How to dominate with Business Development

     photo by I’m Fantastic – quote from Conan the Barbarian

Crushing your enemies might be a bit strong, maybe you don’t think about your business ‘Dominating’ in your industry – but you should be thinking about how you will be the premier provider of whatever it is that you do.  If you’re thinking more along the lines of ‘I’d like to be an average provider in my industry and have moderate success along the way’ – I would suggest that you’re going to struggle with your business.

It doesn’t have to be ‘Go Big or Go Home’ – great doesn’t equal big, but if you’re not aspiring to greatness, to dominating your little corner of the market, then I’d like to politely ask:  “What are you doing?”

Most likely you’re shooting for a successful business…

“A successful business…works predictably, effortlessly and profitably each and every day..… [without a supreme sacrifice by an owner/manager]”

– Michael Gerber, the E-Myth Revisited

That’s the kind of success (and domination) that Business Development can deliver.  Of course, the first question might be…what is business development?

What is Business Development anyway?

Business development is often thought of as the work done to develop new business opportunities.  While that’s partially correct, I like the definition that Wikipedia is using:

‘Business development involves evaluating a business and then realizing its full potential.’

Business development looks at all of the different components and systems of the business and finds ways to improve and optimize each one of those building blocks – realizing the business’s full potential.

It’s the whole idea of working ON your business rather than IN your business.  Taking the long term strategic view and applying it every day or at least every week.

Ways to dominate with Business Development

Business Development isn’t a silver bullet, fine tuning your business model, working ON your business can take a lot of time and effort…and arguably it’s never done, but it will pay off if you focus on it.  Here are 3 key ways that a business development approach can dramatically increase your effectiveness and outcomes.

#1 – Develop your Marketing System

Many business owners treat marketing like an after thought or as a reaction when they realize that their pipeline is running low.  Having a website and an ad in the Yellow Pages isn’t marketing…yes you need a website (yellow pages probably not depending on your industry) but you will have to take a more targeted, active, consistent approach to really succeed with marketing in the long run.

Likewise, ramping your marketing up every month or two as new business starts to slow down may work…but it’s exhausting, expensive and not terribly effective.

What’s the alternative – what does work for marketing?

Make sure you’ve taken the time to think through and document your overall marketing strategy:  What are you trying to achieve with your marketing?  Who’s your ideal target?  What problems do you solve?  What outcomes do you deliver?  How are you different from your competition?

Once you’ve got a good feel for the foundations of your marketing, then you need to identify a handful of marketing tactics (here’s a list of 100 Marketing Weapons to get you thinking).  The tactics should be a blend of long term (networking, participating in industry groups or on boards, etc.), short term (educational events, direct mail, etc.) and passive (website, signage, etc.).  The tactics should also be things that you can eventually set up into a repeating and repeatable system…one that doesn’t take extra effort month after month.  One of the keys to winning at marketing is consistency! 

Treat your marketing efforts like an ongoing system that you’re creating, put activities on a calendar and make it part of your weekly and monthly routine (just like paying the bills).  That’s a business development approach to marketing.

#2 – Develop your Leadership and Communication foundation

Leadership and communication are the lifeblood to a well designed and well developed business.  Even a small business with only a couple of employees desperately needs to know where they are going and clearly be communicating why they do what they do and how they’re going to get there. 

Actually it’s even more important to be clear with a small business because 1 person not pulling in the right direction might represent 20% of your workforce!

Start by asking the right questions: 

Once you’re thinking about the right questions, you’ll want to translate those to a Mission and a set of Core Values that you can communicate.   Consider working together with your employees for this effort, but at least get things documented and shared so your people know why, what and where you’re going.  (Actually your customers and prospects like to know these kinds of things as well as well).

By the way – this isn’t a one time effort, this business planning effort needs to become part of the regular fabric of your business operations. 

  • You hire people that share your vision and values (because the ones that don’t won’t last or produce). 
  • You make decisions based on how the desired outcomes fit with where you’re going in the long term (you might turn down a short term revenue benefit because it’s not the kind of work you really want to be doing). 
  • You take time out to prioritize, plan and react – you should have at least a quarterly focus.

Leadership and communication need to happen EVERY DAY!

A lot of businesses get started because the owner is really good at something that’s a high value need in the market place.  When they got started they may not
ave had the chance to lay out the foundation.  In other cases, a business may have lost it’s way over time, change in ownership, change in direction or just too many years down the road and they need to go back to the drawing board and get clear on where they want to go from here.  Either way, the best time to pull together your vision is NOW!

You wouldn’t build a machine without having a clear idea of what the machine is going to produce…and your business is basically a big machine – have you done the design work on it?  (Even if it’s up and running?).

#3 – Developing, documenting and optimizing systems

Whether you’ve thought about it or not, your business is made up of lots of discrete systems that come together when needed to make the whole thing work.

Think about a simple example of a plumber (if you prefer, here’s a similar review of a dentist).  When you need a plumber, you end up calling a specific one because their marketing system worked to get their name in front of you (referral, ad, etc.).  When they come to your house, they likely follow a set process of diagnosing and fixing the problem, and then another set process to bill and collect the money.  Behind the scenes, they also have processes and systems they follow to get new inventory, pay the bills, learn new techniques and generate more marketing.

Your business is exactly the same, ultimately it’s a machine…but if you’re like most business owners, you haven’t really identified all the systems that go into your overall approach.  And until you identify and document all of the stuff that you do as a business, you can’t start improving it.

One resource I’ve found that helps with the mindset side of this (along with some good real life examples is Sam Carpenter’s Work The System blog and book.  If you follow Sam’s model, you will start looking at how everything hooks together, and once you have that perspective, it’s much easier to start optimizing the outcomes – finding ways to delegate, automate, outsource – make things simpler and repeatable.

This systems mindset is the real essence of business development and the benefits from implementing this approach are huge!  If you were going to franchise your business, you would need to develop and document how things work to a very low level of detail…because you would be selling your business model and system to individuals who don’t have experience in your industry…with the expectation that they could get up to speed and successful very quickly.

You may not want to franchise your business, but approaching your business development activities with that end in mind will enable you to create a business that

“…works predictably, effortlessly and profitably each and every day..… [without a supreme sacrifice by an owner/manager]”

And isn’t that the kind of domination and success that you’d like to have?

If you took a 4 week vacation this summer, would your business continue to grow without you?  If your answer is no – then a business development approach would help you.

Do you have any examples of well developed businesses?  How much time do you spend working ON your business every week?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach