenge.