HourGlassSome seem to have an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time; but when it comes to business development, success is rarely happenstance. In fact, the epitome of strategic marketing and sales is taking the steps necessary to reach the right target, at the right time, with precisely the right message.

So, if it isn’t simply luck of the draw, what is the makeup of such a strategy? What are those individuals and teams doing that seems to repeatedly create a timely intersection with opportunity? Can it be replicated?

Here are five keys to business development efforts that will increasingly find you in the right place at the right time.

1. Identify A Target

While some make it seem easy, business development effectiveness isn’t a matter of luck. It is a matter of smart targeting. That is, knowing specifically who you want to connect with, and the role each target plays in the development of your professional network. (Here’s more on this topic.)

2. Know Your Target Well

Once a target has been identified, those who make it seem easy invest the time and energy necessary to learn what the target cares about; what drives them (or what drives them crazy); what keeps them up at night. Intel around the challenges and opportunities faced by your target, as well as an understanding of what the competitive landscape looks like, will shape the content around which you can differentiate and communicate.

3. Plan Strategic Visibility

Now we get down to the “being in the right place” part of the equation. And just in case we need to say it — there is no cookie cutter approach to this. The most effective visibility campaign likely involves both content distribution and face-to-face meetings. Add the strategic use of social media and blogging to the cadre of traditional content distribution tools like websites and newsletters, and there have never been more options for creating and maintaining visibility.

But your visibility can be more than the dispensing of content by incorporating productive face-to-face and intentional listening moments. Entertainment and custom tailored events can be effective, of course; but visibility takes on a personal tone when you find a way to instigate a collaborative experience. Sharing the podium, participating on a panel, or even white-board brainstorming changes the relationship. Interviews and focus groups offer opportunities to listen carefully…and communicate volumes about what it is like to work with you.

4. Build Equity

This is where professional relationships begin to form. Listen carefully, deliver real value, and your efforts transcend the average sales and business development experience. Creativity pays off, providing measurable differentiation. Seek interactive opportunities to meet a real need.

5. Give It Time

If you’re looking for bottom-line impact in the near term, here’s hoping you’ve been delivering value and maintaining visibility for an appropriate period. But plenty of otherwise potentially effective efforts are doomed from the outset thanks to an expectation that a vibrant and relevant network can be created overnight (or out of thin air).

In the vast majority of professional service offerings, relationship trumps everything. And relationships are the byproduct of visibility, delivering value and building equity over time. Productive networks do not materialize over night. And the kind of relationships that a stable practice is built on do not typically fall into your lap. Invest in experiences that deliver value, and then stick with it long enough to let the seeds of relationship take hold.

Keep it up long enough, and a productive network will emerge.

These five keys are at the operational heart of those who seem to consistently be in the right place at the right time with the right message. It is far from a matter of luck.