In today's business environment, the ability to effectively connect What-You-Know to Who-You-Know, the buyers in your market, have become the keys to business development success—and new strategies are needed to get it right.
In general, the goal of business development is “getting more customers”. These days, this is becoming more challenging because most customers—and specifically B2B customers—are more connected to more information much earlier in the business development process than ever before. To succeed, you need to market What-You-Know, not just Who-You-Are, and communicate with customers across the entire spectrum of tools, including print, media, web, email, and personal contact.
In addition, What-You-Know, is as important as Who-You-Know. Traditionally, business development has required a large rolodex of personal contacts and enough charisma and focus to network with those contacts 5-7 days a week. I still do this actively, and I’ve pursued it for years—mostly because I’m lucky enough that I honestly enjoy the people I network with.
However, it is no longer just about Who-You-Know (although it still very important). In today's business environment, your ability to effectively connect What-You-Know to Who-You-Know, the buyers in your market, have become the keys to business development success.
The result is that traditionally defined business development roles are no longer equipped to deliver the kind of long-term results needed for sustainable market success or for scaling a business quickly.
The objectives of business development have not changed
They are still the tried-and-true goals to build relationships, attract new customers, open new markets, and propel business growth. But the strategies—execution, areas of knowledge, and skills required—require new approaches to content, programs, and tools.
Specifically, a business development leader has the following responsibilities:
- Defining the business you are in and how to position it in your market. This specifically includes identifying customer requirements for purchase – or Product Market Fit in today’s Accelerator Model. This is critical to determining your product – market fit and, ultimately how you can develop the capability to scale the business into new regions and markets.
- Articulating your value proposition against those customer requirements – and against your competition.
- Understanding what your customer wants to know at each decision stage during their buying process.
- Prioritizing how to use customer intelligence to connect with your markets and generate more business – referral programs, customer references, testimonials, photography, press events. This also relates to lead generation and follow up, sales training, etc.
Evaluating and reporting on performance
Along with management, recruiting, marketing, sales, and “pitching” skills— creating business development success requires the following specific ingredients:
- Content: Create marketing and sales materials that are findable, relevant, and valuable from a customer point of view. This also includes white papers and case studies, tech sheets and specifications like user manuals, warranty and ordering requirements.
- Branding: Start with a common look and feel. Hire a professional, it’s worth the money.
- Partners: Build relationships and attend to all the contractual matters that are included.
- Programs: Promote your business through the most effective channels and measure results in order to optimize your performance
- Tools: Include updates to your website, use of databases that track business development activity, and analytics that measure performance.
Creating a Vision for a Scalable Business
We’ve all heard about “Venture Math”. To make it work, to make your company “investable”, you need to demonstrate the capacity and plan to both start and scale your company to >$50M in 5 years.
Here are the first four steps I’d take to do it:
- Develop the best professional team you can. Help them focus on establishing a body of work that helps make you credible in your market. The key here is in hiring the right people—people who can do the job you need to have done. People who have skills that can grow with the company. And people you can EMPOWER to get the job done you've hired them to do. If you scale quickly, this will be the MOST difficult part of growing.
- Begin the work of process-izing every aspect of the business. As an organization starts scaling, it needs to systematize what, until then, has remained un-systematized: codifying and standardizing the patterns and dynamics that underlie how the organization operates from day to day. Making this shift is typically agonizingly difficult for owners, and many companies fail because they become mired in firefighting rather than growing the business. Start at the beginning, or you’ll find you are working in your business, not on your business.
- Find and sell to some key customers. Do everything you can to make their experiences overwhelmingly positive. Customer traction is the key to raising VC funds if you decide to go that route, and customer traction will ultimately determine your value if you're ever acquired.
- Develop partnerships that give you the opportunity to finance, install, recycle, maintain and / or provide service to your customers—with the idea that you can either bring this service component in-house or make money on it effectively. This is the key to figuring out if you offer a service business or not. Find a way to test this to determine what parts of the value chain you want/need to keep close, and what you can outsource to limit the costs of scaling—and to effectively explain your own unique value proposition to both customers and investors.
The most important part of all this is to PLAN, then execute, while refining your plan constantly. The planning effort up front takes a huge amount of work, because you have to figure out so much and put it into a form and context that customers, investors, employees, and the public can use to understand your business and product.
Getting this right is not usually something you can do right off the bat, since you must define, then refine repeatedly until the results—generally defined as sales and product market fit—are truly optimal. And what's optimal? Profitably growing at a speed that you are able to effectively support.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health.