Business Development is usually a number one priority for most agencies. Yet often it is viewed tactically with the search for ‘low hanging fruit’ and quick wins, or simply because agencies think they should be doing it. Getting it right takes time, commitment and requires you to bring together a wide range of expertise.
Whether you are planning to outsource or manage Business Development in-house, you need to understand what success should look like before you start any programme. Writing a plan with clear long term objectives aligned to agency growth will help make sure that everyone is focused towards the same targets to help you achieve this. You can then break this down into the milestones needed to get you there.
Here are our top recommendations as to what you should think about when you look to set your Business Development objectives to drive agency growth:
1. Understand why you really need to do Business Development
Make sure you know why you are looking to undertake a Business Development programme. Identify what are the opportunities and challenges that you are trying to address – and whether there has been any recent trigger events that has led to this, e.g. a drop in inbound enquiries.
2. Are you geared up for Business Development success?
Business development takes a big commitment to developing strategy, identifying targeting, developing conversations, attending meetings, pitching, writing proposals and managing it all in CRM – do you have sufficient resource to deliver on this and who will need to be involved?
3. Identify and understand your long-term goals
Where do you want to be in 3-5 years and why? What type of growth are you looking to achieve – financial, headcount, number of clients? Are you looking to develop expertise in different areas of the business, or just do more exciting work? It’s always good to keep in mind what is most important to you and ultimately, where you want to go with your business. That way you can work out the type of business you need to win to get there.
4. What is your new business target for the next 12 months?
You need to break your longer term objectives into manageable targets, often broken down to focus on the year ahead. Once you know what growth you are looking to achieve you can work backwards. Calculate your current turnover projection based on existing work, client development, referrals – and then work out how much new business you need to win on top of this to achieve your overall company growth targets. Is this realistic? Think about what you achieved last year as a guide and then apply a stretch.
5. How many clients will you need to win to achieve this?
To help you achieve a new business revenue target it’s important to know how many clients you will have to win to deliver this: preferably a smaller amount of high value clients is going to be the most effective way of achieving this, rather than lots of low value wins. It’s important to define the different types of clients you are looking to win and understand what the likely value of these is going to be. Remember it often takes longer to win the bigger accounts so you will need to find the right balance to deliver on your shorter term objectives.
6. What type of clients are you looking to win?
It won’t always just be the monetary value of a win that’s important. Make sure you strike the right balance with clients that provide fame, fortune, fit/fun – and understand as a business, what is most important to you right now. Then apply this to your targeting to match the right characteristics to find your sweet spot. Industry sector is often important: are you looking to win business in sectors you already have strong experience, or crack new areas? Do you have any key target clients you’d love to work with? Don’t just go for the big names, think about who you could do great work for? Get everyone involved for inspiration.
7. What is your track record of winning business?
What is your current pitch conversion? Use historic Business Development success to inform your targets and projections. Do you have experience winning business from cold, rather than inbound or referral? Remember that there is a big difference between outbound and inbound – the latter will usually be much higher conversion rates and shorter lead times, but you have no say on who the company is. Use your historic success to inform what KPI’s you need to put in to deliver on your Business Development and growth targets.
8. How do you qualify opportunities?
What qualification criteria do you currently apply to assess whether an opportunity is worth exploring? Be clear on the decision makers you need to be talking to and what makes a good meeting. BANT is a good starting point (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) or MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion) can suit a more consultative sell. Not every meeting will come with a clearly defined opportunity, so make sure you know who you are happy to meet for a coffee and an intro and be prepared to nurture and track all of these opportunities through your pipeline.
9. How will Business Development work with Marketing?
Marketing and Business Development increasingly go hand in hand as part of a joined up approach. Events and content can really help drive keep in touch programmes, but often operate in silo. Do you have in-house or outsourced marketing/PR resource? If so, make sure this activity is closely coordinated with Business Development and a shared campaign plan is developed.
10. What are you willing to invest in the programme?
Remember, Business Development is a long-term investment and you will not always see business won for many months, with significant ROI sometimes taking years to realise. The worst thing you can do is chop and change so make sure you have an idea of what you are prepared to invest to achieve your targets and how long it may take – be realistic. It’s always good to ensure everyone is aligned to success through their performance and delivery (e.g. win commission).
Business Development done well has the potential to transform the dynamic of your business and get you working with more of the right type of clients. Setting clear growth targets and aligning this to Business Development will help you better understand what you need to achieve to get there – and critically, whether you are on track to do so. Make sure everyone involved in Business Development understands what long term success looks like. It’s vital that – whether in-house or outsourced – everyone is fully engaged in your long term ambitions and understand what needs to be achieved to get there.
If you would like to discuss further, or would like any help with this, please get in touch.