Top business development tips — where to start

7 min read
Alan Taylor

Many business owners think business development is simply about increasing sales, getting new customers or expanding into other markets. And while these are all good for your business, a broader view of business development can improve your venture’s efficiency and growth velocity.

A good sales growth strategy is only one part of a business development plan.

In this post, we’ll show you how to attain long-term value from relationships, markets and customers to create opportunities for growth.

Below, we discuss some key business tips to help get you started.

A 12-step business development checklist

Person working in a greenhouse

Some of these tips may seem obvious, but are often overlooked when creating an action plan. It’s worth reading each tip carefully to fully develop a growth strategy that works for you.

1. Know your competition

Sure, you may know the names of your competitors, but do you really know them, their products, and the value they offer to clients? Do you know why their clients use them and not you?

Think of ways you are different and obsessively highlight those differences. It’s a fundamental way you’ll stand out in your market.

Related: The small business guide to DIY market research

2. Ask your customers

Why do your customers buy from you? Do you offer:

  • Better value for the money?
  • Better after-sales service?
  • Better customer support?

This post explains how to create a customer satisfaction survey that will give you all the answers. Once you know what customers love about your business, use them in your pitches to new customers.

3. Nurture your existing customers

One often-overlooked business development strategy is to make sure you don’t neglect your existing customers in the pursuit of new ones.

Make an effort to strengthen your relationships with the customers you already have.

Check in regularly to see if your offerings fulfill their needs. Remember, keeping good customers is easier and less expensive than chasing new customers. Find tips here.

4. Check your website

Websites are often one of the most neglected parts of business development. After all, how many of us regularly visit our own websites? But it’s something that needs a regular check, because even if people hear of your business from someone else, the first thing they’ll do is look at your website.

  • Are the photos or text outdated?
  • Are there spelling errors?
  • Are all the links working correctly?
  • Is the contact information and business hours up-to-date?
  • Does your 'Contact us' form work correctly (try it out if you haven’t lately)

A neglected website can scream ‘unprofessional,’ leading people to click away.

Editor’s note: If you have a small business but no business website, now is definitely the time to get one. GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing is fast, easy and free.

5. Add value

Coffee cup sitting on paper that reads “customer experience”

When looking at long-term business development, one of the smartest things you can do is prioritise your customer’s shopping experience.

Many businesses offer the bare minimum for their customer’s money. Customers pay for a product or service and the company delivers without going above and beyond expectations — or even saying thank you.

Consider offering a deal if a customer is ordering the same thing consistently. Or try calling them to make sure they are happy with what they’re getting — not to upsell, but because you care.

Don’t stop there though. Offer advice and knowledge to build trust and promote yourself as an expert in their field. This will lead to greater customer loyalty.

6. Meet with suppliers

Along with websites, suppliers can also be set-and-forget for some business owners. They provide what you need, but can you both do better out of the relationship?

Get together and create a growth strategy that can benefit you both.

They’ll appreciate your time and start looking for efficiencies or improvements they can offer you.

7. Talk to your team (if any)

You need to involve your team if you want your business development efforts to really succeed. Each are experts in their fields of sales, marketing, customer service, accounts and others.

Ask about ways to build relationships and make tasks easier. Every team has a “Why do we do it this way?” grumble, but can often feel they can’t speak up. Listen and make changes, documenting and sharing any new processes with everyone.

8. Listen

If you ask people for help, then make sure you listen. Make eye contact and take notes. Don’t just give a standard answer, but think about what they’ve said. Maybe there is a better way. Give an explanation if you think something won’t work. Their next suggestion may be even better.

9. Delegate or outsource

You don’t have to be good at everything. And if you are, then you probably won’t be able to sustain it as your business grows.

Stick to the things you’re good at and delegate other tasks.

Consider outsourcing the regular, time-consuming tasks, so you have more time to dedicate to other aspects of business development.

10. Get rid of products or services that under-deliver

It's tough to cull products and services. Particularly if they have been around since the early days of your business. But they may consume far more time and energy than they warrant. Get rid of them and use your freed resources on something that is making you money.

11. Check your toolkit

Gym shelves with boxing gloves and weights

A growing business can let some things lapse as attention shifts to managing growth, particularly sudden growth. A business toolkit can help maintain focus on the internal workings of your business.

It might include:

  • Your business plan so you can stay focused on your business goals and track progress.
  • Your marketing plan to keep your promotional efforts on track.
  • Your employee manual - to maintain consistent employee entitlements, an outline of employee policies and current labour laws.
  • Accounting software that can easily produce a report of your financial position when you need it.
  • IT details, including a list of current IT equipment, Wi-Fi information, contact details of your internet service provider and their contact details.

Keep this toolkit handy and revisit it periodically to ensure it’s current. Not being able to access information when you need it is a business development inhibitor.

12. Adapt quickly to change

If there’s one thing COVID taught the business world, it’s that it needs to adapt quickly.

For example, for many years employees have been told it’s impossible to work from home because of technical challenges. Sure, employees of some companies have been able to do it, but not a lot.

Almost overnight, employees were not only able to work from home, but expected to.

And, despite some fears of a drop in productivity, some businesses actually saw increases. 

Develop a growth strategy that works for you

As pandemic restrictions ease and people return to work, think about how your business responded and what you’d change if further lockdowns were enforced, or some other event affected your ability to run your business as normal.

Do you:

  • Have alternative arrangements with suppliers so that you can continue to do business in a crisis?
  • Have key documentation available to access wherever you or your team are?
  • Have an IT action plan with lessons learned from previous lockdowns? What worked? What could be better?

All these things can take time, and the commitments of running a venture can make it impossible to implement some of these ideas. Decide if you want to do these yourself, pass them to your team, outsource them, or hire your own business development manager.

Developing your business in this way can pave the way to long-term, sustainable business growth. It can also lead to stronger relationships with suppliers, customers and your market as a whole. Pick one or two of these 12 tips and start planning now!