The guide to business development you are reading is not like the other articles listed in the search results. I want to overload you with value.
In this blog post, I’ll provide you with a definition of business development. I’ll discuss business development as an academic field, look at some of the important theories to research, and finally show you how to create a business development plan for your company. In fact, I’ll be sharing the business development strategy I used to grow a six-figure agency in less than 12 months.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:
- What Is Business Development
- How Is Business Development Different to Sales
- How To Create a Business Development Plan
- Analyze the Competition
- Identify Your Business Opportunities
- How to Set Your Business Development Goals
- The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures
- Review Your Progress & Improve
- The Fundamentals of Business Development
I recommend you bookmark the content for future reference. Let’s start at the beginning.
What is Business Development
Business development is a “set of tasks and processes meant to create growth opportunities for a company. Growth opportunities are generally achieved through improving relationships with partners, accessing new markets, or the release or improvement of products or services.”
In other words, Business development is any activity that:
- Cut costs and improves productivity
- Generates more sales by reaching new customers
- Helps you make more money from your customers
You can see from this definition that the scope of business development is quite broad. Business development covers a lot of things. It is a multidisciplinary skill.
The approach you take to business development depends on the type of business you are running, the niche you are operating in, and the goals you want to achieve.
For example, the business development strategy for a global firm like Microsoft will be very different from the approach that a person running a single cafe will take. Microsoft might spend a lot of time considering their production chain, development in CPU technology, and factors like how a new piece of legislation in China impacts business operations. On the other hand, the local coffee shop’s business owner might spend a large part of their time sourcing the best coffee beans and running local marketing campaigns.
While the ultimate goal is the same, “to make more money,” how businesses achieve that goal will differ.
Underpinning the practice of business development is a huge body of theory developed by academics and business leaders. If you’re serious about business development, spend time learning from your peers.
For example, as a startup business owner, I spend a lot of time reading books like:
- The Lean Startup – You’ll see many people in the tech startup scene talk about this book. The book provides a framework startups can use to reduce costly mistakes and grow fast
- Blue Ocean Strategy – How fast-growing businesses open up new markets to reach consumers.
- Revels & Innovators: How Rebels & Innovators Create New Categories & Dominate Markets – Builds on the ideas of Blue Ocean Strategy. Discusses how to become a market leader in a new category
I always study business theory. For example, you have things like the Ansoff Matrix Models, the Strategic Planning Gap, and more. These theories are like business development tools.
I use the insights that I gain from books, tips I gained from my professional support network, and tools to grow my business. I then adapt that business strategy based on the results I get in the market.
How Is Business Development Different to Sales
As I mentioned earlier, almost every business will have a plan in place to increase their revenue. A good business development strategy will cover every part of the company.
The business plan will include your marketing activities, sales activities, customer service, and more. Your goal is to optimize every part of your business to maximize growth.
Sales will be one of the main drivers of growth for your company. Therefore, it’s logical to have a business development strategy to increase your rate of customer acquisition.
You might increase the rate of customer acquisition by spending more time cold emailing potential clients.
Acquiring customers is only one part of the equation. When you’ve got a new customer, you need to make sure they’re happy. That means providing the best product or service possible. If you do this right, you’ll reduce customer churn, which means you’ll grow faster.
The business development plan you create needs to consider sales.
Hopefully, you can see why business development isn’t just about sales. Business development is something that covers every part of your existing and future business operations.
How to Create a Business Development Plan
I’ve grown three successful businesses in the last decade. A large part of my success is down to creating a solid business development strategy, and implementing the plan. This is what I’ve done for my consulting work.
Because I had a business development plan, my SaaS consulting business has grown fast. I have also avoided a lot of silly rookie mistakes and enticing distractions that could have diverted my attention.
Analyze The Competition
Every great plan is based on research. Well, most great plans are based on research. Ice cream at midnight is rarely planned, but it’s pretty great 😀
The first thing I do when creating a business development strategy is to review the factors that will play an important role in achieving a goal. If you’re focused on sales or growing your customer base, you will want to review things like:
- What your competitors are doing
- How much they charge for their service
- General market trends
The purpose of this research is to help you formulate the best possible plan.
Let me give you my SaaS marketing business as an example. During my review of the competitive landscape for this business, I discovered some of the following:
- There are a lot of general marketing agencies and few specialized SaaS agencies
- Agencies offering content marketing services locked clients into expensive contracts
- Most companies charge a fee, which is not directly related to delivery. For example, you pay $4k a month for SEO support (whatever that means)
- Many clients failed to see an ROI from the service and were skeptical of agencies abilities to deliver on their promise
- Most agencies don’t do guest posting or link building
Essentially, my research helped me assess the competitive landscape. You can apply this same business development model to reducing costs, accessing a new market, or starting a company.
Identify Your Business Opportunities
At the end of the research phase of your business development plan, you need to review the information you gathered. In my case, I tried to see how I could turn some of the common trends into opportunities.
My goal was to find ways to do things that are disruptive and help me stand out. Let’s do a quick recap of some of those points I mentioned earlier.
|Points||Opportunities for Disruption|
|Lots of Competition||Niche down to SaaS|
|Clients are locked into contracts||Skip the contract|
|Fixed monthly fee||Only charge for what I deliver|
|Skeptical clients||Offer a free trial period|
|Agencies don’t do SEO||Write a lot of guest posts|
When creating your business development strategy, identify where your opportunities lie. For example, I decided that skipping contracts was one way I could differentiate myself from the competition. In fact, I made that a key part of my sales message on the homepage I created with a landing page builder.
You can see how your initial research can generate useful insights. This “risk free” approach to working with an agency has played a role in the fast growth of the company.
How to Set Your Business Development Goals
That’s the research and planning stage out of the way. It’s time to set your company goals.
Goals are important because they provide quantifiable targets. Ideally, you want to have a single overarching company-wide goal. The company goal you set needs to be easy to understand, but ambitious to achieve.
You then create sub-goals for the different parts of your business. So for example, for my website, I started with the following goal.
- Generate $5k in monthly recurring revenue
That’s a pretty easy goal to understand. Now I need to explain how I’m going to do this. My sub-goals look like this.
- Sales Goal: Secure 1 new client each month from cold outreach
- Delivery: Every two months get 1 client to increase their order
- Human Resources: Hire 1 full-time member of staff
I can break these goals into quantifiable sub-goals. For example, I try to have a meeting with five potential clients a month. To generate those meetings I email 200 businesses a week.
You need to be able to quantify how you will achieve all your goals. This is the kind of business management systems that companies like Google put in place. It helps keep people accountable to targets and provides them with a way to achieve their goals.
The Importance of Standard Operating Procedures
After you have finished strategizing you need to implement your business development goals. There are too many variables in place for me to provide you with many useful insights for this part of the process.
However, there is one business development tip I can share…
As you complete tasks and find an approach that works for your company, create some Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). These are the traffic rules for your company. They cover how tasks should be accomplished, and departments should operate.
I use project management tools to run projects. I use the same system now, with 7 staff, as when I started when I was working for myself.
When creating your SOP, break a job down into chunks. List out all of the things a person or a company department needs to do to complete the task.
Systemizing your business in this way has multiple benefits:
- Reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task
- Don’t lose information when a person leaves the company, which speeds up the transition
- Ensure vital tasks get completed every month
Keep in mind that your business strategy is not fixed. Make sure to periodically review your business development strategy. Analyze what is working and what is not, then adapt your strategy.
Review Your Progress
The final stage of your business development strategy is the review stage. This is where you put a date in the diary and say, “in three months’ time we should be…”
Then, you can review progress against your goals.
The purpose of these reviews is to see how you’ve done against your business goals. Just as importantly, a review is a chance to adjust your business plan to make sure that it aligns with what you’re trying to accomplish.
You can incorporate things like a SWOT analysis in your quarterly or annual review. These types of exercises can help you understand where you stand.
During a review, you should assess the validity of your business goals. Make sure they are still relevant to your company. If they are, great. If not, change your business development goals.
How to Scale Fast
Over time your responsibilities will change. However, in the case of a business owner, your ultimate goal will stay the same. Your goal is to generate money. You don’t want to get stuck managing the day to day tasks that don’t add value.
However, it can be easy to lose focus on what is important for the business.
If you find yourself overworked, try to find a way to free up your time. The way I do this within my business planning is to list the activities that make me money. For example, with my current business I earn roughly:
- SEO Consulting work = $10k+
- Private training = $3k
- Affiliate marketing = $0.5k
It’s easy to see what makes the company the most money.
Next, review which activities have seen the fastest revenue growth over a quarter. Doing these two tasks will help you identify the biggest drivers of growth. Your business development strategy should be focused on these drivers.
The Fundamentals Of Business Development
I hope you’ve got a lot of value from this guide. In the first section of the guide, I defined business development. I talked about the academic basis for business development as a field. I then showed you how to use the insights that you gain from your peers to create a business development strategy that’s right for your business.
In the second half of this guide, I provided you with an example of my business development strategy. I showed you how I put together a business strategy that allowed me to scale a marketing agency from a side hustle to a six-figure business in less than 12 months. I hope you’ve found this article interesting. If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments below.