Here’s Why Your Business Needs Its Own Mobile App

Last year I wrote an article on How to Build Your First Mobile App in 12 Steps, which proved to be very popular with readers. So today I’d like to talk about mobile apps in combination with business, and why you should consider building a mobile app for your own company.

If you think that mobile apps are solely for big name brands like Walmart and Bank of America, you are wrong. More and more small and midsize businesses are following the mobile trend, understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website.

In fact, these days you’ll notice that many small businesses you interact with in your everyday life have their own dedicated mobile app — be it the corner coffee shop or the beauty spa downtown. These companies are ahead of the game when it comes to taking their marketing to the next level.

In case you are still not sure why anyone would want to build their own mobile platform, here are the top seven benefits of going down this path sooner rather than later.

1. Be Visible to Customers at All Times

Statistics show that the average American spends more than two hours a day (!) on his or her mobile device. While probably only a handful of applications make up the bulk of this total usage, it doesn’t change the fact that each user has to unlock, scroll, and scan their device for the apps they’re looking for. Being “in the way” can be an advantage to your company, as our mind unconsciously does record every image and text (or well-designed app icon!) it comes across — even if it happens unnoticed.

2. Create a Direct Marketing Channel

Apps serve many functions: they can provide general info, prices, booking forms, search features, user accounts, messengers, news feeds, and much more.

One of the biggest benefits of having a mobile app is that all the information you’d like to provide to your customers – including special sales and promotions – is right at their fingertips. Through push notifications you’re getting even closer to a direct interaction, and can easily remind customers about your products and services whenever it makes sense.

3. Provide Value to Your Customers

Talking about on-hand information, how about digitalizing that loyalty program you have in place? Instead of sticking to the old point-collection card, make it possible for your customers to collect their rewards via your mobile app. The result? More downloads and more return customers. (Check out PunchMe, a service that lets you create smartphone-based loyalty programs.)

More AllBusiness:

99 Inspirational Quotes for Entrepreneurs

The Biggest Mistake I Made in My Business – And What I Learned From It

10 Invaluable Tools for Running a Small Business

The Top 25 Home-Based Business Ideas

4. Build Brand and Recognition

A mobile app for your business can greatly contribute to your brand awareness. I’d like to break this topic down into two aspects, the combination of which will make your app a true winner:

  • Brand. A mobile app is like a blank billboard sign. You can do what you want with it; you can make it stylish, hip, functional, shocking, or informative. But what you really want to do is create an app that has features your customers will love, while at the same time is well branded and beautifully designed.
  • Recognition. The more often you can get customers involved with your app, the sooner they will be inclined to buy your product and/or service. In advertising this is called the “effective frequency”: as a rule of thumb, hearing and/or seeing your brand approximately 20 times is what will get you truly noticed.

5. Improve Customer Engagement

No matter whether you are selling flowers or spa services, your customers need a way to reach you. Having a messaging (or help desk) feature within your app can really make a difference in the way you communicate with your customers. Think about it: OpenTable, for example, built its entire business model around this principle. Instead of calling a restaurant for a table, you can book it with less than five clicks on their platform. Now think about it: How many customers would prefer to communicate with you via text than via phone?

6. Stand Out From the Competition

These days mobile apps at the small business level are still rare, and this is where you can take a big leap ahead of your competitors. Be the first in your neighborhood to offer a mobile app to your customers. They’ll be astonished by your forward-thinking approach!

7. Cultivate Customer Loyalty

Last, but not least, the most important reason why you should consider building your own mobile app is customer loyalty. With all the noise out there — roadside banners, billboards, flashing signs, newspaper ads, flyers, coupons, websites, website banners, Facebook ads, and email marketing — we slowly lose our impact on customers because of the immense amount of advertising surrounding us all. It’s time to go back to making a true and sincere connection with your customers, and making them a loyal lover of your product and/or service. I am not saying a mobile app is going to save your business, but it can be a way of staying closer to your customers, and being just a “fingertip” away at all times.

Convinced yet? I am, for sure! Now that you have gotten a taste of the numerous benefits of your own business mobile app, where are you going to start? You have two options:

  • You hire an app development agency, or bring your own in-house app development team on board (depending on how much emphasis you’d like to put on your mobile strategy).
  • You use one of the fantastic mobile app builders like Como, BuildFire, or AppsBuilder to build your own mobile app without having to worry about coding and technicalities.

Either way you go, a mobile app is going to be a standard component of any business in the future. The choice you make today is going set the foundation for the future of your business. It’s on you to decide whether you’d like to be one of the first.

Mobile Marketing Statistics to Help You Plan for 2017

Are you reading this from a mobile device?

Based on the following statistics (and walking into any Starbucks) — I’m willing to bet you are.

Inbound marketers have been following the upward trend of mobile marketing for years, but it’s reached a point that all marketers can’t ignore it anymore.

Optimizing for mobile and creating a mobile marketing strategy are two things that if you haven’t done already, you have to do in 2017. — No excuses.

Just take a look at the following 31 mobile marketing statistics, if you’re not convinced:

1. Over 36% of mobile subscribers use iPhones or iPads to read email and 34% of subscribers only use mobile devices to read emails. (Informz)

How many people in your office have an iPhone or iPad? Take the time to see how your company emails look on those devices before pressing “send” and you’ll lower your risk of disappointing over one-third of your subscribers.

2. 80% of internet users own a smartphone. (Smart Insights)

With so many cell phone services giving away free smartphones with their contracts, this number is only going to keep increasing — which is good news for companies with a mobile marketing strategy.

Learn how to create the best experience possible on mobile devices in this on-demand webinar!

Watch it Now

 

3. 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine. (Smart Insights)

This is why you want to produce valuable content that makes it easy for your buyer persona to find you online.

4. 33% of consumers start mobile research with a branded website. (Smart Insights)

This is why you want to produce valuable content to make your brand the authority in your niche. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?)

5. 26% of consumers start mobile research with a branded app. (Smart Insights)

Despite the explosion of mobile apps in the last few years, consumers still trust search engines the most when researching a product or service.

6. Apps account for 89% of mobile media time, with the other 11% spent on websites. (Smart Insights)

Consumers might prefer to do research elsewhere, but they want to consume media through an app. Provide a great experience for your persona in your app and handle your marketing on the web.

7. Tablet devices account for the highest add-to-cart rates on e-commerce websites at 8.58%. (Smart Insights)

As an online retailer, you should give extra attention to the design and user experience of the tablet version of your website.

8. Over 50% of smartphone users grab their smartphone immediately after waking up. (ExpressPigeon, 2014)

I’ll admit it, I’m part of that 50% who reaches for my smartphone when I first wake up.

This is one of the reasons that email marketing continues to be so valuable. People are addicted to their smartphones and when your persona subscribes to your newsletter, they’re giving you permission to communicate directly to the device that rarely leaves their hands.

Smart companies understand this concept and don’t blow it by sending spammy emails that lose their persona’s trust immediately.

9. The percentage of companies optimizing email for mobile devices increased by 22% in 2014. (Adestra)

Businesses are catching on. Sending emails without a clear mobile strategy will get you left behind!

10. The two most popular ways companies are optimizing for mobile are 1. using a simple template that works for all devices (52%) and 2. creating a mobile responsive email template (39%). (Adestra)

Optimizing emails for mobile is the bare minimum. Smart businesses optimize every aspect of their emails to generate more leads and increase their conversions.

11. 68% of companies have integrated mobile marketing into their overall marketing strategy. (Salesforce)

All of the data has shown that mobile marketing is profitable and shouldn’t be ignored.

12. 71% of marketers believe mobile marketing is core to their business. (Salesforce)

For many of our tech clients, mobile marketing is the top priority and it has shown to have a high ROI.

13. 58% of companies surveyed have a dedicated mobile marketing team. (Salesforce)

If you have the resources, it makes sense to have a team of people with an expertise in mobile marketing to get the most benefit from your marketing efforts.

14. Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. (MicKinsey & Company)

Is your company “phoning in” the mobile experience of your website? Not only are you turning away potential customers, but you’re sending them straight to your competitors that provide a better mobile experience.

15. Pinterest is the most mobile social network and 64% of its referred traffic comes from either smartphones or tablet devices. (Mobile Marketing Watch)

Facebook and Twitter get all the attention, but companies targeting mobile users should look to attract them on Pinterest as well.

16. By 2019, mobile advertising will represent 72% of all US digital ad spending. (Marketing Land)

Advertising online to desktops will soon join direct mail as one of the “old ways” of advertising.

17. In 2014, smartphones accounted for over 33% of all online traffic compared to tablets at  just over 12%. (Marketing Land)

I know it sounds redundant, but having a responsive website is no longer an option — it’s a requirement.

18. Mobile email opens have grown by 180% in the last three years. (Email Monday)

If your mobile subscribers aren’t opening your marketing emails, it’s not them — it’s you. Here are five seemingly harmless details that drastically affect email open rates.

19. 79% of people surveyed use their smartphone for reading email — a higher percentage than those who used it for making calls. (Email Monday)

We’ve reached a point where the “phone” part of a smartphone is just a feature and not the primary function, which is good news for brands that use Inbound Marketing as their primary strategy.

20. 83% of mobile users say that a seamless experience across all devices is very important. (Wolfgang Jaegel)

This is something that Apple has mastered and proven to be very effective. Consumers now expect a seamless experience and brand consistency.

21. 91% of mobile users say that access to content is very important. (Wolfgang Jaegel)

The people have spoken. Your mobile site should make it as easy as possible for your persona to access your content.

22. Average smartphone conversion rates are up 64% compared to the average desktop conversion rates. (CMS Report)

Yet another reason to give extra attention to the mobile experience of your website. If your brand is seeing higher conversions from desktop consider these four simple tips for increasing conversions on your mobile site.

23. 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. (CMS Report)

Web design is no longer just about looks — it’s all about the experience. Now, more than ever, great UX has a higher ROI.

24. 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours. (Nectafy)

Just like your mother told you as a kid, first impressions really do count. People use their mobile device to find a local business when they’re ready to buy and a great mobile website makes the decision even easier for them.

25. 83% of B2B marketers said mobile apps were important to content marketing. (Strategy Trends)

Remember when having a website was cool and not all businesses had one? We’re seeing the exact same trend with mobile apps today.

26. 48% of millennials view video solely on their mobile device. (Source)

If you’re targeting a younger audience, make sure to utilize video in your mobile marketing.

27. Mobile will likely account for 50% of all digital ad spend in 2016 (worth $100B). (Source)

A large part of your competition is likely already investing in mobile marketing.

28. By 2018, 8 in 10 email users will likely access their email accounts exclusively from their mobile devices (emailmonday)

Mobile marketing isn’t just about apps and your website; even your emails need to be fully optimized to offer the best experience on the go.

29. 40% Of Mobile Searches Have Local Intent (Google Mobile Moments Study)

Even small, local businesses need to be equipped with a mobile strategy!

30. 70% Of Consumers Delete Emails Immediately That Don’t Render Well On A Mobile Device (Blue Hornet)

 

31. Mobile Offers are Redeemed 10x More Frequently Than Print Offers (eMarketer)

Key Takeaways:

  • You can safely assume that if your buyer persona has internet they have a smartphone.
  • People prefer reading emails on their mobile device and use their smartphones more for reading emails than for making calls.
  • Marketers are optimizing for mobile and focusing more on mobile marketing at an increasing rate.
  • Consumers are more likely to recommend and buy from the business that has a better mobile experience.
  • The majority of money spent on digital advertising is targeted towards mobile.

Why CEOs Need to Embrace Social Media (and How to Do it)

Most business leaders leave money on the table by remaining invisible. They have zero social media presence and the remaining CEOs are just on LinkedIn.

It’s simple: If you want to be rich, you can’t ignore potential revenue streams. If your company is on social media, then you need to be, too. Having a presence isn’t just about the convenience of technology, but capitalizing on a cultural shift happening across the world.

This shift isn’t mysterious. When people want to make sure that brands share their own values, they check out the leader of that company directly. You’d research a product before buying it, so why wouldn’t you research the CEO before committing new products or services? This has never been more important for business-to-business (B2B) companies, in particular.

Here’s how you get started without feeling overwhelmed.

 

Pick your communication principles

Before you take to Twitter or Snapchat, consider what you want to accomplish. It’s one thing to put yourself out there for its own sake — that’s the base level of marketing your brand — but there’s more to it than that.

First, decide on three main talking points you want to drive home. These will define your brand as a person and as a company. That’s how every marketing plan starts, and your social media presence is no exception.

Your points don’t have to be identical to that of your company’s, but they should be similar. You want to establish a clear relationship to the company you lead, after all.

Look at Elon Musk. While Tesla and SpaceX exude futurism, prestige, and cutting-edge technology, his personal brand on Twitter covers more of his personal side, including the vision behind his ventures.

When a project goes wrong (like the SpaceX explosion from last September), he speaks to people at a down-to-earth level. He also geeks out over the cool stuff he finds, connecting with his audience of science and tech enthusiasts with a shared passion that goes beyond sales or promotion.

There’s a clear connection with his companies, but his personal values shine through to build a deep rapport with his followers.

You don’t need to be perfect, and you don’t need to be corporate (in fact, “corporate” doesn’t work on social media). But you do need to say something that’s worth hearing and on-message with the brand you’re trying to build.

Start with one or two networks that work for you

Once you’ve decided on your message, you can choose a network and start posting (or scheduling). It’s not hard, but it does take some diligence. As a CEO you don’t exactly have all the time in the world, but you can squeeze out a few minutes between meetings or tasks on one network, to start.

Survey the networks out there and see which one might suit your style.

Picking the right network is as much about where your audience lives as it as about how you like to communicate. If you communicate with visuals (or just appreciate them), then Instagram or Snapchat are good places to start.

On the other hand, a more traditional audience that likes to read longform posts would live on Facebook. If you imagine yourself firing off a few quips when you have the time, then head to Twitter. Cultivating a traditional image of professionalism would be more at home on LinkedIn — especially if you have a hand in B2B sales.

You can focus on a second or third network once you’re comfortable with the tempo of posting on your first channels.

 

Talk to your audience, not at it

Everyone needs to make announcements directly once or twice per week (at most), but social media isn’t just an ad channel. It’s a two-way street in which you can move around corporate personas and strict brand marketing guidelines to build a rapport with the people who buy from you.

If you’re good at it, those buyers may even start advocating for you, increasing sales even further.

The best way to accomplish this is by talking to specific people on a given channel. Tag them in your posts by asking questions and opinions or crediting them with ideas in your thoughtful posts.

However, one of the single best ways to gain followers is by responding to as many of them as you can.

If you can’t respond to all the comments, choose the influencers or most interesting comments or threads on your posts, or have a community manager in your company help with the load.

Lead and frame the news

It’s best to have original content, in theory, but you won’t have enough for fresh posts every day (much less two or three times per day). It’s perfectly okay to curate the news in your industry with added commentary.

Consumers — and even other businesses — expect you to have values. We aren’t talking about being a “family company” — that doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to stand for something even if you don’t shout it from the rooftops, and commenting on industry developments is a good way to do that.

Share headlines in your industry with your thoughts on those developments. Invite discussion, either from the crowd or from other influencers you know (as a CEO, you’ll know a few).

This is where you should be tagging other high-profile players on social channels. This gains you extra exposure with the audiences connected to the people you “ping.”

 

Build your own content

Eventually, you will want to graduate from just commenting on the news by helping your business grow directly with an inbound funnel. This will probably be content from your business, but it could be something else — perhaps you want to leverage your reputation or expertise by gaining leads through a seminar (or webinar), for example.

The core idea is that you have something of value on the other end of a post. That could be a blog, a landing page, a video, an eBook or an infographic. It’s what you use to become a trusted advisor to prospects and advocates alike, which means sharing useful information or insights.

Take a look at the Twitter feed of Brian Halligan, the CEO of HubSpot. He uses content to bring people into his sphere of influence and builds trust with thoughtful, credible work.

Getting these five steps down to a process is straightforward, though not always easy because it takes discipline. But it is worth it. Ignoring social media is just leaving money on the table, whether that takes the form of actual sales lost or even opening the door for competitors to reach your customers.

Decide what you want to accomplish, start doing it and talk to people. Build trust with useful content of your own, and you’ll be an industry influencer in no time.

How does inbound marketing work?

After demystifying the basics of the concept in our previous eBang , it is now time to further understand the principles of inbound marketing .

It must first be known that the latter is putting various tactics into action. These tactics are often already used by companies, but not in a structured way. The inbound thus makes it possible to direct the efforts and to bring a rigor which multiplies the results:

  • Your prospects could cost up to 61% less to acquire;
  • You could even double your conversion rate!

The sales cycle seen as a funnel

The strategy behind permission marketing is summarized in an image: the funnel.

The goal is to bring in the most prospects from the top and make them evolve, from one stage to another, to convert them into customers.

The inbound marketing frames capture potential customers using a methodology in which the path leads is scripted, step by step.

From attraction to retention

In attraction marketing, everything is skilfully orchestrated for maximum profits. From top to bottom, here’s how you can define the funnel of a B2B brand and the tactics associated with each of the steps:

  • Attraction : SEO optimization of the site, creation of landing pages, digital advertising campaigns, publications on social networks, organization of events, etc.
  • Awareness and education : dissemination of blog articles, newsletters and informative videos.
  • Consideration  : publication of eBook , white paper , comparative infographic of different solutions, webinar, etc.
  • Purchase  Intent: Product Demo, Free Trial, Free Submission.
  • Conversion: (this is where we celebrate !)
  • Retention: training, upgrade offers, SEO program.

How do you put it all together?

The process of inbound marketing takes the form of specialized software that keeps track of everything that happens and triggers actions. Prospects are automatically qualified based on the actions they take.

For example: a visitor subscribes to the newsletter following his visit to the site. A week later, he receives a programmed message inviting him to watch a video. If it clicks, other actions will be triggered to maintain its interest and move it towards conversion. If it does not take action, other messages will attempt to generate interaction.

The golden rule in all this is to keep the conversation going! In B2B, the purchase cycle can extend over several years, hence the importance of never breaking the link.

Have these two eBang on permission marketing allowed you to see opportunities for your business?

What Does A Biz Dev Person Actually Do?

According to the Grand Unified Theory of Business Development, Biz Dev is simply about pursuing opportunities for long-term growth from customers, markets, and relationships.  Sounds simple enough, but has anyone ever set out to describe what a “Biz Dev Person” actually does?  How do they spend their day?  What should you look for when hiring someone for a Biz Dev role?

While Business Development may still mean many different things to many different people, at it’s core I believe a Biz Dev job is focused on 3 activities:

  • Customers: Find new ones and extract more value from current ones.
  • Markets: Figure out where new customers “live” (both geographically and in terms of “buying mindset“) and find a way to reach them.
  • Relationships: Build and leverage relationships founded on trust and integrity to facilitate opportunities.

“Well,” you might say.  ”That sounds pretty straightforward.”

Yes, it does sound that way.  In the simplest of terms, business development may be about figuring out how to sell more to customers, or finding new customers to whom to sell.  But to suggest that “that’s all there is to it” is to suggest that running a marathon just requires putting one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles.  Of course, training for and running a marathon requires a unique approach to making sure you don’t peter out before the finish line.  Similarly, business development requires a unique combination of skills to ensure that the value you derive from an opportunity persists for the long haul:

The Biz Dev Skillsets: Strategy, Sales, and Relationship Management

  • Strategy: How should you go about pursuing an opportunity?  How do you know which path is best?  Just because an opportunity is in front of you, doesn’t mean it’s a good one.  Understanding the fundamental drivers of your business, and the business of your customers, partners, and competitors, is critical to being able to make wise decisions in the pursuit of long-term value.  Being able to assess an opportunity for its potential to create long-term value, determine the paths available to you to pursue it, and understand the trade-offs and risks of one path vs. another, are core Biz Dev functions.
  • Sales:Whether you’re selling a product or the idea of a partnership, almost every business development role has some element of sales.  The process of navigating through an organization, identifying decision-makers and uncovering their unmet needs, and concisely demonstrating the value of what you can offer are core sales skills needed whether you’re selling a product, service, or partnership.
  • Relationship Management: From How to Win Friends and Influence People to Never Eat Alone, much ink has been spilled on the importance and value of strong, respect-based relationships.  Business development requires not only having an expansive network to help you facilitate a deal, but also a deep understanding of how to build and maintain new relationships to leverage them when needed.  Relationships with partners, customers, colleagues, and even the media, can all be crucial factors in not only getting in the door to a biz dev opportunity, but keeping it open.

“Wait a second,” you’re asking.  ”You forgot about partnerships?  Isn’t business development all about partnerships?”  In short, no, it’s not.

Partnerships are a common course to pursue a given business development opportunity, but they are but one option amongst many when evaluating the path to creating long-term value.  And though scouting, signing, and developing partnerships is an everyday task in many business development roles, the skills required for partnerships are really an amalgam of all other Biz Dev skills – a mix of sales, relationship management, and strategy.  As frequently as they arise in the day job of business development, partnerships are only one potential outcome of Biz Dev done right.

How Biz Dev Roles Change by Company Size

Does the role of business development change as a company matures from a startup to enterprise?  Yes and no.  In the early stages of any company, the role of business development is often left to the founder, CEO, or an early hire.  The role of forging partnership deals does take on an increased priority, as the decision of which potential path to pursue an opportunity often favors the sharing of resources that’s incumbent in partnerships.  But the day-to-day activities of business development remains the same: at a startup or a large company alike, whomever plays the role of “biz dev guy/gal” must be constantly evaluating the best path to create long-term value, whether it an option built in-house or pursued in partnership with others.

At larger companies, the role of business development may be divided across a broader array of individuals.  Sure, teams of people with “Business Development” on their business cards may focus on the full spectrum of activities, from sourcing business development opportunities to evaluating the opportunity’s potential to create long-term value and following through on the execution.  But just as often, the individual functions of the business development role may be split across an organization: a member of the sales team may source feedback from customers, who passes along an opportunity to create a new product to the Product Management team, who works with Finance to size and evaluate an opportunity and Operations to assess the resources needed to pursue it.  Perhaps none of those individuals consider themselves to be serving a “Business Development” function, but in total they are a collective BD team that seeks to create long-term value for their organization in very much the same way as an individual who plays every part.

“Pure Biz Dev”

In my view, a “pure” Biz Dev job will have some combination of all of the above skillsets – identifying and strategically assessing an opportunity to create long-term value and then executing on a path to pursue that value.  But whether you’re playing Biz Dev as a team-sport or an individual contributor, the interplay between Strategy, Sales, and Relationship Management informs the potential for a company’s growth path.   Business Development is a function that is varied, complex, and exciting – although the nature of Biz Dev may be ambiguous to some,  the importance of the role should be clear to all.

The Basics of Business Development

“Executive–Business Development”, “Manager–Business Development”, or “VP–Business Development” are impressive and heavyweight titles often heard of in business organizations. Sales, strategic initiatives, business partnerships, market development, business expansion, and marketing–all of these fields are involved in business development, and are often mixed up and mistakenly taken as the sole function of business development, which leaves the question: “What exactly is business development?”

This article explores the nitty-gritty of business development, what it encompasses, and what, if any, standard practices and principles to follow.

What is Business Development?

In the simplest terms, business development can be summarized as the ideas, initiatives and activities aimed towards making a business better. This includes increasing revenues, growth in terms of business expansion, increasing profitability by building strategic partnerships, and making strategic business decisions. But it’s challenging to boil down the definition of business development. First, let’s look at the underlying concept, and how it connects to the overall business objectives.

Concept and Scope of Business Development

Business development activities extend across different departments, including sales, marketing, project management, product management and vendor management. Networking, negotiations, partnerships, and cost-savings efforts are also involved. All these different departments and activities are driven by and aligned to the business development goals.

For instance, a business has a product/service which is successful in one region (say, the United States). The business development team assesses further expansion potential. After all due diligence, research and studies, it finds that the product/service can be expanded to a new region (like Brazil). Let’s understand how this business development goal can be tied to the various functions and departments:

  • Sales: Sales personnel focus on a particular market or a particular (set of) client(s), often for a targeted revenue number. In this case, business development assesses the Brazilian markets and concludes that sales worth $1.5 billion can be achieved in three years. With such set goals, the sales department targets the customer base in the new market with their sales strategies.
  • Marketing: Marketing involves promotion and advertising aimed towards the successful sale of products to the end-customers. Marketing plays a complementary role in achieving the sales targets. Business development initiatives may allocate an estimated marketing budget. Higher budgets allow aggressive marketing strategies like cold-calling, personal visits, road shows, and free sample distribution. Lower budgets tend to result in passive marketing strategies, such as limited print and media ads, and billboards.
  • Strategic Initiatives or Partnerships: To enter a new market, will it be worth going solo by clearing all required formalities, or will it be more pragmatic to strategically partner with local firms already operating in the region? Assisted by legal and finance teams, the business development team weighs all the pros and cons of the available options, and selects which one best serves the business.
  • Project Management/Business Planning: Does the business expansion requires a new facility in the new market, or will all the products be manufactured in the base country and then imported into the targeted market? Will the latter option require an additional facility in the base country? Such decisions are finalized by the business development team based on their cost-, time- and related assessments. Then project management/implementation team swings into action to work towards the desired goal.
  • Product Management: Regulatory standards and market requirements vary across countries. A medicine of a certain composition may be allowed in India but not in the U.K., for example. Does the new market requires any customized (or altogether new) version of the product? These requirements drive the work of product management and manufacturing departments, as decided by the business strategy. Cost consideration, legal approvals and regulatory adherence are all assessed as a part of a business development plan.
  • Vendor Management: Will the new business need external vendors? For example, will shipping of product need a dedicated courier service? Or will the firm partner with any established retail chain for retail sales? What are the costs associated with these engagements? The business development team works through these questions.
  • Negotiations, Networking and Lobbying: A few business initiatives may need expertise in soft skills. For example, lobbying is legal in some locales, and may become necessary for penetrating the market. Other soft-skills like networking and negotiating may be needed with different third-parties such as vendors, agencies, government authorities, and regulators. All such initiatives are part of business development. (For more, see: Why Lobbying Is Legal and Important in the U.S.)
  • Cost Savings: Business development is not just about increasing sales, products and market reach. Strategic decisions are also needed to improve the bottom line, which include cost-cutting measures. An internal assessment revealing high spending on travel, for instance, may lead to travel policy changes, such as hosting video conference calls instead of on-site meetings, or opting for less expensive transportation modes. (For more, see: Best Ways to Purchase Cheap Airline Tickets.) Similar cost-saving initiatives can be implemented by outsourcing non-core work like billing and accounting, financials, IT operations and customer service. Strategic partnerships needed for these initiatives are a part of business development.

The business development scenario discussed above is specific to a business expansion plan, whose impact can be felt by almost every unit of the business. There can be similar business development objectives, such as development of a new business line, new sales channel development, new product development, new partnership in existing/new market, and even merger/acquisition/sell-off decisions.

For example, in the case of a merger, significant cost savings can be accomplished by integrating the common functions of the house-keeping, finance, and legal departments of the two firms. Or, a business operating from five different offices in a city can be moved to a large central facility resulting in significant operating cost savings. But would this lead to employee attrition, if the new location isn’t convenient for everyone? It’s up to the business development team to assess such concerns. In essence, business development involves high level decision-making based on a realistic assessment of all potential changes and their impact. Through new ideas and initiatives, it aims to improve the overall business prospects, which drive the functioning of the different business units. It is not sales, it is not marketing, it is not partnering. Instead, it is the eco-system encompassing the entire business and its various divisions, driving overall growth.

The Right Fit for Business Development

A business developer can be the business owner(s), or the designated employee(s) working in business development. Anyone who can make or suggest a strategic business change for a value-add to the business can contribute towards business development. Businesses often encourage employees to come up with innovative ideas, which can help in improving the overall business potential.

Businesses also seek help from external incubator firms, business development companies (BDC) and small business development centers (SBDC). However, these entities assist in business establishment and the necessary fine-tuning only during the early stages of business setup. As a business matures, it should aim to build its business development expertise internally.

What Should a Business Developer Know?

Since business development involves high-level decision making, the business developer should remain informed about the following:

  • The current state of the business in terms of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). (For more, see: Executing a SWOT Analysis.)
  • The current state of overall industry sector and growth projections
  • Competitor developments
  • Primary sources of sales/revenues of current business and dependencies
  • The customer profile
  • New and unexplored market opportunities
  • New domains/products/sectors eligible for business expansion, which may complement the existing business
  • The long-term view, especially with regards to the initiatives being proposed
  • The cost areas, and the possible options of cost-savings

What Drives Business Development Activity?

Due to the wide open scope of business development and activities, there are no standard practices and principles. From exploring new opportunities in external markets, to introducing efficiencies in internal business operations, everything can fit under the business development umbrella.

Those involved in business development need to come up with creative ideas, but their proposals may prove to be unfeasible or unrealistic. It’s important to be flexible, to seek out and take constructive criticism, and to remember that it’s a process.

The Bottom Line

Business development may be difficult to define concisely, but it can be easily understood using a working concept. An open mindset, willingness for an honest and realistic self-assessment, and the ability to accept failures, are a few of the skills needed for successful business development. Beyond the ideation, implementation and execution of a business development idea, the end results matter the most. The bright minds in business development should be ready to accommodate change in order to achieve the best results. Every approval or disapproval is a learning experience, bettering preparing you for the next challenge.

What, Exactly, Is Business Development?

“I do biz dev.”

Few times in history have more ambiguous words been spoken.  Ask ten “VPs of Business Development” or similarly business card-ed folks what is business development, and you’re like to get just as many answers.

“Business development is sales,” some will say, concisely.

“Business development is partnerships,” others will say, vaguely.

“Business development is hustling,” the startup folks will say, evasively.

The assortment of varied and often contradictory responses to the basic question of “what, exactly, is business development” reminds me of the way physicists seek to explain what, exactly, is the universe.  With conflicting theories on the nature of black holes and bosons, the ultimate goal for those scientists is a Grand Unified Theory, a single definition that can elegantly explain how the universe itself operates at every level.

Lacking any concise explanation of what business development is all about, I sought to unite the varied forces of business development into one comprehensive framework. And eureka, for I have found it – the Grand Unified Theory of business development:

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

There is elegance in simplicity, but perhaps this definition leaves you wanting more.  At its heart, business development is all about figuring out how the interactions of those forces combine together to create opportunities for growth.  But a theorem requires a proper proof, so let’s break that statement down:

Long-Term Value

First, what do I mean by “long-term value?”  In its simplest form, “value” is cash, money, the lifeblood of any business (but it can also be access, prestige, or anything else a company seeks in order to grow).  And there are plenty of ways to make a quick buck for you or your company.  But business development is not about get-rich-quick schemes and I-win-you-lose tactics that create value that’s gone tomorrow as easily as it came today.  It’s about creating opportunities for that value to persist over the long-term, to keep the floodgates open so that value can flow indefinitely.  Thinking about business development as a means to creating long-term value is the only true way to succeed in consistently growing an organization.