The Essentials of Creating a Winning Business Development Strategy
Business Development Planning: Your Best Defense is a Good Offense!
There's a good reason why the quote, "Your best defense is a good offense" is a staple in our culture because it's true. Knowing where you want to go is the first step towards accomplishing anything in life, and the world of business is no different. Having a healthy business development plan is a lifeline to success that keeps all the key players focused, alerts them to any adjustments required, and allows for the opportunity to step back and appreciate how far they've come. What are the inner workings of a good business development plan? Figuring that out starts with having a clear picture of what business development is.
Business development is the practice of cultivating new prospects and opportunities to grow your company and increase revenue. Each company's business development process will be different. The business development strategy is the ultimate plan that outlines what tactics the company has chosen to move the company forward. Below is a step-by-step process of how to build a strong business development strategy.
Step #1 — Assess where you are now and do it honestly
An honest internal review is essential to do to have a clear picture of where you are today, where you want to be, and how you compare to your competitors. If this is not an honest conversation with all department leaders, your business development strategy and your company resources will not be adequately focused in the proper directions moving forward.
With a solid grasp of where your company stands regarding your product, team composition, and resources, now look at what business development strategies you have tried previously? Which of them worked (or didn't work), and why? Take time to look at what's changed in the market. Are their new avenues to take advantage of or ones that won't work anymore? If this is a new business, take time to research the industry you're in and what strategies have previously worked. Consider looking at companies outside of your industry but using the same type of market positioning (high end, niche, lowest price, etc.) you're aiming for and examine how they are making their efforts work.
Step #2 — Know your ultimate client and or customer
Research your target market in detail. What issues are they currently facing? Where can you find them? By getting specific, there's a better chance of knowing the best way to reach the highest potential clients. Your target market affects EVERYTHING from your branding to your marketing efforts. If this is cloudy and vague, so will the execution of everything and everyone in your organization.
Step #3 — Clearly define your market position and company advantage
What are your competitors doing? What advantages and disadvantages does the company face, and what does that mean for market positioning? What resources are available? All of this information will inform one crucial question, why would a buyer want to buy from your company instead of another? Having a strong understanding of this helps inform how to craft and disperse messaging in a way that high-quality clients will want to hear and will respond to favorably.
Step #4 — Choose a variety of tactics to create a robust business development strategy
Which tactics are best suited for your business development strategy? For example, a high priced software company may want to focus on an account-based marketing campaign with thought leadership, networking combined with a paid digital campaign. In contrast, low-cost software or lower priced product companies could do full-blown inbound marketing campaigns with digital paid ads across multiple channels only.
What business development tactics will support your business development strategy best?
Networking — Going out and meeting people face to face is a tried and true method of generating more business, it would be hard to believe that could ever change. There's a level of rapport and trust built when meeting someone face to face that just can't be duplicated any other way.
Referrals — There's no denying that most people will source out the opinion of others before taking the leap and buying something for themselves. Someone a potential buyer trusts saying good things about a company creates a sort of trust by association, speeding up a buyer's journey exponentially. The best referrals are that of your current customers and your employees, so needless to say, customer service, client care, and excellent company culture are incredibly important.
Content Marketing — Creating, publishing, distributing, and integrating quality content into your business development plan is key to establishing your brand on a variety of fronts least of all for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. Quality content is vital to attract, engage, and not annoy potential clients and help them find you when they go to Google to search, and they will go to Google and search. Quality content is a significant driver in lead generation. According to the Content Marketing Institute, it generates 3x more leads than paid advertising. Engage with interactive content, exciting video, and thought leadership pieces that address problems and provide solutions for your ultimate client.
Digital Marketing— Advertising, sponsored content, and Google AdWords; the more people that know about your company, the higher the chances of finding a potential buyer. Digital Marketing, in some form, is a must paid or not. Whether it's curating high-quality content, social media interaction, or a full-blown paid campaign, a digital presence is a necessity.
Direct Marketing — Whether by mail, email, or phone, talking directly to people can be a great strategy when executed properly. When combined with a strategic content & digital marketing campaign, direct marketing can be quite successful.
Thought Leadership — Taking time to share knowledge and establish you and other leaders in your company as industry experts, whether through speaking engagements, producing online content, or hosting webinars, is an essential element to add to your content marketing strategy. Not sales-heavy content but a voice for touching on your ultimate client's pain points and showing them your company is built with experts that understand their pain. What questions are your clients asking? What problems are they looking to solve?
Step #5 — Set your business development goals
The last step to creating a great business development plan is to set measurable goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-related. These goals work best because they contain all the elements needed to get everyone on the same page and then keep them on track, creating the best chances for success.
For sales specific goals, I like to work backward or use reverse engineering in regards to setting sales targets. Once I define the sales funnel and outline specific activities that must be met in each stage, I then calculate the conversion rate for each step, then forecast the number of leads required per stage.
Setting up a business development strategy is a lot of work and can take a considerable amount of time but it's well worth the effort. It truly is the best offensive maneuver a business can make. All that's left to do is follow the plan, monitor how things are going and adjust as needed.