HOW TO ENSURE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY OUTLIVES YOUR TIME AS AN OWNER
Some things aren’t meant to last forever. We can all agree that the shelf life of a Twinkie is, honestly, a bit unnerving. Good things run their course, making way for new, other good things. While transitioning can be a scary leap into the unknown, retirement doesn’t have to be a clunk and a lurch into a new season. But, when transitioning your business, you have a few extra things to sort out before you can enjoy this next phase of life you’ve been working for. As the owner of your firm, you’ll need to sell your business or identify a Jr. Advisor to pass it along to. Even after the legwork and planning it takes to train or find the next owner to carry the torch, the harsh reality is that very few businesses thrive after a transition. According to a recent data compilation by SCORE, only 30% of family businesses survive their first owner transition, which drops to 12% for a second transition. We know you’ve poured your life, passion, and sweat equity into your business, so we’ve rounded up a few pointers for keeping it running smoothly long after you’ve headed to the beach.
Cornell researchers have found that almost a third of business owners say they don’t plan to retire, and nearly a third say that retirement is at least a decade away, despite the fact that the average age of those polled was 51. It’s clear that preparing for retirement is a topic that gets put on the back-burner more often than not, so it’s no wonder many companies don’t survive a transition in ownership. Make like a boy scout by planning ahead and being prepared so your business can go the distance without you behind the wheel.
It’s never too early to start planning for your retirement. You know this for your finances, and it’s also true for your business exit strategy. For many business owners, delegation is difficult because you’re used to being the last stop between the services you provide and your clients. Switching gears to work yourself out of a job instead of having a hand or say in everything can be a significant mental shift, but it’s crucial in enabling you to step away. You can’t work forever and don’t want to anyway, so it’s time to amp up the training! Start with your day-to-day processes. Is everything clearly outlined? Are there training documents and procedures for tasks? This is a great chance to stretch your delegation muscles. Identify team or department leaders, and task them with finding any leaks or weak spots and creating solutions. Implement peer training or mentoring processes so your team grows and learns as a cohesive unit without your involvement in every step. As you encourage employees to take the initiative and exercise leadership qualities, you create opportunities for those interested to step up in big ways. If any employees show exceptional aptitude or interest, consider taking one on as a Jr. Partner to pass the business along to them. This should involve honest conversations and clear expectations so that you can both evaluate the best course all around.
If training an existing employee to take over the lead isn’t an option, you’ll need to prepare future clients for a new fearless leader. Focus on how your business generates leads and interacts with prospects. A business transition can be a confusing time for your company’s identity, so however prospective clients find out about your business, it’s crucial that the interactions they have line up with their expectations. We’ll go more in-depth about how your brand and marketing can streamline this process, but you should consider your client onboarding processes, welcome documents, and introductory services. Make sure your staff has everything they need to help a prospective feel right at home, no matter if the name over the door has changed a bit.
Do you remember those indestructible brick phones from the mid-2000s? You won’t be at the helm of your company forever, but you can strategize for success that will outlast your time there. Take a cue from the Nokia 5110 and build a marketing plan to go the distance wherever your business is headed.
Re-examine your clientele. Are you working with a demographic that fits your business now but also allows for future growth? If you work primarily with retirees, consider expanding into family finances to gain multigenerational clients. And remember- don’t leave your existing clients in the dust if you decide to focus on a different demographic. Instead of shifting to an entirely new target audience, strategize by narrowing your focus so that you include both loyal and ideal customers.
Dive into data to identify marketing challenges and opportunities. If you want to improve your marketing strategy (which will make your business much more enticing to prospective buyers), improvement itself is a vague goal that doesn’t give you a definitive path forward. However, analyzing your reach and engagement, as well as market demographics, tells you where you’re missing the mark and where you’re hitting the bullseye. Once you’ve identified your clientele and rounded up the numbers, it’s much easier to formulate an improvement plan.
Keep your branding consistent and comprehensive. Identify your tone, tagline, values, and graphics, and make sure they’re consistent across all platforms and materials. If multiple employees are posting for your accounts, they need access to clearly defined guidelines to present a cohesive business to the public. A cloudy brand identity means your business is lost without your oversight, so sharpening your image is a critical step in preparing the company for your retirement. If your brand isn’t as well-defined as it could be, get access to our Marketing Manual Here for a helpful how-to.
HANDING OVER THE KEYS
Setting up your business for a successful transition is no small feat, which is why it’s never too early to start planning and strategizing. Focusing on infrastructure while honing in on a marketing strategy allows you to strengthen your current business while making room for growth. A business can’t run on cruise control, but you can take steps to make it smooth sailing after your retirement. For more information, Take A Look at our write-up on outsourcing your marketing for a deep dive into how hiring out your marketing can help attract a buyer. Whether you’re in the first few years of your startup or nearing the finish line, we’re in your corner with savvy marketing tips and timely resources. Stick around!