(Note: this is a reprise of a post that originally appeared on  Alicia Arenas‘ Senera Camp Blog.)

A university grad student challenged me to come up with a practical approach to marketing, sales and business development — one not dependent on mega-budgets, Big Data, or unlimited human resources. One the garage entrepreneur or corner donut shop can execute. One his little sister could use to market her lemonade stand.

I like the question. This is the challenge we all face in one form or another, isn’t it? Given limited resources — fiscal and human — too few hours in a week, and little margin for error, how does the average entrepreneur or professional service provider achieve relevance and growth in the market?

Turns out — to borrow from a best selling title of a few years ago — everything we need to know about business development, we learned in kindergarten. Earlier in most cases. We’ve just forgotten the magic.

Ask Questions. Connect Dots.

Every parent lives it. Anyone spending much time around preschoolers experiences it — an endless stream of questions from a child seeking to connect with the world.

Why? When? Where? Why (again)? What if?

And while the stream may seem relentless and disjointed, the young mind is adept at collecting information and connecting the dots.

This is the most effective strategy for growth and development the market has ever known. And the great news is you came hardwired to execute it intuitively.

Business Development and Marketing, Simplified

Connecting with a market doesn’t begin with big budgets or global advertising campaigns. In its simplest form, marketing, business development and sales are about:

  • Identifying the right Target(s) with which to engage;
  • Asking the right set of questions (Market Research); and,
  • Connecting the dots — pulling together the information, relationships, and value you deliver.

To the degree we stray from this simple model we’re tempted to think the challenge boils down to the creation of a message. Or the application of a tool. Or a complex strategy. Big Data, market segmentation, creativity-gone-viral, and brand awareness are all part of the discussion, to be sure.

But don’t mistake any of this for the simple process that is the foundation of successful marketing and business development. Ask the right questions. Connect the dots. A marketing strategy that works for anyone.