Business development platform for your startup
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"Have you ever taken the time to analyze how your firm captures new business? Traditionally, professional service firms – particularly small and mid-sized firms – rely heavily on existing clients and referrals to generate new revenue. Most will admit openly, however, that they could be doing a better job at cross-selling and upselling and, without having mastered these fundamentals, many firms can’t even begin to think about a more formidable business development strategy.
Sales and marketing have become critical to the growth and profitability of today’s firms, and allocating time, resources and budget to these areas has become a business imperative. It’s no secret, however, that many practitioners are not trained in these areas. Without seasoned business development professionals on staff, it may be challenging to find a starting point and many managing officers or CEOs are likely to find themselves with more questions than answers. For instance…
- How do we generate leads? What tactics will we use?
- How much will all of this cost?
- Who is responsible for what?
- How do we track our progress?
- How will we service all of the clients we’ll capture?
- How will we accommodate our growth?
Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by what may seem like an insurmountable task. Instead, start by creating a strong business development platform and then work on building out each specific area over time.
A business development platform is a system that explains the process of developing a marketing/sales culture throughout your firm, sets and manages expectations, defines a common set of objectives with performance metrics and applies the right blend of tactics to achieve stated results. In order to build a strong sales and marketing program, the company – and firm management, in particular – must be willing to make some investments.
First, they must be willing to make a significant time investment. Each member of the business development and management teams must allocate a portion of their day, week and month to this initiative. Similarly, they have to be willing to put their money where their mouth is. Many factors will influence how much money should be allocated to business development, but 2% of firm revenue is a common figure; this includes both general expenses and full-time employee expenses. Business development programs offer no guaranteed return on investment and results are not instantaneous – patience and persistence is essential. Consult with experts to help jumpstart the process and mitigate your risk.
A successful business development platform achieves several things. First and foremost, it helps guide and cement a corporate culture that integrates marketing, sales and service models. It makes it easier to identify and set realistic growth goals and the ways in which you will achieve those goals. The platform also helps identify the companies that you want to do business with and the key organizations that are vital to creating inroads into the markets you serve or want to serve. A good plan will help your organization determine the right blend of marketing tactics to provide appropriate ground cover and reach your targets.
The successful integration of marketing, sales and service is a complex, multi-layered process, but one that can yield great rewards. Here’s a helpful how-to guide for creating your own business development platform:
- Gain an understanding of the overlapping roles of marketing, sales and service as shown in the diagram above. It is the combination of these three disciplines that define business development. Because many of these functions are performed by more than one person, cooperation and coordination is critical. This is a team effort and members of the team should be open to learning from their peers and working together to achieve results.
- Define the roles of each member of the business development “team” – typically this team will consist of the firm’s managing partner, the lead partner for business development, the head of marketing, and the person responsible for sales. Each person on the team must understand their role and be committed to fulfilling the expressed objectives. Never assume that people truly understand their roles and responsibilities – be specific, expressive and transparent as to your expectations.
- Promote a marketing and sales culture throughout the firm. As a means of doing this, develop standard messaging and educate your staff. This messaging should include the history of the firm, the products and services offered, the niche markets served, and competitive differentiators. Every employee, from partner to entry level staff, should be able to confidently recite this ‘elevator pitch’ on command. Creating a marketing and sales culture is, by no means, an overnight transformation. It may take a year or more for this concept to take root and become part of your firm’s overall strategic vision.
- Create a series of product and service platforms that help your staff easily demonstrate the products/services your firm offers and how those components fit together to create a complete solution for their business pains. This will enable you to see a clear breakdown of each industry group or niche market and the products and services that you offer to those clients. This product/platform should be the basis for all of the rest of your marketing efforts. Use it to create cohesive, persuasive campaigns. Incorporate this model into each industry group’s standard presentation. Help to educate each industry or niche group on how to promote the product/service platform in their day-to-day interactions with clients and prospects and make sure that they understand what their core competitive differentiators are.
- Review revenue performance for the last three years, factoring market conditions and issues within the practice (e.g. resource constraints, etc.) that could influence revenue. Project out three years and help your team set aggressive, but realistic, sales goals. When making your three year projections, consider things like recurring revenue, revenue generated from other areas of the firm and the all-important organic revenue. This projection will give the team a clear vision and help you set appropriate goals.
- Work collaboratively to explore and document the marketing tactics that will help the team reach its goals. These tactics may include traditional advertising, website development projects, email campaigns, social media strategies, networking events, and other traditional and nontraditional approaches.
- Develop a target account list. This is a breakdown of the clients and types of clients you want to do business with. This may be defined by size, revenue, industry, geographic location, or other important factors. It is important to avoid building large lists; the list should be manageable. This list can be constructed from internal data systems, purchased lists, websites, etc. The process may take some time but the benefits are worth the investment of effort.
- Identify, rank, and assign responsibilities associations or networking opportunities that are strategic to your goals. Try categorizing them with a letter grade:
A: This ranking is given to organizations that are strategic to the group’s business development objectives; team members are expected to play a dominant role within the organization and have a substantial presence at most events/functions.
B: This ranking is given to organizations that are strategic to the group’s business development objectives; team members are expected to frequently attend events/functions and have a noticeable presence at most events/functions.
C: This ranking is given to organizations that are strategic to the group’s business development objectives; team members are expected to attend only those events/functions that will likely yield results.
- Identify and assign key referral sources, such as banks, attorneys, etc. It is important to continually cultivate and nurture referral sources that generate results, but it is important to focus your time and energy on those that yield the best results. It is neither realistic nor productive to manage too many; have members of the team or your staff manage a core set of referral sources.
- Define metrics and determine how you will measure the results of your actions. With time, this process will be redefined and refined. Progress should be monitored and measured monthly; results will likely take time, but the business development team must take accountability for successes and failures.
Once you have created a business development and have demonstrated its value to firm management, you are well on your way to success. Persistence and commitment will, however, be integral to the long-term achievement of your firm’s mission and growth goals."
© 2017. By Stephen White. Chief Marketing Officer.