Growth is the lifeblood of any business. It’s also hard to predict, difficult to plan for, and challenging to achieve.
According to a 2017 survey, small- to mid-sized business owners identified increasing profit as one of their biggest challenges going forward.
Developing a strong business development strategy can help you face that challenge head-on. If you don’t have a strategy for your small business or freelancing operation yet, it’s time to start planning.
Here’s everything you need to know about building a business development strategy for your company.
Why You Need a Solid Business Development Strategy
For many entrepreneurs, time is the most valuable asset in their business. As your operations grow, you’ll find a lack of time constraining you more and more.
As you start making more sales or snagging new clients, you’ll find yourself letting go of a lot of the tasks you used to handle yourself. You may outsource some responsibilities to staff or contractors. You may even jettison certain goods or services that just aren’t profitable enough to demand your time.
When you’re facing a very real time crunch, you won’t have time to constantly fine-tune your business strategies.
That’s where a solid business development strategy comes in. It serves a guidepost for your business long-term. It gives you a path to meet your goals without constantly obsessing over them.
The best part of your strategy is it’s a real document, there for you to reference when you need to. You can share it with stakeholders and employees or take a look whenever you need a reminder of what you’re working toward.
What Your Strategy Should Look Like
While there’s no single way to draft your business development strategy document, there are a few key points yours should include.
Include your business name, a brief description of your products or services, and the period of time your strategy plan covers. You can also include any other important details, like key personnel or your business location.
The Executive Summary
This is your chance to give a brief overview of where your business currently stands. You can give some quick data on sales, current spending, and projected growth. Just remember to keep it concise.
If you have market research on your customer base, include it in your plan. This data is essential if you want to track how your clients and market share grow over the years.
You should make note of your overall business goals in your development plan. Those can include your dream sales numbers, new products, or market reach. Be as specific as possible when you lay them out.
Areas of Concern
Here’s where you describe the problems you see on the horizon. It could be a staffing shortage, lacking logistics strategy, encroaching competition, or a shrinking market. Include details about the issues heading your way.
The Action Plan
This is by far the longest, most detailed part of your document. Here’s where you lay out your plan, step-by-step, for dealing with each area of concern you listed above.
When it comes to your action plan, you need to be as specific as possible. Choose data-based KPIs as goal posts so you know precisely when to take each step. Numbers can keep you on track in situations where your gut may be urging you to take a step forward before your business is ready.
While every business has different development needs, there are a few common actions you can take to meet your concerns and grow your company.
How to Build the Best Strategy for Your Company
Improve Your Existing Customers’ Experience
Often times, your existing customers’ needs can fall by the wayside when you’re focusing on growth. If you lose your base in your quest for new customers, your entire market share could topple.
Make it a point to consider your current customers or clients first. Have you heard any common complaints or requests? Maybe your online ordering system could use some work or your customer service department needs more resources.
Then, ID any weak points in your current customers’ experience and plan to correct and improve on them going forward.
Plan to Pay for New Customers or Clients
After you’ve planned for your current customers’ needs, it’s time to start bringing in fresh sales. New customer acquisition is an essential part of any business development strategy, but it can be costly.
In fact, depending on your industry, acquiring just one new customer could cost you anywhere from $7 to $315.
If you’re trying to shore up your client base or reach new markets, that’s an essential cost you’ll need to plan for.
Consider adding few tried-and-true client acquisition strategies in your plan:
- Create a paid advertising campaign.
- Get professional help with your social media.
- Network with other businesses.
- Generate thought leadership articles or research.
- Consider a brand refresh.
Offer New Products or Services
As you reach out to new customers and markets, it makes sense to diversify your offerings.
Conduct some solid research on the needs of your current and future customers. If you see a common pain point you know your business could address, consider expanding.
Just remember, product development can be a costly process. You’ll need to plan for extensive R&D, testing, and advertising for a successful launch.
Streamline Your Existing Processes
It may seem a little boring to look back over your accounting workflow or inventory tracking system, but these bread-and-butter processes can make or break your business development plans.
Manually balancing your books may work when you’re only looking at a few transactions. If you start making hundreds or thousands of sales, however, you and your staff won’t be able to keep up.
Include plans to scale up even the most mundane processes as you grow. Be as specific as possible. It’s not enough to make a note that you’ll upgrade your software. Instead, choose your software, note the cost, and tie it to a hard, data-driven KPI.
Look for Opportunities to Upgrade
In a lot of ways, the old adage is true: You need to spend money to make money. As your business grows, several of your core components will progressively become obsolete. You’ll have to upgrade them regularly to keep up with your business development strategy.
Here are some common areas where you’ll need to plan for regular upgrades.
If you’re hiring staff or adding new products to a retail location, you can run out of room rapidly. As a freelancer, you may even find that as your client base grows, your home office just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Set specific goal posts to determine when it’s time to upgrade to a bigger building, a new location, or a professional workspace. This one is a big budget draw, so make sure you plan out your funding before you run out of room.
Take stock of the items you and your employees need to do your jobs. Computers and other technology, shipping equipment, and warehouse machinery are all essential tools for many companies. As your business grows, your tools need to improve to keep up.
Plan on upgrading these items on a regular basis. Tech is especially notorious for going out of date quickly, so budget accordingly.
Many small businesses neglect their IT needs until it’s too late. They may wait until their site starts crashing or they have a security breach to consider investing in IT services.
As your business grows, you’ll need to plan for increased site traffic, better security, and a well-connected system for your employees.
If you don’t already have one, you may need to add dedicated IT personnel to your staff. If you’re not quite ready to take that step, consider outsourcing to a reputable IT firm.
If you really want your business to reach its potential, you need additional staff to do it. Tie new hires to specific KPIs, but keep the needs of your current employees in mind, too.
Staffing is one area where it makes sense to really over-budget. You’ll need to consider the full cost of salary, benefits, and equipment with every hire. Don’t forget to plan for regular raises and bonuses, too.
Plan for Failure
As you chase down your business goals, you’re eventually going to run up against some barriers.
It may be that you miscalculated how long a step would actually take and it’s thrown off your entire schedule. Maybe you under-budgeted and are finding yourself unable to fund part of your plan.
Perhaps you identified your dream client, gave the perfect pitch, and they just weren’t interested.
Failure happens. It’s especially common among entrepreneurs, freelancers, and anyone else trying to chart their own course in business. That’s why it’s essential that your business development strategy includes a plan on how to come back from failure.
In your action plan, list an alternative action you can take if your original plan fizzles out. A backup plan can keep you moving forward, even after a hard setback.
Get More Business Development Tips Today
Looking for more ways to bolster your business development strategy? We have the latest information to help you on your money-making journey. Check out the latest blog posts for entrepreneurs and freelancers today.