Your company’s success or failure might be determined by your business development strategy. In this piece, we’ll look at how to develop a strategy and plan that can catapult an individual, a practise, or an entire company to new heights of profitability and success.
The process of identifying, nurturing, and acquiring new clients and business opportunities in order to promote growth and profitability is known as business development (BD). A business development strategy is a document that outlines the steps you’ll take to achieve your objective.
The scope of company growth can be broad and differ greatly from one enterprise to the next. Take a look at Figure 1 for an example of how professional services firms obtain new business.
Attracting Prospects and Building Engagement are the first two steps of the approach, which are classic marketing functions. Turning Opportunities into Clients is the final stage, which is a classic sales role. Business development, in its conventional role, would entail looking for new distribution channels or marketing partners.
However, jobs shift and naming standards evolve. Many businesses refer to the complete marketing and sales process as company development in today’s environment. I understand how perplexing it can be. So let’s get this straightened out.
Marketing vs. Business Development
Marketing is the process of deciding which products and services to sell at what price to which target consumers. It also covers how you’ll position and promote your company and its products in a crowded market. All of this activity should result in a higher level of awareness of your company within your target audience, as well as a greater flow of quality leads and chances.
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Business development has traditionally been a component of marketing that focuses on establishing new marketing or distribution contacts and channels. While many firms still have this position, the term “business development” has become synonymous with numerous marketing and sales functions.
Sales vs. Business Development
Converting leads or opportunities into new clients is what sales is all about. Business development is a broad term that refers to a variety of tasks other than sales. While there is some overlap, most traditional business development roles are only marginally involved in new client acquisition.
Sales and business development are frequently confused. This isn’t unexpected, given that many people who are plainly in sales adopt the title of Business Developer. Presumably, this is done because the BD label is thought to remove some of the stigma connected with sales.
This approach is especially popular in professional services. Accountants, attorneys, and strategy consultants do not want to be associated with “hard-sell tactics.” Despite the fact that most senior members of professional services firms play an essential role in developing new business, this title prejudice persists.
The Seller-doer role is firmly established in many firms since many clients want to meet and get to know the individuals they will be working with. The preference for Seller-doers also discourages businesses from employing full-time salespeople.
Some organisations employ one or more Business Developers as an alternative to leveraging fee-earners’ time. These people are frequently active in lead generation and qualification in the professional services industry, as well as assisting Seller-doers in closing new accounts. This position could be referred to as a sales support role in other organisations.
As a result of this muddled picture, many professional services organisations refer to sales as “business development” and include it in the job description of every top executive. Some marketing functions, like as lead generation and lead nurturing, may be included in the BD responsibilities of the professional.
This post will focus on the expanding role of business development, which spans the whole range of lead generation, nurturing, and sales responsibilities.
Business Development Strategy
Not all forms of business development have the same impact. In truth, many professionals’ activities are quite opportunistic and tactical in character. Many seller-doers are particularly guilty of this.
They searched for something quick and uncomplicated that would yield short-term results, caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business. Of course, this isn’t a genuine approach.
The alignment of business development processes and procedures with your company’s strategic business goals is known as strategic business development. Strategic business development’s goal is to attract ideal clients for your most important services by making brand promises you can keep.
Choosing which objectives to pursue and which techniques to use to grow new business is a high-risk decision. A well-executed plan can result in high levels of growth and profitability. A poor plan can stifle growth and frustrate key employees.
Despite this, many businesses fail at this crucial stage. They rely on tradition, anecdotes, and fads — or, even worse, “this is how we’ve always done it.” We’ll go through how to create a strategic business development strategy in a later part. But first, let’s look over some of the strategies that could be included in that strategy.
Best Business Development Techniques
Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent business development tactics and see how they compare to today’s buyers.
The most often used business growth approach is undoubtedly networking. It’s based on the idea that professional services purchasing decisions are based on connections, and that face-to-face networking is the best method to form new ones.
Many relationships do develop in this manner, and this is true in many cases. You can also build new business by networking with your target demographic. However, there are certain limits. Today’s buyers are pressed for time, and networking takes time. When you include in travel and time away from the business, it can be rather costly.
On the cost and time front, newer digital networking solutions can aid. Even social networking, though, needs a time and attention commitment.
Referrals, a close cousin of networking, are frequently viewed as the process that converts networking and client happiness into new business. You build a relationship with someone, and they refer you new business. Clients who are satisfied return the favour.
Clearly, recommendations do occur, and many businesses rely on them for the majority of their business. Referrals, on the other hand, are a passive activity. They rely on your clients and relationships to find potential candidates for your services and make the appropriate referrals.
The problem is that referral sources aren’t always aware of all the ways you can assist a client. So many referrals aren’t a good fit for your skills. Because your referral source fails to notice a fantastic prospect when they see one, other well-matched referrals go unmade. Finally, many potential clients will dismiss your firm before even speaking with you. According to a recent study, the figure is over 50%.
There are also new digital tactics that help speed up referrals. The idea is to make your area of expertise more visible. This encourages people to create better referrals and broadens your referral network beyond clients and a few business acquaintances.
3. ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP
Is it possible to generate new business by sponsoring events and advertising? If it works, it will solve a lot of problems. No more scrounging time from overworked billable professionals.
Regrettably, the outcomes on this front are not promising. Traditional advertising has been linked to slower growth, according to studies. Advertising yields results only when it is paired with other strategies, such as speaking at an event.
Well-targeted digital advertising appears to be the most promising advertising technique. Firms can use this to get their messages and offers in front of the relevant people for less money.
4. TELEPHONE AND MAIL FROM OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY
For decades, professional services organisations have used phone calls and direct mail to reach out to new clients. You should expect to find new prospects that can be developed into clients if you target the correct organisations and roles with a suitable message.
There are a few major drawbacks to these tactics. To begin with, they are pretty costly, so they must be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the correct time, your offer may lack attractiveness and, as a result, have no impact on business growth.
The goal is to present an enticing offer to a highly qualified and responsive list. This is a difficult combo to master.
5. CONTENT MARKETING AND THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
The goal here is to make your knowledge and experience visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is performed by demonstrating your expertise and how it can be utilised to solve client problems through writing, speaking, or posting material.
Professional services business growth strategies have historically included books, articles, and speaking engagements. This method has been used by several high-profile professionals to build their practises and organisations. Putting this strategy into action can require a significant portion of one’s career.
However, technological advancements and changing times have changed this method. With the advent of digital communication, establishing your expertise with a target market has never been easier or faster. Search engines have levelled the playing field, allowing relatively obscure individuals and businesses to become well-known even outside of their geographical area. Webinars have made public speaking more accessible, and blogs and websites provide every company with a 24/7 presence. When video and social media are added, the burgeoning expert has access to a much larger market.
However, these changes also expose businesses to a lot more competition. You may find yourself competing against experts you were previously unaware of. The result is that your business development strategy’s stakes are raised.
STRATEGIES THAT HAVE BEEN COMBINED
Combining several business growth techniques is frequent. Networking and recommendations, for example, are frequently utilised in tandem. A combination strategy makes great sense on one level. One strategy’s strength might compensate for another’s flaws.
However, there is a secret threat. A strategy must be completely implemented in order to perform at its best. It’s possible that attempting to adopt too many distinct tactics will result in you never fully implementing any of them.
Good intentions, no matter how lofty, aren’t worth much in terms of business success. The plague of effective business development is under-investment, a lack of follow-through, and inconsistent effort.
It is far more effective to completely implement a simple technique than to experiment with a more complex one. Better results are achieved by using fewer pieces that are skillfully implemented.
After that, we’ll look at the techniques required to put a high-level strategy into action. But first, there’s some misinformation to clear up.
Tactics vs. Strategy in Business Development
It’s not always easy to distinguish between strategy and tactics. Networking, for example, might be viewed as a component of a larger corporate development plan or as a way to boost 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 a part of your business development strategy, you should concentrate on making it more effective and efficient. You’ll choose strategies that will make networking more effective or easier. You might try another marketing plan and then abandon it if it does not assist you in implementing your networking strategy.
If networking is just one of several methods, your decision to use it will be based on how well it fits into your overall strategy. Tactics and approaches can be simply adjusted and tested. On the other hand, strategy is a deliberate decision that does not alter from day to day or week to week.
The Top 10 Business Development Strategies
What are the most effective business development strategies? We recently performed a research of over 1000 professional services firms to find out. Over a three-year period, the study looked for companies that grew at a pace of more than 20% compound annual growth rate.
These High Growth companies were compared against companies in the same industry that didn’t expand at all during the same time period. Then we looked at which company growth strategies each group used and which had the biggest impact.
As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the ten most effective strategies used by High Growth companies:
- Assessments and/or consultations are provided.
- Search engine optimization/keyword research
- Demonstrations of products and services in real time
- Original research is conducted and published.
- Public relations is a term that refers to the (earned media)
- Prospects are nurtured through phone conversations.
- Speaking at specific conferences or events is a great way to get your name out there.
- Collaborations with other organisations in marketing
- Taking part in educational webinars
- Social media networking
There are a few essential takeaways from these growth strategies. To begin, these tactics can be used to support a variety of corporate development initiatives. Speaking at specific conferences or events, for example, at number seven on the list, might readily complement a networking or thought leadership strategy.
Another finding is that the most effective strategies combine digital and traditional methods. When we’ll see as we construct your approach, a healthy combination of digital and old techniques tends to boost its effectiveness.
What Should You Include in Your Strategic Business Development Plan?
A Business Growth Plan (BDP) is a document that lays out how you’ll put your business development plan into action. It might be a strategy for a single person, a practise, or the entire firm. Because marketing and sales are so linked in most professional services organisations, it has a broad scope.
The following are the important phases in creating and documenting your plan.
1. DETERMINE WHO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IS.
Who are you trying to persuade to become new customers? Concentrate on your “best-fit” clientele rather than all potential clients. Focusing on a specific target audience is the most effective strategy. But don’t limit yourself so much that you can’t reach your company objectives.
2. RESEARCH THEIR PROBLEMS, BUYING ATTITUDE, AND COMPETITORS.
The more you know about your target audience, the better equipped you’ll be to capture their attention and explain how you can assist them. What are their most pressing business concerns? Is your knowledge relevant to such concerns? What sources do they consult for guidance and inspiration? What is the current competitive landscape like? How do you compare?
3. DETERMINE YOUR COMPETITIVE SUCCESS
What distinguishes you from others? Why is that a better option for your target customer? Are you the most cost-effective option or the foremost specialist in your field? This “positioning,” as it is commonly referred to, must be accurate, verifiable, and relevant to the prospect when they are deciding which firm to partner with. Make a note of this positioning because you’ll need it as you build your communications and marketing materials.
4. SELECT YOUR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY.
Choose a broad plan or strategies for reaching, engaging, and converting your leads. You might begin by looking through the top tactics listed above. Which method is best suited to your target audiences’ demands and preferences? Which ones most effectively communicate your competitive advantage? A thought leadership/content marketing strategy, for example, will likely serve you well if you are competing because you have superior industry experience.
5. SELECT BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
The list of the most effective methods we presented above is a wonderful place to start. Make certain that the techniques you choose are appropriate for your target audience and plan. It’s important to remember that it’s not about your personal preferences or strategy knowledge. It’s all about what appeals to the target audience.
You’ll also need to strike a balance between your options in two ways: To begin, you’ll require approaches for each stage of the business development pipeline (see Figure 1). Some tactics are effective for grabbing attention, but they don’t address long-term nurturing. You must cover the entire funnel.
Second, you’ll need a nice mix of digital and conventional methods. This decision should be based on your research. Be wary of making assumptions. Just because you don’t utilise social media doesn’t rule out the possibility that some of your prospects do.
When will it happen, how often will it happen, which conferences will it be held at, and what will the topics be? Now is the moment to nail down the specifics that will turn a broad strategy into a concrete plan. A content or marketing calendar is common in many strategies, and it spells out the details week by week. If that’s too much information for you, at the very least write down what you’ll be doing and how often you’ll do it. You’ll need these details to keep track of how well your plan is being implemented.
6. SPECIFY HOW YOU WILL CHECK ON IMPLEMENTATION AND EFFECTIVENESS.
These crucial aspects are sometimes overlooked, but they can be the difference between success and failure. Strategies that aren’t put into action don’t work. Keep track of what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. This will both push you to take action and give you a good starting point for troubleshooting your strategy. Also, keep an eye on and record the effects you notice. The amount of new business you close will have the most noticeable impact. At the very least, you should keep track of new leads or contacts. Finally, don’t overlook critical process outcomes like referrals, fresh names added to your list, and content downloads, which expose prospects and referral sources to your knowledge.
You’ll have a defined business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimise it if you follow these steps.