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Selling Your Business…Buying An Online Presence With It

When you’re buying or selling a business, particularly a retail or restaurant style business, it’s easy to get so caught up in the physical and legal aspects, like property owned by the business, inventory, and business agreements, that you forget the electronic stuff. What I’m talking about here is the business’s online presence. Well-marketed, well-cared for businesses don’t stop at their website. Their online presence includes an array of listings, social marketing platforms, Youtube and other audio or video accounts, email marketing lists, and quite possibly one or more hosting accounts or domain names. That online presence, even if it hasn’t been updated recently, has value…significant value in many cases.

How do you include an online presence in the sale of a business?

The first step is to make a list of your business’s holdings or online assets. These include domain names and hosting accounts, social marketing logins and accounts, an email newsletter or marketing list, Youtube or other audio or video accounts, and memberships or directory listings. Whether you’re preparing to change ownership or not, you ought to maintain this list as it evolves. Truthfully, many small business owners neglect that level of record keeping, which is quite possibly why it’s often overlooked at the negotiating table. In the course of daily business, online marketing is essential to drawing new clients almost universally now, even if keeping track of your presence in terms of assets and records falls by the wayside.

If you’re looking to sell, the list of your online assets represents a significant investment in marketing that’s quantifiable. If you’ve done a good job with your online marketing, you should have numbers that correlate to profits for your company. At the very least, your online presence ought to show potential buyers that you’ve built a name that recognizable in your field and to your customers. As you negotiate the terms of your sale, don’t forget to weigh the value of those online assets in your final price.

If you’re buying a business, the online assets it comes with can save you a lot of time and money, assuming you’ve taken the time to claim all of them. Don’t just assume the previous owner included all of the appropriate online assets in the terms of sale automatically. Ask, of course, but also take the time to do a little searching yourself. Review the business’s website and make a list of any feeds or links to other listings or social marketing sites you find. Many businesses import text from their social marketing sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, to their website as feeds. Youtube videos and links to social sites like Yelp or Angie’s List that are relevant may also show up. In some cases, you’ll find forms to fill out for some of those sites, like Trip Advisor, that have been embedded in the website, too.

After you’ve finished reviewing the business’s website, take time to search Google, Yahoo, and Bing for the business to see if any further listings pop up. Even if the previous owners didn’t integrate feeds or embedded forms from their other social media or directory accounts onto the business website, they may have set-up those accounts. Make a list of any you find as well. Remember to include email marketing in your list, too. Especially if it includes 1000 or more names, that email mailing list could be a huge asset for your marketing. Be sure to get the email mailing list as a CSV file, particularly if it was created and managed by the previous owner, so you can easily add it to Mail Chip or the program or service you plan to use for email marketing.

On the Day of the Sale: Transferring Online Assets Painlessly

Assuming you’ve done your homework and you have an accurate and exhaustive list of the online assets included in the sale, you’ll need to go about the business of transferring ownership on all of them. As a part of the terms of your sale, you’ll want to ensure you’ve made the appropriate financial arrangements to cover the time it takes to make all the appropriate transfers. If, for instance, you’ll need to have a third-party, such as a graphic designer or IT specialist, set up the new logins and make the necessary transfers, be clear about who will pay him or her for the work. Then, be sure to let him or her know so you don’t end up with a surprise bill for the work later on.

Once you’ve worked out all the details and signed on the dotted line, it’s time to transfer your online assets. Begin with your domain name or names. You’ll need to know what registrar was used and you need to talk to the person who initially set it up. In some cases, the previous owner or a staff member will be able to help out. In others, you’ll need to talk to the third-party designer who registered the initial domain name and set-up the website. You will be looking to either take over that account and add all of your information, or you will want to transfer it to your new registrar, in which case you’ll need to get an EPP Code from the old registrar to complete the transfer.

Once you’ve transferred the domain name, you’ll need to make choices about hosting. If you decide to stick with the hosting service that’s already in place, you’ll only need to ensure you have a working administrative login setup for the new owner giving full administrative access to not just the website but to the hosting account and cPanel as well. If you want to use a different hosting service, you’ll need to make arrangements to transfer the website and recreate any email addresses that were on that server. That will probably require help from a graphic designer or other technical expert who can make sure the site and email are transferred and any hitches or problems on the way are fixed.

When your website is in place, work through your list of social marketing platforms. Facebook is the easiest, so I like to start there, but truly the order you choose doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re methodical and you ensure the new owner is available for questions and answers through the process. Ideally, the person doing the transferring and the person to whom the accounts, listings, and logins are being transferred will work through the list together, at the same computer, in the same room. That allows the new owner to ask questions and become familiar enough with each site, service, or program to take over smoothly. If both parties cannot be present through the transferring process, ensure they’re both available through telephone rather than just through text until the process is complete.

After you’ve finished the social marketing list, tackle the listing services. These will generally include listings for sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor for which the business has claimed listings. Again, be sure the one doing the transfers and the one receiving the transfers are present through the process. When these are done, tackle any audio or video services like You Tube, and then Mail Chimp or other email services.

It’d be nice to get all of the online assets transferred in one fell swoop, but that’s probably not going to be the way it works out. For one, it can feel like a daunting amount of work with and endless number of details. For some online assets, all the work can be done online and the transfer will be instant. For others, it can take up to 14 days for the changes to be completed, such as is the case with many domain registrars. A few sites or services, like Yelp, may require you to prove ownership, often by showing them a copy of your first utility bill, forcing you to put off those transfers longer than you might like. Bite off chunks that seem reasonable to you, but don’t let it languish. You’ll want to complete the work within 30 days for bricks and mortar businesses and within a week for online businesses. The key is to be diligent and methodical.

Whether you’re buying or selling, taking the time to care for the online assets for your business is an investment in the success of the business and in the success of the sale.

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