In today’s business ecosystem, the phrase “business development” has become almost a blanket term for any marketing, sales, and strategic development role.
And while many companies don’t have a solid grasp of what business development is, how it benefits the company in question, and what business development professionals need to focus on to ensure success – what they do know is that it certainly works wonders.
To help you demystify business development, we’ve put together an all-in-one comprehensive guide to help you get a handle on the ins and outs, learn proven success strategies, and get the answers to quench your burning questions.
Are you ready? Let’s roll!
What Is Business Development?
Do you want your company to make more money? Likely, reading this question you thought – yes, of course!
Let’s take a moment to think about how companies generally skew those numbers…
Realistically, there are two main ways that a company can start making more money:
- Create new opportunities to expand its revenue stream.
- Improve internal processes to save more money.
But what if you could have one role manage both of these aspects simultaneously?
And that’s exactly where business development comes in!
As an activity, business development is a group of tasks, processes, and systems used to uncover, create, and implement opportunities for growth, whether inside or outside of a given organization.
Now, reading that, you probably thought that there are lots of ways that either of the two points we’ve noted above can be brought to fruition.
And you’re entirely right. Business development spans an incredibly broad subset of activities, from organizational strategy to resource management, market opportunity development, and even operational planning.
And it’s this exact vast breadth of touch-points that makes it such an essential and effective approach to scaling your company and business.
However, imagining all of the various functions that business development entails can be admittedly challenging for most people. So let’s take a look at what roles business development plays across departments to get a better feel.
What Business Development May Look Like In Various Departments
Admittedly, if you gathered a hundred business development professionals and asked them what their responsibilities and role was at a given company, you’d likely get a varied batch of answers based on what department the individual at hand operates in.
For sales-driven companies, it might involve cold outreach and vendor relationships. However, for a large enterprise spanning several different markets with its line of business, it might be more centered around market opportunity development and research.
Here’s a quick rundown of what a sales development professional may focus on in the core departments of an average business:
One of the biggest growth catalysts for practically any business out there is sales. And undeniably, if a company wants to grow, they need the customer influx to fuel their revenue stream’s rapid ascension. From finding potential leads to creating sales strategies for optimal convertibility, this is one of the most critical areas of business development in terms of a direct and easily measurable business impact.
From deciphering competitor strategies to implementing initiatives to best connect the company with an audience of prospective clients, marketing is undeniably one of the most important areas of focus for any business, especially due to the fact that it’s so closely woven in with sales.
Partnership Development & Vendor Relations
In the B2B world, sometimes, the best way to reach a new audience of customers is by leveraging the audience another company has access to in a symbiotic way. Whether you want to work with local businesses to have on the ground presence in new markets or find strategic vendors to create a unique offering backed by a trusted name, securing and maintaining key partnerships is one of the core aspects of business development.
Organizational Planning & Business Strategy Optimization
Every business relies on a clear-cut strategy and lots of planning to succeed. Whatever your core operational objectives are, most likely, you want to implement it at the lowest cost, while securing a sizable boost to your revenue stream – and that’s very closely tied to the entire essence of business development itself.
Sometimes, the easiest way to see your profits grow is by cutting down on your expenses. From overspending to unnecessary costs incurred through inefficient processes, business development helps identify prospective savings and streamline more efficient processes to cut down on costs.
While this doesn’t by any means encapsulate the entire spectrum of activities that business development covers, it’s a good start towards really coming to understand some of the core functions that we’ve covered earlier and getting an insight into why business development is such an essential function of the business.
So, to summarize, if we look over all of these, let’s think about what each and every example we mentioned effectively does?
All of these functions help your company make more money!
However, before you take off, roll your sleeves up and get working, it’s essential that you have a plan of action. And while many of the key functions of business development are relatively easy to understand, creating a business development plan is a far more challenging endeavor for most.
So, let’s take a look at just how you should go about creating a business development plan.
How To Put Together A Solid Business Development Plan
When you’re trying to bring a business development strategy to life, the very essence of your efforts should revolve around the business itself. You’ll need to take a close look at the company’s operations and the various details involved to identify potential areas of improvement before assessing the impact priority of each and putting pen to paper to create your plan.
However, for many people, that’s just a bit too broad of a concept to grasp from the get-go. That’s why we always recommend doing a SWOT Analysis as a fantastic starting point.
What Is A SWOT Analysis?
This type of analysis essentially involves identifying your company’s immediate strengths and weaknesses alongside available opportunities and potential threats that could bring your business to a halt.
In relation to business development, it should cover the entirety of your lead generation, conversion, and customer retention flows.
You’ll want to identify how:
- Your company generates new leads and opportunities
- Leads are converted into happy and satisfied customers
- Customers are nurtured to become loyal brand-supporters
Keep your target market in mind. The core mission here is to identify what advantages (strengths) your company has over key players, where it falls short, and what opportunities it can capitalize on in the short term – this will form the basic structure for your business development plan.
This, coupled with an effort to optimize the operational processes in place, can and will drive a company’s success in an effective and impactful manner.
But, how do you actually identify ineffective processes across the board?
How To Identify And Optimize Operational Processes
While this certainly should be done across the entirety of an organization, to keep things comprehensive and really illustrate the point we’re trying to make, let’s start with your own role and your particular department.
Before you dive deep into strategic planning, ask yourself what a typical day at work looks like for you. How much of your work is really spent creating revenue for the company? And on the flip side, how much of it do your spend doing work that will not directly produce a sizable impact for the business?
While “being busy” is certainly a good thing, if you’re busy with meaningless tasks like answering emails, attending a million meetings that are not actionable for you or answering a barrage of semi-relevant or irrelevant inquiries altogether, you only have so little time left to focus on the tasks that will directly lead to a growth in revenue.
Now think about how this applies to your department or even the entirety of the company.
Starting with yourself, it might be a good idea to conduct a survey with the goal of understanding the key inefficiencies across each and every department. Why is this so important? More often than not, these inefficiencies are directly costing the company a significant amount of money.
Once you’ve got a solid grasp of what those are, the next step would be to work with management to assess the concrete impact of each case and example and prioritize which ones should be addressed first.
So, having done the two core steps we’ve just covered, you should now have a good understanding of your own company at a glance. However, what about the competition?
How To Uncover The Business Development Strategies Driving Your Competitors’ Success
Whether you want to make use of a proven framework or simply get to understand the fundamental principles behind a competitor’s strategy, the key here is to analyze their company in the same manner you would your own, from the outside looking in.
You can use any of the following frameworks to get actionable competitive insights:
- SWOT Analysis
- Perceptual Mapping
- Fundamental Analysis
- 9 Box Framework
- Porter’s Five Forces
However, the key here is not only to understand the market and competitors operating in it but to understand what they’re doing to market their products and services as well as why they’re doing it and whether or not it would be effective in current market conditions.
Having these key pieces of knowledge will help you transpose the information you gain overtop of your own company to identify which areas you’re ahead in, and which successful strategies you can replicate to grow further.
If you’d like more information on the detailed steps involved in doing a competitor analysis, check out this guide by Buffer.
Setting Effective Business Development Goals
Okay, so now you’ve covered your company, your competitors and have deep insights into the market(s) you operate within. What’s the next step?
For a company to take action on strategies and knowledge gained in an effective manner, you need goals.
They provide easily measurable performance targets that can act as the skeleton for a broader plan of action.
Ideally, the goals you set in stone should not only be easily trackable, but actually achievable as well. However, a tinge of ambition always goes a long way towards growth. For example, if you were primarily responsible for the sales aspect of a company, your goals may look a little like this:
- Generate $2 Million in recurring revenue over this fiscal year
- Onboard 2 strategic partners by the third quarter
- Achieve a 60% closing ratio for new leads
The key aspect here is that all of these goals are easily understood, easily tracked, and can be broken down into an actionable set of sub-goals that will lead to the achievement of broader objectives.
And this is where we arrive at the next key concept – turning these broad goals into more finite sub-goals that follow the same principle across every key area of business.
For example, if we were looking to achieve a particular revenue goal in the upcoming fiscal year, the “steps” may be similar to:
- Marketing: Increase monthly organic visitors to 50,000 from 35,000 by creating more valuable audience-relevant content and running individual SEO campaigns targeted at ranking that content for relevant buying-intent customer queries
- Sales: Reduce the conversion timeframe to 14 days from 30 and increase the conversion rate to 60% from 50%
- Customer Success: Increase the average customer life-span to 6 months from 4 months by creating more touch-points and outreach steps between customers and account managers
You may have noticed by now that these are again goals. However, compared to their overarching objectives, these goals are more finite, more detailed, and hint at a plan of action. In turn, these “sub-goals” will be further broken down into more finite objectives that will outline the steps and milestones involved in achieving the goals we’ve laid out above.
For example, if we were focusing on the marketing example we covered earlier, some of the sub-goals could look like:
- Identify 20 topics via keyword research that garner at least 5,000 monthly searches a month each.
- Discover and reach out to at least 100 industry-relevant authoritative websites that cover similar content to develop at least 20 backlink opportunities for the topics we’ve identified
- Speak with 5 social media authorities with an audience of at least 20,000 people that cover similar content to create exposure opportunities for the topics we’ve identified
In turn, this creates an easy to follow system of goals and objectives that details what you should be doing, focusing on and pursuing to ensure growth in revenue and ultimately, the success of your business.
If you’re interested in learning more about setting effective company-wide goals and objectives, check out this article by OkDork.
Ok, so now we’ve gathered all the pieces, created effective goals for the company, what’s next?
Implementing them, of course…
However, before you roll up your sleeves, you should make sure that the goals you set are going to be implemented in an efficient manner. This is done through clear and concise standard operating procedures.
What Are Standard Operating Procedures & Why They’re So Important
In a nutshell, standard operating procedures help everyone involved understand how tasks should be done, how they relate and feed into the scheme of objectives we’ve put together earlier, and how departments should interoperate to accomplish them.
Effectively, we’re talking about systematizing these tasks and turning them into an easy to follow process, which is a big step towards their successful completion.
You will want to refer back to the understanding you’ve gained of everyone’s responsibilities and daily functions to assess everyone’s abilities and availability in carrying out these tasks. Then, you should break every given milestone or set of tasks into individual assignments and create a process for the people involved that will guide them from step one towards completion.
Ultimately, systematizing your operations is incredibly beneficial. Here are some of the things you’ll be able to accomplish by doing this:
- Create better outcomes and improve the quality of work completed
- Achieve a faster task turnaround time
- Keep a tight handle on all relevant information to avoid gaps in knowledge and information loss
- Ensure that your objectives and tasks are being completed systematically over time
However, it’s important to understand that your business strategy is dynamic. As such, it will evolve over time, and it’s important to revisit it to adjust your own goals, objectives, and processes in place.
Closing Thoughts & Tying It All Together
If you’ve read the entirety of this guide up until this point, you should now have a solid understanding of what business development is, why it’s an essential function of business, and the steps involved in creating an effective approach to business development.
Effectively, business development relies on being able to analyze your company and it’s opportunities inside and out, gaining a strong competitive understanding and, ultimately, discovering, creating, and implementing strong growth opportunities to help your company make more money.
So, now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about business development, it’s our turn to hear from you. Are there any strategies outside of what we’ve covered that you employ on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments below!