As a business development manager, one of the questions I get asked all the time is “How do I build a business development plan for my own business?” I get asked this question so often that I have finally decided to put some words down to help out as many folks as possible.
Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series of three from Tigerpaw VP of Business Development West McDonald that aim to demystify the role of business development and help you garner the knowledge you need to build your own plan.
It’s pretty common when you meet somebody for the first time to ask them what they do for a living. If they are in sales, you know they sell stuff. If they are in marketing, you conjure a picture of their daily creative work. If they are a CFO, numbers abound. When people ask me what exactly I do for a living it usually requires a little more description. I usually start off with “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Needless to say that answer isn’t very satisfying. So I move on to say “I’m in business development”. The response is usually awkward silence followed by “Oh. So what is that?”
Business development is a critical role for any company looking to grow faster and stronger. Although not directly responsible for sales it has a huge impact on those over time. But how exactly do you build a business development plan for your business?
It’s kind of like growing a lush garden: You need to consider a lot of things. If marketing is the seeds, if sales is the water and management is the sun, then business development is the fertilizer. (Insert, business development is s#!% jokes here.)
But seriously, business development can be a strong force for helping companies achieve their growth plans faster. Here are four strategies to include when creating a business development plan:
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1. Raise the volume
When I started my first company, I didn’t exactly have a lot of resources. I learned pretty quickly to leverage a lot of vehicles for cost-effective marketing and promotion. I didn’t know it then, but I was employing a lot of business development psychology. I got to know trade publication owners and made sure I was featured in interviews as well as contributing content for their magazines. I used the power of LinkedIn to build strong networks and to engage in conversations that I felt would push the industry forward. I wrote blogs, podcasts and spoke at events.
All of these activities created a lot of noise and made sure that people knew my company and what I could do for them. After a few years, I had people calling me a thought leader, and I started being asked to do these things more than me asking to be allowed to do them.
Employing all of the above techniques, will work wonders for your business’ development as well. If you’re not raising the volume and using these techniques for your business, you definitely should start.
2. Create ecosystems
I say “ecosystem” where others might say “partners”. The reason I like the word ecosystem is because each part benefits all the others. Each member of the ecosystem helps the other to do better.
A good example is my business development efforts in a series of roadshows that I organized and delivered around flat-rate/seat-based billing for managed print. The ecosystem was comprised of software providers, leasing and finance organizations, wholesalers and industry experts. If dealers wanted to succeed with the new business model for managed print, it encouraged them to engage with all the providers in the ecosystem. We were, after all, the experts. These roadshows led to a lot of business for ecosystem members, and it didn’t have anything to do with product pitches or marketing.
That is one of the keys to good business development efforts: Sales occur because of the value delivered and the opportunity to grow their businesses in new ways.
3. Look for new markets for existing things
In our day-to-day business lives, we are extremely busy, satisfying existing customer needs and seeking out customers that fit a certain profile. If we didn’t approach business this way, we’d risk being too scattered and unfocused. That being said, it’s important to keep one eye looking for opportunities and customers that don’t necessarily fit the profile we’ve defined. If your existing products can satisfy the needs of customer verticals you didn’t consider in the past, it could pay huge dividends.
A good example is a product called Rogaine. The active ingredient, minoxidil, was initially developed and marketed for treating high blood pressure. One of the side effects was a marked increase in the growth of body hair when taken orally. Somebody in business development figured out that if used topically, it could have a whole new market: Men and women with pattern baldness issues. That is business development genius.
4. Work closely with all internal departments
Business development means working within an organization as much as you do externally. You have to have a dotted line to the executive, sales, marketing and product development teams, to name a few.
A good business development manager, whoever that is in your organization, is part quarterback, part researcher and part thought leader. They must work with every department to move ideas into reality.
While they can determine new markets and customers, only the executive can decide if those directions are worth the effort. You can create ecosystems that are novel with great potential, but without the sales team, nobody is going to buy it. Without a coordinated effort with the marketing team, nobody is going to believe it’s real or see it out in the world.
Business development unto itself is nothing. But coordinated with the rest of the organization, it is a force like no other.
Want to start your business development plan and need some insight or guidance? I invite you to reach out to me and schedule a free convergence consultation.