Transaction Tombstones

How Transaction Tombstones Win M&A Advisory Mandates

Author Ryan Gerhardy

Transaction tombstones were conceived in the Securities Act of 1933, which required the publication of a tombstone to be printed in a newspaper as the last step in a transaction involving the sale of equity securities. Since then, transaction tombstones have morphed into a standard piece of content used to market the services of a transaction professional and their firm.

Creating a transaction tombstone is now common practice for all transaction advisers (legal, financial, accounting, tax) and other parties (equity, debt, commercial) involved in a deal.

Modern deal tombstones serve three purposes:

  1.  To announce the close of a transaction
  2. Demonstrate experience
  3. Win new business

Announcing the transaction is useful to market the firm and celebrate with the team. Albeit creating a tombstone is much less enjoyable for an analyst than celebrating at the closing dinner, high fiving colleagues, or kissing babies as you parade the latest success fee! 

Demonstrating experience and winning new business is the real objective of creating transaction tombstones.

Tombstones are most commonly displayed on a firm’s website and within marketing materials (pitchbooks, RFPs and flyers). Thousands of tombstones have been created using Pitchly and the customers who consistently use tombstones to market their services achieve the following five things.

1. Relevancy of Your Role, Services

Tombstones are a visual representation of experience and should allow a reader to find experiences relevant to their needs easily.

Clearly labeling or displaying the service you provided is the most important criteria. This can be achieved a number of ways. Most commonly, the service is displayed directly on the tombstones in the text. Another common approach is including the role in the context it is displayed in, allowing a website visitor to filter tombstones by service.

2. Notable Industry and Sector Experience 

If your client’s brand is popular with consumers it is not necessary to display their industry. However, if the brand does not have popular consumer recognition, it’s important to include it. Typically this is achieved in the context surrounding the tombstone. Either by allowing users to navigate to a specific industry page or by filtering a list of transactions by industry.

Whatever your approach, it is important to demonstrate the industries you have transacted with. This allows you to represent your understanding of the nuances involved in getting a deal done in that sector.

3. Achieve Consistency for Optimal Impact

Many of our clients did not display their tombstones in a consistent format before using Pitchly. Design inconsistencies confuse your reader, which makes displaying your client and the side of the transaction you worked on very important.

It is standard practice that a two-party tombstone should display the name or logo of the client first, followed by the transaction counter-party. The same for a three-party tombstone.

 

4. Counter-parties Showcases Complex Deals 

When advising a transaction the rule of thumb is “mo'(re) parties, mo'(re) problems.” 

While it might increase your workload (and stress levels), working for multiple stakeholders can help to broaden the experience you can demonstrate to prospective clients.

Using the ‘multiple counter-party approach’ to increase one logo tombstones to two or three logo tombstones can increase the number of service experiences your firm has advised on in a particular industry by 200-300%.

 

For instance, if your firm has not advised a client in mobile telecommunication but AT&T acquired one of your sell-side clients, this would an example of relevant experience. You understand what AT&T acquired, what and how they paid for it, and the key negotiation points that closed the deal.

Watch our video showing how easily you can adjust from a one to three logo tombstone using our solution.

5. Display your strengths

Including the close date and the deal value is a controversial topic. Large firms often benefit from displaying both of these metrics because they close many large deal value transactions. Small and medium-sized firms shy away from displaying either data point. They don’t frequently close transactions and often they are a mix of small and large deal value transactions.

We advise our small firm clients to display to their strengths. If they have a few standout deal value transactions, display smaller deal size values as “Confidential.” The same for the close date, if you have a string of closings in a particular year, display the close date year and stay silent on the others.

Happy transacting!

Transaction tombstones have been synonymous with professional service firms and employees. Tombstones are created and displayed frequently today but they often miss the five key objectives discussed here. Website visitors are looking to filter relevant transaction advisers, you would be wise to make sure your website helps and not hinders this process!

Watch our video and see how easy it is to adjust and format Tombstones to make your experience achieve these five things!