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Where to market your practice

The accounting practice M&A market  is certainly a competitive.  Good practices  in metropolitan areas sell quickly, and it is fair to say demand for good businesses definitely outstrips supply.  

Despite this it is still critically important that your practice is properly marketed.  The aim should be to cast the net as wide as possible in an attempt to find as many suitably qualified serious buyers that you can. Not only will this improve the multiple you are likely to receive, but arguably more importantly, it can ensure the terms of the deal are in your favor. 

Naturally we hope that you or your broker advertise the sale of your practice via the Accounting Practice Exchange site. (Our website is after all dedicated solely to accounting practice sales and acquisitions).  In addition you, or your broker may also consider some or all of the following online advertising resources. 


BizBuySell

Arguably the leading general business listing website on the internet and a favourite of brokers due to their competitive advertising packages (brokers can have up to 20 listings on the site for as little as $50 in total per month).  Feedback I have personally received from brokers has been mixed.  Some swear by it, whilst others state that the quality of leads that the advertisements generate can vary greatly.

The Good:

The Not So Good:

Cost

- Cost

- Easy and straight forward to place a business listing on the site.

- Excellent and reliable email alert service

 ·        - Reliable and trustworthy

·         - Popular

·        - Accounting practices do not have their own category and are grouped together with Engineering firms on the site.

·         - Poor  presence in Google search results. (The site does not rank well in Google for key terms  that buyers search for, such as 'accounting practices for saleTexas' etc). 

- For 'For Sale By Owners' it's

$139.90 for a 60 day standard advertisement, rising to $199.90 for a 'Showcase advertisement'.

 

- For brokers its $50 a month for up to 20 listings.


CPA Society State Website

I've spent the best part of 6 months personally visiting the classifieds section of each and every State Society CPA website.  The quality of these vary greatly.  A number of Societies have recognised the importance that online classified advertising revenue can generate, and subsequently ensure that the 'Classifieds Section' is prominently displayed on the Home Page of their site. 

Others however have classified sections that are buried deep within their websites and are difficult to find.  In these circumstances you will need to make a judgement call on whether your online advertisement will be found by potential buyers.

Finally, if you are using a broker, take a look and see what exposure they have in the classifieds section of your State CPA site.   If you are using a broker are they advertising their services here?  I'd certainly hope so.   Ideally your broker should take out a classified advertisement specifically for your practice, or at least include details of your practice along with other practices that they are currently marketing.

The Good

The Not So Good

Cost

- Directly reach out to CPA's in your State.

 

- Many offer a confidential reply service

 

- Typically poor presence in Google search results.

 

- Limiting the exposure you are likely to achieve to CPA's outside of your State

 

- Varies from State to State, but expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 a month for a 35 word advertisement.  However, in some States charges can be as high as $300 for a simple classified advertisement.

 

BizQuest


Owned by Loopnet (who also own BizBuySell), Bizquest is another general business listing website that is popular with brokers.  I personally find that the site lacks the corporate and professional image of it's bigger brother, primarily due to the amount of Google Adwords advertising that appears across the site.

Nevertheless, this site definitely has a stronger presence in the Google search results than BizBuySell, a big plus in our opinion.  Again popular with brokers due to their competitive rates ($50 for 20 listings) and the fact that it is possible to list the one advertisement on BizBuySell and for it to also populate the Bizquest site, thereby saving the need to re-enter the same advertisement twice.

The Good

The Not So Good

Cost

- Stronger presence in Google search results  than its 'bigger brother' BizBuySell

- Excellent email alert service

- Accounting practices do not have their own category and are grouped together with Legal firms on the site.

- Arguably you are likely to be reaching the same audience when advertising on both  Bizquest and BizBuySell

 

- For 'For Sale By Owners' it's
$139.90 for a 60 day standard advertisement, rising to $199.90 for a 'Showcase advertisement'.

- For brokers its $50 a month for up to 20 listings.

 

Merger Network


Popular among many general business brokers, this site is a general business listing site.   It is free to place a business for sale on the site.  However, to fully view a listing you need to be a registered buyer, a privilege that incurs a fee.

The Good

The Not So Good

Cost

 - It is free to list your practice for sale

- In order to respond buyers need to be a fee paying registered user of the site

- Accounting practices do not have their own category at the top level and are grouped under 'Business Services'

- Free to Sellers

 

CPA Classifieds

Popular with one or two of the specialized accounting brokers, according to the team behind CPA Classifieds, this weekly email is sent to over 220,000 CPA's (in both practice and industry).  We have attempted to test this service ourselves but have yet to hear back from the team behind the site (despite it being a couple of months), so at this time we can't offer any guidance or opinion as to the quality and accuracy of their database (such as the click through rate or number of email opens).

The Good

The Not So Good

Cost

- Proactive approach by contacting buyers rather than waiting for buyers to find you

 

- A traditional newspaper classified  template makes it difficult for your advertisement to stand out from the crowd

- Cannot see an easy way to search geographically for practices that are for sale

 

- $150 for a 2 month advertisement rising to $1500 for 12 months



Broker Websites


Most if not all brokers will list your practice on their website.  However, simply listing a business on their website does not guarantee that potential buyers will find it.  The simplest thing to do is to go to Google and search for terms related to your location, such as 'CPA Practice for sale in California' or 'Accounting Practice for Sale in Florida'.  If your broker appears near the top of the search results then you will certainly benefit from this exposure.


Professional Membership Sites:


AICPA:


From our experience the AICPA's CPA2Biz website gets excellent levels of traffic and is a worthy place to advertise.  Rates start at $65 for 1, $130 for 2 months through to $636 for a 12 month advertisement. 


NATP:


If you are selling a tax practice then consider also taking out an advertisement in the classifieds section of the National Association of Tax Professionals website.

Rates are competitive, starting at $50 for 1 month,  $85 for 2 months, $115 for 3 months, $200 for 6 months for non-members.


Conclusion


I haven't included the Accounting Practice Exchange in the list above.  I believe the site sells itself (after all you did after all find us!) and I'm keen to avoid any questions of bias or self promotion. 

As you can see, there are a number of online marketing routes available to assist you in generating a significant amount of interest in your business.  I'd strongly suggest pursuing as many channels as you can.  For as little as $750 you can take out 2 month advertisements across a number of online platforms.  Be proactive, and more importantly ensure your broker is proactive.  The marketing of your business should go beyond simply placing a BizBuySell/Bizquest listing.

Please feel free to add your comments below.  Alternatively please don't hesitate to call.  I'm always happy to share my thoughts on the M&A marketplace with other CPA's and accountants.

 

Author: Dan Crowley, CGMA