Marketing + Communications

Branding a business for sale

There are lots of reasons for making an investment in your business’ brand, and it’s usually for growth. However, more and more, we are approached by business leaders looking for help in preparing for their exit, whether that’s for sale, an MBO or employee ownership.

Before we go any further, here’s our usual reminder: your brand isn’t your logo. It’s everything about your business: it’s your culture, your methodology, how your people behave, and yes, your communications and visual identity. We talked about it in our last piece.

Making different decisions

If you’ve ever run your own business, you’ve likely spent countless hours building your brand and establishing a strong presence in the market with consistent, year after year, marketing and communications. You’ve done brilliantly – well done.

I know what you’re going to say: “Lucy, why on earth would I want to sell my business?”. And I get it, I don’t want to sell mine either! But the point is this: at some point, after many years of operating a successful, profitable business, we might find that our situation has changed and it simply makes sense to capitalise on all our hard work.

Maybe you’re retiring or your personal circumstances have changed. Maybe it’s about capitalising on market conditions and you need to act quickly. Or maybe it’s a strategic decision to sell the business as part of a broader plan to grow or diversify your portfolio.

How do you brand your business for sale to maximise its value and attract the right buyers? How do your decisions need to change?

The difference between branding a business for growth and branding a business for sale.

Isn’t branding just branding? What difference does it make whether we’re branding a new business hungry for growth or a successful business we’re eager to sell and get a good price for?

Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to turn your tagline into, “buy me now” or “show me the money!”. The differences are altogether more subtle, but they can have a powerful effect when done properly.

Branding for growth

Branding a business for growth involves building a strong and sustainable client experience that will support your long-term business objectives. It focuses on elements like product differentiation, market positioning, and client engagement.

In short, everything is geared towards reaching your clients with your product and service, fulfilling their wants and desires and finding a place in their conscious and subconscious minds.

Branding for sale

On the other hand, branding a business for sale emphasises the tangible and intangible assets that will appeal to potential buyers. The goal is to showcase the business’s unique selling points, highlight its financial performance, and demonstrate its scalability and potential for growth under new ownership.

Again, this doesn’t mean completely changing your brand to attract buyers rather than clients. Branding a business for sale is an exercise you do in addition to the care you take in developing your business. After all, who would want to buy a business that doesn’t put its clients and employees at the centre of things?

Branding for sale is all about bringing out the elements of your business that show it as an attractive commercial proposition.

A business buyer is looking for:

  • Strong market presence and brand recognition.
  • A great client list and order book.
  • Data – the new currency.
  • A future for their investment.

Here’s what you need to know.

Your market presence

You need to be visible in the market: seen to be part of it, active in your community, alive and vibrant and dynamic. Nobody wants to invest in a dying business.

You have to step up your marketing and communications activity and be more visible in the market. Sponsor industry events, increase your communications activity, speak out. Visibility matters, not just for catching a buyer’s eye (there are agents that will do that for you) but for convincing them that your business is a viable investment.

Your client list and order book

Luma FsYou will have made choices over the years about the clients and projects you take on. Choices probably based on the kind of work you want to do and the people you like to work with. Maybe using the 4 Fs.

Your client list and order book are a key asset – probably the most important one you have. A buyer is making a purchase decision based on a steady, reliable profitable income stream. They want to know that your projects are profitable and that your clients are able to pay their bills, long after the business becomes theirs.

You need to choose differently. Start to weed out those tiny clients that you love working with but make you no money and work harder to bring in the bigger businesses with a stronger balance sheet.

You need to work differently too, properly using those in-house systems that you’ve only given half a chance. The data that your project management and accounting platforms give you will show where you are losing money and need to tighten up – you can’t be casual about it any longer. Every project and every client need to be profitable.

This would be a good moment for a client feedback exercise, finding out what your clients like about you and how you could improve. And also creating the opportunity to let them know that you’re about to change the way you work.

Your data

What do we mean by data in this situation? Your financials, yes, but your accountant is on top of that. We mean your client database, your market reach, and the information that comes out of your project management system.

A business buyer is looking for a database of clients and potential clients. What is the potential market reach of your business? It’s time to get your database cleaned up and bring your email marketing to life (of course, your database is already in top shape because you’re on top of your GDPR regulations). A clean database is a key asset. It leads to a high quality email marketing list with good response rate, which demonstrates that your brand is well known and well respected in the market.

Your market reach, however, is more than your client database and email list. It’s your social media presence and your website traffic. Yes, the marketing metrics that people like me get all excited about.

These things take time to grow, and will continue to deliver for your business long after you’ve made your exit. Get stuck in, now. The bigger and more reliable these numbers are, the more your business is worth.

A future for their investment

Let’s be honest. When you sell your business, you’re handing your life’s work over to someone else. It’s emotive. And the buyer is trusting you to ensure that their investment has a future, long after you’ve gone. This is the main reason that a business owner is often contracted to remain in place for a year or so (the ‘golden handcuffs’).

The future of your business lies in its culture, in its people. Unless the buyer simply wants to absorb your clients and projects, the business needs to be able to survive without you.

And you began this work long ago when you clarified your vision, mission and values and helped your people understand why they mattered. This is what really lies at the heart of your brand – the experience people have of working with you – and it will outlast you. Chances are, when the new owner rebrands your business in 12 months’ time, the vision, mission and values won’t have changed much because that’s what attracted them in the first place.

Your loyal clients and employees need to be confident that they have a future with the business, whoever owns it, so that they can give their best work and help the new owner build a stronger future.

The importance of brand when selling a business

Let’s go back in time. Remember photo days at school? You’d get plonked in front of a grey screen and the photographer would try their darnedest to get you to smile and look your best. There were always a couple of kids who didn’t like to play ball and try as the photographer might, they’d never get that all-important smile.

Why was the photographer going out of their way to make you pop a grin? Because when the kids looked happy, the parents would be much more likely to pay for it. See where we’re going with this? The same applies when branding your business. You have to show off your best qualities, which are going to be most attractive to your target buyer.

While a parent might be obliged to buy a photo of their child looking surly and disinterested, a potential buyer of your business will not be so forgiving. You need a metaphorical business grin, presenting those pearly whites in all their glory.

A strong brand is your most valuable asset when it comes to selling a business. It represents the company’s identity, reputation, and client loyalty, all of which are critical factors for potential buyers. You will be able to command a higher selling price, attract more qualified buyers, and secure a faster sale

Top tips for branding a business for sale.

When branding your business for sale, here are a few top tips to help you maximise profitability and find the right buyer for you and your business.

  • Conduct a brand audit: Assess your current brand assets, including your logo, website, marketing materials, client satisfaction and online presence. Identify areas for improvement and make any necessary updates to ensure a consistent and professional image.
  • Check your marketing metrics: website analytics, email marketing response rate, social media engagement, media presence, cost of sales, win rate, client satisfaction… Find out how you’re doing, check it against your competitors and make your communications work harder to improve those metrics.
  • Highlight your business’s unique selling points: Showcase the key aspects that differentiate your business from competitors, such as a strong market position, innovative products or services, or a loyal client base.
  • Showcase your financial performance: Prepare a clear and accurate financial summary that highlights your business’s profitability and growth potential. This will help buyers understand the value they’re getting and the potential for future growth.
  • Demonstrate scalability: Show potential buyers how your business can grow under their ownership. Present a clear plan for expansion and provide examples of how the business has scaled in the past.
  • Engage a professional: Consider engaging a professional marketing firm like Luma Marketing to help you develop and implement a comprehensive branding strategy for your business sale.

The bottom line

Before you even consider selling your business, you need to consider what you can do from a branding perspective to set your business and brand in the best possible position. By following these tips and showcasing your business’s unique value, you’ll be well on your way to a successful sale.

Let’s be clear. This isn’t a quick job. Preparing your business for sale, implementing the changes you need to make and securing the right buyer (never mind negotiating the transaction) takes years, not months.

If you’re ready to brand your business for sale and maximize its potential, contact Luma Marketing today. Our team of experts will guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome.


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