How to Develop a Strategic Plan for Business Development [Free Template]
Published: May 01, 2023
Business development is usually confused with sales , often overlooked, and only sometimes given the strategic focus it deserves. Having a business development strategy, however, is crucial to long-term success. It ensures that everyone in your company is working toward a common goal.
But how do you develop a business development plan? Pull up a chair and stay awhile, I’m diving into that and more below.
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Business development is the practice of identifying, attracting, and acquiring new business to further your company’s revenue and growth goals. How you achieve these goals is sometimes referred to as a business development strategy — and it applies to and benefits everyone at your company.
It’s not unusual to mistake business development with sales, but there’s an important distinction between the two. Business development refers to many activities and functions inside and outside the traditional sales team structure. In some companies, business development is part of the larger sales operations team. In others, it’s part of the marketing team or sits on its own team altogether.
Because business development can look so different among industries and businesses, the strategy behind this function is expansive. Below, we outline each step in the strategy and how to apply it to your business development plan.
Business Development Strategy
- Understand your competitive landscape.
- Choose effective KPIs.
- Develop long-term customer relationships.
- Implement customer feedback.
- Keep your website content and user interface fresh.
- Speed up your response time.
- Leverage a sales plan to identify areas of growth.
- Implement a social listening strategy.
- Sponsor industry organizations, conferences, and events.
1. Understand your competitive landscape.
Before you can develop a strategic plan to drive business growth, you must have a solid understanding of the competitive landscape in your industry. When you know who your ideal customer is and what problem they are looking to solve with your product or service, research who else is providing a viable solution in your industry.
Identify other companies operating in your space. What features do their products have? How competitive is their pricing? Do their systems integrate with other third-party solutions? Get crystal-clear on what the competition is offering so you know how to differentiate your product to your customers.
Featured Resource: 10 Competitive Analysis Templates
2. Choose effective KPIs.
How will you know if your business development efforts are successful? Ensure you can measure your goals with relevant, meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the health of your business. The result of these metrics should give you a strong indication of how effective your business development efforts are.
Featured Resource: Sales Metrics Calculator Dashboard
3. Develop long-term customer relationships.
Do you engage with your customers even after the deal has been closed? If not, it’s time to develop a plan to keep your buyers engaged. Building long-term relationships with your customers pays off. A grand majority of a company's business comes from repeat customers, and returning customers are cheaper to convert. Indeed, it’s famously known that it costs five times more to convert new customers than it does to sell to returning customers.
Not only are repeat customers easier to sell to, they can also provide valuable feedback and insights to help you improve your business. Additionally, customer testimonials can be used for valuable content that can attract your next buyer.
4. Implement customer feedback.
If and when you have customers who are willing to provide feedback on your sales process and offerings, make sure you hear them out and implement it. Your customers offer a unique, valuable perspective because they chose your product over the competition — their insights can help shape your strategy to keep your business ahead of the curve.
5. Keep your website content and user interface fresh.
When was the last time your company had a website refresh? Can you ensure that all links are working, that your site is easy to navigate, and that it is laid out and intuitive for those who want to buy from you?
Keeping your website up-to-date and easy to use can make or break the sale for customers who know they are ready to buy. Don’t make it too difficult for potential customers to get in touch with you or purchase your product directly (if that suits your business model).
6. Speed up your response time.
How fast your sales team responds to your leads can make or break your ability to close the deal. If you notice your sales process has some lag time that prevents you from responding to prospects as soon as possible, these could be areas to prioritize improvement.
7. Leverage a sales plan to identify areas of growth.
No business development strategy is complete without a sales plan . If you’ve already established a plan, make sure to unify it with your business development efforts. Your plan should outline your target audience, identify potential obstacles, provide a “game plan” for sales reps, outline responsibilities for team members, and define market conditions.
While a sales plan primarily affects your sales team, it can inform the activities of your business development reps. A sales plan can help them understand where the business needs growth — whether it’s in a new vertical, a new audience, or a new need that’s recently come to light in the industry.
Not sure how to create a sales plan? Download the following template to get started.
Featured Resource: Sales Plan Template
8. Implement a social listening strategy.
While social listening is mainly used in a marketing and customer service context, it’s also an essential practice for business development. There are more than 4 billion social media users worldwide. Naturally, social media is one of the best places to hear directly from consumers and businesses — without needing to reach out to them first.
In business development, you can use social listening to track what the general public is saying about your brand, industry, product offerings, product category, and more. It can help you identify key weaknesses in the industry, making it a prime opportunity to be the first to address those pitfalls.
Use a social listening tool to pick up on trends before they gain traction.
9. Sponsor industry organizations, conferences, and events.
A key facet of business development is reaching potential customers where they are. One of the easiest ways to do that is by sponsoring industry organizations, conferences, and events. This strategy will guarantee that your business development reps get valuable face-to-face time with your business’ target audience. The additional visibility can also help establish your business as a leader in the field.
Now that you understand what business development entails, it's time to create a plan to set your strategy in motion.
How to Develop a Strategic Plan
When we refer to a business development strategic plan, we’re referring to a roadmap that guides the whole company and requires everyone’s assistance to execute successfully and move your customer through the flywheel . With a plan, you’ll close more deals and quantify success.
Let’s go over the steps you should take to create a strategic plan.
1. Download our strategic plan template .
First, download our free growth strategy template to create a rock-solid strategic plan. With this template, you can map a growth plan for increasing sales, revenue, and customer acquisition rates. You can also create action plans for adding new locations, creating new product lines, and expanding into new regions.
Featured Resource: Strategic Plan Template
2. Craft your elevator pitch.
What is your company’s mission and how do you explain it to potential clients in 30 seconds or less? Keeping your elevator pitch at the forefront of all strategic planning will remind everyone what you’re working toward and why.
Some people believe the best pitch isn’t a pitch at all , but a story. Others have their favorite types of pitches , from a one-word pitch to a Twitter pitch that forces you to boil down your elevator pitch to just 280 characters.
Find the elevator pitch that works best for your reps, company, and offer, and document it in your business development strategy.
3. Include an executive summary.
You’ll share your strategic plan with executives and maybe even board members, so it’s important they have a high-level overview to skim. Pick the most salient points from your strategic plan and list or summarize them here.
You might already have an executive summary for your company if you’ve written a business proposal or value proposition . Use this as a jumping off point but create one that’s unique to your business development goals and priorities.
Once your executives have read your summary, they should have a pretty good idea of your direction for growing the business — without having to read the rest of your strategy.
3. Set SMART goals.
What are your goals for this strategy? If you don’t know, it will be difficult for your company and team to align behind your plan. So, set SMART goals . Remember, SMART stands for:
Featured Resource: SMART Goal Setting Template
Download the template now.
If one of your goals is for 5% of monthly revenue to come from upsells or cross-sells, make this goal specific by identifying what types of clients you’ll target.
Identify how you’ll measure success. Is success when reps conduct upsell outreach to 30 clients every month, or is it when they successfully upsell a customer and close the deal? To make your goal attainable, ensure everyone on your team understands who is responsible for this goal: in this case, sales or business development reps.
This goal is relevant because it will help your company grow, and likely contributes to larger company-wide goals. To make it time-based, set a timeline for success and action. In this case, your sales team must achieve that 5% upsell/cross-sell number by the end of the quarter.
4. Conduct SWOT analysis.
SWOT is a strategic planning technique used to identify a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Before conducting a SWOT, identify what your goal is. For example, “We’d like to use SWOT to learn how best to conduct outreach to prospective buyers.”
Once you’ve identified what you’re working toward, conduct market research by talking with your staff, business partners, and customers.
Next, identify your business’ strengths. Perhaps you have low employee turnover, a central location that makes it easy to visit with prospects in person, or an in-demand feature your competitors haven’t been able to mimic.
Featured Resource: Market Research Kit with SWOT Analysis Template
Your business’ weaknesses are next. Has your product recently glitched? Have you been unable to successfully build out a customer service team that can meet the demands of your customers?
Then, switch to opportunities. For example, have you made a new business partnership that will transition you into a previously untapped market segment?
What are the threats? Is your physical space getting crowded? What about your market space? Is increasing competition an issue?
Use SWOT results to identify a better way forward for your company.
5. Determine how you’ll measure success.
You’ve identified strengths and weaknesses and set SMART goals , but how will you measure it all ? It’s important for your team to know just how they will be measured, goaled, and rewarded. Common key performance indicators (KPIs) for business development include:
- Company growth
- Lead conversion rate
- Leads generated per month
- Client satisfaction
- Pipeline value
6. Set a budget.
What will your budget be for achieving your goals? Review financial documents, historical budgets, and operational estimates to set a budget that’s realistic.
Once you have a “draft” budget, check it against other businesses in your industry and region to make sure you’re not overlooking or misjudging any numbers. Don’t forget to factor in payroll, facilities costs, insurance, and other operational line items that tend to add up.
7. Identify your target customer.
Who will your business development team pursue? Your target market is the group of customers your product/service was built for. For example, if you sell a suite of products for facilities teams at enterprise-level companies, your target market might be facilities or janitorial coordinators at companies with 1000+ employees. To identify your target market:
- Analyze your product or service
- Check out the competition
- Choose criteria to segment by
- Perform research
Your target customer is the person most likely to buy your product. Do your homework and make sure your business development plan addresses the right people. Only then will you be able to grow your business.
8. Choose an outreach strategy.
What tactics will you use to attract new business for your sales team to close? You might focus on a single tactic or a blend of a few. Once you know who your target market is and where they “hang out,” then you can choose an appropriate outreach strategy.
Will your business development plan rely heavily on thought leadership such as speaking at or attending conferences? Will you host a local meetup for others in your industry? Or will your reps network heavily on LinkedIn and social media?
If referrals will be pivotal to your business’ growth, consider at which stage of the buying process your BDRs will ask for referrals. Will you ask for a referral even if a prospect decides they like your product/service but aren’t a good fit? Or will you wait until a customer has been using your solution for a few months? Define these parameters in your strategy.
Upselling and Cross-Selling
Upselling and cross-selling are a cost-effective way of growing your business. But it’s important that this tactic is used with guardrails. Only upsell clients on features that will benefit them as well as your bottom line. Don’t bloat client accounts with features or services they really don’t need — that’s when turnover and churn start to happen.
Sponsorship and Advertising
Will your BDR work with or be on the marketing team to develop paid advertising campaigns? If so, how will your BDRs support these campaigns? And which channels will your strategy include? If you sell a product, you might want to feature heavily on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re selling a SaaS platform, LinkedIn or Twitter might be more appropriate.
What’s your outreach strategy? Will your BDRs be held to a quota to make 25 calls a week and send 15 emails? Will your outreach strategy be inbound , outbound , or a healthy combination of both? Identify the outreach guardrails that best match your company values for doing business.
Strategic Plan Example
Let’s put all of these moving parts in action with a strategic plan example featuring good ol’ Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Elevator Pitch Example for Strategic Plan
Dunder Mifflin is a local paper company dedicated to providing excellent customer support and the paper your business needs to excel today and grow tomorrow.
Here are some additional resources for inspiration:
- Elevator Pitch Examples to Inspire Your Own
- Components of an Elevator Pitch
Executive Summary Example for Strategic Plan
At Dunder Mifflin, our strengths are our customer service, speed of delivery, and our local appeal. Our weakness is that our sales cycle is too long.
To shorten the sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4, we need to ask for more referrals (which already enjoy a 15% faster sales cycle), sponsor local professional events, and outreach to big box store customers who suffer from poor customer support and are more likely to exit their contract. These tactics should allow us to meet our goal in the agreed-upon timeline.
- How to Write an Incredibly Well-Written Executive Summary [+ Example]
- Executive Summary Template
SMART Goals Example for Strategic Plan
Dunder Mifflin’s goal is to decrease our sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4. We will do this by more proactively scheduling follow-up meetings, sourcing more qualified, ready-to-buy leads, and asking for 25% more referrals (which have a 15% shorter sales cycle already). We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
- 5 Dos and Don'ts When Making a SMART Goal [Examples]
- How to Write a SMART Goal
- SMART Marketing Goals Template
SWOT Analysis Example for Strategic Plan
Strengths: Our strengths are our reputation in the greater Scranton area, our customer service team (led by Kelly Kapoor), and our warehouse team, who ship same-day reams to our customers — something the big box stores cannot offer.
Weaknesses: Our greatest weakness is that our sales team has been unable to successfully counter prospects who choose big box stores for their paper supply. This results in a longer-than-average sales cycle, which costs money and time.
Opportunities: Our greatest business opportunity is to conduct better-targeted outreach to prospects who are ready to buy, ask for more referrals from existing customers, and follow up with closed lost business that’s likely coming up on the end of an annual contract with a big box store.
Threats: Our biggest threat is large box stores offering lower prices to our prospects and customers and a sales cycle that is too long, resulting in low revenue and slow growth.
- How to Conduct Competitive Analysis
- How to Run a SWOT Analysis for Your Business [+ Template]
- SWOT Analysis Template and Market Research Kit
Measurement of Success Example for Strategic Plan
We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
Budget Example for Strategic Plan
You've laid out the SMART goals and the way you'll measure for success. The budget section's goal is to estimate how much investment it will take to achieve those goals. This will likely end up being a big-picture overview, broken down into a budget by a program or a summary of key investments. Consider laying it out in a table format like so:
- Budgeting Templates
- How to Write an Incredible Startup Marketing Budget
Target Customer Example for Strategic Plan
Our target customer is office managers at small- to medium-sized companies in the greater Scranton, PA area. They are buying paper for the entire office, primarily for use in office printers, custom letterhead, fax machines. They are busy managing the office and value good customer service and a fast solution for their paper needs.
- How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business
- Make My Persona Tool
Outreach Strategy Example for Strategic Plan
Networking, sponsorships, and referrals will be our primary mode of outreach. We will focus on networking at regional paper conferences, HR conferences, and local office manager meetups. We will sponsor local professional events. And we will increase the volume of referrals we request from existing customers.
Create a Strategic Plan for Business Development
Without a strategic plan, you can invest resources, time, and funds into business development initiatives that won't grow your business. A strategic plan is crucial as it aligns your business development and sales teams. With a solid business development strategic plan, everyone will be working toward the greater good of your company.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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Write a business development plan
Now that you’re in the growth stage of your business, set things in motion with a business development plan.
A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves.
How to write a business development plan
Your business development plan is your roadmap to growth, so make it clear, specific and realistic.
What to include in a business development plan
- Opportunities for growth: Identify where growth will come from – whether it’s in creating new products, adding more services, breaking into new markets, or a combination of these.
- Funding plan: Determine how you’ll fund your business growth. How much capital do you already have? How much more do you need and how will you get it? Check out our guide on financing your business.
- Financial goals: Work out what revenue, costs and profits you’ll have if things stay the same. Use those numbers as a basis for setting new, more ambitious financial goals.
- Operational needs: Identify what things about your business will need to change in order to achieve growth. Will you need extra people, more equipment, or new suppliers?
- Sales and marketing activities: Figure out what sales and marketing efforts will effectively promote growth and how these efforts will change as the business gets bigger and better. Make sure your sales and marketing plan is sturdy enough to support your growing business.
- Team needs: You may need people to take on some of the tasks you’ve been doing. Think about what parts of running the business you enjoy most – and you’re good at – and what parts you might want to delegate to others. And give some thought to the culture you want to develop in your business as it grows. Check out our guide on hiring employees.
A sample business development plan
Avoid these common business development mistakes.
- Thinking short-term instead of long-term
- Underestimating how much money it will take to grow
- Not budgeting enough money to cover the costs of growth
- Focusing on too many growth opportunities: think quality, not quantity
Micro-planning can keep you focused
You may want to create some micro-plans for specific growth projects so their details don’t get overlooked. And you can build in some KPIs to measure your progress and successes. As your business grows, take note of your progress and make periodic adjustments to your business development plan to make sure it’s still relevant.
Support is out there
Remember you’re not the first to go through this. Seek out mentors, advisors or other business owners who can help you with your planning. Your accountant or bookkeeper may also be able to help or point you in the direction of the right people.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.
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How to Create the Right Business Development Plan
- A business development plan is a strategic roadmap that outlines the steps and strategies needed to achieve specific business goals, such as identifying new opportunities, expanding into new markets, forging partnerships, and improving overall performance.
- A well-crafted business development plan provides clear direction, allocates resources efficiently, aligns teams, and allows for tracking progress and measuring success.
- Key components of a business development plan include setting goals, understanding target audiences, analyzing the competition, creating marketing and sales strategies, and implementing action plans.
- Startups should focus on high-impact growth opportunities, maximize their marketing budget, build strategic partnerships, and prioritize teamwork. Large organizations should invest in long-term strategic initiatives, diversify their business development efforts, leverage their resources and expertise, and establish talent development programs.
Whether steering a fresh-faced startup or commanding a massive corporate ship, mastering the art of crafting a robust business development plan is your secret weapon for success.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process and strategies of creating a robust business development plan. Whether it’s leveraging market research to identify new opportunities or utilizing the power of partnerships to accelerate growth, these strategies will equip you with the tools to navigate the dynamic business landscape confidently.
- What is a Business Development Plan?
A business development plan is a strategic roadmap that helps a company grow and succeed. It outlines the steps and strategies needed to achieve specific business goals. These goals may include identifying new opportunities, expanding into new markets, forging partnerships, and improving overall performance.
Now, you might be wondering why you need a business development plan. First, it provides a clear direction for your company’s growth, ensuring your efforts are focused and targeted. For example, if your goal is to enter a new market, the plan will outline the necessary research , partnerships, and marketing efforts required to achieve that goal.
But that’s not all. A well-crafted business development plan also helps you allocate resources more efficiently , preventing wasted time and money. By outlining priorities and setting realistic timelines, you can ensure that every aspect of your business gets the attention it deserves.
Moreover, a business development plan can be one of the most powerful tools for team alignment . When everyone on your team understands the company’s objectives and strategies, they are more likely to work together seamlessly, improving overall productivity and efficiency.
A solid plan also allows you to track progress and measure success. By setting specific targets and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs), you can quickly identify areas that need improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly.
In short, a business development plan is your company’s GPS, guiding you toward growth and success. By creating a comprehensive and actionable plan, you can ensure that your business is always moving forward, ready to seize new opportunities and overcome challenges along the way.
- Key Components of a Business Development Plan
A comprehensive business development plan should include several key components to guide your organization’s growth efforts. These components provide a structured framework for identifying, evaluating, and pursuing growth opportunities.
Here’s a detailed look at each element:
- Goals : Clearly defined objectives and measurable targets guide your business development efforts. These goals should align with your overall business objectives and include short-term and long-term targets. When setting goals, consider using the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to ensure they are clear and actionable.
- Target audience : A thorough understanding of your ideal customers contributes to crafting a more effective business development plan. This includes identifying their needs, preferences, and behaviors. In addition, understanding your target audience can tailor your marketing and sales strategies to reach and engage them more effectively. To identify your target audience, consider conducting market research through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, analyzing demographic data, and studying your competitors’ customer base.
- Competition analysis : A detailed examination of your competitors is necessary to identify their strengths and weaknesses and potential opportunities for differentiation. This analysis should include data on market share, product offerings, pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and customer experience. By understanding your competition, you can develop a unique value proposition that sets your organization apart and attracts your target audience.
- Marketing and sales strategies : A well-integrated strategy to engage your target audience, advertise your products or services, and produce leads significantly contributes to effective business development. Your marketing and sales strategies should be tailored to your target audience’s preferences and behaviors, using the most effective channels and tactics for reaching them. This may include content marketing, social media advertising, email campaigns, events, and other promotional activities.
- Action plans : A clear, step-by-step guide that lists the tasks, duties, and deadlines needed to reach your business development objectives is valuable for maintaining focus on your progress. This action plan should include short-term tasks, such as launching marketing campaigns or attending networking events, and long-term initiatives, like developing new products or entering new markets. Regularly reviewing and updating your action plan will ensure that your business development efforts remain focused and aligned with your objectives.
- Business Development Process
The business development process is a series of steps to identify, evaluate, and pursue growth opportunities. While the exact process may vary between organizations, it typically includes the following stages:
- Market research and analysis: In this stage, you’ll gather information about your target market, including customer demographics, preferences, and pain points. This research will help you identify potential opportunities and understand the competitive landscape better. Techniques for market research include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and analysis of existing data sources. For example, a software company looking to expand its product offerings might conduct surveys to determine which features are most desired by potential customers, helping them tailor their new product to meet market gaps.
- Identifying potential opportunities: Based on your market research, you’ll identify growth opportunities that align with your organization’s strengths and capabilities. This may include entering new markets, developing new products or services, targeting new customer segments, or forging strategic partnerships. For instance, a small e-commerce business might realize that its products appeal to a specific age group and decide to target this demographic more aggressively with marketing campaigns.
- Evaluating the feasibility of each opportunity : Once you’ve identified potential growth opportunities, assess their practicality. This involves analyzing the potential benefits, risks, and resources required for each option. You’ll want to consider factors such as market size, competition, barriers to entry, and the potential return on investment (ROI) . For example, a manufacturing company considering expanding its production capacity might delve into specifics such as the costs of acquiring new machinery, hiring and training additional staff, potential supply chain complexities, and the projected increase in revenue from enhanced production capacity.
- Developing a business development strategy : After evaluating the feasibility of each opportunity, you’ll create a strategic plan to pursue the most promising ones. This plan should outline your objectives, target markets, value proposition, and the specific tactics you’ll use to reach your goals. Your strategy may also include a timeline for implementation and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. For example, a health and wellness company might enter a new market by launching a line of supplements. Its strategy could involve targeted marketing campaigns, influencer partnerships, and social media marketing.
- Implementing the strategy and measuring results: In this final stage, you’ll implement your business development plan. This involves executing the tactics outlined in your strategy, such as launching marketing campaigns, developing new products, or establishing partnerships. Throughout the implementation process, ensure you monitor your results using the KPIs established earlier. Regularly measuring your progress will help you identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments to your strategy. For instance, a B2B service provider might track the number of new clients acquired, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction scores to gauge the effectiveness of their business development efforts and make data-driven decisions to optimize their approach.
- Creating a Business Development Plan
Let’s consider a hypothetical example of a software company aiming to expand into the healthcare industry to demonstrate how a business development plan can be created.
- Step 1: Set Clear Goals and Objectives
The company sets a specific goal: “Increase our market share in the healthcare industry by 15% within the next two years.” This goal is SMART, as it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Step 2: Conduct Market Research and Identify Your Target Audience
The company conducts market research to understand the healthcare industry’s needs, preferences, and pain points. They gather information through surveys, interviews, and focus groups with healthcare professionals and analyze existing data sources such as industry reports, whitepapers, and case studies.
- Step 3: Analyze Your Competition
The software company identifies its key competitors in the healthcare market, analyzing its product offerings, market share, pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and customer experience to understand its strengths and weaknesses and find potential areas for differentiation.
Step 4: Develop Marketing and Sales Strategies Based on market research and competitor analysis insights, the company tailors its marketing and sales strategies to the healthcare industry. They develop targeted content marketing campaigns, engage healthcare influencers, attend industry events, and create healthcare-specific case studies to showcase their software solutions’ value.
- Step 5: Create an Action Plan
The company outlines specific steps, responsibilities, and deadlines to expand into the healthcare market. They assign tasks to team members, establish clear communication channels for progress tracking, and ensure everyone is working towards the same objective.
- Step 6: Monitor and Measure Results
The company tracks the performance of its business development activities using key performance indicators (KPIs), such as the number of healthcare leads generated, conversion rates, and revenue growth in the healthcare sector. They regularly review these results to make informed decisions about adjusting strategies and allocating resources more effectively.
- How to Customize a Plan for Startups vs. Large Organizations
The development of a business, whether a startup or a large organization, requires a thorough understanding of its unique needs and opportunities. Nonetheless, creating a business development plan might vary between startups and large organizations. Startups often have limited resources and focus on immediate growth opportunities.
In contrast, large organizations may allocate more resources to long-term strategic initiatives. Regardless of your organization’s size, tailoring your business development plan to meet your unique needs and goals is valuable.
- For Startups
- Identify high-impact growth opportunities : When creating an action plan for business development, startups might consider focusing on options that offer quick wins. For example, a startup could target a niche market segment with unmet needs or provide a unique solution to an existing problem. Airbnb, a startup in its early days, tapped into the unmet demand for affordable accommodations by allowing homeowners to rent out their spaces to travelers.
- Maximize your startup marketing budget : Startups frequently work with restricted budgets, making it necessary to utilize economical business development and marketing channels that deliver the most significant ROI. For instance, content marketing, social media, and email marketing can be powerful tools for startups to build brand awareness and engage with their target audience without breaking the bank. In addition, consider prioritizing essential expenses, seeking strategic partnerships, and exploring innovative ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency throughout your business operations.
- Build a strong network of strategic partners : Partnerships can help startups access new customers, resources, and expertise. For example, a startup could partner with complementary businesses to offer bundled services, co-host events, or cross-promote products. Dropbox, for instance, partnered with Samsung to provide pre-installed Dropbox storage on Samsung devices , significantly increasing their user base. To connect with larger companies for potential partnerships, attend industry events, conferences, and trade shows, and leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn to identify and engage with key decision-makers. Establishing relationships with industry leaders can open doors for collaboration.
- Prioritize teamwork and collaboration : Startups often feature smaller teams, so establishing a teamwork-driven atmosphere that bolsters productivity and capitalizes on resource allocation proves beneficial. Encourage open communication, delegate responsibilities, and set clear expectations to ensure your team works efficiently and effectively towards your business development goals.
- For Large Organizations
- Invest in long-term strategic initiatives : Large organizations can benefit from focusing on strategic business development initiatives that capitalize on their established market presence and resources. For example, large businesses can diversify their business development activities to mitigate risks and capitalize on growth opportunities. This may involve exploring new customer segments, entering different industries, or adopting new technologies. Google’s diversified portfolio, including investments in artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, and renewable energy, demonstrates this approach.
- Diversify your business development efforts : Large organizations can explore opportunities in new markets and industries to drive innovation and growth beyond their core business. This can include investing in research and development (R&D) to create innovative products or forming strategic partnerships with companies from other sectors. Amazon’s continuous expansion into new industries, such as healthcare and grocery, exemplifies this approach. By broadening their scope, large organizations can capitalize on emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition.
- Leverage your organization’s resources and expertise : Large organizations have a wealth of resources and expertise at their disposal. They can develop innovative solutions and strategies to drive business growth by tapping into this knowledge. Take IBM, for example. This tech giant leverages its profound technological know-how and data analysis expertise to develop ground-breaking solutions, like their AI platform, Watson. Watson has revolutionized industries ranging from healthcare, where it aids in diagnosing diseases and suggesting treatments, to finance, where it helps banks in risk assessment and fraud detection. The key here is leveraging what you have to create solutions that drive growth and add value for your clients’ businesses.
- Establish robust talent development programs : One unique strength of large organizations is their capacity to develop and nurture talent within their ranks. These businesses can continuously enhance their workforce skills by investing in comprehensive training and development programs, fueling innovation and growth. This approach also helps to retain top performers, reducing turnover and promoting a high-performance culture. For instance, consider the case of General Electric. GE’s renowned leadership development programs have been instrumental in grooming a cadre of leaders who have gone on to hold top positions within GE and other major corporations. Large organizations can foster a culture of excellence, innovation, and continuous improvement by focusing on talent development.
- Strategies for Generating Creative Business Development Ideas
Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and explore alternative business development models that deliver value to your customers. Innovation contributes to business growth and helps maintain a competitive edge.
Here are some tips and examples to help you develop innovative business development ideas:
- Encourage a culture of innovation : Foster an environment where employees feel empowered to share their ideas, experiment, and take risks. Promote open communication and collaboration and recognize and reward innovative thinking. Google’s “20% time” policy, which allows employees to dedicate 20% of their working hours to passion projects, has resulted in successful products like Gmail and Google Maps.
- Monitor industry trends and technological advancements : Stay informed about the latest developments in your industry and related technology sectors. This can help you identify new opportunities for growth and stay ahead of the competition. For instance, consider the rapidly advancing field of AI in healthcare. Companies like Zebra Medical Vision leverage AI for early disease detection , using sophisticated algorithms to analyze medical imaging data and detect anomalies that could indicate conditions like cancer, liver disease, or cardiovascular issues. This use of AI improves diagnostic accuracy and significantly accelerates the process, potentially saving lives by enabling earlier intervention.
- Leverage internal expertise and resources : Tap into your organization’s wealth of knowledge and resources to identify innovative solutions to business challenges. For example, Google’s Project Aristotle analyzed data from hundreds of teams within the company to identify the key factors that made teams effective. By leveraging its internal expertise in data analysis and organizational behavior, Google was able to implement new strategies and foster a more collaborative work environment, ultimately driving innovation and growth.
- Explore strategic partnerships and collaborations : Collaborate with external partners, such as complementary businesses, suppliers, or research institutions, to access new ideas, resources, and expertise. Take the case of the collaboration between Starbucks and Spotify, for instance. This innovative alliance allowed Starbucks employees to influence the music played in stores via Spotify playlists, enhancing the in-store experience for customers. Simultaneously, Spotify users could access these playlists, driving user engagement on their platform. This symbiotic relationship amplified brand exposure for both parties, demonstrating the power of strategic partnerships.
- Experiment with new business models : Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and explore alternative ways of delivering value to your customers. Innovative business models can often lead to significant growth opportunities. For instance, the subscription-based model adopted by companies like Dollar Shave Club and Spotify disrupted traditional sales models in their respective industries.
- Embrace a problem-solving mindset : Encourage your team to approach business challenges with a problem-solving mindset , focusing on finding creative solutions that deliver value to customers. This mindset can help drive innovation and uncover new business development opportunities. Tesla’s mission to combat climate change led to the development of its innovative electric vehicles and solar energy products.
- Role of Business Development in Sales
Integrating business development and sales strategies drive growth and revenue generation. Business development activities, such as lead generation, market research, and partnership development, support sales efforts. By identifying and nurturing leads, conducting market research to understand customer needs, and fostering strategic partnerships, business development teams can help sales teams close deals more effectively.
Conversely, insights from sales interactions can inform business development efforts and help refine marketing and sales strategies, contributing to the organization’s longevity.
In addition, when a company continually learns from its sales interactions and applies those insights to improve its offerings, messaging, and customer engagement tactics, it is better positioned to adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences.
This adaptability ultimately leads to stronger customer relationships, increased customer loyalty, and sustained business growth, all contributing to the organization’s longevity.
Examples of successful sales development plans often include a strong focus on collaboration between business development and sales teams and the use of data-driven insights to optimize lead generation and conversion efforts. For instance, a software company wants to expand its market share in a new industry vertical.
To achieve this, the business development team conducts thorough market research to identify key players, customer pain points, and potential partnerships within the new industry. This information is then shared with the sales team, who uses the insights to tailor their pitches and address clients’ specific needs in the new market.
Simultaneously, the sales team shares feedback from client interactions, allowing the business development team to fine-tune their research and partnership strategies. This continuous learning and adaptation process leads to higher conversion rates and increased revenue and strengthens the company’s ability to thrive in the long term.
- Case Studies
Examining case studies of successful companies can provide valuable insights into how business development and sales strategies can be effectively integrated to drive growth and achieve long-term success.
- Amazon: Embracing Customer Obsession
Amazon’s relentless focus on customer satisfaction has driven its innovative business development and sales strategies. By leveraging data analytics and customer feedback, Amazon continually refines its offerings and sales approach to cater to customers’ evolving preferences. This customer-centric mindset has led to innovations such as Prime membership, one-click ordering, and Alexa voice assistant, which have enhanced the customer experience and fueled Amazon’s growth.
- Salesforce: Revolutionizing CRM through Collaboration
Salesforce, a pioneer in cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, has successfully integrated business development and sales by fostering a collaborative culture . They encourage cross-functional teams to work together to identify new markets and develop innovative solutions. This collaborative approach has enabled Salesforce to remain at the forefront of the CRM market, continuously delivering cutting-edge products and services that meet customer needs.
- Slack: Transforming Workplace Communication
Slack, a widespread team collaboration platform, demonstrates the power of effectively integrating business development and sales strategies. By conducting extensive market research and user feedback, Slack identified a gap in the market for a user-friendly, intuitive communication tool. This insight led to the development of a platform that streamlined workplace communication, transforming how teams collaborate . Slack’s sales team leverages this value proposition to drive adoption, resulting in rapid growth and widespread industry acclaim.
Creating the right business development plan can significantly benefit any organization seeking growth and success. To maximize your chances of success, focus on understanding your organization’s unique needs, setting clear goals, conducting market research, and developing effective marketing and sales strategies. In addition, emphasize innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement to stay ahead in the competitive business landscape.
As you develop your plan, create actionable steps and regularly monitor progress to ensure continuous growth and identify areas for improvement. By embracing a culture of innovation, teamwork, and continuous learning, your organization will be well-equipped to navigate business development challenges and achieve long-term growth and success.
Daniel Brown is an experienced and knowledgeable financial advisor at spoolah.com. He has been in this industry since 2008 and has a strong understanding of economic trends, all types of financial planning, ways of creating plans for meeting short-term and long-term financial goals, etc.
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Business Development Plan for Small Businesses
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
Without a business development plan, your business will never be as healthy as it could be and may even sicken and die. But many small business owners don’t do the business planning they should because they’re hard-pressed to find the time to do it. How many times have you thought that you should do some planning — if only you weren't so busy taking care of business!
But business planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming ordeal. In just a pair of two to three-hour sessions, you can put together the basics of a business development plan that will invigorate your business for the course of an entire year.
Preparing for Your Business Development Plan
Set aside the time on two separate days for a pair of business planning sessions. (The days don’t have to be consecutive, but should be fairly close in time. You may choose to have your planning sessions as much as a week apart.)
If you’re the sort of person who prefers to work in a group, get together with a like-minded friend or two who also runs a small business. You’ll find the brainstorming in these easier with input from other people, and they’ll certainly be more fun as social occasions. Keep your planning group small, though; no more than three people. (The smaller the group, the more each person will contribute.)
Business Development Plan Session 1
1. Revisit the Vision Statement
Your business vision statement is the starting point for any business development planning, as it’s the core of your inspiration and motivation. Do you see yourself having so much business you need to hire help? Trebling your sales? Becoming locally renowned as the best business of your type? Expanding into a franchise operation? Give your imagination free rein. What would you like your business to be like next year? Three years from now? Five years from now?
Articulate your business vision for each time period listed above — and write your three business vision statements down. Don’t hesitate to craft a business vision statement that expresses what you truly want your business to be and what you truly want to get out of your business. The vision statement is for you, not for your customers or clients.
2. Evaluate Your Business
This second step of your development plan involves examining the current position of your business. First, the easy part. What are your business’s three best strengths right now? And what are your business’s three areas of weakness? For more on this, you should read How to Do SWOT Analysis for Your Business and this example of a SWOT analysis .
Now it gets a little harder; you need to relate these strengths and weaknesses to your vision statement for next year. How will the three strengths you have identified get you closer to where you want to be next year? How will the three weaknesses hold you back?
Think about these and/or discuss them and then write down the three aspects of your business that you feel are most important to concentrate on in terms of achieving your vision statement for next year.
For instance, suppose my business vision statement is to treble my sales for next year and get my product nationally known. Suppose, too, that my strengths are the attributes of my product (people who use it see it as a superior product), my customer base (the product is well-positioned locally and I do a lot of repeat business), and my distribution system (I have no problems filling orders or having my product delivered to the customers).
On the other hand, the weaknesses of my business are that it doesn’t seem to be attracting a large number of new customers, the product doesn’t seem to be known outside of the local area, and my marketing efforts don’t seem to be working .
Examining these and comparing them to my vision statement for next year, I wrote down: “Salesforce. PR. Marketing.”
Stop here for the first session. That’s enough to mull over for now — and if you go away and do other things, your mind will continue to work on the problem you’ve set it. A good night’s sleep between this and your next business development plan session (or even several!) will make your next session much more productive.
The Action Plan: Business Development Plan Session 2
Now that you know where you want to go, the purpose of this business planning session is to figure out how you're going to get there, giving you a practical action plan for the next year for your small business.
3. Set Your Priorities
In my example in the first session, the three aspects of my business that I thought was most important in terms of achieving my vision statement for next year were all closely related. Yours might not be. Look at the three aspects you’ve selected and rated them from most important to least important.
4. Brainstorm Actions
Focus on your top one or two priorities. What can you do to achieve what you want to achieve? Let your mind rove and list all the possible actions you could take, no matter how impractical they seem. (Here’s where having a partner or business planning team will really help; others often come up with ideas that have never occurred to you!)
For instance, having set my priorities to marketing and PR, I would brainstorm all the actions I could take to improve my marketing and PR efforts so that I could treble my sales and get my product nationally known. I could:
- Set up a website
- Send press releases regularly
- Do something unique or outrageous that would get me national coverage
- Hire a public relations expert
- Do a marketing plan
- Do a huge mailing campaign sending people samples of my product
- Pay to have the name of my business on a blimp
- Buy ads in national magazines
- Buy ads on search engines
- Buy ads on social media such as Facebook and Twitter
This is only a partial list, but you get the idea. The important thing at the brainstorming stage is to record all your ideas without prejudging (and rejecting) any of them. The most far-fetched idea may contain the kernel of a good idea.
5. Organize Your Actions
This is the stage of your business development plan where you shape your ideas into an action plan.
First, go over your list of actions. Put check marks by ideas you think are good, put question marks by ones you are doubtful about and draw lines through the ones you think are unworkable or silly.
Now examine the “good” ideas. Do you see any similarities or themes? If so, group those ideas accordingly.
6. Set Your Goals
Use the check marked items and/or groups of themed items to create your action goals. As I say in Goal Setting Is the First Step to Achievement , the secret of successful goal setting is to incorporate both the action you’re going to take and the timeline into your goal. Use the formula of: "I will (specific goal) BY (specific actions I will follow to accomplish the goal) BY (time).”
As an example, one of my action goals might be: “I will get my product known nationally BY creating a marketing plan BY (a date three months from now).”
Another of my action goals might be: “I will get my product known nationally BY starting an ad campaign on Facebook BY (a date three days from now).”
Don’t skip the dates! They're important both to spur you into action and to give you a basis for evaluating your progress.
Create as many action goals as you feel are necessary to accomplish the greater goal of making your vision statement for next year reality.
7. Plan How and When to Evaluate Your Progress
You have your action plan now and you’re ready to implement it — but there’s one more thing to do first. If you don't plan how and when to evaluate your progress now, chances are you’ll never get back to your business development plan.
The dates inherent in the goals will help, but you also need to build time for reviewing your progress on your action plan into your timetable. What will work best for you? Will you review your progress on your business plan once a week? Once a month? Every three months? Some people find it very effective to start each day with a business planning session This keeps your goals front and center in your mind.
Whichever you choose, pick your dates now and record them with reminders in whatever scheduling system you’re using. Evaluating your progress on your action plan will probably take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.
Once again, doing your business planning with a partner or small group is very beneficial at this stage; one of the things you will do when you evaluate your progress is to assess what’s working and what’s not. It’s always useful to get more input when amending goals (and interesting to see how your partner or group members are doing implementing their own action plans).
The second business development plan session ends here. You’ve now chosen your direction over the course of the next year and have forged a specific action plan to take you where you want to go. You’ve even determined how and when you’re going to sit down and evaluate your progress on your plan.
Make It Happen
There’s only one thing left to do — put your action plan into action! Hopefully, these two business development plan sessions have gotten you fired up and ready to start working on making your vision statement happen.
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Business Development Plan: What is it & How to Create a Perfect One?
As a business owner, you obviously want to expand your business and increase your network.
But the question is, how to get started on it?
It’s simple! A business development plan is the first step you need to take.
A business development plan is much more than a piece of document. It is what defines your current positioning and helps you devise and implement a strategic plan.
That, in turn, doesn’t just bring in sales, but also goodwill and long-term relations with your stakeholders.
Having a business development plan is like living a healthy lifestyle – it will only offer great things in return but it does demand a little effort and time.
Whereas, a business with no such plan is bound to misplace time, energy and suppress its growth.
So, let’s learn a little more about this business-altering plan. Have a seat because we’re in for a ride!
What is a Business Development Plan? (Definition)
A business development plan is a detailed strategic plan on how to develop your business by implementing various ideas, tactics, and strategies that assist a company in scale better in every sphere of the business. This business development plan is what defines your current positioning and helps you devise and implement a strategic plan to grow in the market.
Simply put, it is the development of long-term value that a firm enjoys from all of its stakeholders.
A business development plan is a guide to bring everyone in the organization on the same page and get them to work towards a common goal.
For your firm to not just be complacent and make big leaps in the industry, a business development plan is a must!
Now, let’s see how this development plan is beneficial for your firm…
How Creating a Business Development Plan is Beneficial?
1. helps a business boost sales.
Profitability is one of the key metrics to judge a business’s growth.
Devising a strong business development plan helps a business to understand the markets that are the most profitable and which plans need to be pursued first.
Business development plans also involve documenting your firm’s revenue model and all of its pros and cons.
This way, you can better assess what changes need to be made in your revenue model and what other streams can be added to it.
Read more: Business Letters: Definition, Types, Format, and Tips!
2. Presents Expansion Opportunities
Expansion into new markets is always a coveted opportunity for any business.
Business development is all about staying ahead of current trends and curating plans to make the expansion possible.
It’s this research that makes you better acquainted with the best target audiences and customers for your firm and thus paving way for entering new, undiscovered markets.
3. A Better Understanding of your Consumer
As discussed earlier, a good business development plan requires assessing a company’s key demographic and target markets.
It acts from a customer’s perspective so that the business can bring forward a solution to a problem large enough to make profits.
This way the focus turns to the “customer is king” model which works to promote loyalty among customers towards your brand.
4. Improves Company Image
When business development plans are created, it’s not only the customers that are analyzed but also the daily working of the firm.
A business developer can use this information and assimilate it into marketing campaigns.
By keeping potential customers in mind, a firm can address how they strive daily to help satisfy the needs of their customers.
This makes for a solidified marketing campaign.
Now that we know why a business development plan is so crucial, let’s get to creating one!
How to Create a Business Development Plan? Follow these Steps!
Step 1. revisit your vision.
When you started your business, you probably asked yourself the “Where do you see yourself a year from now?” question.
Well, the business development plan starts right there! This is the focal point for all your inspiration.
It defines what YOU want from your firm, and that’s why it’s necessary to think-free and dream high.
Do you want to have a certain amount of sales?
Do you want to win the best local business award?
Whatever it is. Start right here. Articulating what you think you need to reap from your business is where it all starts.
It’ll serve as a baseline to get your firm going and keep you motivated despite hardships.
Step 2. Assessing your Business
The next step is to evaluate your own business.
Conduct SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what markets you can venture to.
Align these with your vision, check where you’re slacking and what you need to do to achieve your vision.
Acme, a beauty brand has the vision to become an international firm in the next two years. Let’s say that their strengths are:
- It resonates well with the customers.
- It is low cost and produces good profit margins.
Whereas their weaknesses are:
- Their marketing plans are not as effective as they need to be.
- Sales haven’t been picking off lately.
This way they can focus better on what needs to be tweaked and work towards attaining their vision.
Read more: Business Documents: Definition, Types, Benefits & Steps to Create Them!
Step 3. Define your Target Audience
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
Sums it all up, doesn’t it?
Without knowing your exact audience, there is no way to make it through in any industry.
A business development plan looks forward to deciphering this and assessing changing trends which helps you find the best-fit audience.
For more details on how you can identify your target audience, check out our blog:
(Linking our target audience blog here once it’s published online)
Step 4. Identify Competition
Knowing what other competitors offer will act as a great tool to understand how your business stands out.
Assess what pricing policies they use, what marketing campaigns they’ve undertaken, and what worked for them.
This way you can identify the best strategic moves for your business moving forward!
Read more: Business Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Format)
Step 5. Deliberate New Ideas
From the evaluation you’ve done so far, start setting priorities for what you think needs to change.
And then depending on those, start listing what all possible solutions could help solve them. Mention anything and everything you think would work.
For example: Let’s consider our previous example of Acme which was lacking on its marketing fronts. Now their possible solutions could be:
- Beginning a new marketing campaign.
- Hiring a campaign manager.
- Starting blogs or email marketing.
- Advertising in beauty magazines.
Thus, a firm can tackle all its issues by listing down every possible way to address them.
This brainstorming session may seem far-fetched but can lead you in the right direction and help you find the most accurate solution to your problems.
Step 6. Setting a Goal
Once you’ve devised a plan, it’s important to set dates.
For example: If you plan to begin a marketing campaign, make sure it gets started by a certain date and yields results by a certain date.
Only when you set smaller goals, you’ll be able to achieve your vision.
These goals will set you and the people in your firm into motion and serve as a reminder as to what’s expected of them.
Step 7. Assess your Business Plan
Although many firms overlook this part, it’s utterly crucial.
Now that you have implemented your plans and you’re ready to achieve your vision, it’s time to assess it.
Monitor the impacts and document all of it as you go, so when you get back to it a year from now, you’re more informed about what went wrong and what yielded shining results.
Read More: Reasons Why You Should Write a Business Plan!
Now you’ve not only created your development plan and assessed it, but you’ve also got ideas and insights into what you need to include in your next one!
Sounds like a concrete business documentation plan may require an even faster and smarter tool!
Well, it’s time for you to meet Bit.ai…
Bit.ai : The Ultimate Tool for Creating a Business Development Plan
We know that creating a business development plan is a complex task and it seems like it requires highly proficient documentation skills…
Well, let us break that bubble for you!
With Bit, you can make documentation fun and exciting and create the perfect business development plan for your business.
Working with Bit is very simple. With its integrated and interactive tools, it will take you much less time to create documents and you’ll get solid results too!
Don’t believe us? Check out some of its amazing features:
- Real-Time Collaboration: When working on a document as comprehensive as a business development plan, it’s obvious that you’ll be working with a team. At such times, it’s more important than ever to have a seamless collaboration experience! Bit facilitates exactly that with its real-time collaboration feature that lets you work on the same document together, comment to exchange ideas, and chat on the side.
- Fully Responsive Templates : Want to create an exciting development plan? Bit has you covered. With its fun and awesome templates that are fully responsive on every kind of device, you are bound to have an exhilarating experience!
- Sleek Editor: A business development plan is deemed to have corrections and require edits and thus a sleek editor like Bit’s would be a handy tool to allow interruption-free editing!
- Sharing and Permissions: A development plan is a vital plan for any business and only needs to be accessed by the right people. Bit supports features like document tracking, password protection, file access restrictions, etc. which help secure your document and lets you decide who gets to access it.
- Real-time Insights: With its trackable links, you can keep an eye on who viewed the plan, for how long, and more. Bit has you covered in offering accurate and powerful insights!
- Smart Workspaces: When working with multiple teams, it’s important that everything is as organized as possible. Bit’s smart Workspaces helps you do just that! Not only can you efficiently work with different departments and teams, but you can also store information of varied kinds in a neat manner.
- Content Library: Bit has a powerful content library that you can use to save and access all your images, videos, and other digital content you might need in your business development plan.
- Rich Media Integration: One of the ways to make your development plan more comprehendible and accessible is to make it interactive. Bit lets you do that! You can add videos, social media posts, music, cloud files, presentations, maps, charts, surveys/polls – basically every kind of rich media in your Bit doc.
- Client Portal: Bit provides a smooth experience for your team and clients to review your business development plans. All you need to do is invite clients into your workspaces by giving them ‘guest access’. The ‘guests’ aka your clients can get two types of access to the documents: comment-only and read-only.
Trust us when we say that no documentation tool out there is as robust as Bit. It even offers a free account for up to 5 users and we think you should absolutely give it a try!
Our team at bit.ai has created a few awesome business templates to make your business processes more efficient. Make sure to check them out before you go, y our team might need them!
- SWOT Analysis Template
- Business Proposal Template
- Business Plan Template
- Competitor Research Template
- Project Proposal Template
- Company Fact Sheet
- Executive Summary Template
- Operational Plan Template
- Pitch Deck Template
We know that everyone craves success but only very few have the patience and perseverance to reach that peak of glory.
A business development plan may not scream success when you’re creating it, but it’s a stepping stone that will take you there!
It will constantly acquaint your organization with its long-term goals, and help it strategize and execute its plans in a resounding manner.
We hope that we’ve gotten you all fired up to get started with your business development plan. Follow our steps and you’re ready to rock!
Don’t forget to let us know how it goes by tweeting us @bit_docs. We’d be happy to hear from you!
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Bit.ai is the essential next-gen workplace and document collaboration platform. that helps teams share knowledge by connecting any type of digital content. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, anyone can work visually and collaborate in real-time while creating internal notes, team projects, knowledge bases, client-facing content, and more.
The smartest online Google Docs and Word alternative, Bit.ai is used in over 100 countries by professionals everywhere, from IT teams creating internal documentation and knowledge bases, to sales and marketing teams sharing client materials and client portals.
👉👉Click Here to Check out Bit.ai.
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- A Game-Changing Business Development Strategy to Achieve Consistent Growth
Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.
Business Development Defined
Business development (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.
The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The three stages of the business development funnel
The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.
But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.
Business Development vs. Marketing
Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and it’s offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.
Download the Business Development Guide
Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.
Business Development vs. Sales
Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.
Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.
Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.
Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.
As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.
The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.
It is this expanded role, where business development encompasses the full range of lead generation, nurturing and sales tasks, which we will concentrate on in this post.
See also: Heller Consulting Case Story
Business Development Examples
To be clear on what this role entails, let’s consider this business development example:
Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved with any aspect of delivering the projects that the firm has signed. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—with either new clients or existing ones.
For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of new materials she needs to sell to new accounts.
When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also has a role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. Moreover, she maintains a relationship with key stakeholders of her firm’s clients. If another opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component to that potential deal.
In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Imagine she has a colleague Greg who is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s first focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—should still be a part of his professional life. Perhaps Greg attends an industry conference with Bethany, he as a speaker and expert and her as the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany and should permeate the whole organization.
In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential for business development to not be ad hoc, but done strategically. Let’s talk about that now.
Strategic Business Development
Not all business development is of equal impact. In fact a lot of the activities of many professionals are very opportunistic and tactical in nature.This is especially true with many seller-doers.
Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.
Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.
Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.
Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.
Top Business Development Strategies
Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up with today’s buyers .
Networking is probably the most universally used business development strategy. It’s built on the theory that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.
It certainly is true that many relationships do develop in that way. And if you are networking with your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.
Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.
The close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.
Clearly, referrals do happen, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.
The problem is referral sources often do not know the full range of how you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One recent study puts the number at over 50%.
Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.
Learn More: Referral Marketing Course
Sponsorships and Advertising
Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.
Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.
The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.
Outbound Telephone and Mail
Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.
There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.
The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.
Thought Leadership and Content Marketing
Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.
Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.
But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.
But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.
It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.
But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.
Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.
It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.
Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.
Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics
The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.
From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.
On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.
10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics
Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at over 1000 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.
These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.
The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:
- Outbound sales calls from internal teams
- Providing assessments and/or consultations
- Speaking at targeted conferences or events
- Live product/service demonstrations
- Presenting in educational webinars
- Pursuing industry award opportunities
- Business development materials
- Email marketing campaigns
- Conducting and publishing original research
- Networking at targeted conferences or events
There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number three on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.
The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.
Business Development Skills
Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.
When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms who grow faster have a skill advantage within their marketing and business development teams.
Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list.
The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Activities like the proposal development see business development team resources manage and produce a strong proposal quickly, including the right stakeholders, and without sacrificing quality.
The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are strong communicators of your firm’s service offerings and capabilities. Those who are able to take a comlex scope of work and communicate it in a way that a potential buyer can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or overly complicated charts is a fast way to see a business lead become unresponsive. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.
The third most important business development skill is face-to-face networking. Despite the hiatus of many in-person events, high growth firms still reported that strong networking skills are a top skill enjoyed by their firms. Strong face-to-face networking skills are as much of an art as it is a science. While some can be more charismatic than others, everyone can prepare their teams with the resources and plan they need to succeed in a networking environment.
Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop. Strategy development for planning your business development plan, research for understanding the competitive landscape and industry trends, and social media prowess all play an important role in business development, too. Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.
How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan
A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.
Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.
Define your target audience
Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.
Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors
The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?
Identify your competitive advantage
What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative, or the industry’s leading expert? This “positioning” as it is often called, needs to be true, provable and relevant to the prospect at the time they are choosing which firm to work with. Be sure to document this positioning, as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.
Choose your overall business development strategy
Pick the broad strategy or strategies to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.
Choose your business development tactics
A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what works with the audience.
Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term nurturing. You need to cover the full funnel.
Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.
Figure 2. Online and offline marketing techniques
When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.
Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact
Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious affect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.
If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.
How Hinge Can Help
Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be implemented. In fact, our groundbreaking Visible Firm ® program combines strategy, implementation, training and more.
- For hands-on help developing a high-performance business development plan, register for our Visible Firm ® course through Hinge University.
- Keep pace with the marketplace, generate leads and build your reputation all at once: Marketing Planning Guide.
- Find out how to turn your firm into a high-visibility, high-growth business. Download our free executive guide, The Visible Firm® , in which we layout a detailed roadmap of this research-based program.
- For more insights, check out our blog post, How to Develop a Winning Go-to-Market Strategy for Your Firm
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550+ Free business plan examples
Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 free real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries to guide you through writing your own plan. If you're looking for an intuitive tool that walks you through the plan writing process, we recommend LivePlan . It includes many of these same SBA-approved business plan examples and is especially useful when applying for a bank loan or outside investment.
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Example business plan format
Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:
The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.
Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).
Products & services
The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.
This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.
Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.
Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don't then you're either in a very young industry or there's a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.
To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are, how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you're business will be positioned. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.
Marketing & sales
The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.
The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.
Milestones & metrics
The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.
A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You'll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that's attached. You don't need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.
You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.
Company & team
Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.
Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.
Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.
The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.
Types of business plans explained
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. To get the most out of your plan, it's best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.
Traditional business plan
The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you'll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or in any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.
Business model canvas
The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.
The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.
One-page business plan
The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.
By starting with a one-page plan , you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.
Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, forecast, review, and refine based on your performance.
It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27 minutes . However, it's even easier to convert into a more detailed plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of growth planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the growth planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.
It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
Download a free sample business plan template
Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2023.
This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.
How to use an example business plan to help you write your own
How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.
Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company
You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.
For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.
Use a business plan example as a guide
Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.
One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.
You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.
If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .
Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document
Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.
Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool
Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.
If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.
Prepare to pitch your business
If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.
Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.
With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.
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With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .
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Building the Next Big Thing: A Guide to Business Idea Development
Business idea development for new venture concepts is a mixture of art and science. There are playbooks to follow that ensure ideas are validated objectively to ensure financial and opportunity cost risks are minimized.
By Brendan Fitzgerald
Brendan has raised more than $700 million and built strategic relationships with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help grow businesses.
How many times have you heard of successful new business ideas and said to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that”? Personally, I’ve started seven different businesses, but the ones that never happened are some of my most memorable ones. For example, I often think about Topgolf, the wildly popular golf driving range/sports bar venues that are popping up all over the US. I’ve been playing golf since I was eight years old and socializing in bars since I was 18. Yet never once did it cross my mind to combine these activities into a business. How did I miss that?
My goal with this article is to help you find the next big idea using business and creative frameworks that help you identify interesting concepts and create new business ideas. Hopefully, this will lead to other people kicking themselves as they follow your business success.
There are four steps to identifying a good business opportunity. The four steps are:
- Find an unmet market need.
- Create a differentiated solution that meets customers’ needs.
- Play devil’s advocate.
- Get market feedback.
1. Find an Unmet Market Need
At the heart of all business opportunities are customers. In order to have customers spend their money on a product, it has to provide better value to them than existing solutions. Thus, the first step in finding a business opportunity is to identify something that customers want that’s not readily available, or affordable, to them.
Your business idea doesn’t have to be some huge revolutionary concept. In fact, those “big ideas” typically take so much money to bring to market, they’re just not feasible for most entrepreneurs. For example, Meg Whitman and Jeff Katzenberg raised $1.75 billion of pre-revenue capital for their mobile video platform Quibi. Not many people could do that.
The best ideas are often incremental improvements over existing products where the market and distribution channels are well established, the product development risks are low, and customers can readily understand the product’s benefits. One of my most successful startups was a real estate syndication company that was the 50th company to enter an established market for providing tax-advantaged real estate investments to individual investors. We quickly became a major player in the market by simply focusing on giving customers a level of service they weren’t getting from other vendors.
So, where do you find unmet market needs? There are two places to look:
- Your work environment
- Your personal life
The beauty of looking in your work environment is that if your existing employer has customers, it also very likely has complaints related to customer needs that aren’t being fulfilled. In many cases, if customers aren’t satisfied, the solution they want isn’t readily available elsewhere, or they’d just go to another vendor. If you can find a solution that solves the customers’ problem, then you may well be on to an interesting business opportunity.
I have a friend who was working for a big company that builds satellite ground stations. His employer was in the equipment manufacturing business, selling complex multi-million dollar communication systems. My friend kept hearing smaller prospective customers say that they couldn’t afford their own system but wanted to rent capacity on someone else’s ground station. His employer was swamped trying to build enough ground stations to meet the demand of its big customers. So my friend resigned and established a data services company that owned one ground station and sold data access to a number of these smaller customers.
Away from work, I see potential business opportunities every time I need or want something that I can’t readily obtain at what I view as a fair price. I also listen carefully when my friends and family express their frustration over not being able to find a solution to issues they’re dealing with or their dissatisfaction with something they bought.
2. Come Up with a Differentiated Solution That Meets Customers’ Needs
Finding an unmet market need is always intriguing, but there’s no business opportunity unless you can figure out a way to meet the need. Differentiated solutions can come from your own creativity, your own expertise, or your knowledge of where to go to find the needed creativity/expertise. I’m living proof that you don’t need to have some special “gift” to come up with differentiated solutions. You just need to put your thinking cap on and/or socialize the unmet market need with others who might have specific knowledge that could help.
To demonstrate the concept of solving unmet needs, I have prepared some business idea examples from ventures that I set up myself. Each instance shows the process that I went through to ideate around the situation.
All too often, I hear stories of entrepreneurs who had a solution and were looking for a problem, rather than starting with an unmet market need, e.g., the infamous “build it and they will come” approach. Start with the unmet market need.
3. Play Devil’s Advocate
I’ve started seven businesses but have identified many more unmet market needs. How did I make the decision to start the ones that I did?
It’s easy to eliminate unmet market needs for which you can’t come up with a differentiated solution. However, it takes time, research , and self-awareness to weed out most of the remaining ideas. Here’s the process I typically go through.
As devil’s advocate implies, I try to shoot holes in potential business opportunities that I come up with. The framework that I use for performing due diligence on potential business opportunities is based on the four key elements of any business: Product , People , Market, and Money . The below table lists some of the key issues you should perform due diligence on in each category.
I usually start by looking for competitive products that are similar to the differentiated solution that I’ve come up with. Finding a similar product isn’t necessarily the kiss of death, because the market opportunity may be big enough to support multiple players. However, if you find a similar product from a company that’s been struggling for years, that’s probably a good indicator that your solution might not be as good as you hope—unless your product better addresses the need that is causing the competitor to struggle.
The other issue I often find when looking at competitors is that someone else has an even better product than what I’ve come up with, and thus, there really isn’t an unmet market need. When this happens, I typically just tip my hat and move on.
The next thing I usually do is look at the overall economics of the opportunity . What is it going to cost me to develop my solution into a real product that I can sell? What will it cost to produce in volume? What is a reasonable sales price? How many can I realistically sell?
If my back of the envelope financial model doesn’t indicate a real windfall, I usually walk away. I say a real windfall because inevitably, things always look worse, not better, when you do a really detailed financial model.
If I still think I have a good business opportunity after I’ve worked my way through all of the questions in the above table, and any other questions that come up as I’m doing due diligence, I share the idea with several colleagues, friends, or family members and ask for their honest feedback . In addition to getting their input on the business idea development , I also solicit their support for the new venture. If your colleagues, friends, and family aren’t supportive (e.g., lending expertise, financial backing) of the undertaking, that may well be a showstopper.
4. Get Market Feedback
You’ve made it to the final step, and you still think you have a good idea. Now, it’s time to see if knowledgeable people in the market have the same view of the concept.
You need to solicit input from as many prospective customers and distribution channel partners as you can to find out if they need and would pay the price you envision for the concept. It’s rare that anyone makes affirmative commitments at this point, but people will say no. Realistically, the best you can usually hope for is that some prospective customers say they’ll try your product when it’s ready, and the distribution channel partners indicate a willingness to carry it if it works out well for the early adopters.
Additionally, it’s often worth the money to hire former industry insiders who are now consultants to give you feedback on the idea. They can provide invaluable contacts and insights, not to mention fill key roles on your team when you’re ready to start hiring.
Sometimes, it makes sense to engage third parties to help solicit market feedback, but I’ve always found it invaluable to conduct at least some interviews myself so I can hear the feedback directly. This is especially true if third parties report rosy feedback. I’ve learned the hard way that many people don’t want to be negative about other people’s ideas. Remember, the goal here is not to delude yourself that you have a great business opportunity if you really don’t. The goal is to avoid spending time and money on business idea development that’s not likely to pan out.
If your business opportunity requires that you create a new distribution channel, e.g., selling directly from a newly launched website, you need to think hard about how much time and money it will take to create the brand and product awareness required to generate actual sales.
A final scenario to consider entails a business idea that creates a whole new product category, i.e., a product that’s unlike anything else on the market. Think of the personal computer when it first came out.
These types of opportunities create real challenges when trying to get market feedback because potential customers often can’t even correctly envision the product you’re describing. Think of trying to explain to someone in the 1970s that your new product is kind of like a typewriter combined with a TV screen. This is just one of many reasons that “breakthrough” business ideas are the riskiest and take the most money to bring to fruition.
Business Idea Development Is About Finding the Signals to Continue
If your market feedback is positive, it’s time to make the call. Are you really going to put this business idea plan into fruition? If your answer is yes, and your family is supportive, start drafting your resignation letter and read my next article on the details of forming a new company .
Understanding the basics
How do you develop a business idea.
The initial stages of formulating a business idea comprise four elements: finding an unmet market need, creating a differentiated solution that meets customers’ needs, poking holes in the concept, and soliciting market feedback.
Located in Indialantic, FL, United States
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Business Development Plan: 7 Essential Elements
Having a business development plan is essential to thrive in the current competitive marketplace. This is because, at present, it’s become very much infused in many sales and marketing functions.
To get started, it’s necessary that you take stock of your past performance before developing your road map. Since creating one is no mean feat, we’re prepared to illuminate your path.
Here’s our blueprint on how to come up with your own business development plan.
What is a business development plan?
Why a business development plan is important, 1. learn to prioritize, 2. control the narrative, 7 essential elements of a business development plan, 1. set your sails, customer retention, customer lifetime value (clv), 2. center your approach, 3. define your marketing channels, 4. choose kpi and develop dashboards to monitor progress, 5. align your process suit your customer’s needs, 6. find out resource needs, 7. communicate with stakeholders.
A business development plan is fundamentally a document that contains the framework on how you’ll implement your business development strategy.
Having revealed this, it’s important that we demystify the two ideas. A business development strategy contains the concept behind the development of a business. On the other hand, a business development plan deals with all the nuts and bolts to make progress feasible.
When starting a business, it’s easy to get lost in all the excitement. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself stagnating.
To enhance your odds of success, it’s necessary to get all the details right from the word go. While a business development plan doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success, you will definitely have a clear vision on how to sidestep possible danger routes.
Having a crystal ball sounds great, right?
If you’re looking to play the long game, then you need a business development strategy plan. With one in place, it becomes easier for you to achieve your objectives. With a sense of directions and a well-mapped out strategy , you can focus your energies on what’s needful.
Once you have one, it’s a great idea to review and update it on the regular so that you can:
- Remind yourself of your key objectives and where your priorities lie
- Adapt to changes in the business scene
- Assess whether you’re making headway using your strategies
- Leverage new opportunities that you encounter
With a business plan in place, you can take a recliner and review what’s working and check out avenues to improve.
You need to pull all the stops to get a plan on how to chart your path. You can start off with simple things like encouraging your staff to share feedback can go a long way. While the process may seem time-consuming and overwhelming at first, you’re sure to reap dividends in the long run.
By planning, you’ll be able to realize the various forces that affect your success. If you’re already doing business, you’ll be able to take inventory and figure out what’s working. Objectively, you want to have more control over your business and your livelihood. By researching, you’ll also have a great opportunity to:
- Comprehend your business finances like cash-flow management and figuring out the break-even point
- Learn more about your industry, market, and the competition
- Review challenges you may encounter and analyze how to beat them
- Make sound business decisions that will give you a competitive advantage
Having a clear vision of where you see the business in the next 12 months is central to achieving your objectives.
This is because an outline of the key 3-5 achievements you believe will set you apart helps you anticipate and prepare for success. Once you have that figured out, you can handle the granular aspects of the process later on.
To ensure that you remain focused, it’s necessary that these audacious goals include revenue goals. While at it, you need to also strive to strike a balance in your operations. There’s no need to only meet a couple of your objectives and total miss out on others is there?
If you’re unsure about what else to include in your grand plan, here’s a quick overview of the key points:
While generating new sales is fantastic news to any businessperson, it’s important to ensure you don’t lose existing customers. On the road to better customer retention, you’re bound to discover that the key lies in providing stellar customer service.
If you’re not sure customer retention matters, here’s a stat that will wow you. On average, it takes about 5 times more to land a new customer than it does to keep the ones you already have.
This refers to the net revenue you can expect to get from a customer during the course of your business relationship .
If you’re a new business that’s dependent on a select number of customers, you need to diversify. Failure to do this could see you at a crossroads one or two of them decide to jump ship.
Increase customer lifetime value👇🏼 •Create a funnel with your most popular product. •HEAVILY discount it. (If you aren’t nervous, it’s not discounted enough) •Add upsells/downsells/order bumps •Email/text your satisfied customers with the special offer. Now go get it. — Alex Ramos🛩 (@iamalexxramos) October 20, 2019
To boost your chances, you need to lower your average CLV by diversifying your revenue base. Of course, this is dependent on the quality of your reach. If you have too many low-revenue customers, then it’s best to first focus on increasing your mean CLV.
Defining your target marketing and setting up detailed buyer profiles is a key ingredient for success. Here’s a quick look at how this can work to your benefit:
A focused business development plan gives you the opportunity to qualify and score prospects to prioritize your constrained sales and marketing resources.
A well-defined target market and buyer profiles give you the legroom to come up with content that boosts your bottom line
With a targeted strategy, it’s easier for you to come up with products and services for your target market
As you work towards developing your business development plan, it wouldn’t hurt to revise previously defined buyer personas. It’s also great counsel to re-access your target market.
After you do this, you can start working towards tweaking your messaging to suit each market segment. With a focused marketing approach, you’re sure to find it easy managing your resources. Importantly, you need to give preference to the things that the best odds of creating long-term value.
Right after you’ve ascertained your target audience, it’s time to generate leads for each market segment.
The best way to do this? By being data-driven.
This means you need to get more granular and embrace the SMART goals concept. In essence, your objectives need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-related.
To kick things off on the right foot, you need to have your first SMART goal be all about the revenue target. With a clear definition of a revenue target, you can then proceed to conceive a cascading series of SMART goals. If possible, you want them all to be based on each lead generation channel in your system.
You also need to think tactically about your target markets and the marketing channels you use. How do you plan to generate more inbound leads ? Does content marketing sound palatable?
If so, how often do you intend to publish? Which topics do you expect to garner much interest? Do you have a strategy to promote?
All these are questions that will help you gain a better understanding of your target audience. With an elaborate tactical plan, you can maintain consistency in all work departments.
Embracing a data-driven approach is sure to work great for you since you’ll be able to keep tabs on your KPI performance. By so doing, you’ll realize that you’re able to meet your goals after every quota without any surprises.
At the same time, being data-driven gives you insights on the effectiveness of your business development plan. With the right kind of intel, you can focus your resources on the strategies that work best. This may mean that you need to tweak or abandon poor-performing ones.
As you track progress, it’s important to also pick the metrics that matter. Ideally, you want to stick to those that contribute to your bottom line. To get a clearer picture, you need to reflect on your professional sales funnel for all of your marketing channels.
If you manage to set SMART goals for every step of the funnel, you’ll find it easy to track progress made. You can then share this information in dashboards for constant tracking and organization.
If you want to enhance your revenue generation process, you need to have the customer in mind. How best do you think your approach will correspond with your customers buying process? In a perfect world, you want the sales process to seamlessly happen irrespective of which salesperson on your team is involved.
In truth, this may be hard to accomplish, but, it can be done. All you need to do is identify the milestones that need to be accomplished in order to hasten the sales process.
You can define these milestones in your CRM system to ensure all salespersons know what’s expected of them. With a clear line of vision, they can breezily conceive plans to move to the next milestone.
As a manager, this will work great for you as you’ll have more insights into the sales pipeline. It’s also a brilliant strategy since it ensures a consistent sales approach form all team members.
As always, it’s vital to note that sales qualification is one of the most important stages of the sales process. In particular, SMB businesses need to have their sales qualification game on lock. This is because most of them have limited resources which they can’t expand on avenues not worth pursuing.
Without a refined qualification process, you’ll simply be setting yourself up for failure down the road. To avoid this, you need to be in tune with the intricacy of the modern buying process .
While conventional thinking will have you believe that the economic buyer holds the keys to the city, it’s a different ball game today. The B2B buying process has morphed into a process that now involves multiple stakeholders. As such, you need to make certain that your buying process shows this.
Having already discovered how to go about business expansion, it’s now time to move to the next phase. How exactly do you intend to execute your business development plan?
Are there specific attributes you’re looking for in employees? Do you have the technology to make your dreams a reality? What are your resource needs?
Importantly, you need to ascertain whether to employ a DIY (do it yourself) or a DIFM (do it for me) approach. This is because many SMB enterprises don’t have the prowess to take on complex business development plans.
Where the waters start getting murky, it’s logical to seek the services of an agency or consultant to help you out. It’s also sound advice to have your internal staff learn from them as they go about their business. You can also provide additional training to them so that they are well-versed in the business.
To achieve your revenue targets, you may realize that you need to invest more in your salespeople . As a manager, the onus is on you to think about whether hiring a sales assistant will prove beneficial. Once onboard, they may be able to keep your consultants focused on realizing more business opportunities.
In terms of technology, here’s what you’ll probably need during business development:
- CRM software
- Sales prospecting software
- Dashboard software
- Graphic design/video editing software
- Content management system for your website
- Webinar software
- Marketing automation software
By figuring out your budget and resource needs, you’ll find it easier to navigate and hit target revenues.
It’s crucial that you share your business development strategy plan with stakeholders.
Having said that, you need to think above and beyond just the management team. Everyone at your company needs to know the important aspects of your business development plan. This is because, some elements like messaging, high-level goals and target markets are actually important to everyone.
It’s also important that your service, management, and sales team are all reading from the same script about the company vision. When this happens, it will be easy for them all to focus on creating long-term value.
Consultants also need not be left in the cold. Part of their onboarding process needs to involve a review of the vision and goals of the company. With a proper briefing, they’ll be able to carry out their duties better and help you move closer towards the realization of your dreams.
A comprehensive business development plan that spells out review protocols and how to achieve your goals is necessary. To get to the promised land, you need to also ensure that you have the right technology and automation.
Now that we’ve highlighted 7 essential elements you need to succeed, we’re confident you’re ready to take on the world.
When do you plan to implement a business development plan?
Is there anything holding you back from doing so?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Kevin Thomas Tully is a globally-recognized Social Selling and Big Data strategist who employed the principles of Social Selling long before the term entered the popular business vernacular. A Johns Hopkins-trained data scientist, Kevin has applied true buyer intent data, predictive analytics, and data mining to the sales and marketing process for more than a decade to gain a strategic marketplace advantage for leading brands worldwide.
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Business development plan: A step-by-step approach
by Lucia Piseddu | Jan 16, 2023
A good business development plan can set you up for success. Learn how to create your own from scratch with zero experience!
If you’re just starting with business development , chances are that you’re a little confused about how you should do it. I got lost many times during my entrepreneurial journey. One of those moments was when I had to write a business development plan for the first time.
Now, the main problem was that I didn’t have a clue about what a business development plan was to start with. And of course, when I started digging, I got even more confused. I found a lot of information online, but nothing that would tell me how to do it step-by-step.
So after some years of trying and failing, I finally found my way to deal with it and build my own business development plan.
Below I’ll explain how to write a business development plan and what information you should include in practical terms. But first, let’s define what a business development plan is.
What is a business development plan?
A business development plan is a document that helps you implement your business development strategy in a step-by-step method. It involves a lot of research on the market and customers. But also, other aspects such as your competitors and buyer persona.
So, a business development plan is a detailed summary of important steps you’re going to take to grow your business. One key aspect to remember is that a business development plan is a LIVING document. This means that you have to update your plan continuously based on new information about your ecosystem.
This helps you strategize better but also ensures that it’s a document of quality insights.
A business development plan is divided into two main parts:
- Research: in the research phase, you learn more about your market, customers, and competitors.
- Action: you use your research and put it into action. Specifically, this translates into creating a value proposition, and content, and experimenting with ideas.
You can download our template for free at this link .
Step 1: Organize your business development plan
I’m a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis.
It doesn’t have to contain every piece of information. Keep it simple by including only essential and key facts that will help you build an effective business development machine. Your business development plan needs to be easily accessible and quick to consult.
In this sense, you don’t need to get fancy and start looking for the latest software that promises you great time savings. Stick to something basic yet powerful. Google Sheets is your best ally when it comes to your business development plan.
So, the main goal of a business development plan is to keep information structured so that you can spot growth opportunities easier.
You can download our template for free at this link and start your business development plan.
Step 2: Market research
Market research is a stepping stone in a business development plan. It’s an activity to gather more information about customers’ preferences and needs. Many companies overlook this step thinking that their intuition will guide them through their challenges. Intuition can be helpful, but it’s still essential to know your customers better using research and data.
After all, most ideas start off from intuition. However, basing an entire plan on assumptions is never a smart strategy to use in business development. So, do your homework and make sure you always take educated guesses before starting to work on your business development plan.
Market research takes into account 3 variables . These will tell you the realistic size of the market you’re trying to target.
1 – Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market (TAM)
The TAM takes into account the entire market you’re operating in and basically tells you how much annual revenue there is available for your product or service.
Now, finding this information can be the first bummer. To me at least, it sounded quite impossible to find out. Later, I figured that there are many people out there that dedicate their life only to market research.
You can use Google to find out this information. But of course, you first need to know what you’re looking for. The information you need, in this case, is basically knowing how many companies or people would benefit from your product or service.
You also want to know how many companies operate in your exact space both in terms of services and geography. To get relevant market news, try Googling “your industry market trends”, “your market report”, or “your industry report”.
Many big consultancy groups and governmental institutions dedicate a lot of time to this type of research. It’s a good and reliable starting point.
PRO TIP: Choose your sources very carefully. You’ll find a lot of random information, learn to filter out what you’re reading.
2 – Total Served Market (TSM)
Once you know how big your market is, you need to check how much of it is already served by your competitors.
In this case, the information you’re looking for is all about your competition. You should ask yourself first how many of them you have.
Then you need to find out how well they’re doing and start hunting for as much intelligence as possible.
The info you need to look for is how many clients your competitors claim to have, what revenue they generate, and where they are present.
First, Google keywords to identify your competitors. Right after that, you can start digging deeper into their websites and find detailed info.
Bigger competitors will most likely have good press coverage. Read these articles to gather more insight.
Last, don’t overlook the importance of customer review websites. Customers can uncover many relevant details that your competitors don’t want to reveal. And of course, make use of technology to make the most out of your research.
3 – Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)
The last step in your market research is to quantify how much you can realistically obtain with your business development effort.
Your SOM is your share in the market. So, to put it simply, it’s not possible to have an entire market buy only your products and services. There is a specific customer base that will buy from your company. So, your SOM refers to your market share and the people that can become your customers if they see a benefit from your products or services.
SOM takes into account your brand awareness, market insights, but also competition. It helps you forecast potential earnings and also gain customers. Based on the research, you become aware of what your competitors are offering to the market. Moreover, you will be able to tailor your products and services to meet the needs and preferences of your customers.
Step 3: Competitor analysis
The third step to do when creating your business development plan is to do a competitor analysis . So far, I discussed market research and how it helps you get to know the preferences of your target audience better. But, to grow your business sustainably and profitably, it’s vital that you analyze your competitors as well.
First, figure out who your direct and indirect competitors are. So, in a Google search, we try to identify or find the ID of each company that competes in your market. This can be found in the website’s ‘About us’ section. Then, the aim is to find key personalities such as managers and executives, and so on.
Once you have this information, you can move on to products and services. You can find this on your competitor’s website as well. This specific section defines what the company specializes in. You can use this information to compare your products to those of your competitors and try to find ways to improve them.
Continue by checking their clients, and the pricing they offer for their products and services.
PRO TIP: Read the customer reviews of your competitors to spot their strengths and weaknesses. Use the insights to improve your offer.
Step 4: Customer research
After identifying your market share, you can start thinking of what kind of customers within this segment, you are trying to sell your products and services to.
The best way to tackle this is by running proper customer research that will provide you with your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona.
This is the part I like the most because it really helps you understand who you’re talking to. But how do you do it? First, if you already have some customers, start analyzing them. You want to gather more information on who they are, what they do, and their habitual traits.
- What job titles do these people have?
- How old are they?
- What communication tools do they use?
- Where do they hang out?
- What are their personalities like?
- What are their challenges?
- What do they do in their daily lives?
You can find all this info by simply checking social media profiles. Really, just by observing their social media platforms, you can get to know them in-depth! Take some time to check a few ones (at least 10) and you’re going to start seeing patterns.
Then, check some job descriptions about the people you’re targeting. This will highlight what are their professional responsibilities and how your product or service can help them. Last, it’s always advisable to run a survey.
Step 5: Build your Buyer Persona
Right after having run your customer research, you can now create your buyer persona.
The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research,
In your buyer persona, you need to include all the relevant information you found through your customer research. It should look like something below:
Step 6: Value Propositions
The customer research concludes the research part of your business development plan. Now it’s time to put your insights into action and start building your business development strategy .
The first valuable asset you need to build is a value proposition.
A value proposition is the value your customers get should they choose to buy your products and services
The value proposition helps you communicate your value as a company and you can use it on your website, sales calls, social media posts, etc. Having a clear value proposition will help you attract the right audience and persuade potential customers to work with you.
Of course, a good value proposition is based on that, and if you followed all the steps, you should have all the insights you need.
To build a value proposition we will use the Job-To-Be-Done framework. This helps you identify what are the responsibilities of your buyer persona when they’re doing their job.
For example, a typical responsibility for a recruiter is to find the right talent .
Second, consider the pains and gains of your customers. Customers’ emotions are usually the reason behind their buying decisions. They influence their preferences, frequency of buying, and also which companies they buy from.
Especially the challenges are a crucial element in your value proposition because you can immediately link your solution to a concrete pain that your customers are facing.
For example, let’s go back to the example of the recruiter. We know that one main responsibility of a recruiter is to find talent. One major challenge for recruiters is to have enough time to process all the CVs they receive daily.
Now, let’s assume you work for a company that provides recruitment software that can automate CV screening.
A good value proposition, in this case, would sound like this:
Save 70% of your CV screening time using our recruitment software
Step 7: Content plan
Once you have your value proposition, the next step is to share it with your target audience. That’s when having a content plan becomes a must.
A content plan helps you strategize the type of information you want to feed your audience. It also helps you select the channels on which you should build your presence.
For content to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience when you write posts/emails, or articles. So, always consult your buyer persona before creating content.
Just like the value propositions, effective content revolves around the pain point you identified earlier. Use them to get the attention of your audience and provide valuable information that helps them alleviate these pains.
This will help you establish yourself as a valuable resource and when they will want to solve their issues, you’ll be the first to pop into their minds.
Step 8: Experiments
The last step in your business development plan is all about creativity and finding opportunities. This is the moment in which we create experiments to validate some of our business assumptions. Your experiment should be ideas that you think will bring sustainable growth to your company.
Once you identify some ideas, define some goals and set up the methodology you will follow to run this experiment. For example, if you heard of a new social media and you think your audience might be on it, build an experiment to validate if this is true and if it can bring you results.
Attach a goal to this idea, for example, generating 10 qualified leads on this new channel.
Then decide for how long you will run the experiment – ideally a couple of weeks. Once the experiment is over analyze what happened. If the experiment was successful, you need to scale this activity. If not, take the learnings for further improvements.
The business development plan is a key document that helps you map your ecosystem and strategize your business development efforts.
It consists of a research part and an action part. In the first part, you analyze your market, competitors, and customers. In the second, you use your insights to build value propositions, content plans, and experiments.
The business development plan is a live document, so you have to update it every time you have new insights. Of course, you have to use it in your daily operations to make sure you’re on the right track.
The business development plan is one of the assets you will build during our training. Would you like to shake up your business development career and work in a more structured way? Then join our next cohort .
If you are a startup founder check out the startup program , specifically designed to help you take your business from good to great.
Last, if you are a company wanting to train your business development team, our custom training solutions are the best way to take your team to the next level.
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21 Business Development Ideas
Stuck for ideas on how to market your independent consultant practice to bring in new clients and projects? Here are 21 business development ideas, along with links to relevant episodes of our Unleashed podcast where applicable.
Editorial note: This article was originally published in January 2021 and was updated in April 2022.
1) Start a podcast and invite potential clients as guests
We recently released a detailed resource guide on how to start your own podcast, from the technical and equipment aspects to the topic and guest aspects. This resource also includes a 15-step checklist, and some examples of great podcasts by Umbrex members.
And in an episode of Unleashed , I presented four reasons why an independent professional might want to start a podcast, and 17 tips on how to get started.
Read the Resource Guide on How to Start a Podcast
2) start a newsletter.
We also have a terrific resource and 12-point checklist on starting a newsletter, which can be an incredibly effective marketing tool and business development idea.
We spoke with more than 20 independent consultants on how they started their own newsletter, and distilled what we learned into a 12-step checklist. This resource walks you through each step of how to start your own newsletter.
I also spoke with Josh Spector, founder of the For The Interested newsletter and an audience growth strategist and a digital marketing consultant, on Unleashed where he shared his expertise on newsletters.
( Bonus : you can also check out episode 451 on Business Newsletter Best Practices from Michael Katz).
Read the Resource Guide on How to Create a Newsletter
Episode 459, 3) make outbound calls.
It is so much more comfortable to send an email than picking up the phone and making a call — especially a cold call.
But David A. Fields, Umbrex member and author of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom , says that picking up the phone is an incredibly effective means to reach out.
The process is much more comfortable if you have a plan for how you want the call to go, and that’s exactly what David offers in this episode.
4) Create a portfolio of sanitized work
When thinking of business development ideas, start with the basics — do you have a solid portfolio of your work to share with potential clients?
You probably wouldn’t hire a graphic designer or a wedding photographer without looking at their portfolio.
Independent consultants ought to have a portfolio as well – samples of sanitized work you can share with potential clients.
I’ve found that many independent consultants do not have a portfolio, however, and here are some thoughts on how to create one.
Renegade Consulting Collective (Umbrex member Chandler Arnold) has a great portfolio of their work as Case Studies, as shown to the right. Click on the image to view it on their website.
5) create a project list.
Jay Martin, with more than 25 years of management consulting experience (including time at Arthur D. Little and IBM Global Services and nearly 18 years as an independent consultant) was a guest on Unleashed .
Jay has done a better job than anyone I’ve met at maintaining an exhaustive list of all his projects — the document is 18 pages long and includes the details on well over a hundred projects.
In this episode, Jay discusses how he started building this list and the benefits of keeping such a document.
6) update your linkedin profile.
Tips on posting LinkedIn articles and posts, and recommendations on each element of your LinkedIn profile, including:
- Contact info
- Summary section
- Summary section attachments
- Experience section attachments
- Recommendations received and given
7) set up a crm system.
In another Unleashed episode with David A. Fields, we discussed how to set up a CRM system for an individual consultant or boutique firm.
A bit more than a year ago, I attended a training session that David led on this topic, and I set up my CRM system exactly that way he describes on this show. I’ve found the simple setup that David suggests incredibly useful, and I highly recommend it.
While you can use his suggested setup with just about any program, I happen to use Pipedrive, which is the system that David uses and recommends to his clients.
8) update your resume.
I’ve looked at 5,000 resumes over the past four years – seen some good ones, and lot of resumes with room for improvement.
This episode is particularly geared at independent consultants, but 90% of it is relevant to any professional.
9) ditch the yahoo, gmail, aol, etc and get a professional email address.
If you’re still using a generic email address, it’s time to upgrade to the professional version. Your email should be @yourwebsite — check with your hosting provider as they can set you up with one.
10) Reach out to clients where you LOST a proposal, just to check in
This is something that isn’t often thought of when it comes to business development ideas.
The idea is that in cases where you submitted a proposal (unless it was just an RFP open to the universe), you were in the consideration set. The client probably met with you. You spent time learning about the company.
Maybe they didn’t pick anyone to do the project at the time — they ended up prioritizing something else or didn’t have the funding. Or maybe they picked someone else, but now perhaps that other consultant is no longer available. Or maybe that other person didn’t perform as well as they had hoped.
So by following up, you can get back to top of mind. It’s possible they have something else new that is a better fit with your capabilities.
This doesn’t mean just calling to ask if they have new project needs, but rather making a relationship-building “touch base” contact point.
David Fields has a lot of great ideas and methods on how to do this (see #3 above).
11) Comment on LinkedIn posts by potential clients
The goal with LinkedIn is not to sell with posts, but just to engage people in a conversation. And conversations are a two-way street — so you should be going onto other people’s posts and commenting and engaging.
Focusing on the people who are your ideal clients and you would like to work with is a good way to become known to them and start to establish a personal relationship.
12) Post 3-5 times per week on LinkedIn on the topic you want to be known for
Mark Williams, aka “Mr. LinkedIn,” is the host of one of my favorite podcasts, LinkedInFormed — I’ve listened to dozens of episodes, and much of what I know about LinkedIn I know from Mark.
In this episode, Mark provides tips on key aspects of the LinkedIn profile: the headline, the photo, the about section, and the experience section.
13) organize a virtual event.
Sree Sreenivasan has been the Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University, New York City, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is considered one of the most influential people in social media.
We cover many topics in this episode, including the work of Sree’s firm Digimentors, which produces world-class virtual events. Sree shares how to set up and produce virtual events.
14) create, or update, your website.
Unleashed guest Tsavo Neal has thought hard about how consultants can generate more client leads with their website.
Tsavo has written dozens and dozens of posts on this topic and you can find all his work on his website, tsavoneal.com , which is a valuable resource.
He’s got examples of best-practice consulting websites, dozens of specific ideas on how to raise your visibility, tips on how to convert website visitors into leads, and much more.
Tsavo shares many valuable insights on marketing professional services in this episode.
15) Create a course teaching some skill that a potential client might be looking for
For example: “How to organize an Integration Management Office.”
Paul Millerd, has developed several online courses with over 4,500 students on Udemy alone. He also writes a very popular weekly newsletter that I love, and he is incredibly generous with his time: on his website you can book time to have a “curiosity conversation” with Paul; he has spoken with hundreds of people around the world who have reached out to him in this way.
Paul leads listeners through “Creating an Online Course.”
16) update your email signature to include your phone number (on the computer and phone).
A good email signature lets your recipients know, at a glance, both who you are and how to get in touch with you. Use this space to list (and link to) your website, and be sure to have your telephone number as well.
17) Create — or refine — your Fishing Line
In our very first episode of Unleashed , David A. Fields and I dove into some of his key pieces of advice for client development, including right-side-up thinking, defining your firm’s impact, building your visibility, how to have a context discussion, and tips on pricing.
David also shares a list of his recommended books.
18) Ask past clients for feedback
Soliciting the feedback of past clients is a way to both garner potential testimonials, as well as invite constructive critiques on ways you can improve.
On this episode, David A. Fields discusses best practices on what steps to take at the end of a long project to:
- Hand over deliverables.
- Ask for recommendations and referrals.
- Stay in touch with key individuals you’ve developed relationships with over the course of the project.
We cover all three topics, and I found particularly helpful David’s approach to asking for a recommendation.
19) build relationships with other independent consultants serving your niche.
That’s a huge part of what the Umbrex community is all about. Join one of our live or virtual events , start a conversation in our member forum , or reach out to other members .
20) Read The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients by David A. Fields
A frequent guest on our Unleashed podcast and speaker at Umbrex events, author and consultant David A. Fields published this insightful guide to understanding what clients really want — one that I consider a must-read for every consultant.
Independent consulting is a potentially lucrative enterprise—but the reality seldom matches the dream. Most solo consultants and boutique consulting firms are perpetually within six months of bankruptcy due to the sputtering unreliability of their new business engines.
The problem, according to international consulting expert David A. Fields, is twofold: 1) lack of a consistent, proven plan, and 2) fundamental misunderstanding about what clients want in a consultant. Fields, who has helped hundreds of consultants and boutique firms worldwide build profitable, sustainable practices, replaces the typical consultant’s mindset of emphasizing expertise and differentiated processes with a focus on building relationships, engendering trust, and solving clients’ existing problems.
In The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients , Fields synthesizes his decades of experience into a step-by-step approach to winning more projects from more clients at higher fees. From nuts-and-bolts business advice and tactics to a deeply insightful breakdown of the human side of a very human profession, Fields, named one of Advertising Age magazine’s “Marketing Top 100,” delivers a comprehensive guidebook that is at once highly approachable and satisfyingly detailed.
21) Email a past client
It’s sometimes amazing how much a simple touch-base email can put you in front of mind again for the client. Try sending a friendly “Would love to hear about your plans for the year” email to previous clients on a regular basis.
Do you have ideas I haven’t listed?
I would love to know your favorite or most successful business development practice. Please let me know your suggestion here.
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36 Business Development Ideas To Survive In Economic Slowdown.
At one point we business owners realize that there is one thing lacking somewhere in the business. Does that happen to you too? If yes, then let me tell you that you are not alone. This struggle is in the life of every upcoming successful entrepreneur. Where does this struggle end? There are some hidden points or should I frame it differently; there are some things that we don’t try to look at.
Yes, there can be a bunch of those minor collections that you have forgotten but those were the things that you followed regularly at the start of your business. So focus guys because we are going to have a deja vu. You may think at some point while reading this article that you were following this tip so much and you didn’t realize how it fell from your mind.
Not one or two, we are going to give you a list of 36 Business development ideas that are minor but impacts majorly.
36. Ever-Changing Market
The market is never in anyone’s control or there is no fixed rule to control the market. But what can you do? It is to have a plan B. That means take advantage of the market. Situations may not be in your favor but you can find a positive side in every situation.
If the market is low today then invest, the market is high tomorrow then sell. That’s what the general rule says but what if you wait for a long time and then sell to earn more. It is the patience formula. You need to work with the market.
If the market is demanding on something then are you up for it? Can you identify those demands? Can you change your tech if needed? If yes is your answer then you are ready to grow your business.
Sometimes we are hoping for an error in the outer environment but what if there is an error in our own environment. Then do you think you can grow? Same way if your employees are not motivated enough then you can’t expect them to achieve targets.
It is better that you motivate your employees, it may be positively or negatively; there are various sources. A push in the work environment can create miracles in history. It is a given solution for successful entrepreneurs.
34 Measure Your Past Contributions
The business works on past trends when you check these trends? At times you are in doubt what can be done in the future then past trends get us some perspective. If you want to grow your business then check your past world.
Analyze the problems, defects, and even best achievements. If you are able to figure out what you are missing today that was extraordinary in your past works; then you may do a great job in the future. Also, you will come to know what were the things that you are missing out on.
A business demands promotion , you can’t stick to the same old rule. By promotion, we mean changing your work life and adapting to the modern lifestyle. The way you work may be a traditional one and that could be the number one barrier for your growth.
If you don’t use high tech equipment or online websites or an interesting work environment then you don’t stand a chance. You should be able to cope up with the demand. If you are not acting quickly by using this high technology then your competitors will easily push you back.
32. Over Deliver
There is one rule in business, I hope you haven’t forgotten that and if you are reading it for the first time then use it forever. Whatever you are asked to do, do something extra every time. Your client will not be satisfied ever until you don’t deliver extra.
If you are asked to maintain a report on the weekend then tell then it will be done by evening 5 pm on the weekend. Why? You need to be on time and exact; that is what means to deliver extra. If you deliver what is asked then business growth is stagnant but over-delivering ensures more clients and more work.
31. Improve Your Skills
Have you stopped thinking about yourself? Do you think I am the boss, why should I learn? If yes then you really needed this article. You need to work on yourself constantly because maybe your work can be delegated but it should not be taken over.
If you are always dependent even for one bit of small matter and you don’t even know about its basics then be ready for others to use your weakness. A business can’t afford these mistakes, improve what you don’t know; start with basics.
30. Start Investing in Marketing
The biggest gift that you can give to your business is to expand your marketing networks . If your growth is stagnant then it is time to use the high tech world and reach everyone. You will expand the network and business is eventually growing.
What do you require here? Do not stick to online modes, even the traditional method such as your business card; plays an important role. It is the identity of your business and like that various other traditional marketing methods.
29. Know Yourself First
Do you know where you belong now? What you want from your business except for huge profits? Are you able to discover peace in your work? Are you satisfied with what you provide to society? If these questions are unanswered then you should answer them now.
An owner is the heart and brain of the business, if his mental health is not aware of then you can not expect anything good. You should be clear of what you want and be ready to put in hard work for it.
If you are charged up and ready to work for anything then the business gets its activeness. You will see a new kind of sparkle in your business.
28. Focus When It Is Meant To Be
If you are not aware of the environment of in and out of your business then you are nowhere in your business. You may work from your home but keeping a check on every employee is essential. If you are on a vacation that does not mean you cut off from the world.
The minor mistakes done by each entrepreneur at some point is that they miss out on many opportunities due to their lack of focus. I am not saying you have to get every one of them but you can avoid missing out on many opportunities if you use this advice.
27. Diversify Income Sources
This is my personal favorite as I got to know this advice a little bit later but it eventually worked out. You may be doing business in some sort of sector but if you are planning to grow your business. It means you want more profits and income.
The easiest way is to get multiple sources of income. You can invest, buy assets, and various other options are available. These are those sources that can be done while doing your business. You can put your money on better use.
26. Are You Strict With Your Time Schedule?
A person should always be punctual, you must have heard that “time is money”. And it should be respected. While doing business for more than 2-3 years you get habitual. But if you start ignoring the time boundaries then you are in a big problem brother.
Growing a business demands punctuality, you need to have proper discipline in your life to achieve your goals. If you are leaving your work for tomorrow then you need to change some of the habits.
25. After-Sale Service
This is the most crucial aspect of the business but after some time it gets overlooked. Why did that happen? There could be a number of reasons such as fewer employees to solve queries or problems in the products. You should get to the problem and find out what is the error.
Once you are improving the after-sale services then you can see the results. This is one such problem that you may or may not have in a business. There is no harm in checking out for those reasons that can grow your business.
24. Know Which Client To Choose
At initial stages of business we just don’t figure out which client or whom to choose, it is just the client and their needs. But at some point, you get to know what is best for your business. It is possible that some clients are not giving enough sales and even getting much more spend.
You need to drop the burdens of these clients and go on with the best possible solutions. It will help your business to grow as a whole. How? You are going to get new and better clients that can contribute well. This way you are losing the liabilities and getting assets.
23. Do What You Love
Business is all about doing what you loved to do most. If you don’t enjoy it you can expect others enjoying your services. As it is well said “you should be your first customer”. What it has to do with growing the business. If you are really a person who enjoys doing business then it’s good.
But after many years of doing the same business, it may happen that one of the reasons for your business not growing is you. You are not enjoying what you do. You need to find that happiness again. Or just start a hobby so that it relieves the stress and you can focus.
22. Fail More to Try More
You may find it discouraging but failing more doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong. It only means that you are going for something new that your competitors are not. What if you fail? Every entrepreneur fails thousands of times to achieve wild success.
This is the only method through which you can try your luck and pop into that category where no one has even thought of it. You should not be afraid of failing because being out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do to grow your business.
21. Identify the Reach of the Business
While growing a business the first question that You must answer is to what extent your business is already flourishing. If you are not reachable to all those customers who are within your market then you have to plan your strategy again.
When you come to know about the reach of your business then you have a better chance of not missing out on the important clients of the business. Sometimes it happens that you forget a minor sector of society which can bring you hi Sales.
20. Work More on Online Promotions
Marketing has been a major part of the business since forever. Even the ancient times has examples of
Marketing. But online modes have totally changed the myths. Now you can reach out to anywhere in the world. Whether it is a recession or a pandemic disaster; online marketing never fails.
Here is the thing; you need to work professionally with your marketing manager now. It is not possible that the manager is supposed to do major work. Now you need to be on top of his head to change the plans according to the market and bring out more relevant.
19. Ask Yourself, Can You Expand?
A proud stage comes for every business where you seriously think about expanding. It may be nationally or internationally, with a different line of products or a new product and many other ways. It is a common and most founded way of growing a business.
What makes expansion better than anything? It is less risky because you already know where you are stepping. You can handle the pressure. Also now your business can earn high profits.
18. Invest or Acquire
Every entrepreneur knows that growing a business gives you an option to acquire new business. We want to help you out with that. There are some questions that you need to ask before thinking about acquiring. Do you have enough resources? Can you handle the new venture? Many more like that.
If the answer is No, then don’t get disheartened. Start investing. You can earn high by investing in those ventures that you wanted to acquire. That way you can earn money even without paying a huge amount.
17. Are You Evaluating the Contributions to Society?
A business protocol asks you to invest in contributions to society. You have a corporate social responsibility but did you ever evaluate returns for your contributions. If yes then it is time to make changes in your process.
You have evaluations for the returns that you get in terms of monetary benefits but the qualitative benefits that you get are often missed. Did you check which clients found your name through a charity event? If not, do it because now you will know where to contribute more. Either at marketing or contributing to society.
16. Try to be Short and Simple
Email marketing is the best way to promote business. But it can’t be done by anyone. Being precise is not a task that has guts to be followed by any ordinary person. You need to have those skills. Email marketing is a good way to reach out to where your business hasn’t.
Being short and simple in your emails is one such sure shot way that I can never forget. It did help majorly. You might not know the returns it could get for you; especially in the era of technology.
15. Check Out Growing Options
Now as a business there are several options where you can grow your roots. One such option that is on top of my mind is franchising. It really helped a lot of bug enterprises to spread nationwide and even internationally.
How? You can give options to those small startups who are looking to purchase your franchise. This is how they will do the work for you in return for your goodwill. You are growing as a business by using your business name.
14. Hosting Charity and Social Events
Being in society you get some and you need to return. This is how it works. Also, it is a huge part of the image that you present for your business. There are many plus sides of this activity but the major which I can recall is you get to have fun.
These events are really great. You can easily relax your mind and work with a charged up body. Growing your business is just not possible when you don’t grow together. Learn to grow with society.
13. Know About Your Competitors or Even Make Them Friends
Yes, you heard it right. Your competitors can be your friends. If you don’t know what happens at your competitor’s business then you are not going to them then. Also, it is not necessary that you have to have a great bonding with your competitors.
Just socialize with the market and build good networks. It is really a part of the business. What you may not know is sometimes your competitors can divert clients for you.
While networking is important but when business achieves a good image, it becomes necessary that you start scrutiny of your networks. We are not suggesting to cut off with anyone who you want to be associated with.
You need to build larger and stronger networks. Networking is a core part of growing a business. If you are ready to let go of what you don’t need and get those which are best for your business, then it is time to take that step.
11. Evaluate Business Goals
At one point in time, you had goals for your business but now you have come a long way. It may happen that these goals have changed. It is time for a quick check. Do you still want to go for those goals?
You may just want to achieve a stage where you had good profits but now that’s not enough. Now you need better customers and more sales. Did you start working on it? If not then why are you waiting for?
Change your goals right now so that you can start working for them. Sooner the better.
In every other article, you will read this word, why? It is a sure shot solution that could grow your business. But here is a catch that no one will tell you. The process is difficult. Getting innovative needs expertise of the market, identifying and collaboration opportunities.
No need to worry because you may have already passed by some of them. You just need to hold them when they are in front of you.
9. Grab Market Opportunities
Remember about those times when you were a fish from a lake (startup) and when you moved to a big ocean (large scale business); your brain was popping out with new ideas. You were like a bullet train who wanted to mix this and match that.
If that is not the case now then ask yourself why? You are stuck at the normal routine and you don’t want to change with the market. If you won’t see the upcoming demand then maybe your competitors will. Not maybe they surely will.
8. Be Unique and Fresh
A long time ago when you were deciding which strategy to use or which name to take or which products are better; there you must be wanting something unique and new. What happened now?
If you are circling in the same routine, not venturing anything new; then do you think you will survive for long. That is why it becomes really important to just go for new ideas, take your employees on a brainstorming weekend. Ask them about the changes that could be done.
7. Customer Relations
The one and only top priority of every business that may destroy or create you. But do you know which customers should be diverted from your business? There are a bunch of those toxifying clients who waste our time.
What is much better? It is to get rid of them. How do you do that? You can divert them to other sources (maybe tour competitors) or handle them with care. The major problem here is you may not understand which customers are really these types. The simple solution is to ask your employees.
6. Brand Image
We all know how our brand image works. If promoting our brand image would be enough then there will be no additional treatment to clients, employees and various parts of the business. You got to think about the branches of your business.
You want a tree to grow but how can that happen if the branches are not given water. Similarly, you need to work out on your image through treating your employees better in the work area and satisfy your customers by responding to their queries.
5. Are You Investing In Your Own Company?
You are earning well and good, in fact investing to earn great; but are you investing in your own business? Your answer could be yes I am getting the raw material to pay salaries. Dies investment ends there? Of Course not.
We start with a simple example, Google. It gives abundant services to them so as to get maximum efficiency. And that should be the case with your business. Extra services in your business will bring extra profits, maybe not directly but surely through your employees.
There are other ways to invest in your business such as creating extra facilities for storage or maintaining the proper free areas for employees or canteen and much more viable options to create better assets.
4. Delegate Tasks or Maybe Not
While there is a difference in delegating a task and assigning a task. If you are left stress free by holding important work to your employees, waiting for them to complete it for you; it’s not going to happen. Until you are not supervising.
Be on top of them, think what they are thinking; know where they are headed to. You must take care of every task. Even help then if they are in doubt. This is what a boss does not do, right? No that’s not true, you should work as an employee to be the part of the business.
Create a balance between delegation and assigning the task. You may find that employees are using this option for their personal use. It may not happen if you keep a check on them.
3. Are You Looking Even at Minor Opportunities?
Every other day you may get an invite from various charity events or shows or corporate affairs, you may ignore minor ones. But don’t miss out on the details of these events. Sometimes big networks do follow some minor events and you need to be prepared for these opportunities.
But no one will tell you about these, you have to do your homework. The background story of an idea is different from what you look at. If you are ignoring the data then you are cut off from a large part of the community. You need to identify those opportunities that are ignored by most entrepreneurs.
Have your personal views on each thing that rolls out in the market. This way you are able to work out things in your favor and in the quickest way possible.
2. Solve Your Doubts and Ask for It
Now you are an entrepreneur and you worry about your reputation. How will I look while asking a minor doubt? Don’t be that stubborn, when you were nothing these doubts helped you out to grow as a person. You will not only learn but you may come up with new ways of communicating.
Also, there is one more view of it. You need to ask for big results. If you are afraid that you can achieve them then you were not ready in the first place. You can ask what you want because if you don’t no one will get it for you.
Well, if you are anyway troubled by asking for doubts or your doubts then you have other ways. Indirectly communicate so that your employees do not get offended and for your doubts, you can anytime ask us.
1. Own Your Business
Well, if you think that by owning you need to behave like you have a business; no that’s not what I meant. What did you forget which you practiced while starting your business? It is learning about the deeper concepts of the main idea on which your business stands. If you are not well aware of that then be ready to fall off.
By the time maybe you haven’t realized it yet but you forgot to start deepening the bugger visions of the business. You need to be through with the goals of the business. It is the one common mistake that became the game-changer for some.
I hope I reached out well and you did find out some of the big vane changes of the business. Well, these were some top business development ideas that are enough for any business to get back on track or go faster on the track. You must use these wisely, at some point we need advice but how do we use it is in our hands.
If you are really serious to grow your business then here is an extra tip# Let go of all of those failures the past you had your lesson and now you can write new pages of your life.
Did you miss anything? Want us to add on to any topic? Which advice you would want to apply now? Which business development ideas you loved most? Is there anything you couldn’t relate to?
Share your queries in the comments below .
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20 Professional Development Ideas, Topics & Activities
This is a list of professional development ideas.
Professional development ideas refer to topics and activities for employees to improve their skills and advance their careers. This growth may help employees gain more confidence in their abilities and improve their contribution to the company. Example topics include workplace conflict resolution, communications, and critical thinking.
This concept is an employee engagement best practice and a worker engagement strategy .
This article includes
- professional development topics
- professional development activities
- professional development ideas
- professional development workshops
- personal development ideas for work
Here we go!
List of professional development topics
Companies invest in their workers’ education and training to keep up with the competition and increase profitability. A team with a fantastic work ethic, problem-solving abilities, amicability, effective job prioritizing, and the ability to adapt to new situations will record high productivity and success. Professional development ideas for work include:
1. The Art of Storytelling (Top Choice)
Persuasive storytelling is a valuable ability for every employee who has to inspire action. In The Art of Storytelling, participants will learn to share personal narratives that both inform and entertain their audiences.
The Art of Storytelling offers the following features:
- a 120-minute session led by an expert facilitator
- the five essential elements of a captivating story
- effective strategies and techniques to maintain audience interest
- dedicated practice time for participants to refine their skills
- in-depth feedback provided by the hosts
For added convenience, we will meet you at your preferred venue with all the necessary materials. If you want to have a lasting impression in the workplace, then knowing how you may exert your influence and advocate changes is crucial. Companies looking for professional development activities that help their staff share engaging narratives should consider The Art of Storytelling.
Learn more about The Art of Storytelling .
2. Communication skills
Communication is the lifeblood of every company. Lack of communication means there is no shared knowledge, ideas, or diversity among employees. As the economy shifts and becomes more unpredictable, most forward-thinking organizations are emphasizing the need to have employees who are proficient communicators. The most crucial goal is to create an environment that encourages open communication among all team members.
As part of the professional development course on communications, workers will learn vital skills such as:
- Teamwork: Handling group efforts, team-building events, and shared objectives. Employees will get to work as a team instead of focusing on individual contributions. Our perspectives, abilities, and expertise are all unique. You can take advantage of this detail by promoting a diverse approach to problem-solving.
- Clear writing: When it comes to interacting with customers and employees, effective digital communication is often the only viable option for today’s companies to prevent miscommunication.
- Active listening: Open communication with coworkers and superiors is effortless when employees learn to listen attentively and comprehend the viewpoints of all parties.
- Conflict management: The ability to deal with difficult situations professionally. The application includes handling salary negotiations, complaints, or the departure of employees.
- Discretion and confidentiality: These skills demand being trustworthy and fair in all interactions with coworkers, from the lowest levels of the organization up to the highest levels. You should always maintain a professional demeanor while dealing with sensitive or private material.
Career success relies on your ability to communicate effectively with coworkers. As part of your professional growth, you can learn strategies to strengthen communication with coworkers, supervisors, suppliers, and customers. You should learn to adapt your discussion depending on the individual’s attitude and how to communicate using multiple means, such as in person, via email, or over the phone. Knowing how to read and being aware of body language are essential for effective communication. Additionally, employees can use communication skills outside of the office, so working on these skills is among the top personal development ideas for work.
Check out this list of communication-building activities .
3. Conflict management and resolution in the workplace
In the workplace, disagreements are a normal part of the team development process and can be beneficial. Leaders and workers should manage conflict effectively so it does not negatively impact corporate operations or the team’s relationships. Understanding the other party’s viewpoint and coming up with solutions that benefit both parties is vital in conflict management. Taking a stand for what is morally correct and ethical might lead to conflict in the workplace.
A manager’s ability to deal with sensitive issues is crucial, and this training will help them learn:
- Proper communications in stressful circumstances and being courteous yet persistent to reach a peaceful resolution.
- Self-assessment of an issue to device tactful solutions
- Vital qualities like self-discipline, fairness, understanding, tolerance, and empathy to handle difficult circumstances while also demonstrating a strong work ethic.
Managers that are proficient in these three areas will be ableto cope with more complex problems that need collaboration, interpersonal skills, and clear communication.
Here is a list of conflict-resolution activities .
4. Performance evaluations
Most times, a manager’s role includes doing performance evaluations. Therefore, every manager should understand performance management for workers. This ability entails assessing your team’s members, grasping their qualifications and experience, and placing them in roles that make the most of their abilities. Performance management may also include addressing any performance issues, developing an improvement plan, and addressing any bad conduct occurring in the workplace.
Regardless of one’s position in a company’s hierarchy, providing and accepting constructive criticism is essential. Your professional career will benefit if you become more adept at giving assessments to workers. An effective appraisal or feedback shows your appreciation for their efforts and your desire to see team members flourish in the future and offers improvement tips.
Although a manager handles performance evaluation, employees may sometimes need to provide constructive criticism to their colleagues during peer review. Employees will learn more about how to give and receive constructive criticism as part of the professional development program.
Here are tips for giving employee feedback .
5. Time management ideas
Employees will be more productive and less stressed by learning time management skills. There may be more time to attend conferences and other training events after finishing projects on time if all team members have excellent time management abilities. Time management skills also directly affect an employee’s work-life balance.
Professionally and individually, time management skills are essential. Improved time management is necessary to meet deadlines, manage your workload, and reduce stress. An excellent time management tool is an in-depth awareness of your habits and routines. This process starts by noting how much time you spend on different tasks each day. Afterward, determine the tasks you can outsource, procrastination tendencies, and utilize tools for workload prioritization.
Check out this list of books on time management .
6. Mentorship program
Mentors can be a crucial component of professional development. Mentors serve as a source of guidance, support, and professional connections. Firms can create a mentorship program that connects a mentor, usually a senior executive, with a junior employee to encourage professional growth. Throughout the employee’s career, they will be able to build a long-term connection with this mentor.
Here is a list of ideas to start a mentorship program at work .
In today’s dynamic corporate environment, individuals must continually improve their skill sets and be able to adapt to ever-changing working conditions. Employees in today’s fast-paced corporate environment benefit from this area of professional development. However, adaptation to a new environment and training needs many resources.
Some techniques to promote employee flexibility in professional development include network support, cross-training, business trips to other offices, peer learning and knowledge exchange, and switching departments.
Almost all companies experience change or transition, but a successful change implementation relies on the cooperation of all workers and supervisors. As the manager, it may be beneficial for you to learn how to prepare your team for change better. In addition, you, as an employee, can learn how to effect positive change or how to prepare for negative change.
As part of a professional development program, creative thinking includes problem-solving and communication abilities, combined with analytical thinking to help you create and express your idea or solution. Improving one’s creative ability involves looking for new and innovative approaches to everyday situations. In addition, you may progress in this area by innovating processes and rethinking conventional work habits.
HR is a sector that requires a lot of creativity and imagination because ready-made solutions are hardly effective. Taking a position against established conventions and bureaucracy may be a challenge. Employees need to think beyond the box to ensure ongoing innovation while dealing with human resources.
Having problem-solving skills is helpful, and learning to devise solutions through innovative thinking can help you solve even the most challenging issues. Your problem-solving abilities directly impact coworkers and any customers or clients. Professional development games like role-playing or mini hackathons can improve employees’ creativity.
Here is a list of books on creativity .
9. Public speaking
The fear of speaking is common. However, employees can overcome this fear by dedicating time to improving their public speaking skills as part of the professional growth process. A company’s workers will often have to speak publicly, and this training will be vital.
You may have to give a presentation at some time in your career. Delivering an excellent presentation that encourages others to think or take action is a valuable asset. Your professional development may help you learn more about how to create a presentation and deliver something memorable to your audience.
10. Better customer service
Customer service training is one excellent example of employee development activities. Your firm and its customers will benefit greatly from your efforts to improve your customer service competencies. Customer service skills include patience, understanding, empathy, adaptability, and calmness under pressure. Professional development in customer service can equip employees with the skills needed to deal with difficult clients or how to make a customer’s bad experience better. Examples of training activities include conflict resolution and de-escalation training and courses in emotional intelligence and active listening. These skills include empathy, clear communication, excellent work ethic, and thick skin.
Here is a list of books about customer service .
Goal-setting is one of the most impactful skills to learn for professional development. Goal-setting gives employees direction and a purpose in their profession. As a manager, you may set departmental objectives for your team and company-wide priorities. To maximize your chances of success, set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
12. Prevention and education on harassment
A professional development training on harassment may help you contribute to a positive work atmosphere where everyone feels secure. In this course, managers and HR representatives will learn how to deal with workplace harassment. Employees will also learn to relate with their colleagues and understand what constitutes workplace harassment.
Check out more tips on creating a positive work environment .
13. Diversity and inclusivity
Professional development may also include embracing and appreciating diversity. It is beneficial for organizations to have a diverse workforce, and inclusion makes employees feel equally important as their colleagues. This training is of the trending professional development workshop ideas. In addition, diversity fosters innovation in a company.
Here are books on inclusivity and diversity .
As a manager or a senior executive, developing strong leadership abilities is a worthwhile investment of time and money. People’s self-esteem and career prospects may improve and benefit from formal leadership education. Successful leaders in your company are likely to have the following characteristics:
- Team Management
- Strategy Development
If you want to hold a management position one day, you will benefit from participating in professional development training on management. This training will help you better understand leadership styles and expectations. Employers also do well to invest in leadership development to ensure future managers are confident and ready to lead.
Here is a list of leadership skills .
15. Industry knowledge
This idea may sound like a no-brainer, but it is easy to forget. When onboarding new employees, industry expertise is essential. For example, firms prefer to employ HR professionals who undertake onboarding new workers quickly and effectively, increasing their prospects of long-term happiness and success in the workplace. In addition, employees can improve industry knowledge and learn new best practices through relevant online courses that cover industry updates, online magazines, and a conversation with coworkers from different departments to discover their needs.
At work, it is critical to be a useful team member because it fosters collaboration, encourages innovative thinking, fosters a positive work environment, and promotes higher productivity levels. Small and big groups, management teams, and even a full workforce benefit from professional development that focuses on how you might be more team-oriented.
Here are suggestions for improving cooperation in the workplace .
17. Hard and soft skills
Hard skills often correlate with the employee’s position. These skills are important for talent acquisition, payroll administration, and disseminating ideas from upper management to lower-level staff. Digital technology eventually pushes you to develop even the most competent people in these disciplines, regardless of their expertise. Short and in-depth seminars and courses are the greatest ways to learn. Staff members are more likely to embrace shorter and concise training, and the relevance lasts longer.
Soft skills deal with the way you go about your job. Communication, listening, and time management are a few examples of the many critical soft skills in today’s workplaces. Employers prioritize soft skills when looking to fill open positions because they contribute to an employee’s success at work.
18. Human resources software
HR departments benefit significantly from different people management tools. Individual employees benefit from this form of software, which helps disseminate and organize their personal and professional data. Corporations are increasingly relying on technology to arrange their workers’ personal information. Learning this skill will help HR personnel learn to integrate HR software in your department. You will have an advantage over your competition if you have some software experience. Also, managing paperwork and communicating with staff will be easier if you use specialized software.
Check out this list of HR software .
Onboarding is a must-have component for every specialist to build a long-term connection with new workers. You can better assist new employees in transitioning to a new team with this skill. You will need to broaden your onboarding abilities in light of the widespread use of remote or hybrid work practices.
Here is a list of books about onboarding .
20. Talent management
To be an effective leader, you must be able to motivate and manage. An influential manager must encourage their employees to go above and beyond the call of duty, solve challenging issues, and establish a high-performance work environment. Impactful leadership may significantly influence productivity and staff morale, ethics, and company-worker relations. Managers can improve their people management skills by addressing their emotional quotient, ensuring team collaboration, promoting effective communication and transparency, and learning empathy.
The importance of professional development
Professional development is honing your abilities and collecting more knowledge. These skills can help you succeed in your current position and even help you get a promotion or a new role in the future. Therefore, it is critical to engage in ongoing professional development throughout your career to stay updated in your field. Professional development comprises degree programs, certifications, training courses, seminars, or finding a career mentor.
Regardless of their individual skillset, specialty, or emphasis, all personnel benefit from ongoing professional development ideas. As employees’ duties and responsibilities evolve, they must adapt and grow. Soft skills are just as vital as hard talents. Organizations gain as much, if not more, from ongoing learning as do their workers.
Learn more about the importance of professional development .
Professional abilities tend to interconnect, and when you work on one skill, you are sure to enhance the others as well. Even if your primary goal is to improve your general skills, you may still advance your career by upskilling.
If you want to succeed in your career, you need to like what you do. Without this commitment, motivating others to do better will be difficult. Therefore, it is crucial to discover the satisfaction of learning new things and improving your job skills. You will be able to recognize your strengths and limitations more easily. Implementing a professional development program will help you and your employees develop, learn, and become better people.
For more references, check out training and development books and career books .
We also have a list of the best corporate workshop ideas for employees .
FAQ: Professional development ideas
Here are some frequently asked questions about professional development ideas.
What are professional development ideas?
Professional development ideas refer to specific training topics and activities for employees to improve their skills and advance their careers.
What are some good professional development ideas for work?
Good professional development ideas for work include management skills, communication, and performance management.
How do you hold professional development workshops for employees?
You can hold professional development workshops by performing a needs assessment to determine what areas require upskilling. You can then devise the training approach, perhaps through one-on-one or group sessions.
Author: Grace He
People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com. Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.
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8 Ways You Can Improve Your Communication Skills
Your guide to establishing better communication habits for success in the workplace.
Mary Sharp Emerson
A leader’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively with employees, within teams, and across the organization is one of the foundations of a successful business.
And in today’s complex and quickly evolving business environment, with hundreds of different communication tools, fully or partially remote teams, and even multicultural teams spanning multiple time zones, effective communication has never been more important—or more challenging.
Thus, the ability to communicate might be a manager’s most critical skill.
The good news is that these skills can be learned and even mastered.
These eight tips can help you maximize your communication skills for the success of your organization and your career.
1. Be clear and concise
Communication is primarily about word choice. And when it comes to word choice, less is more.
The key to powerful and persuasive communication—whether written or spoken—is clarity and, when possible, brevity.
Before engaging in any form of communication, define your goals and your audience.
Outlining carefully and explicitly what you want to convey and why will help ensure that you include all necessary information. It will also help you eliminate irrelevant details.
Avoid unnecessary words and overly flowery language, which can distract from your message.
And while repetition may be necessary in some cases, be sure to use it carefully and sparingly. Repeating your message can ensure that your audience receives it, but too much repetition can cause them to tune you out entirely.
2. Prepare ahead of time
Know what you are going to say and how you are going to say before you begin any type of communication.
However, being prepared means more than just practicing a presentation.
Preparation also involves thinking about the entirety of the communication, from start to finish. Research the information you may need to support your message. Consider how you will respond to questions and criticisms. Try to anticipate the unexpected.
Before a performance review, for instance, prepare a list of concrete examples of your employee’s behavior to support your evaluation.
Before engaging in a salary or promotion negotiation, know exactly what you want. Be ready to discuss ranges and potential compromises; know what you are willing to accept and what you aren’t. And have on hand specific details to support your case, such as relevant salaries for your position and your location (but be sure that your research is based on publicly available information, not company gossip or anecdotal evidence).
Before entering into any conversation, brainstorm potential questions, requests for additional information or clarification, and disagreements so you are ready to address them calmly and clearly.
3. Be mindful of nonverbal communication
Our facial expressions, gestures, and body language can, and often do, say more than our words.
Nonverbal cues can have between 65 and 93 percent more impact than the spoken word. And we are more likely to believe the nonverbal signals over spoken words if the two are in disagreement.
Leaders must be especially adept at reading nonverbal cues.
Employees who may be unwilling to voice disagreements or concerns, for instance, may show their discomfort through crossed arms or an unwillingness to make eye contact. If you are aware of others’ body language, you may be able to adjust your communication tactics appropriately.
At the same time, leaders must also be able to control their own nonverbal communications.
Your nonverbal cues must, at all times, support your message. At best, conflicting verbal and nonverbal communication can cause confusion. At worst, it can undermine your message and your team’s confidence in you, your organization, and even in themselves.
4. Watch your tone
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. As with other nonverbal cues, your tone can add power and emphasis to your message, or it can undermine it entirely.
Tone can be an especially important factor in workplace disagreements and conflict. A well-chosen word with a positive connotation creates good will and trust. A poorly chosen word with unclear or negative connotations can quickly lead to misunderstanding.
When speaking, tone includes volume, projection, and intonation as well as word choice. In real time, it can be challenging to control tone to ensure that it matches your intent. But being mindful of your tone will enable you to alter it appropriately if a communication seems to be going in the wrong direction.
Tone can be easier to control when writing. Be sure to read your communication once, even twice, while thinking about tone as well as message. You may even want to read it out loud or ask a trusted colleague to read it over, if doing so does not breach confidentiality.
And when engaging in a heated dialogue over email or other written medium, don’t be too hasty in your replies.
If at all possible, write out your response but then wait for a day or two to send it. In many cases, re-reading your message after your emotions have cooled allows you to moderate your tone in a way that is less likely to escalate the conflict.
Browse our Communication programs.
5. Practice active listening
Communication nearly always involves two or more individuals.
Therefore, listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to communicating successfully. But listening can be more challenging than we realize.
In her blog post Mastering the Basics of Communication , communication expert Marjorie North notes that we only hear about half of what the other person says during any given conversation.
The goal of active listening is to ensure that you hear not just the words the person is saying, but the entire message. Some tips for active listening include:
- Giving the speaker your full and undivided attention
- Clearing your mind of distractions, judgements, and counter-arguments.
- Avoiding the temptation to interrupt with your own thoughts.
- Showing open, positive body language to keep your mind focused and to show the speaker that you are really listening
- Rephrase or paraphrase what you’ve heard when making your reply
- Ask open ended questions designed to elicit additional information
6. Build your emotional intelligence
Communication is built upon a foundation of emotional intelligence. Simply put, you cannot communicate effectively with others until you can assess and understand your own feelings.
“If you’re aware of your own emotions and the behaviors they trigger, you can begin to manage these emotions and behaviors,” says Margaret Andrews in her post, How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence .
Leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence will naturally find it easier to engage in active listening, maintain appropriate tone, and use positive body language, for example.
Understanding and managing your own emotions is only part of emotional intelligence. The other part—equally important for effective communication—is empathy for others.
Empathizing with an employee can, for example, make a difficult conversation easier.
You may still have to deliver bad news, but (actively) listening to their perspective and showing that you understand their feelings can go a long way toward smoothing hurt feelings or avoiding misunderstandings.
7. Develop a workplace communication strategy
Today’s workplace is a constant flow of information across a wide variety of formats. Every single communication must be understood in the context of that larger flow of information.
Even the most effective communicator may find it difficult to get their message across without a workplace communication strategy.
A communication strategy is the framework within which your business conveys and receives information. It can—and should—outline how and what you communicate to customers and clients, stakeholders, and managers and employees.
Starting most broadly, your strategy should incorporate who gets what message and when. This ensures that everyone receives the correct information at the right time.
It can be as detailed as how you communicate, including defining the type of tools you use for which information. For example, you may define when it’s appropriate to use a group chat for the entire team or organization or when a meeting should have been summarized in an email instead.
Creating basic guidelines like this can streamline the flow of information. It will help ensure that everyone gets the details they need and that important knowledge isn’t overwhelmed by extraneous minutia.
8. Create a positive organizational culture
The corporate culture in which you are communicating also plays a vital role in effective communication.
In a positive work environment—one founded on transparency, trust, empathy, and open dialogue—communication in general will be easier and more effective.
Employees will be more receptive to hearing their manager’s message if they trust that manager. And managers will find it easier to create buy-in and even offer constructive criticism if they encourage their employees to speak up, offer suggestions, and even offer constructive criticisms of their own.
“The most dangerous organization is a silent one,” says Lorne Rubis in a blog post, Six Tips for Building a Better Workplace Culture . Communication, in both directions, can only be effective in a culture that is built on trust and a foundation of psychological safety.
Authoritative managers who refuse to share information, aren’t open to suggestions, and refuse to admit mistakes and accept criticism are likely to find their suggestions and criticisms met with defensiveness or even ignored altogether.
Without that foundation of trust and transparency, even the smallest communication can be misconstrued and lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.
Communicating with co-workers and employees is always going to present challenges. There will always be misunderstandings and miscommunications that must be resolved and unfortunately, corporate messages aren’t always what we want to hear, especially during difficult times.
But building and mastering effective communication skills will make your job easier as a leader, even during difficult conversations. Taking the time to build these skills will certainly be time well-spent.
Want to build your skills? Find the program that’s right for you.
Browse all Professional Development Programs.
About the Author
Digital Content Producer
Emerson is a Digital Content Producer at Harvard DCE. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and Yale University and started her career as an international affairs analyst. She is an avid triathlete and has completed three Ironman triathlons, as well as the Boston Marathon.
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Entrepreneurs invited to Southern Illinois 2023 Business Plan Competition at SIU
Southern Illinois University | Wednesday, August 30, 2023
- For the Media
- Experts Guide
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August 28, 2023
by Christi Mathis
CARBONDALE, Ill. — If you’re ever considered entrepreneurship, here’s your chance to bring your business idea to life. Southern Illinoisans can win cash prizes and valuable development services to help make their business ideas a reality in the Southern Illinois 2023 Business Plan Competition, thanks to Regions Bank and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“I believe that the Business Plan Competition offers local entrepreneurs a remarkable platform to shine,” said Melissa Ray Roach, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU. “It not only celebrates innovation and creativity with real prize money, but it also provides a supportive environment to learn, grow and connect. This competition is more than just a chance to win; it’s an opportunity to refine ideas, receive valuable feedback and build a strong foundation for success. We’re here to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship and drive positive change in our region.”
New or expanding business concepts welcome
Any entrepreneur with a new business concept or pre-venture plan is welcome to enter, as are start-up or existing for-profit small businesses focused on innovative ideas, products or services. The deadline to sign up is 11:59 p.m. Sept. 10.
The Illinois Small Business Development Center and Business Incubator Programs at SIU will provide business plan assistance to competitors.
Contestants should be located in one or more of these Southern Illinois counties: Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, White and Williamson.
Showcase will feature announcement
The winners will be announced during the SIU Research Park’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase, set for 4:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 1740 Innovation Drive in Carbondale. Judges from diverse backgrounds will choose the winners based on written business plans, financials, pitches, target market identification and impact, market need, commercialization potential, business model, innovation and creativity, and presentation.
“The announcement of the business plan competition winners will be the highlight of the showcase,” said Lynn Andersen Lindberg, executive director of the Office of Innovation and Economic Development and the SIU Research Park. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to work with Regions Bank to jump-start several emerging or expanding small businesses and celebrate the innovation that is taking place throughout Southern Illinois.”
Individuals and teams may enter. Competitors must attend three workshops in coming weeks, submit a comprehensive business plan and deliver a compelling 90-second pitch of their concept to win a share of $20,000 in prize money and in-kind services. Local competitions will be held the week of Oct. 13 in Marion, Mt. Vernon, Red Bud and Carbondale and the regional final competition will take place at Dunn-Richmond in Carbondale the week of Nov. 13.
Contestants must also adhere to a few other requirements:
- They can’t be affiliated with government entities, nonprofit organizations, public or private schools, or universities and colleges.
- No one can be involved with cannabis, gambling or lobbying activities nor any activities which are prohibited by state or federal law.
- All contestants must register to become a client of the Illinois SBDC. This is free of charge.
Find all of the details about the business plan competition and register online .
The SIU Research Park , in partnership with Regions Bank and SI Now, is hosting the competition. Other sponsors include the Illinois SBDC at SIU, SIU Carbondale , First Southern Bank, Saline County Industrial Development Co, Legence Bank, Randolph County Economic Development, Jefferson County Development Corp., Southern Illinois University Foundation , EThOs Small Business Incubator & Coworking Spaces in Marion, Arthur Agency, Clearwave Fiber and Legal Advocacy Headquarters.