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Business development identifies ideal customers and partnerships, builds relationships with them, and then develops solutions that guide them towards sales. — Getty Images/FatCamera

If you ask 10 professionals what business development, or ‘biz dev,’ is, you’ll likely get 10 different answers.

To some, business development is just another term for sales. Many view it as the process of forming strategic partnerships. Others define it as a marketing tactic.

Business development expert Scott Pollack describes it best: “Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets and relationships.”

This makes business development unique from other professional fields because the day-to-day tasks vary greatly by industry and by the specific needs of each organization. It is often the link between several different departments, such as marketing, branding and sales, and business development professionals collaborate with these teams to discover opportunities and develop relationships that ultimately have a positive impact on the organization.

Sales vs. business development

It’s easy to view business development as a sales process, but they’re not quite the same job.

The main objective of sales is to close deals with customers to drive revenue and maintain a high profit margin. A salesperson works at the end of the sales funnel to close deals, ensure products or services are delivered, and create repeat customers.

Business development, on the other hand, looks for prospects, nurtures relationships and guides leads toward the sales funnel. It is the process of identifying ideal customers and partnerships, building relationships and developing solutions that can then be handed off to the sales team to close.

While they are two very different roles within an organization, sales and business development work in tandem to generate revenue and grow the business.

Why you need a business development strategy

A strong business development strategy is the roadmap that instructs your team how to find and generate high-value leads to support your long-term goals.

Without a strategy, your team may struggle to find qualifying prospects or, at worst, spend months developing a relationship with prospects who don’t convert.

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets and relationships.

Scott Pollack, business development expert

How to create a business development strategy for your business

There are four main steps to take in creating a firm, reliable business development strategy.

Identify your audience

Creating a successful business development strategy starts with identifying your ideal audience. Focus on specific firms or individuals that will propel your business forward. You don’t need to have a large audience, but you do need a high-quality one.

Business development can be a long process, and the relationships you develop may take months or even years to turn into a sale. The last thing you want is to foster a relationship with an unqualified prospect.

Perform market research

Once you have defined your audience, learn everything you can about them. Before you can encourage your audience to work with you, you have to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are their primary issues?
  • What specific services do they need?
  • How are they solving their problems right now?
  • How does your product or service improve their current situation?

With these questions answered, you can start analyzing your competition. Understand what makes you different from all of your competitors. This is the competitive advantage that you will use to communicate your value to prospects.

Determine which channels to use

The next step is to assess your total revenue goals for the year and determine which channels will help you achieve that target. The most common business development channels are a combination of networking, referrals, advertising, cold calls and content marketing.

  • Networking is one of the oldest and most commonly used business development strategies. Depending on your industry, face-to-face networking may still be the best way to connect with your target audience and build strong relationships. However, this method of networking can be time-consuming and expensive, so many industries have shifted to primarily digital networking through social platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Referrals can be a great business development strategy, as a positive relationship with a satisfied customer can lead you to a whole new network of prospects. Many small businesses get most or all of their business from referrals. However, relying on your clients to drum up business for you is passive and may not always result in steady leads.
  • Paid advertising, especially through digital platforms, is another solid business development tactic. The key to digital advertising is to find your target audience on their preferred platform and start there. If your audience are avid YouTube users, create strong, targeted video ads and post them there. If your audience has a high engagement rate with your brand on Twitter, advertise there.
  • Content marketing has become one of the best ways for companies to interface with their audience and showcase their expertise. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. It has a strong ROI, and it gives your audience the space to discover your brand organically.

Define S.M.A.R.T. goals

For each channel, set S.M.A.R.T—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related— goals to measure and track your progress. Your business development goals don’t have to be directly tied to generating revenue, but they should involve methods of introducing prospects to your sales funnel.

If you need help or inspiration defining your goals, take a look at these five S.M.A.R.T. goals for business development from Rapidan Inbound.

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 March 18, 2019