Business Development: Strategy, Tactics & Examples That Work
Your company's success or failure can be determined by its business development strategy. In this post, we'll look at how to develop a strategy and plan that can propel an individual, a practice, or an entire company to new heights of growth and profitability.
Business development (BD) is the process of identifying, nurturing, and acquiring new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes how you intend to achieve that goal.
The scope of business development can be broad and varies greatly between organisations. The figure below depicts a model of how professional service organisations obtain new business.
The model's first two stages, Attracting Prospects and Building Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. Turning Opportunities into Clients is a traditional sales function in the final stage. In the traditional role, business development would seek out new distribution channels or marketing partners.
However, roles shift and naming conventions evolve. Many businesses today refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I understand how perplexing it can be. So let's get this straightened out.
Business Development or Marketing or Sales?
Marketing is the process of deciding what items and services to sell to which target customers and at what price. It also discusses how you intend to position and promote your company and its goods in a competitive market. All of this work should result in increased awareness of your company within your target audience – as well as a greater flow of quality leads and prospects.
The conversion of leads into new clients is known as sales. Business development is a wide word that includes numerous tasks other than sales. While there is some overlap, most traditional BD jobs are only marginally involved in new client acquisition.
Traditionally, business development was a branch of marketing that focused on gaining new marketing or distribution contacts and channels. While this role still exists in many organisations, the term "business development" has become synonymous with numerous marketing and sales functions.
On the other hand, sales and business development are frequently confused with each other. This is hardly unexpected given that many people who are plainly in sales have adopted the title of Business Developer. This is most likely done because the organisation believes that the BD classification removes some of the stigma associated with sales.
This approach is most widespread in professional services. Accountants, attorneys, and strategy consultants do not want to be associated with "pushy salespeople." Even though acquiring new business is an important responsibility for most senior members of professional services businesses, this title prejudice is well embedded.
The Seller-doer role is widely established in many firms because so many clients want to meet and get to know the people they will be working with. The preference for Seller-doers also discourages businesses from employing full-time sales personnel.
Some firms employ one or more Business Developers on staff as an alternate strategy to leveraging fee-earners' time. In the professional services setting, these individuals are frequently active in lead generation and qualification, as well as assisting Seller-doers in closing new accounts. This function may be referred to as sales support in various organisational contexts.
As a result of this muddled picture, many professional services firms refer to sales as "business development" and include it in the job description of every senior professional. They may also incorporate some marketing duties, such as lead creation and lead nurturing, into the BD responsibilities of the professional.
This post will focus on the expanding job of business development, which includes the complete range of lead generation, nurturing, and sales responsibilities.
Business Development Strategy
Not all business development is created equal. In truth, many professionals' activities are opportunistic and tactical. This is particularly true of many seller-doers.
Caught between the demands of client work and the urgent need for new business, they look for something quick and uncomplicated that would deliver immediate results. Of course, this isn't a genuine approach.
The alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm's strategic business goals is known as strategic business development. Strategic business development's role is to recruit ideal clients for your most important services by making brand promises that you can keep.
Choosing which goals to pursue and techniques to use to grow a new business is a high-stakes decision. A well-executed plan can drive significant levels of growth and profitability. A poor plan can stifle growth and frustrate important employees.
Despite this, many businesses fail at this vital stage. They rely on tradition, anecdotes, and fads — or, even worse, "this is how we've always done it." We'll go over how to create your strategic business development strategy in a later part. But first, we'll go over some of the methods that could be included in that plan.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular business development tactics and how they fare with today's buyers.
Networking is most likely the most widely used business development approach. It is based on the idea that professional services purchasing decisions are anchored in connections, and that face-to-face networking is the best approach to building new ties.
Many relationships do develop in this manner, it is true. You can also build a new business by networking with your target demographic. However, there are some constraints. Buyers today are extremely time-pressed, and networking takes time. When you include travel and time away from the business, it can be rather costly.
Newer digital networking solutions can save money and effort. However, even social networking necessitates a commitment of time and attention.
A close relative of networking is frequently viewed as the process that converts networking and client happiness into new business. You build a relationship with someone, and that person refers new business to you. Pleased clients do the same.
The issue is that referral sources may not always understand all of the ways you can assist a client. So many referrals are inappropriate for your skills. Other well-matched referrals are lost because your referral source fails to spot an excellent prospect when they see one. Finally, many potential clients dismiss your firm before even speaking with you. According to one recent study, the figure is more than 50%.
Importantly, new digital tactics for accelerating referrals are available. The goal is to make your specialised skill more visible. This enables people to make more effective connections and broadens your referral pool beyond clients and a few business acquaintances.
Recommendations occur, and many businesses rely on them for the majority of all of their business. However, referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to find qualified prospects for your services and make appropriate referrals.
✽ Advertising Sponsorships
Can you immediately build a new business by sponsoring events and advertising? If it works, it will solve a lot of problems. No more attempting to obtain time from fully booked billable specialists.
Unfortunately, the results are not encouraging on this front. Traditional advertising, according to studies, is connected with slower growth. Advertising only bears fruit when paired with other strategies, such as speaking at an event.
Well-targeted digital advertising appears to be the most promising advertising technique. This enables businesses to get their messages and offers in front of the relevant individuals for less money.
✽ Outbound Communications (Phone/Mail/Etc)
For decades, professional services organisations have used phone calls and direct mail to reach out to new clients. Targeting the right firms and roles with the proper message should result in new prospects that can be developed into clients.
These techniques face a handful of significant problems. For starters, they are rather pricey, so they must be just right to be effective. Second, if you don't catch the prospect at the correct time, your offer may be irrelevant — and, as a result, have no impact on business development.
The idea is to provide a highly enticing offer to a highly qualified and responsive list. This combo is difficult to achieve.
✽ Content Marketing & Thought Leadership
The idea in this case is to make your skills visible to potential purchasers and referral sources. This is achieved through writing, speaking, or releasing information that displays your knowledge and how it can be used to solve client problems.
Professional services business development has long relied on books, articles, and speaking engagements. This method has been used by several high-profile professionals to build their practices and organisations. This strategy frequently necessitates a significant portion of a career.
However, changing circumstances and technological advancements have changed this method. With the advent of digital communication, establishing your expertise with a target market has become much easier and much faster. Search engines have levelled the playing field, allowing relatively obscure individuals and businesses to become known even outside of their geographic location. Webinars have democratised public speaking, and blogs and websites provide every company with a constant presence. When video and social media are included, the aspiring expert has access to a much larger market.
On the other hand, these innovations expose businesses to far more competition. You may find yourself competing against specialists you were unaware of. The result is that the stakes on your business development strategy are raised.
✽ All Of The Above
Combining various business growth tactics is frequent. Networking and recommendations, for example, are frequently utilised in tandem. On the surface, a joint strategy makes great sense. The strength of one strategy can help to compensate for the weakness of another.
However, there is a hidden risk. A plan must be fully implemented to work optimally. There is a risk that attempting to apply too many distinct tactics will result in none of them being fully implemented.
Good intentions, no matter how lofty, have little real-world business development benefit. Underinvestment, a lack of follow-through, and inconsistent effort are the banes of successful business development.
A simple plan that is properly implemented is significantly more effective than dabbling with a complex one. Fewer elements, when implemented effectively, create superior results.
Following that, we will look at the techniques needed to put a high-level strategy into action. But first, there's some misinformation to clear up.
Strategy or Tactics?
The distinction between strategy and tactics is not always obvious. Consider networking as an overall business development strategy or as a method to increase the impact of a thought leadership strategy. To be sure, it's perplexing.
The distinction, in our opinion, is between focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy, you should concentrate all of your efforts on making networking more successful and efficient. You will choose strategies to make networking more powerful or easier. You can try another marketing tactic and abandon it if it does not aid in the implementation of your networking plan.
If, on the other hand, networking is just one of several methods, your decision to deploy it will be based on how well it fits into your overall strategy. Tactics and approaches can be tested and adjusted quickly. Strategy, on the other hand, is a deliberate decision that does not shift from day to day or week to week.
Creating Your Business Development Plan
There are numerous techniques for accomplishing this task, but we have simplified it into four major stages to follow when developing a solid, dependable business development strategy for your organisation.
✧ Identify Your Audience
To establish a business development strategy that maximises growth and profit prospects, you must first identify your ideal audience. Concentrate on certain companies, industries, or individuals who will help your company grow. Aim for quality over quantity – a large audience isn't always required, but a high-performing one is.
Keep in mind that successful business development takes time. Strong relationships might take months, if not years, to materialise into a transaction. Similarly, undesirable possibilities will not become apparent after your initial meeting. This is why it's critical to narrow down your target audience so you don't waste time cultivating a relationship with an unqualified prospect who will never close the deal.
✧ Research The Market
After you've selected your target audience, you should study everything you can about them. You should be able to answer the following questions about them before you start persuading them to work with you:
What are their main concerns?
What services are they in need of?
What is their present problem-solving strategy?
What can your product or service do to help them in their current situation?
Once you've answered these questions, you may start analysing your competition. Identify what distinguishes you from your competition and use that distinction as your competitive edge when selling your value to prospects.
✧ Decide On Appropriate Channels
You may begin to identify the channels you will use to attain your aim once you have identified your target audience, learnt everything there is to know about them, and formed a plan of action to set you apart from your competition. This entails reviewing your total revenue targets for the year and describing the precise tactics you will employ to meet those targets.
✧ Setting Smart Goals
Set S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-related) goals for each channel to help you monitor and track your success. Your entire business development goal does not have to be directly related to creating profit and revenue, but it should have a component aimed at introducing new prospects into your company's sales funnel.
BONUS TIPS ✨
We’ve scoured the research online and compiled a list of 10 top effective business development tactics that you can try out for yourself:
➀ Keyword research/search engine optimization
➁ Conducting and publishing original research
➂ Nurturing prospects through phone calls
➃ Marketing partnerships with other organisations
➄ Networking on social media
➅ Presenting in educational webinars
➆ Public relations (earned media)
➇ Speaking at targeted conferences or events
➈ Live product/service demonstrations
➉ Providing assessments and/or consultations
Companies that blend several business development techniques to best suit their business and attain their defined targets are significantly more prevalent than not. However, any method for company growth must be carefully crafted to avoid losses caused by ineffective attempts to gain new clients and business possibilities. Good intentions, no matter how lofty, have little real-world business development benefit. Implementing a straightforward strategic plan is significantly more beneficial than dabbling in multiple complex ones in the hopes of seeing favourable results. When implemented professionally, fewer elements always give superior results.
In the end, your business development strategy will determine whether your company succeeds or fails. A key goal should be to design a strategy and accompanying plan of action that will catapult you and your organisation to new levels of growth and profitability.