What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to be Acquired)

By Tim Johnson

acquire-startup-strategy

Want to get your business acquired for millions, or maybe even billions of dollars?

UPRAISE works with dozens of startups and the vast majority seek VC funding, a quick ramp up and then acquisition (although an increasing number are opting to avoid VC funding and build a long-term sustainable business, but that is a topic for a different blog).

In the acquisition process, attorneys for the potential acquirer of course look at the startup’s product performance, IP and financials. But they also look at every aspect of the business, seeking out potential strengths, such as especially innovative training programs, but also weaknesses, such as lack of compliance with local HR regulations. Startups can use its marketing strengths to increase its valuation, but potential acquirers will use any real or perceived weaknesses to drive it down.

Marketing is one of those areas attorneys will study, asking questions such as: is marketing generating adequate quantity and quality of top-of-funnel leads and is it helping sales move those leads through the pipeline? They will look at the quality of the startup’s brand awareness as well. When considering acquisition, startups should use the prior 6+ months to ensure every element of the marketing program is running on all cylinders. Based on helping many startups through this phase of their evolution, here are a few tips:

Make the most of your marketing automation/CRM system – Take a new look at your system for new features you should tap and optimize how you’re utilizing existing features. 

Optimize your website – Review your website and update any product, market or other information that is out of date. Add new content that will update your credibility, such as new case studies, new media coverage and new analyst awards. If possible emphasize content with metrics; e.g., “improves customer retention 20%,” or “reduces TCO by 30%.”  

Update your social sites – Conduct a similar exercise with your social pages.

Check all listings for accuracy – In addition to well-known listing sites, such as Bloomberg and Crunchbase, there can be dozens of other sites where your company is referenced. Complete a thorough search and update information as necessary.

Goose your awards/listings program – Stay current on awards such as “Best of …” and listings, like “Top 50 ….” Ensure you promote wins, post logos on your website and social. Consider spending a little extra than you might normally to keep the numbers up; i.e., if you typically won’t spend more than $300 per submission, consider raising that ceiling to $500 during this period.

Expand your speaking program – Ideally, you’ve been able to minimize the need to pay for speaking opportunities in the past. In this critical period, consider supplementing free opportunities with selected paid opportunities to boost your CEO’s profile. 

Anywhere a potential acquirer looks, they should see thought, product and market leadership, creativity and results that support the company’s sales efforts and brand awareness. 

Have you led marketing efforts for a company acquiring or being acquired? If so, we’d appreciate your thoughts.

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