coworkers in a meeting
From tapping your relationships to discovering new markets, best business development practices have the potential to take your business to the next level. — Getty Images/fizkes

Business development (or “biz dev”) is defined in many ways and can vary by industry. However, most definitions share the objective of biz dev as finding and building new opportunities for company growth.

As a startup, it may seem logical to prioritize delivering new prospects to sales. However, biz dev can also generate growth through relationships, markets and products. To discover new opportunities for your startup, take time to brainstorm these areas.

[Read: How Business Development Can Boost Sales]

Relationships

Investing in existing relationships can maximize their value to your business. Additionally, there are likely areas where you can seek out new relationships that move you closer to your goals. Here are some approaches to consider:

  • Customers: Existing customers can help you reach new customers. Ways to leverage these relationships to grow your business can include:
    • Reviews, testimonials and referrals. Ask satisfied customers to write a review, provide a testimonial or refer new customers.
    • Assess your performance. Talk with customers to understand what your company does well and where you can improve. Customers will feel valued and improvements make you more appealing to prospects.
    • Identify customer personas. Which customers are happiest with you? Which are repeat buyers? Who spends the most with your business? These may be solid examples of the types of prospects you need to find to grow your business.
    • Upsell/cross-sell. It can sometimes be easier to grow with existing customers than to find new ones, so review customer accounts to identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
  • Employees: Your employees know your company, customers and offerings. Encourage or incentivize them to brag about the company on social media, identify partners or refer potential customers.
  • Networks and community: How are you and other company leaders involved in your community and/or networking? Each connection is a chance to talk about what you do and find relationships that can help you learn and grow. These are best if you can also help others learn and grow.
  • Business collaborations: Working with other companies may help yours grow. Serial technologist Andrew Dumont explained that it’s important, however, to weed out partnership requests that won’t bear fruit and identify relationships that move you both toward your goals. Types of collaborations may include partnerships, distribution agreements, third-party integrations and even acquisitions.

If you stay attuned to your industry and customers, you may notice gaps that your company could fill.

Markets

There are different ways to segment your target audience. Consider your current markets and how you might expand the boundaries or enter new markets, for example:

  • Geography: If you target buyers in a specific location, there may be opportunities to pursue customers in other regions.
  • Demography: If your product is designed for a specific demographic (e.g., women over 50), can you now think of other groups who would benefit from your offering, (e.g., men over 50)?
  • Customer mindset: If you target an audience based on how they buy — such as online, physical retail or stand-alone purchases — consider adding alternatives to reach a broader customer base.

Products

Another possible route to growth is to expand your offering. Try to keep up with industry and technology developments, buyer trends and customer needs. If you stay attuned to your industry and customers, you may notice gaps that your company could fill.

Is a sister product or an add-on needed? Are you the right company to offer it? As this may require additional investment, you’ll want to analyze the risks, benefits and costs. It may be easier for service organizations to expand offerings. But in some cases, adding a new product can extend the reach of your existing product line and is worth the investment.

[Read: Understanding the Difference Between Product Businesses vs. Service Businesses]

Whether you initially take on one area or all three, being intentional about business development can drive your business forward. Take time to consider your current approach, your goals and which biz dev areas might lead to the quickest wins that can fuel a long-term strategy for sustained growth.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published October 18, 2019