No one needs a 20-page document that lists scores of action items on which action will never be taken. No one needs another plan that does nothing more than gather dust in a drawer.

But unless you are one-hundred percent happy with where your practice is today, and confident that it will endure for as long as you want to practice, you do need a business development plan.

Anyone serious about developing new business had better be serious about creating a strategic, targeted, workable plan.

Why? Here are four reasons.

1. A strategic plan leverages resources.

When the pressure is on you are going to turn significant attention toward generating new business. If you’re not feeling it today, there will be a time when the economy, an industry shift, changes with an existing client, or forces beyond your control at your firm will create pressure to develop new client relationships and business.

If you’re not already working a plan when the pressure hits, three things are likely to happen.

  • You’ll seek short-cuts to relevant visibility. A new brochure, a flashy advertising campaign, or a hastily conceived one-off event rarely deliver — and they almost always require a disproportionate investment.
  • Everything will begin to look like an opportunity. And unless you get really lucky, you’ll invest in some losers. Immediate need precipitates impatience. And when the latest flavor-of-the-month doesn’t deliver quickly, you’ll be tempted by the next.
  • You’ll wake up six months or a year hence, and the pressure will be even more intense.

2. A Strategic plan focuses attention on the creation of a productive network.

When it comes to business development for professional services, here is one thing that has not changed: productive relationships are your greatest asset. Visibility, association and collaboration with a carefully constructed network of individuals who refer, recommend and advise you is what helps create and maintain a pipeline of business. Such a pipeline is what sustains a practice.

And just in case we need to point this out — one more thing that hasn’t changed: a productive network does not build itself.

3. A strategic plan identifies specific targets.

Absent specific targets for your business development efforts, you are simply hoping those who will grow and stabilize your practice will somehow happen to find you.

On the other hand, the strategic identification of individuals with whom you most need to connect provides the blueprint for a productive plan of action.

This blueprint defines where you invest time and financial resources.

4. A strategic plan makes it possible to gauge progress.

Every single serious enterprise operates with a carefully crafted plan. It establishes timetables and guidelines, informs critical decisions, sets priorities, and provides for adjustments and recalibration along the way.

If what you are doing today is delivering on these four fronts, you have a pretty good plan in place. Stick with it.

But if you’re feeling the pressure it is time quit toying with the idea every once-in-a-while, and begin to seriously think through a written business development plan.

The tough part is there are no one-size-fits all solutions. But an effective plan focuses on two things: the identification of targets (this is about naming individuals); and the care and feeding of a network that connects you to those targets . . . and the work you pursue.