(Note: This is an update of an early 2012 post on one of the cornerstones of effective business development.)

If you wrestle with knowing where to begin, and then actually executing on a strategy designed to develop new business (you’re not alone!), very few things will bring the clarity that comes with a focus on Smart Targeting.

From no target at all (hoping your market identifies you as its service provider of choice), to a target that is so large or nebulous as to make it impossible to discern a bulls-eye, to not having enough — target identification seems anathema to many professional service providers.

In an effort to change the conversation, here are 5 ideas that, when incorporated, will have dramatic (and positive) impact on business development planning.

  1. Get strategic. The “S” word may be one of the most over-used in our planning vocabulary; but it is important to understand in this context. Targets are not created equal.  Smart targeting:
    • defines a universe, providing focus for all efforts;
    • plays to a strength, building on expertise and understanding;
    • factors the metrics, so that you’re not aiming at unprofitable targets;
    • incorporates affinity, to keep the imagination engaged.
  2. Think names. Identifying an industry is (a little) better than having no target at all; a company is a bit more relevant; but when it comes to the development of business, an individual almost always occupies the bull’s eye.  The axioms are familiar, but nonetheless accurate – people hire people; relationship trumps everything.  While it may be necessary to start at a macro level, success hinges on the identification of individuals.  This is where to invest time and resources.
  3. Target outside the box. The smart target list is constructed with a relational (or connected) approach, and includes at least three categories:
    • those able to hire you
    • those who, based on relationship to one making hiring decision, will refer you and recommend your work;
    • those who will advise (coach) you and/or provide the business intelligence necessary for a winning pursuit.
  4. Suspend disbelief. Business development is about the pursuit of relationship and the recognition of opportunity.  It requires time, tenacity and vision.  Once you’ve gone through the smart targeting process, don’t talk yourself out of a pursuit prematurely. Commit to a solid plan of action, and stick with it long enough for a relationship to begin to take root.
  5. Grow your network. One of the toughest business development hurdles is working with a target list large enough to keep a pipeline full of new business opportunities, even in the slow seasons.  And we all know that when there are clients to serve, business development moves down the list of priorities. So constant focus on target identification provides the formula for growth and stability.

The premise is that smart targeting is one of the cornerstones of an efficient and rewarding business development plan.

For a quick primer on Smart Targeting, check the entry into our 90-Second Notebook, below.