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; and to

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 the Analyst then celebrating at the closing dinner, or by high fiving colleagues and kissing babies as you parade the latest success fee! Demonstrating experience and winning new business is the real objective of creating transaction tombstones, and the combination of the tombstone and the context they are presented in should be all the necessary information a reader requires. Tombstones are most commonly displayed on a firm website and within marketing materials (pitchbooks, RFPs, flyers). Thousands of tombstones have been created using our software and the customers that use tombstones to market their services the best consistently display the following five things.

1) Role. Clearly labeling or displaying the service you provided is the most important criteria. Tombstones are a visual representation of experience and should allow a reader to find experiences relevant to their needs easily. This can be achieved a number of ways. Most commonly the service is displayed directly on the tombstones in text “Buy-side Advisor”. Another common approach is including the role in the context it is displayed in. For instance a pitchbook page titled “Recent examples of Sell-side Advisory engagements” or allowing a website visitor to filter tombstones by service. Website visitors are looking to fulfill a need. If I was looking to acquire a bank branch, the KPMG CF tombstone on the right clearly displays this skill-set.

2) Industry. This is either very important or insignificant. If your client is a brand that is ubiquitous to consumers it is not necessary to display their industry. Otherwise, we think it is very important. Typically this is achieved in the context surrounding the tombstone by allowing users to navigate to a specific industry page of tombstones or by filtering a list of transactions by industry. Whatever your approach, it is important to demonstrate the industries you have transacted in to be represent your understanding of the nuances involved in getting a deal done in that sector.

3) Client. Obviously, displaying your client and the side of the transaction you worked on is important. More than half of our clients did not do this adequately before using Pitchly. They either did not address item 1) above or their tombstones contain design inconsistencies which confuse a reader. We feel it is standard practice that a two party tombstone should display the name or logo of the client first followed by the transaction counterparty. The same for a three party tombstone.

4) Counter-parties. 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. For instance if your firm has not advised a client in mobile telecommunication but AT&T acquired one of your sell-side clients, that is relevant experience. You understand what AT&T acquired, what and how they paid for it, and the key negotiation points that closed the deal. Using the multiple counter-party approach to increase one logo tombstones to two or three logo tombstone can increase the number of service experiences your firm has advised on in a particular industry by 200-300%.

5) Date and/or value. Including the date a deal was closed 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 because they don’t frequently close transactions and often they are 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 close date, if you have a string of closings in a particular year display the close date year and stay silent on the others.

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!

Happy transacting!

About Pitchly

Pitchly makes it easy for corporate finance professionals to store information about transactions the their firm advised on. Users add a transaction through an easy-to-use based platform specific to their firm. Key information is stored, customizable, searchable, and can be marked confidential. Users can also create tombstones and case studies to a transaction for use in pitchbooks, digital or printed marketing material and for display to their website. Sign up for a free account here.

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