The life cycle of a digital agency is complex and nuanced. Every agency goes through a range of processes as it launches, markets itself, and grows. But like everything in life, the cycle also ends, and many agency owners eventually exit the market.
Regardless of which stage your agency is in, you may have a few questions about how best to run it and how to make solid decisions about the future.
If you’re looking to sell your agency and exit the market, you may also have questions about how to go about selling your agency, how to find a reputable buyer for your business, and what makes an agency successful – and attractive to potential buyers.
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most common questions digital agency owners and leaders have about creating a business that can withstand changes of ownership and management without losing the ability to thrive.
How to Sell My Agency
It may seem like a tough truth to take on board, but most digital agencies have a limited lifespan. Agencies close and shift between owners on a constant basis due to factors that range from stress and financial pressure to an eagerness to try something new.
Even if you aren’t yet planning on selling your agency, having a plan of sale will enhance the way you operate your business now. Your choice to eventually sell will likely be based on changing personal circumstances. Building a resilient agency now can help to ensure that if you do ever choose to sell, you’ll earn a solid return for your hard work.
The first point to consider when selling a digital agency is how saleable it is to begin with. Your agency needs to have recurring revenue sources, key advantages over its competitors, and a replicable formula that can be used to attract new business. Not only that, but it should also be a well-recognised brand.
The most saleable agencies are also globally competitive and have a unique edge over their international rivals. In essence, this means that they offer specialised services developed through years of experience, which are sold to niche markets that can’t find those services anywhere else. If your agency has a clear target audience and many years of collective experience in a specific sector, it will be worth far more in the eyes of potential buyers.
It’s also a good idea to look for a buyer at the right time.
If your agency is struggling to make ends meet or you’re in debt, your sale will fetch a far lower price than you’d receive if it was thriving and profitable. The best strategy to secure a great sale price is to start planning for the sale around a year in advance. This gives you time to streamline cash flow and improve your profits as much as possible. Doing so will help to catch buyers’ eyes when your agency goes on the market.
How to Find a Buyer for My Agency
Once you’re prepared to sell your agency, you’ll be tasked with finding the right buyer. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to start networking and building relationships with other agencies and digital marketing organisations ASAP.
Your agency’s partners are arguably the most logical choice when it comes to finding buyers, as they already know how your agency works and what it can produce. This approach makes marketing your agency much simpler and selling within your network ensures that you can trust your chosen buyer with a fair sale.
You can also expand your network by using online platforms like Clutch to connect your agency with other owners, firms, and clients. This increases your visibility to the people who are looking to team up with (or buy) agencies just like yours, which boosts your chances of a smooth sale. Use your online presence to highlight your reviews, size, specialisations, and rates while your potential buyers search for agencies using categories and filters.
Attending real-world events is another effective strategy for getting the word out about your desire to sell. Conferences and networking events provide plenty of opportunities to expand your network and get in touch with people looking to buy and operate successful digital agencies.
You can also reach out to agency leaders and founders, ask for more information about their operational strategies, and build connections on a personal and professional level.
What Makes a Good Agency?
The digital marketing industry is highly competitive, and as many agencies essentially offer the same services, you need to work hard at differentiating your offerings to make your brand stand out. According to a survey by Ecoconsultancy and the Agency Collective, twelve agency owners, founders and directors have identified a few key characteristics that make an agency truly worth clients’ and buyers’ time.
The business leaders cited talent and experience as core factors, along with the savvy use of technology when it comes to delivering exceptional results to clients. The best agencies are highly efficient in executing their strategies, their teams are likeable and approachable, and they focus on using innovative approaches to create highly effective campaigns across multiple channels.
Moreover, the strongest agencies were found to be willing to experiment and push the boundaries of traditional digital marketing to make solid decisions without putting their clients at risk. They challenge old ideas, they produce measurable results, and they’re always focused on the needs and preferences of their clients.
If your agency has some – or all – of these characteristics, it will attract high-profile buyers who see true value in the operation you and your team have built.
A Transitional Industry
Every digital agency transitions through the phases of its lifespan differently. If you’re considering selling your agency in the near future or you simply want an exit plan in place, you should ideally spend some time building a strong, resilient business before you sell.
This approach will maximise the value of your agency, while networking and connecting with other leaders online and in person may help you to locate the perfect buyer.