Taking advantage of business development opportunities can turn small businesses into larger companies. But what does the term business development really mean? Traditionally, it represents focused efforts in areas such as developing sales leads, pursuing strategic partnerships, and analyzing mergers and acquisitions. For small companies without big budgets to pursue these areas in a structured and formal way, a simpler business development approach can be helpful and effective.
For the small business owner, cultivating business development opportunities could involve finding, exploring and maintaining connections that can be valuable later on.
Whether you are large or small, every business can benefit from cultivating connections. Let’s discuss how every employee can boost business development with a proactive approach to networking.
Attend industry events to foster business development opportunities
Going to a conference connects you with other people. Conversations happen. Meals are shared. Contact information is exchanged. These connections can lead to future business development opportunities, because reaching out to someone you’ve met before is much easier than cold-calling a person you’ve never met.
Large conferences often host industry leaders. Who’s who in your market? Being in the same physical location can provide a great chance to connect with speakers and VIPs. Attend their sessions, ask questions, introduce yourself and retweet their quotes. Any of these actions can lead to making a valuable personal connection.
Small conferences and more intimate gatherings are opportunities to speak out in a less intimidating setting.
In the app world, for example, small conferences connect independent developers to conference organizers looking for speakers. Such speaking opportunities can help put a development studio on the map or establish their position in a notable niche. So get out there, introduce yourself, and say YES to conference and speaking invitations whenever possible.
Cross-market to increase visibility
Small businesses don’t usually have access to endless resources. Sometimes more resources are found by teaming up with other organizations. What is your key strength? What is their key strength? The combination can create a win-win for you and your customers. Pursue and explore ways to leverage your resources.
App Friday, a cross-marketing effort within the app industry that started in 2010, brings together independent app makers to promote family-friendly apps each week. By publicizing a common campaign, their networks combine and expand, ultimately reaching out to broader audiences.
Joint solutions with partners can add valuable benefits for customers and save internal resources at the same time.
When app makers partnered with industry groups, it resulted in a searchable database of apps for kids. The app makers produced high-quality apps that upheld best practices in children’s online privacy, and the industry group provided a portal for parents to search for apps that met their kids’ specific needs. This partnership provided a valuable tool that gave customers more information to make better choices.
Actively monitor social media accounts to build loyalty
Do you respond to customer service requests? Do you retweet and reply to customers who tout your product? Social listening can have remarkable outcomes, because happy customers are often your best marketing tool.
An active social media account signifies that you are open for business.
If customers see an account that hasn’t been used in six months, they might assume that the company is stagnant or uninterested in customer feedback. Posting product updates regularly via social sites like Twitter or Facebook relays the message that you are still making products and want to engage with people. Make it someone’s responsibility to log into these accounts regularly.
Social media channels have also become an important platform for customer service management.
What happens when someone posts a question about how one of your products works? Maintaining an active company account provides an easy way to respond to the customer, which gives the person confidence about your team and your product. A delayed response may turn the customer away. If a customer is engaged enough to ask a question, a prompt and knowledgeable reply can help lead to sales.
Every customer counts, and good customer service builds customer loyalty.
Loyal customers often make repeat purchases and, more importantly, can become brand advocates.
Reach out to potential partners and pitch your idea
Do you ever think to yourself, wouldn’t it be great IF? Is there an organization out there that you think would be ideal for a partnership but you haven’t introduced yourself yet?
Propose a meeting or an informal conversation to explore mutual business development opportunities. One idea is to start with a compliment: “Hey, we’ve admired what you’ve been doing for a long time. Any chance you’re free to discuss areas of potential collaboration?”
Introverts often shy away from putting themselves out there. But discovering business development opportunities requires some assertiveness to get attention.
Identify your company’s extroverts, and put them on the case.
They might be the ideal candidates for getting in front of your target audience and making a pitch.
Pitching also applies to competitions and awards. Could your product benefit from having an industry seal of approval? Apply to the organizations who distribute these accolades. Every instance of recognition, as long as it comes from a credible source, is a fine reason to shout out and claim some publicity.
Time to get out there and make connections by attending events, teaming up, actively listening and pitching partnerships. Then watch as your company’s network grows to become a hub for dynamic business development opportunities in your marketplace and beyond!