Building a successful company without a business plan is possible, but we wouldn't recommend it. The same could be said about business development.
A business development plan outlines objectives and strategies that will help you grow your business. Like a more general business plan, your business development plan helps keep you on the path to success in a variety of ways. It outlines steps to keep everyone focused on the health or expansion of the business, identifies challenges before they become surprises, and shows potential investors that you've thought about your plan.
Business Development Strategies
Business development (BD) is a broad practice of identifying and converting new clients or customers to drive growth. The strategies in your business development plan might include sales, marketing, and several other types of initiatives. Your BD plan could include any of the following common strategies:
1 – Networking
For many founders, business development through networking is a great place to start. You already have a head start if any of your personal connections fall within your target audience or if you have a good reputation in your field. Another benefit of networking as a BD strategy is that you can often do it for free, especially on digital platforms like LinkedIn. Once you have the time, you can start reaching out to your network whenever you're ready.
2 – Outbound Sales
People often talk about sales and business development interchangeably, but the sales function has a slightly narrower focus: converting leads into new clients. Modern sales teams typically use email, phone, LinkedIn, and occasionally traditional mail to reach their prospects. You have to close the deal at some point, so sales connects to many other BD strategies. For example, leads from content marketing might go to the sales team for outreach.
3 – Referrals
Referrals are closely related to both sales and networking. Your personal network might refer prospects to you, and the sales team might engage with those referrals. Delighting your current clients and then asking them for referrals is the best way to win new business with this strategy. Still, it often takes time to build a strong enough reputation that you get many referrals.
4 – Content Marketing
Content marketing is a popular choice for businesses with small marketing budgets. That said, there is still some cost associated with creating quality content. If nothing else, you have to put your own time into it. Creating and publishing content can establish thought leadership, increase your visibility in the marketplace, and attract inbound traffic through SEO.
5 – Advertising
If you have the budget for it, advertising is an option. Targeted digital ads are generally the best bet for rapid growth, but there are other opportunities. In traditional media, you might place an ad or a sponsored article in a niche magazine for people in your field. Alternatively, you might pay to sponsor an industry event that will get you in front of your target audience.
6 – Strategic Partnerships
Strategic business opportunities such as partnerships and marketing alliances can connect a company to new clients. That is, another company might help you grow if you can make it mutually beneficial. A strategic partnership might entail a partner selling your product for you on the condition that they get to implement and administer the product. After a large round of funding, there might be an opportunity to enter new markets through acquisitions.
Business Development Tactics
After considering your business development strategy options, you’re ready to develop a written plan. Online resources like this guide from HubSpot offer templates to help you organize your thoughts. As you commit your business development plan to writing, it’s time to get into the tactical details of how you’ll execute your strategies. Tactics like the following are where the rubber meets the road:
- Consultations, Product Demos, and Assessments – Simply put, show people what your product is all about. You might provide consultations or demos to your network, to new referrals, or as part of the sales process.
- Webinars – You might not get the personal touch of one-to-one consultation in a webinar, but the reach is much broader. Webinar recordings also make helpful pieces of content to re-share, and you can even use Bubble to create a no-code app for hosting your webinars.
- PR, Earned Media, and Speaking Engagements – Connections with relevant journalists and event organizers can help you gain exposure and solidify yourself as a thought leader. You're more likely to get some spotlight if you have original research or innovative ideas.
- Sales Sequences and Nurture Campaigns – Great sales materials can help your team close deals. Provide your sellers and community managers with strong assets to ensure their messaging is effective and on brand.
- SEO – You can get organic traffic by creating great digital content on an easy-to-build no-code website and social media platforms and by working on the technical side of search engine optimization.
- Industry Events – Attending relevant events is a great way to build your network and connect with your target audience.
- Social Media – Building an online following can be cost-effective if you have the time and the know-how. Per HubSpot, most marketers post on social media four to six times a week in an effort to boost engagement.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads – This advertising model is popular on social media and search engines. Meta, Google, and other companies have extensive marketing data to help you target the right prospects, which is why 65% of SMBs run PPC campaigns.
This list is not exhaustive. Because business development is so broad, you might use any number of tactics to advance your strategies.
Choosing a Course of Action for Your Business Development Plan
Ultimately, the best BD strategies and tactics are the ones that match your business. Selling a niche cybersecurity product for financial organizations differs from promoting an iPhone app for the general public. Revisiting the vision and mission of your business might help you identify business development opportunities.
Audience research is crucial, too, because you have to meet your audience where they are. Additional analysis of your competitors can help you find your unique selling points and position your product. Finally, define which metrics you'll use to measure success. This information will tell you if your BD plan is working or if you need to reconsider your strategies and tactics.
Above all, and once you've written your business development plan, build a great product. Once you do that, business development gets much easier.
Bubble is a leader in the no-code movement. Bubble offers a powerful point-and-click web editor and cloud hosting platform that allows users to build fully customizable web applications and workflows, ranging from simple prototypes to complex marketplaces, SaaS products, and more.
Millions of users are building and launching businesses on Bubble — many have gone on to participate in top accelerator programs, such as Y Combinator, and even raised $365M in venture funding. Bubble is more than just a product. We are a strong community of builders and entrepreneurs who are united by the belief that everyone should be able to create technology.