If you’re hoping to sell your business, there are a number of things you need to do to prepare. These include getting your financials in order, doing your due diligence regarding the current business selling market, and obtaining a fair and accurate valuation of your business.
Once the business is prepared, however, it’s time to pull the trigger and put it on the market. As a business owner, you’re no doubt aware that just putting a “For Sale” sign up isn’t sufficient to attract the optimal buyer you’re hoping to attract. You’ll need to effectively advertise your business for sale, and that involves not only crafting compelling advertisements, but placing them intelligently in order to catch the attention of the right people and entice them to explore the opportunity further.
Writing the advertisement
Where your ad will be placed will impact its exact format, length, and other options. But the following basic principles apply regardless of where or how you’re placing the advertisement:
- Keep it professional: This isn’t the time to be cute or clever, as you might when advertising a product. You’re targeting serious investors and business owners and asking them to consider a high-priced transaction. Don’t talk down to them or try to make them laugh.
- Keep it brief: Your goal should not be to sell the business itself in your advertisement. Your goal is simply to entice the right kind of prospective buyer to seek out more information. Don’t overwhelm them with loads of information, just give them the best of the best and urge them to contact you. Pro tip: You can set up a webpage or print brochure with all the additional details you’re leaving out, then provide that to qualified leads who show interest.
- Think like a buyer: If you were scanning ads for your type of business for sale, which details would make you want to know more? That’s what you need to include in your advertisement — no more and no less. If you make the mistake of writing your ad from the perspective of what you (the current business owner) like most about your business, you’ll miss the mark.
- Eliminate “salesy” copywriting: This isn’t the place to squeeze in supposed “trigger words” or the kinds of linguistic tricks copywriters use to induce impulse purchases. Your target is a savvy businessperson who knows all those tricks and will only be turned off by the effort. If they’re the right prospective buyer, they’ll generate their own sense of urgency.
- Include visuals wherever possible: The more visual your advertisement is, the more interest it’s likely to generate. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so, when space for text is limited, quality images can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
- Keep the ad current: The average business sale takes 6-9 months from the point the first ads are placed to when the deal is closed. It’s important during that period to keep an eye on your advertisements and make sure they’re telling the current, accurate story of your business.
Placing the advertisement
Once you’ve planned out the “perfect” advertising content and images, it’s time to decide where you’re going to place the ad. Then, for each unique placement, you’ll probably need to massage the message a bit to optimize for that placement’s strengths.
- Local, national, or international: Depending on the type of business you’re selling and whether or not it can be easily and inexpensively relocated, you’ll know if you should be targeting buyers in the local area, or if you can expand your search wider than that. Pro tip: the fact that your business needs to remain local doesn’t necessarily mean buyers from another state or country might not be interested in moving in to take it over, but you’ll want to start with a local advertising concentration because that’s the more likely source.
- Mix online and offline channels: There are a number of reputable sites online where you can (and should) list your business for sale. But don’t forget about local newspapers, business organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and other offline opportunities that can be just as beneficial. For some opportunities, LinkedIn or Facebook advertising could be a good option.
- Consider contacting specific buyers: In some cases, your best chance to sell lies with your competition and/or local business owners with complementary products or services. If that could work in your circumstances, consider using the content you’ve developed for your general advertising to draft direct letters or emails to these individuals personally, offering them the opportunity to discuss the details. Pro tip: This strategy could be especially effective if you carry it out prior to placing your ads for the general public to see.
- Get help: As an entrepreneur, it’s probably tempting to assume you can handle the entire sale of your business, including where, when, and how to place your ads. But getting the help of a talented business broker can more than pay for itself in a higher purchase price, more favorable terms, a faster transaction, and less stress throughout the sale. At the very least, contact a local business broker for a consultation before you get too far into the selling process.
Following these tips, you can expect to be among the lucky minority of business owners who sell their businesses quickly, and for a fair price. If you’re ready to get started with advertising your business for sale, you can add your listing today.