How to Create an SEO Agency You Can Sell
SEO Agency: I suppose before we get into HOW to create an SEO agency that you can sell, we should probably touch on WHY you might want to sell your SEO company (aside from the bags of money).
I know you’re probably thinking, “Why would I ever want to sell my agency? I created it from scratch! That business is my baby (or “passion project” or “all I have” depending on how strong the drama queen within rages on).”
Did we mention bags of money already? Yep.
Stick around and hear us out. Even if those are your feelings, the truth is every business should be run as if you plan on selling it one day. Both because of the aforementioned bags of money, and the other legitimate reasons we’ll get into now.
When it comes to the right moment to prepare your SEO agency to be sold, the time is now.
It’s the old Boy Scout motto of “always be prepared.” You don’t want to find yourself in a position to be fielding offers, but not have your business ready to sell.
After all, stuff happens. Life comes at your fast. Other clichés. It can be as small as a desire to spend more times with loved ones or as major as needing to afford a medical bill or other unforeseen expense.
Maybe you’ll fall in love with a new business. Perhaps a career change is in order. Early (or on time) retirement can be the reason for wanting to sell as well. Bags of money come in handy for this last one in particular.
Organizing your business to be ready to sell from the start, or starting now, will allow you to hit eject when you need or want. It will also make your SEO agency more valuable.
Here’s What Investors Look For In An Agency
There are numerous reasons an investor may take interest in your SEO company. Perhaps they’re trying to thin out the competition, or maybe they want to enter the space hitting the ground running. It could just be that they want to strengthen their investment portfolio. However, there is some common ground when it comes to what they want to see in your agency.
Here are six factors that an investor will be seeking when the time comes to sell your business:
1. Recurring Revenue
One benefit that attracts investors is the business model for recurring revenue that the SEO industry offers. After all, it’s always easier to sell to an existing customer than to attract new ones. A subscription-based product or consulting contract delivers recurring revenue with ease.
Deriving your monthly income from a wide variety of clients from one-off sales throughout the month can, of course, provide revenue to your business, but it can be unpredictable. The reliability that comes from recurring revenue from your loyal customers will be more attractive to a potential investor.
As we all know, SEO is an ongoing effort. Having recurring revenue from a slew of loyal customers should be a given.
As such, offering one-off consultations won’t be in your favour.
Here are two approaches you may want to consider:
- Hard contracts. SEO is not a short game. To succeed, businesses need to be in it for the long haul. A six month, year-long or multi-year contract is that business investment in their own success. When an investor knows you’re guaranteed income every month based on your contracts, they’re going to have confidence in your business.
- Automatically renewed subscriptions. It’s the model of SaaS products everywhere. Even if you don’t have a contract, revenue that renews every month is a good model for a business. A sale you’re making when you already have their payment information is almost always easier than a new sale. They’ve already got their foot in the door. Keep that revenue recurring monthly.
2. Don’t Be Irreplaceable
Most investors aren’t looking for another job. They have one and aren’t looking to shoulder your responsibilities.
Business owners that wear too many hats can make them difficult to replace.
Your business should be a well-oiled, systematized, organized machine. One that can run with or without you, because the systems to succeed are already in place and well-established.
Obviously, it’s important to have the right team in place. However, it’s imperative to have all your processes systematized and that your employees be well-trained. Doing so will not only provide you with more free time, but it will make your business more valuable in the eyes of an investor.
3. A History of Proven Sales
One thing potential investors will look for is consistent sales growth that spans a long period. It’s shows the investor that the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. It demonstrates proven earnings and established success that can help indicate future earnings, making a potential investor more comfortable when opening their wallet.
Both businesses that have a sudden growth spike and ones that do not boast great sales will certainly be a red flag to potential investors.
It’s important to keep detailed records of your business income and expenses. Not only will it allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of your agency, but it will increase confidence in a potential buyer.
If you don’t already have an accounting professional in-house, it may be time to bring someone into the fold. Even if you have to outsource it. It will lessen your burden and enhance the value of your SEO agency.
4. A Solid Customer Base
A business that serves only a handful of customers is a risky proposition. One client seeking greener pastures could significantly rock the boat. This can lead you’re a potential investor going overboard.
That’s why it’s so important to have a broad client base. A referral program is a great way to achieve this. Think about the Uber or GrubHub methods. Both you and the person you refer to get a discount. Everyone wins, especially you.
After that, think about turning your SEO skills on yourself. Build a backlink strategy and consider other methods of lead generation, such as an eBook or other exclusive content. This will help you to grow a solid client base and put your SEO company in good position to sell.
5. Service a Niche
Often times, it’s better to be the big fish in a small pond than vice versa. If your SEO company focuses on a specific type of clients or even one single location, it can increase your sale number.
It may seem counter-productive to limit your business to just one small area, but it’s usually better to be really good at one thing that kind of good at a lot of things. If you can easily identify your core customer and understand your value proposition and unique offering to them, you’re going to attract your SEO agency to potential investors.
It even makes sense from an SEO perspective. Your site doesn’t have to cast a wide net for potential customers, but can instead be keyword specific to a targeted audience for which it’s easier to rank.
Focusing on a specific niche offers many advantages, including finding new clients more easily and giving your client base the attention it deserves.
6. Know the Problem You Solve
In order to service your identified niche, it’s imperative to comprehend the problem you’re solving for consumers. Even more so than the solution you offer!
When you have great insight into the motivations of your customers, it’s easy to make a sale. That goes for your customers and your potential investors.
That can be easier said than done.
Here are a few tips to help you:
- Identify what is needed and want to do it. It’s easy to say you want to start an SEO agency. It’s a little more difficult to answer WHY you’re doing it in the first place. You’re going to get an investor’s attention if you can gain a complete understanding of that need and you’re passionate about solving that problem and helping businesses grow. Your enthusiasm for your cause will be contagious.
- Hone your elevator pitch. Sure, you need to do this to sell your solution to new clients. Mastering your elevator pitch will come in handy when it’s time to sit down with an investor. You need to be able to fully communicate the problem you’re solving in a mere 20-30 seconds.
- Know your enemies. Contrary to what you may want to believe, you are not the first person who decided to create an SEO agency. Investors have no shortage of options when it comes to finding the right SEO company. You need to know what you do better. How have you created a better mousetrap? If you can easily communicate this, you’re in good shape.
If you can accomplish these points and form them together to tell a compelling story, you’re going to have investors knocking down your door.
Are you considering selling your SEO agency? Have you done so already?
Share your experience or tips in the comments below!
Jamie FitzHenry is the founder of Grizzly, an SEO Agency based in Bristol, UK. Jamie has been involved in the digital marketing industry for over 4 years helping small to medium size businesses enhance their online presence through different digital strategies.