In our last post — You Say The Market Isn’t Beating Down Your Door — we suggested two things that are often true of professional service providers wrestling with how to develop new business — an anemic network, and the absence of strategic targets. The post suggested the way to address the network issue.
The next question is — once a robust network is in play, how does one identify the best targets for business development?
Even with a great network, unless we are engaged in calculated pursuits, we’re still in the uncomfortable position of waiting for the market to choose us.
On the other hand, when you are focused on consistently delivering value, your network can become a target rich environment. So two things are critical.
First, how do you deliver value? Here are 3 ideas (summarized in the top panel of the Illustration below).
- Become a connector — providing introductions, references, referrals and recommendations to others in your network (and think personal as well as professional).
- Share your expertise (versus simply talking about it). For starters, use CLE events, timely seminars, newsletters and social outlets like blogs to deliver thought leadership, analysis and insight.
- Become a curator — accumulate and share content that is important and relevant to your network…including content from sources other than you or your firm.
These are just ideas. There are no cookie-cutters. Be attentive and creative. And remember that relationship trumps everything. This is not about checking items off a to-do-list. Delivering real value to your network is the most eloquent marketing message you can deliver, creating visibility with staying power.
The Second Challenge: Choosing Where To Focus
Effective business development plans revolve around smart targeting — putting time and effort in the right place.
So what are the keys to being smart with your business development resources? The bottom panel of the Illustration above is a quick-reference guide.
First, remember that there are at least three types of targets.
- Individuals who can hire you
- Those in a position to refer / recommend you
- Coaches — individuals who can provide insight and intel relevant to the hiring targets you pursue.
Given the complexity of today’s marketplace, the proactive business development plan should include all three.
As a practical matter, when it comes to managing the database of information about your network (and a robust network should be tracked in some form of database / CRM system), divide your targets into these three groups (or groups corresponding to designations that work for you).
Once you’re able to sort by type, choosing targets wisely brings rhyme and reason to where you invest the resources for effective pursuit. Here are just a few of the criteria that can help you prioritize, and build a target list that maximizes your efforts.
- Subject matter expertise — identify targets whose business drivers overlap with your area of experience / expertise (or that of someone in your firm).
- Decision-maker relationship — all other things being equal, investing where you have a direct relationship with an individual empowered to hire you should take high priority;
- Consider the arithmetic — do enough homework to know the rate, project costs and timeline will not end up being an issue when your pursuit is successful.
- Extended relationships — draft a relationship map that shows all known connections between you/your firm, others in your network, your target’s organization, and the decision maker.
- Personal Affinity — work that touches on areas you care about will almost always help make a pursuit more organic.
Smart targeting helps establish priorities — what events to attend, when to say no to “opportunities”, and where to invest resources. It helps map the shortest distance between where you are today, and the existence of a pipeline of the kind of work you signed up for.