Business Development

Business Development

The role of Business Development is by now fully established in startups. Typically, the function can include a variety of activities like strategic partnerships content licensing, product distributions, monetization, and sometimes acquisitions. But, it varies greatly depending on the size and type of startup.

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"Ask ten people what business development is and you might get ten different answers. Some say it’s sales. Others think it’s marketing. Many will claim that it’s acquiring companies through mergers."

1. Business Development in different stages

Business Development in Early-Stage Startups (pre-seed, seed, Series A)

  • To-Dos at this stage:
    • Create long-term value by finding customers to validate product-market fit
  • Role of Business Development:
    • Often focuses on the intersection of sales and product development
    • Focused on establishing firm footing that will allow a product to become a company
    • Creating long-term value to the organization

Business Development in Growth-Stage Startups (Series B or later)

  • To-Dos at this stage:
    • Find realizable growth opportunities
  • Role of Business Development:
    • Business Development now focuses on evaluating the best paths to pursuing growth by relying on a backbone of existing products & customers
    • Tasks can vary from ideas for new products, pursuing customers in new markets, or establishing strategic partnerships

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2. What your Business Developers should know

  • The current state of the business in terms of SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
  • The current state of the overall industry and growth projections
  • Competitor developments
  • Primary sources of sales/revenues of current business and dependencies
  • The target 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 for cost-savings

3. Best Practices for Business Development

♠️ Form Strategic Partnerships

  • A strong business development effort relies on a foundation of strong relationships. Building, managing and leveraging relationships based on trust, respect and a mutual appreciation of each other's value is fundamental to business growth.
  • Something that many businesses fail to fully take advantage of is the resources and networking opportunities in their immediate area.

✍🏻 Create a comprehensive Plan

  • A business development plan outlines the ways you’ll implement your business development strategy
  • A strong business development strategy is the roadmap that instructs your team on how to find and generate high-value leads to support your long-term goals.
  • Without a strategy, your team may struggle to find qualifying prospects or, at worst, spend months developing a relationship with prospects who don’t convert.

How to create a business development strategy:

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Creating a successful business development strategy starts with identifying your ideal audience. Focus on specific firms or individuals that will propel your business forward.

  3. Perform market research
  4. Once you have defined your audience, learn everything you can about them. Understand what makes you different from all of your competitors. This is the competitive advantage that you will use to communicate your value to prospects.

  5. Determine which channels to use
  6. Assess your total revenue goals for the year and determine which channels will help you achieve that target. The most common business development channels are a combination of networking, referrals, advertising, cold calls and content marketing.

  7. Define S.M.A.R.T. goals
  8. For each channel, set S.M.A.R.T—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related— goals to measure and track your progress.

🥊 Make Business Development company-wide

  • Well-planned business development activities extend across many different departments including sales, marketing, product development, product management and vendor management. All these groups and activities must be aligned to and driven by business development goals. To gain support from your team, everyone must understand why each initiative makes sense for your company. When goals are clear and measurable, it’s easier to achieve buy-in from the entire company.

⏰ Create long-term value

  • Business development isn’t about get-rich-quick schemes that create value today and are gone tomorrow. Viewing business development as a path to long-term value creation is the only approach that will consistently grow an organization over time.

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4. Business Development Skills

💬 Communication Skills

Business development is all about communication with clients and their customers, from cold-calling prospects to maintaining long-term relationships to sharing information and ideas with colleagues and other stakeholders.

📄 Negotiation Skills

Part of business development is convincing other people to do certain things, such as offering assistance, lowering prices, or making investments.

🪄 Strategic Skills

A big part of business development is strategy. One role of business development is assessing the current strategy, looking for ways to improve it, and predicting issues down the road. Sound strategy depends on rational thought, a strong sense of priority, and the research skills necessary to understand the situation in depth.

📊 Project Management Skills

The business itself is the project, so it stands to reason that a good developer will have a lot of the same skills as a project manager. These include the ability to set goals, establish timelines, manage risk, create and stick to budgets, delegate tasks, and manage teams.

🔎 Business Intelligence

Business development requires not only understanding one’s own business, but also that of competitors and of the market as a whole. Part of gaining that understanding is simply researching and listening with an open mind, while another component is collecting and analyzing data.

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