Business development is an ongoing and essential part of life when you’re a CEO or manager. It’s also one area a lot of people struggle with. That’s partly because it’s a fuzzy concept, and people aren’t always sure what it entails. But mostly, it’s because we’re so busy we struggle to find the time to think about and focus on the bigger picture. We’re too close to the daily workings of our business. All our energy is tied up in the need to keep on top of everything.
We lack perspective.
It’s easy to dream of where you want to get to, but not so simple to actually see a clear path to get there.
But if you want your organisation to thrive, you need to make business development a top priority.
Easier said than done, right?
To help you cut through the daily minutiae and get a bit of much-needed perspective, here’s how to grow your company with Acrylic’s guide to business development made easy…
Know Yourself As A Business Development Pro…
When you know yourself inside and out, as a business development professional, you have a solid foundation on which to build. Before you get to the ins and outs of your business, SWOT analysis, or any of that nonsense, spend some time working on your self-awareness.
What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
How can you play to those strengths in your business?
What can you do to manage and avoid your weaknesses?
How can you develop yourself personally so you continue to evolve as a professional, and can start to count some of those weaknesses as strengths?
Whatever stage you’re at in your business development, there’s always the time (and need) for greater self-awareness. Evaluate your goals (both personal and professional) on a regular basis. Assess your interpersonal skills, passions, and work on aligning the development of your work and business to those areas.
Above all, never try to be someone you’re not.
Not only will a lack of authenticity damage your branding, you will find yourself incredibly frustrated by your apparent inability to succeed. We often have an idea of what it means to be a successful business owner or CEO. We try to force ourselves to conform to that idea, believing it will lead to growth and the achievement of our goals.
Fake it ‘til you make it, right?
All you’re doing is setting yourself up for failure.
Understanding and remaining true to yourself, in all aspects of your business, is the only true path to success.
Your brand will connect more effectively with your audience, and your customers will feel more satisfied with the products or services you offer, while you will have clarity and infinitely more satisfaction in your work.
Know Your Business, Competition, And Industry…
Just as it’s vital that you understand yourself, you need to know your business. And you need to be very clear on how your competition ticks. You need to understand your industry, and beyond that have a clearly defined niche.
You probably think you already understand everything there is to know about your business.
Afterall, it’s your business. You built it, right? Or at the very least manage it.
Even if you’re not the CEO or on the management level, you’re working in it every day, you know what you do.
But do you know why you do it?
Yes, you’re in it to make money (we all are, or we wouldn’t call it business), but what’s the deeper reasoning going on? What are your values? What is the ethos underpinning the products or services you provide?
At the end of the day it’s not what you do that will attract clients. It’s why you’re doing it.
People choose brands that sell them on an ideal, a feeling, or the promise of a situation that is better than their current circumstances.
People don’t buy from companies that peddle stuff, but businesses that deliver dreams.
Once you understand the why of your business your vision for developing your business, and all your marketing efforts snap into focus and becomes infinitely more powerful.
And what about that marketing?
Do you have clearly defined goals, and established metrics that allow you to measure your success in achieving them?
Always know where you’re going, why you’re heading there, the direction you need to take, and how far down the road you are.
Knowing Your Competitors…
Standing out from the crowd means understanding the madding throng of businesses doing what you do. When you understand your competition you can make your products and services stand out. You can craft a marketing strategy that’s bold, creative, and completely different to anything else out there.
Beyond that, you’re only able to set competitive pricing, and respond to the marketing campaigns of your rivals with your own promotions and initiatives, if you understand what those rivals are doing and why they’re doing it.
So as much as it’s important to understand your own business, you need to keep up-to-date with your competitors’ companies.
The more information and understanding you have of what else your audience are considering, the better able you are to craft marketing campaigns that take advantage of holes and weaknesses in the strategies of others. This allows you to understand potential threats, and strengthen the performance of your business.
Think outside the proverbial box on this one.
Don’t assume you don’t have competition.
You do. We all do.
Beyond this, the business landscape is mercurial and ever-changing. It’s not enough to assess your competition now, and assume those businesses won’t evolve.
Nor can you be lax in looking for the next big thing. The next new product that will rival (or supplant) your own. The next innovative service that renders what you do obsolete. The big trends in marketing and your specific industry that are on the rise. Or the next new startup that arrives on the scene.
Constant vigilance is tedious, but it’s also vital for growing your company and ensuring success.
Clarity On Your Industry And Niche…
The final piece of this puzzle is getting complete clarity where your industry is concerned. Again, this is more than simply knowing ‘what you do’. It’s understanding the greater context of what you do:
- How other people are doing what you do differently (for better and worse).
- What other people are doing in relation to what you do.
- The (constantly) evolving landscape of the marketplace as it relates to your industry.
- New technology and innovations that will impact your business.
- Developments going on outside your industry, and how you can use them to enhance what you do.
To truly make your business development as easy as possible, it’s also important to understand the specific niche you occupy within your industry. It’s impossible to operate in the business world without an industry.
It’s entirely possible to do so without a niche.
It’s just a bad idea.
By honing in on the very specific aspect of your industry that you’re most passionate about, and do better than anyone else, you can really differentiate yourself within your industry.
Carve out a spot at the top of a niche in your industry, rather than trying to clamber to the top of the slush pile that is your industry as a whole.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t shoot to be the best of the best across your whole sector, simply that (initially at least) it’s a lot easier to do if you narrow down your niche.
Know Your Ideal Clients….
One of the big things I’ve noticed when I first start talking to a new client about their target audience is that they are vague. Too many business are targeting everyone in a certain catchment area, or anyone who could feasibly use their product or service.
This is a completely natural position to take – more prospects means more business, right?
The problem with having a very broad target audience is two-fold:
- Your marketing message needs to appeal to a very wide range of people, from all walks and stages of life, in all industries and areas of interest, with multiple problems. In order to ‘speak’ to a such a diverse range of people, that message must be inherently generic. You can’t be specific about pain points, you can’t drill down to the exact situation or issue your audience are facing, because it won’t apply to everyone. By trying to appeal to everyone, you inadvertently become bland, unremarkable, and fail to make a big impact on anyone.
- The ROI you will get on all your marketing efforts is seriously curtailed, as you’re using a ‘spray and pray’ approach. You’re blasting your marketing message at a huge number of people, and praying that some of them are interested enough to take the bait. And because your message is diluted to appeal to so many people, it’s not very tasty bait.
When you get very specific about who you want to work with, the pool of prospects shrinks dramatically. That feels counter-intuitive, like you’re leaving money on the table, but you’re not. The people you are targeting all share very common factors. They have the same, very specific issues, the same clearly defined areas of interest and expertise, and they speak the same language.
Suddenly your marketing message can be finely tuned to speak directly to just that group of people.
You can paint a vivid picture of their situation, and how your offer will totally change their work or life. Every word can be carefully chosen to align with the language and interests of these people. Your content can offer massive value because you know exactly what makes them tick, where they’re struggling, and how to deliver actionable information that will immediately help them.
Why Niche Marketing Works…
Niche marketing is the antithesis of the spray and pray approach. And that’s good.
Spray and pray marketing sucks.
You’re targeting a much smaller group of people, but that group are businesses or individuals who desperately need what you do, who are aware of the value of what you offer, who are already looking for the exact solution you have.
If you’re using any kind of PPC advertising the more demographic information you have the better able you are to target people who are actually likely to buy from you. Meanwhile, SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, and all other forms of inbound promotion can be crafted to directly appeal to those demographics. This not only improves your chances of attracting people, it ensures the people you attract are actually clients you want to work with.
Which brings me to the very best part about identifying your ideal client: you can hone down to the common traits of clients you simply love to work with, and exclude the traits of nightmare customers.
If there’s a specific industry you favour, or an area you’re particularly knowledgeable about, you can focus on it exclusively. This allows you to position yourself as the go-to expert in a very niche specialty, which makes your marketing message even more powerful.
Conversely, you may know there are businesses in certain industries, and individuals with certain interests that you really can’t abide working with.
These people can be excluded.
And how about the bottom line – do you really want clients who are constantly looking to get a discount, to cut the amount they spend with you, to get more and more for less? Or would you rather target people who completely understand your worth, the value of what you offer, and will gladly pay whatever you ask?
Segmenting Your Ideal Clients…
If you’re freaking out at the prospect of limiting your options in terms of clients, having a clear idea of who your perfect customers are isn’t going to curtail your growth. For one thing, all your marketing efforts will be infinitely more effective when you’re targeting the right people.
Marketing success not only means growth, but sustainable growth.
For another, as you grow your business, develop new products and services, and evolve, you will find you develop new client groups, and that the ideal clients you originally identified have changed.
Don’t be afraid to segment your ideal clients.
You may also need a different profile (or avatar) for different products and services, because the specific people you target for each are different.
There’s no reason you can’t have multiple ideal clients.
Just remember that your marketing message needs to be crafted to speak to your ideal client. Which means segmenting your perfect client profile will require you to segment your marketing and content, so there is a different strand for every ideal client avatar you have.
This can get very complicated, very quickly. And due to the huge amount of time and resources required for effective marketing (particularly if you’re using content marketing), you can end up creating a huge amount of extra work for yourself.
So don’t be afraid to segment your ideal client groups, but make absolutely sure that each separate avatar you create is 100% necessary.
Be Consistent And Strategic In Your Marketing Activities…
The big stumbling block to effective business development is poor marketing, and this usually takes on of two forms:
You’re Not Marketing Consistently ( Or At All )…
You’re so busy working in your business – delivering client work, developing new products and services, and constantly pushing for more customers – that you fail to work on your business. While this frequently goes for business development as well as marketing, it’s marketing that usually takes the biggest hit.
Marketing takes time, resources, and an incredible amount of content creation. When you’re under the gun and up against deadlines, have clients waiting for deliverables, and you’re worrying over cashflow and where your next lead is coming from, it’s extremely easy to get stuck in a ‘our stuff last’ mentality. You put off everything that needs doing to keep your own marketing going, because there’s never enough time for it, and spending that time on work for existing clients, or landing new clients, seems more important.
When you do have time to market yourself, you blast things out as you can. A blog post here, a social update there, the occasional newsletter. You have no consistency in your marketing and as a result, it never bears any fruit.
This only reinforces the sense that your time could be better spent elsewhere, and perpetuates the cycle.
You’re Marketing Your Socks Off, But Without A Clear Strategy…
The flipside is that you are pouring a lot into your marketing, being consistent, and really trying your best. Yet still, it never quite seems to produce the results you want. This is usually due to an underlying lack of strategy.
You’re creating and getting your message out there, but you have no clear path mapped out for how your efforts (both inbound and outbound) will actually attract leads and convert them into customers.
Often you will be missing key elements – such as an understanding of your goals, competition, and ideal clients. These are the things that make what you’re creating marketing, as opposed to simply a series of activities and pieces of content.
The best example of this is SEO – anyone can churn out blog posts, but even if you blog daily that content is never going to attract any clients if it isn’t properly optimised for search, and highly targeted at the specific people you want to work with.
Follow Up And Treat All Leads Equally…
As business owners we often obsess so much over lead generation that we fail to focus on the what follows.
How are you following up with your leads? Are you using exactly the same process for each and every one?
When you’ve been at this awhile you get a feel for certain things, and the source of your leads is one of them.
It’s incredibly easy to let one bad experience tar your view of all future leads coming to you from the same place.
Maybe you had a client recommend you to a friend and that friend turnout out to be an unmitigated nightmare. Perhaps you poured a lot of time and effort into providing free consultations or trial services, only to to be left with zero conversion rate, or clients who failed to stay with you long-term. Or maybe you’ve had a few people come to you after following your posts on Instagram and they have, to a fault, all turned out to be incapable of paying on time.
Troublesome clients are unavoidable.
We get better at weeding them out and being more discerning in who we target and take on, but throughout the life of your business you’re going to have bad experiences.
If you have a new lead that comes to you from the same source as one that burned you, you’re understandably going to be a little gun shy.
Put it aside.
Follow up on every lead that comes your way in exactly the same manner.
Treat a lead as a lead, regardless of the source; just because one lead from that source let you down, doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that everyone coming to you through that channel will turn into a bad experience.
Nail Your Processes And Templates…
Speaking of doing things exactly the same every time, make sure you have a stock set of proposals and templates.
If you’re having to create bespoke tenders and proposals for every single opportunity, you’re wasting time.
Most proposals consist of a similar set of sections – price breakdowns, deliverables, an overview of the team and their abilities, timescales, etc. If you have a branded document that includes a section designed for each of the segments you use regularly, you can simply paste the relevant information into it and boom, you have a professional document ready to send out in seconds.
Extend this practice beyond the process you use to pitch prospective new clients, and ensure you have set processes and templates in place for as many aspects of the business as possible.
For example, at Acrylic we do a lot of content creation, from social media posts, to blog images, and graphics for websites and YouTube. The team have developed branded templates for every single client, so that when it’s time to schedule some more social media posts it’s a simple case of adding the latest text and images to those templates.
It’s simple, efficient, and ensures complete consistency across all of our clients’ branding.
We also have set processes for tasks that are completed on a regular basis. For example, blog content is drafted in a live document by one of our writers, edited by another member of the writing team, sent to the client for edits and approvals, amended, proofread, graphics are created, everything is uploaded, scheduled, and then checked one final time.
The process is exactly the same every time, ensuring the highest quality, and it’s a workflow the team has utterly nailed.
Look at your own tasks and check you’re doing things in the most effective, efficient way possible. Get everyone on the same page, and ensure everyone knows what their roles are, when they need to complete tasks, and that the whole process flows seamlessly.
Never Stop Asking Questions…
When you’re talking to prospective new clients, never stop asking questions. It shows you have a keen interest in their business and are looking for the big picture. Don’t approach them with the mindset that they’re simply looking for a price, and that you should provide a quote while bothering them as little as possible.
Start the process of getting to know the person and the company before you have their business.
This is your early opportunity to show your personality, take advantage of it!
And when it comes to your own business, apply the same philosophy. Question everything, constantly. Why are you doing things a certain way? Is it the best way? How can it be better?
Questions pave the way for real growth and development in your company, never stop asking them (even when they’re uncomfortable or you’re not really sure you want to know the answer!).
Last but by absolutely no means least, if you truly want your business to thrive, get the support you need. No man is an island, no company capable of doing absolutely everything. You need the impartial perspective of an outside observer to help you develop your business, grow, and hit your goals. You’re also very unlikely to have the capacity to do every aspect of your marketing and development in-house.
That’s where we come in! If you’re looking for the perfect creative digital marketing agency to spearhead the promotion of your company, and help you make business development easy, bob onto our online booking system right now and make an appointment for a free consultation. You’ll get a dedicated slot in the diary to speak with me directly, either on the phone or in person, and a written proposal to follow up our chat. There’s no charge, and no obligation…
Acrylic Digital’s co-founder and director Nick Simpson is a marketing magician and the brains behind the business development side of our team. Keeping our customers happy and making sure we deliver maximum ROI to each and every one is a bit of an obsession of his.
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