April 23, 2024

You’re the Boss Blog: Selling a Business on Facebook

Kim Murray  Russ Dietz, new owners of Bloom.Barbara Taylor.Kim Murray and Russ Dietz, new owners of Bloom.


Putting a price on business.

An independent florist with a reputation for unusual arrangements, Bloom is a fixture in historic downtown Bentonville, Ark., an area whose rapid growth was recently accelerated by the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

I don’t usually work with businesses as small as Bloom, but it’s a special business that’s held a special place in the community. Plus, I’d been a customer since it opened and knew the owner well. I dispensed with the usual formalities under which my business brokerage firm accepts clients, made a hand-shake agreement with the seller and immediately got to work. There was one big problem: I had four months to sell the business before the seller was going to pack up and move to Chicago to take a job.

Four months to sell a business is not a lot of time. Most businesses take approximately a year to sell, regardless of their size; surveys say you should expect anywhere from six to 18 months. By the time the listing advertisements went live in mid-August, I could hear the clock ticking. I knew I would have to step up the intensity to get Bloom sold, and I asked the seller if I could unleash an all-out blitz on social media. She agreed.

Despite years of tweeting, posting, liking and friending, I had had no luck finding a buyer for any of my firm’s listings using Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Still, I kept at it, hoping that one day my investment in social media would prove worthwhile.

On Sept. 12, I posted the following on about a dozen Facebook pages with a link to my ad on BizBuySell.com:

Charming Florist in Heart of Historic Downtown: Sitting pretty in one of the most desirable locations in Benton County! Escape the cubicle. Stop and sell the flowers.

A little corny, I know, but it got people’s attention.

One of those people was Daniel Hintz, executive director of Downtown Bentonville, Inc. — an organization that facilitates capital projects, business partnerships and community events in the historic downtown area. When he saw the post, Mr. Hintz said, “Our first instinct was to generate buzz to help foster new investment and keep a dynamic and successful brand in downtown.” He hit the “share” button. With the help of 3,792 “likes” on the Downtown Bentonville Facebook page, the ad’s reach was immediately amplified.

The downside of my Facebook post was that many people guessed the identity of the business, even though it wasn’t named in the ad. Most sellers hope that their business will be sold quickly, confidentially and for the highest possible price. When you’re trying to sell a business quickly, however, those last two items can be tricky. In the case of Bloom, the seller was contacted repeatedly, and confidentiality pretty much went out the window. The owner dutifully referred those who inquired at the store to my firm.

Ultimately we fielded close to 20 inquiries. One came from Russ Dietz, who saw the Downtown Bentonville post in his Facebook news feed. He and his partner, Heath Nicholas, owned a catering company in Bentonville and were interested in complementary businesses. Mr. Nicholas clicked through to my ad, where he was able to see some high-level financial information on the business. He and Mr. Dietz closed the sale in December (another co-owner, Kim Murray, signed on after the sale). The seller did not get her full asking price — the 2011 average sales-to-asking price across industries was 88 percent — but she made it to Chicago in time to start the new job.

I’m far from having figured out how social media will help my firm sell businesses, but I’ve had my first taste of success. I’ve tried to analyze why the Bloom post on Facebook received such an overwhelming response, while similar Main Street posts have fallen flat. I think Bloom’s ties with the a local community were especially strong. “Our organization can activate a wide network of influencers to help make things happen,” Mr. Hintz said. “Someone knows someone who knows someone.”

Have you gotten unexpected results for your business using social media?

Barbara Taylor is co-owner of a business brokerage firm, Synergy Business Services, in Bentonville, Ark. You can follow her on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=28f36e9089879d0c0ccc18b263236587