Guest blog post by Patrick Smith of Selling Stories
For many businesses the main reason for undertaking a communications programme isn’t to shift the kit, instead it is to sell the entire business. Yet traditional communications plans are often ill-equipped to achieve this.
So whether you are a PR agency that has been briefed to achieve this for your client, or the client looking to understand how communications can help you create a successful exit, here are the five key steps to help you get started.
1. Explore the passion in the business
To achieve a successful exit you need to make the acquirer passionate about the business – you want them to fall in love with you. And as the old saying goes, you can’t be loved if you don’t love yourself. So discover (or rediscover) the passion that exists within the business already.
If you need to know where to look, then a good starting point would be with the founders – what was the passion that started the business? But you could also explore the current customers or staff to find out what makes them passionate about the business.
2. Research potential acquirers
For the business to be sold, someone has to buy it. But who might that be? Look at the business’s current offering and consider who in your sector is missing that skill. Or alternatively look at who is looking to break into your geographic market or customer base.
While you may not be bought by any of the companies on this list, creating it will help you to understand the reasons why you might be bought at all. You can then maximise those reasons to achieve the exit.
3. Get the message right
Similar to any traditional communications plan, the message will be vital. However, unlike traditional plans, in this case the message needs to be about the business itself rather than the products or services.
Although, in reality, the message needs to be about much more than just the business: it needs to tell the story of the potential. A strong narrative that outlines the potential will help to raise the value and create the successful 'exit'.
4. Tell the story
It’s one thing to get the message right, it’s another thing to tell the story effectively. Traditional PR skills will play an important part in this, but the natural tendency to use the business’s credentials to support the main goal of selling the products and services must be reversed. The expertise and the successful products and services will be communicated as part of the process, but the main goal must be to sell the business.
As the client, you must ensure that the agency understands its role. The agency model means that agencies want to retain clients and so don’t want to see them sold. For this reason many clients don’t brief the agency about the real reason for the communications. Instead the agency should be fully briefed, but the payment structure might need to be altered so that the right kind of success is rewarded.
5. Meet, network and press the flesh
Ultimately most sales are completed because the business owners get themselves in front of the right people. The communications will make the process smoother and can help increase the perceived value of the company (and therefore the price paid), but the communications plan cannot do it all alone.
So get yourself in front of the right people. And good luck!
Patrick Smith runs Selling Stories, which creates and communicates the story of the passion and potential in a business to help raise its exit value.