Written by Rebecca Jones, Senior Account Director at Ingenuity.
There’s a point in the lifecycle of every business, where sales stop being organic. Growth reaches its natural precipice and the influx of inbound enquiries stops flowing as fast as it once did. At this point, it’s time to form your Business Development Strategy.
Some will view this as a long-term vision piece, some will start with what needs to happen on day one, and others will look to where they want to be at day one thousand. Whichever way you choose to proceed, it’s vital to think about the way that you’ll engage customers in the future and keep this at the front and centre of your new business strategy.
There are a number of ways to tackle a business development strategy. First point of call is to make sure that you’ve understood the difference between developing your business and just supporting your sales team. Of course, your business development strategy will do this but it’s not the modus operandi, instead it aims to ensure long-term growth. This means looking at all your available channels, using them to build connections and relationships that convert into clients that support you into the future.
Thinking about sales probably gives you images of The Phone Shop and Del Boy; likely a man with a briefcase, offering you a cheap deal on the latest bit of kit. Business development, on the other hand, inspires thoughts of high-flying executives, excel sheets and boardrooms.
In the world of new business agencies, business development often means making sure that there’s a great way to get new people in to the top of the sales funnel. Whilst sales remain a vital element of any business team that is going to reach new clients, they are often most useful at the second stage of the journey for a potential customer, and can be often seen as the “closers” (think Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street).
The strategies of bringing people into this pipeline can be as unique as the businesses they exist in, and that’s why a business development plan is so important to ensure that you maximise all of the available opportunities. The first step is to align on the North Star vision that you want to achieve in terms of new business. It could be that you want to have a certain number of conversations, gain a number of clients, or simply drive awareness for your organisation. Not to be confused with marketing, the strategies should align.
Next, it’s a great idea to get everyone who has influence on this plan together in one room to discuss objectives and strategies to reach your goal. You’ll be amazed at the ideas that come from all levels of the business development team. In a world where there are hundreds of channels to communicate with a prospect, there are hundreds of ways to speak to them and generate leads – it’s about maximising resource and picking the ones that matter.
Once you’ve aligned on the best approaches for you, make sure all of these have actionable targets against them and that they build a way for you to be successful in your quest to fill the funnel. Whilst targets often come very easily to senior team members, the practicalities of making these a reality are often skipped by most organisations. Hopefully, your North Star will make sure that you are pointing in the right direction.
There are a few key points to think about when building your business development strategy:
Have you made sure that you’ve got input from all of the key stakeholders? You need an exciting message that is going to motivate them all towards the same end goal. Without this, it will be hard to get them on board when you really need them to execute your plan.
There’s nothing worse than having goals you can never meet. It’s important that your strategy encompasses the reality of the market. Whether that’s looking at competitors internally or externally to get a feel for what’s possible or speaking to a third party agency to understand the landscape, there’s always a way to get a better idea of what is possible for you.
It’s true. Your service or product is special to you, but how do you communicate it to someone else? Fundamentally most services can be boiled down to the same simple principles; it’s your job to communicate your USP, and the one way that you are different to the rest of the world. In the world of agencies, this often means looking at the competition and seeing what they say they do, and making sure that what you do is better (or different enough that it doesn’t matter).
Perhaps you have someone in the team that you always want to be on a pitch, the one that you can rely on to close the deal, or get the prospect excited. You might have a new business director, who’s been in the biz for years, and knows your proposition back to front. Not all of these things make a great funnel filler. Sometimes relying on an external agency or team to do some or all of this side of bringing in leads can be a great solution. After all, you wouldn’t ask your best IT engineer to pitch your agency, so why ask your best closer to do all your opening?
It sounds simple, but there’s no bigger crime in Business Development than failing to strategise effectively and end up having done a big loop of nothing. The time spent at the beginning can feel frustrating, and doesn’t deliver results immediately – but uniformly, those that spend more time in preparation see the greatest yields.
We’d love to offer you some advice on how your business can be better prepared and effective in the world. If you want to know more, give us a call on +44 (0)207 042 2900.
At Ingenuity we understand the wider agency and brand relationship. With insights gained from years of experience and having worked with the best-of-the-best on both sides of the brand-agency relationship, we can help facilitate viable partnerships that last. If you’d like to learn more from our insights or want to gain a clearer view of the agency-brand ecosystem, contact Duncan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.