There is no shortage of talk on the topic of business development planning. It is embedded in the agendas of retreats and strategic planning sessions. Management teams circulate the latest forms and templates in hopes of finally finding a silver bullet.

And when results fall short of expectations, we’ll recalibrate, recycle and completely start over in a few months.

For anyone serious about less talk, more action — not to mention, measurable results — here are four tactics that sabotage efforts, along with an idea or two on how to break the cycle and realize some success.

Flaw #1: Planning on the market finding you.

There was a time when hanging a shingle, having business cards engraved and installing a phone line would get things rolling. Do some speaking, sponsor the theater, help underwrite the right events, and potential clients would seek you out when they needed you.

Those were the good old days. And they’re gone.

In a competitive and volatile marketplace, not even the best mousetrap guarantees anyone will care — much less, beat a path to your door.

Business development begins with the strategic identification of those with whom you’d most like to work. And strategic means there is a solid business reason a given target’s name is on your list. For some idea-starters on target identification, see here and here.

Flaw #2: Think, act and talk like business development is all about what you have to offer.

Finding and developing new business is about doing what it takes to connect with viable targets. If your approach is to rare back and come up with the best way to talk about all the services you offer, you’re about to invest in an effort that will be disappointing.

Begin with a focus on the target  — on identifying and understanding what the target cares about. This is about research, listening and competitive intelligence. It is about a focus on things that might fall outside your practice.

What is top-of-mind for those with whom you want to work? Connection here is what will drive targets to your figurative doorstep?

The bonus is that a focus on what your target cares about is the basis for messaging and offerings that resonate and differentiate.

Flaw #3: Bank on a Broadcasting and Visibility play.

“If we could just get our name out there…”

We believe visibility will drive the market to our door because we are surrounded by brand names that have staked out mindshare. The logos conjure entire stories. Apple, Nike, Coca Cola.

It is easy to overlook the fact that those known brands were once unknown names. Apart from pure luck, today’s ubiquitous market leaders began with the hard, unsexy work that comes with market research, target identification and the strategic development of offerings.

B-school curriculums contain countless case studies of businesses that went to the market with a well-funded bang; then, visibility and name recognition notwithstanding, disappeared with scarcely a whimper, having failed to connect with something the market cares about.

Flaw #4: Assume. And take a client for granted

Most of us are intimately familiar with what happens when we assume.

Take for granted that all is well with existing contacts and clients — that they represent satisfied and loyal relationships, and that you know exactly what they need in terms of work product and service —  and you’ll find these clients leaving for greener pastures.

The plan that includes a platform that listens closely to the voice of the client:

  • taps into some of the best market research available — the kind of intelligence that can help hone delivery and identify new trends and opportunities;
  • leverages every resource already invested in marketing / business development.

A robust dialogue with the client is central to long-term (and deeper) relationship. If your marketing strategy does not proactively solicit and digest ideas and feedback from clients, you miss opportunity and greatly diminish the ultimate return on your marketing investment.

(At a more philosophical level, a functioning client feedback platform is indicative of a culture that is focused on the market, and what it takes to remain relevant. This kind of culture possesses a critical success factor.)

Before we blink again, this year will be half over. If you’re wondering why your business development strategy hasn’t gained any traction, ask whether one or more of these flaws might be sabotaging your efforts.