STOP! Before you buy that business, check you’re getting everything.

These days, some of a businesses most valuable assets are intangible. Like social media accounts, website logins, CRM (customer relationship management) software logins, email newsletter lists. Because without all of these details being handed over when the sale of a business goes through – you could be missing out, big time! 

And while I’d like to tell you this is a rare occurrence, unfortunately I’ve seen it time and again. It is so frustrating to have to tell a client that we can’t help them because we don’t have access to the digital assets they ‘bought’ with a business. Yes, we’ve tried getting in touch with previous owners for our clients, but all too often contact has been lost or they have deleted all records of the essential information.  

Of course it is possible to ‘start again’. However, most of the time it’s not quite as simple as that. Some clients have had to build a whole new website, and for others, it has meant losing out on the value of well-established social media accounts or customer data.   

So if detail isn’t your thing (it’s definitely not mine!), get someone on board to help BEFORE the sale goes through – checking that you have all the information you need to be able to completely take over all of the digital assets of the business. 

What is actually valuable in the digital space? 

Not actually sure what you should be looking for? Numbers are important – but only to a degree – you need to check that followers on social media are mostly active and engaged users. Browse their social accounts and see how many people are commenting/sharing posts (not just ‘liking’). 

And if you’re getting an email list, delve into how the list has grown over the past 12 months, and how regularly they are emailed – whether they are warm or cold leads. See if you can check open rates and unsubscribes. 

The website comes with the business? Great. But is it connected to marketing automation software and social media channels (i.e. a Facebook store, or catalogue ads if it is an eCommerce store)? This is where the real value lies.  

On closer inspection, you may find things haven’t been too successful with the above digital assets – however that doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel, it may just require a bit of grunt work to see growth. But unless they are fully functional, have potential to grow and there is a strong community of fans, then they are probably pretty worthless assets to consider as part of the sale.  

Keen to proceed? The devil is in the details. 

Right. You’ve agreed on a price and it’s time to make the sale official. But before you do, here’s what you MUST check is coming to you as part of the sale. 

When it comes to small business owners – a lot of the time this information isn’t kept in one tidy place. So if possible, meet with the seller and go through this list below together. In fact, I even realised there are several areas I need to sort out in our business (even though we aren’t planning to sell anytime soon!)  

  1. Website logins, and their “web person” details. 

Who designed the website and who makes changes to it now? If it is a web developer/external agency, be introduced to them before the current owner leaves the business. Understand the way in which they work, and whether you can use them as support going forward. 

Get all the logins for not only the website itself, but the domain and hosting providers – so you can check when renewal payments are due.  

Change all the contact information as well as removing the now previous owner as an admin. And if the website takes payments through Stripe of Paypal, change it over to you as the owner. Does the website have plugins and apps? You need the logins for these and potential change payment details. 

Don’t forget to be added as the primary owner of the Google Analytics/Google Ads/Google Search Console accounts – and then delete the previous owner’s access. 

  1. Get all the email accounts 

What platform do they use for emails? If it is under a different system than the website, get the logins and details for these too, as well as all the domains that are registered to that email address. 

Have a list of all the email addresses they have too – like accounts, info, reception etc. You don’t want a customer emailing to an inbox that no one is responding to!  

  1. Social Media account access

This is where things can get a little messy and confusing. Before handover, get admin access to all of the accounts, and check that it is working. This also includes Facebook’s business suite/business manager – a key pitfall I have seen happen many times. Without this you can’t access the ad account, Facebook pixel and Facebook catalogue.  

Get logins for all the other accounts too (Linkedin, Instagram etc) and only once you’re in and able to successfully do all the things you need to do – delete the previous owner off. 

And go through the process to enable two-factor authentication to make sure you don’t get logged out or hacked. 

  1. Logins to apps and software 

Having a book or central document with all of the registered app and software logins makes the most sense, but after working with hundreds of small business owners – there would only be a handful I’ve seen who have been that organised. 

And even when you do have all this information supplied, check it all works, in person with them if possible – you’ll be surprised at how often the actual owner isn’t across all the logins of their business accounts.

  1. Google My Business and local directories

Ensure you get primary ownership of the Google My Business account. This may sound straightforward, but I have recently worked with a business whose previous owners kept the Google My Business page and this has prevented the new owners from using it – severely impacting their online visibility. And it is such a shame. 

If the previous owners have also registered the website on other local directories, get a list of where and which emails/passwords were used, so you can update the listings when required.  

And here’s a tip – after collecting all of the above, sort a centralised/secure document that you can enter all of these details into. It will help to keep you on top of all of this important information, assist to onboard new staff more efficiently, and if the time comes for you to move on from the business – it’ll be easy to pass it onto the new owners! 

There’s no doubt buying an existing business is an exciting adventure to embark on, especially when you can visualise all the ways to make it your own. By being organised up front, before the previous owner has ‘left the building’, you’ll have a far smoother transition as the new owner – with nothing to hold you back from getting straight down to business.

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