Selling an online business? Don’t get caught out — put the virtual cherry on top and make the most of your business as you prepare to pass it on. Show potential investors your success, and hint at future ones yet to come. Whether you are moving onto pastures new, or just want to make the most of your exit — preparation is key. Here are six things online business owners need to do in the run up to a business sale.
#1 - Collect all your data
Don’t let a lack of organization slow the sale down, and get everything lined up well in advance.
There will be plenty of documentation that you’ll need to dig out in order to sell your internet business to someone else. Chances are that some of that vital data is locked behind obscure online portals that you may have forgotten the logins for. As it’s probably been years since you last needed to change hosting arrangements or update your PayPal address, it’s easy to see how data can get lost or misplaced. Dig out any old passwords and passcodes now, and make sure that all accounts are verified and updated with the latest details to avoid any embarrassing data mishaps.
Financial and historic data will be useful to have to hand when serious buyers come and ask serious questions. Don’t get caught out and miss out on a good conversation due to lack of preparation. Speak to your bank and download historical revenue data to get an accurate picture of ROI.
Buying a business off you means that people will be judging you on qualities like credibility and awareness. If there are chinks in your operational armor, it will reflect badly on the sale, and mean you might not get such a good deal. This is especially the case for a small business owner managing the sale themselves (known as FSBO — For Sale by Owner).
#2 - Improve analytics where you can
In the months leading up to a sale, re-engage with your analytics dashboard and see whether you can make any tweaks and improvements. This is all about showing the buyer the potential of the business, and prove that it’s still responding positively to change. Tweaks will range from simple SEO page optimization blasts, to more complex web development improvements.
The goal is to create an impression of an internet business that still has some room for growth — buyers are always looking for potential to invest in, and won’t be interested in a business that seems "burned out".
#3 - Make the most of customer experience
When people buy an internet business, one of the first places they look is at the customer community around the website.
Social media posts, Google reviews, client testimonials — all these are analyzed to get an idea of how the business has fared with customers in the past. A lengthy and varied customer history will reassure, whereas an empty timeline and 0 reviews will set the alarm bells off.
Here is your customer experience checklist:
- Get as many verified customer reviews as possible and display them proudly on your website and social media
- Make sure you respond to anyone who engages with your business online to create a sense of community & dialogue — even if it’s a delayed response, it’s still better than nothing. Deal with any negative comments out in the open
- Create some long-form testimonial style content (or videos) and present them to the world
A great brand track record will reassure buyers that they are buying into a legitimate brand with a readymade following — one of the #1 reasons they are shopping around for an established business in the first place.
#4 - Complete any unfinished work
Get those updated logo files off your designer, update that page you’ve been meaning to tackle for awhile, schedule in those last blog posts, launch that e-campaign... Basically, make sure that you don’t pass on any unfinished projects to the new owner. By squaring things off, you will have maximized your investment in the business, and won’t have anything left to achieve.
A new owner will appreciate starting from a "blank slate", so don’t try to direct them into doing things your way. It’s time to finish what you came here to do, and move on.
#5 - Broach it with your team
This can be a tricky one — timing is everything. A loyal virtual assistant or social media manager may feel blindsided by your decision to sell out, so give them time to process and adapt to your announcement. It will depend on the terms of the sale what happens to any existing contracts, but explain to everyone that you will do your best to keep their interests at heart. You’ll have to accept that some people may prefer to move on when the time comes.
Any suppliers that you’ve been particularly close with also deserve to know of an impending sale, but only once things are a bit more firmed up. You don’t want to destabilize the business right before sale and risk damaging its equity.
#6 - Re-write your sales pitch a few times
The first "business for sale" ad you write shouldn’t be your last one. Have a few goes at it to make sure that you’re really selling the business to a potential new buyer. It’s easy to lean on tired cliches and sales phrases, but the best business for sale ads are direct and powerful in their simplicity. It’s about showing off business potential and growth figures, not going into long-winded stories about how you first started...
If you are using a brokerage service, you won’t have to worry so much about the pitch — the brokers will help you sell your business to interested parties. If you’re placing your business online yourself as a FSBO sale, you will be on your own and need to have a good ad in order to attract any interest. An online marketplace is a good place to list a website for sale as you’ll be able to reach potential buyers 24/7, but don’t expect to get a load of calls just from one ad. You’ll need to work a bit harder than that to get a good price.
Putting up an online business for sale doesn’t have to be a long-winded and complex task. Just put in a bit of prep work beforehand to ensure that everything goes off smoothly. The more prepared you are, the more likely you will be to get a good deal. Partner with the right people to get your online business on the market quickly and smoothly, and don’t be afraid of tackling certain elements yourself.
Professional writer turned ecommerce entrepreneur, Vicky hails from the windy city. She loves nothing more than to chat about all things content & marketing on her blog.
More on the topic: