Having something valuable to sell does not translate to having a buyer. Why? Because to attract the attention of buyers, you must be visible—to the right people. While a good product or service makes you visible, entrepreneurs have to raise awareness themselves.
Here some tips:
Ask yourself—Who needs to notice your company?
Your competitors are an obvious market. They do what you do; maybe they want to buy your company and do more of it. So, go ahead and identify large industry players, but go the next step as well. Identify what companies might want to add your business as a competitive advantage to their portfolio. Case in point–the company that acquired my business had a portfolio of HR-related companies and had just begun building legal and accounting divisions.
Once you have done your research, you are ready to start networking. I’m not talking about taking the easy way out and emailing or tweeting them. I’m talking about actual face to face contact. What conferences do they attend? What contacts do you have in common? Who could introduce you?
You can obviously start with those charged with acquisitions. But don’t stop with the obvious targets or assume you have to start at that level. . The reality is that you never know where a contact—whether social or professional—will lead. I knew I was going to sell my company some day, and I wasn’t shy about sharing that bold idea with anyone who would listen!
Ask yourself—How do I make the company visible?
I’m dating myself here, but I was operating pre-social media. The acquisitions person that called was someone I had reached out to early on in business. I had read about him, sent him a handwritten note, later chatted. Don’t kid yourself. The “old ways” still work because few are doing them. Today’s entrepreneurs have an entire new arsenal of tactics at their disposal via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram. Turn those imaginings into action. No excuses!
Here are a couple ideas from my playbook:
- Give lots of free, valuable advice consistently. As I mentioned in my last post, we wrote trade and magazine articles, career tip sheets, employer tip sheets, spoke at national and local conventions, participated in roundtables, joined committees, and sat on boards. We also reached out beyond our business world and did things like sponsor concerts and speakers. And yes, all this took time. A lot of time. My personal rule: I dedicated 50 percent of my time to this kind of marketing.
- Build trust relationships with reporters. I believe one of an entrepreneur’s duties is to speak for the company (primarily for brand consistency). It shouldn’t be delegated to a public relations firm or someone who isn’t in senior management. Thus, I reached out to local and national reporters with story ideas. Importantly, those story ideas were not about us, but were trend stories, up-and-comer stories, career success stories, and client stories. They not only helped establish the company as an expert in the field, but also helped the reporters succeed in their jobs. Reporters are always looking for ideas. Try it, you will see!
- Hired a team to put together impeccable financial summaries. As they say, part of success is knowing what you are not good at. Consequently, I hired two people I respected to help me showcase our financials in detail. I presented the financials at my first “casual” meeting with the acquisition’s lead. I thought he was going to faint. He told me it was not uncommon for them to have to go through shoeboxes filled with data to figure out the kind of information I presented! To this day, I believe our showcasing efforts were key to establishing credibility in our negotiations.
When I was approached about selling The Esquire Group, I was not in the market to sell, but forced myself to listen to the offer. In hindsight, I realize this was not a fluke, but a consequence of doing more than selling a good service.
- We advised others.
- We shared our good fortune.
- We knew who we were and who we were not.
All that made us an attractive purchase.
My commitment to advising did not end with the closing of the sale, however, so please comment below, or message me privately.
Remember…You’re Never Stuck!