The Biz Dev Evaluation Kit
Here are the five strategic areas for business development, crucial to the sales and marketing of your business, that you should begin investigating and implementing today to move towards market domination or even modest growth/survival. If your overall strategy lacks a thorough comprehension of these business components, you could be leaving lots of money on the table - and even head towards unforeseen challenges that could prove unsurmountable down the road.
I’m including not only five strategic areas in this post, but subdividing them into three tactical areas each. Please use this as a roadmap, and get ready to question how you run your business today… and how tomorrow could bring even better results as you make new decisions and take powerful new actions!
Before we start, I’m taking a couple of things for granted when presenting you this tool for innovation and business growth:
- You’re already clear with what your product / service / value proposition is. This is not a tool for “wantreprenurs” or those who haven’t started yet.
- You understand that this is a framework of principles and concepts that can’t take into account all the complexity and surrounding factors of the situation for your specific company. These concepts can and should act as powerful triggers to spark a dialogue in your organization. (Please do share in the comments section what kind of strategical and tactical reflections / decisions were sparked by reading and applying this to YOUR business!)
- The order in which these areas are presented is not by priority! Any business owner/executive will pretty easily be able to discern which area is the most decisive for their respective situation in the now.
With the above disclaimer in place, let’s do this!
1. Business Relations
What kind of contacts does your current network of stakeholders consist of today? Who will you need on your road ahead? How can you position yourself as a valuable, resourceful and generous contact to others? What are the ways in which you can contribute and expect nothing directly in return?
- Take Inventory of / Segment your current stakeholders (of course including your customers, but what about your employees, suppliers, partners etc?)
- Know how to Expand your network - how do you get your brand in front of new eyeballs?
- Optimize/Utilize your network - if your rolodex didn’t fit one more person (and you couldn’t just empty it and start over), how could you start providing value to every single person in new and innovative ways? Hint: for starters, you’d probably start connecting people with each other…
2. Sales Organization
How is your sales function organized? How does the “experience funnel” through which you want to lead your customers look and feel like (pre- as well as post-purchase)? What’s your USP and elevator pitch?
- Is your company a Thought Leader in your space - do you set the tone in your niche, enabling natural openings to your most valuable prospects?
- Internal Team - not just structure and incentives for the designated sales team, but a company culture where everyone “carries the brand”.
- “First Fortunate Affiliate”. You know when they say “the customer should be your best salesperson”? Let’s try taking it literally and find this person! Then, incentivize and reward him or her like your life depended on it.
3. Digital Presence
What’s your awareness and participation level in the digital landscape - the most powerful arena for human interaction? What are the most valuable platforms for your brand? What business purposes can you fulfil with an online presence?
- Are you actively Monitoring relevant news sources and blogs for brand mentions as well as business and trend insights?
- Do you have an Established presence with a well thought-out profile on the big platforms as well as your own website? What about the smaller platforms?
- Do you regularly Interact in the online, constantly flowing conversation about your brand and your space? Do you contribute with valuable content that demonstrates your expertise?
4. Mass Communication
What do your customer segments look like? Which dimensions do you divide your target groups in - geography, gender, age, interests, occupations, etc? How many different target groups do you end up with? How can you tailor your message, and through which channels is that message best conveyed?
- Have you defined and formulated your company Identity in a crystal clear way? Does that include a complex view on how your products and services interact in the context of an ecosystem?
- Have you mapped out and fostered relationships in traditional PR Channels as well as the blogosphere? Do you utilize metrics to follow up on your activity there?
- How do you use (primarily) online ads (along with other Paid Media) to trigger Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action in your target group?
5. Personal Executive Effectiveness Platform
Whew, that’s a mouthful. Now we’re getting into the area of personal productivity and personal coaching… I’m not gonna go in-depth on that in this post, but let’s just agree that this is a critical area for constant improvement as a business leader and entrepreneur.
- Creativity / Vision / Passion
- Social Network
And that, my friends, ties it together for this time! I hope reading this post gave you some new ideas and insights - good, now go back and read it again! The value you will gain from internalizing this information is massive. Now… which one of the strategic and tactical areas is gonna be your main focus to take immediate action on? Please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in the comments!
I’m not gonna “ABC - Always Be Closing”. Instead, I will “AAA - Always Assume Awareness”.
Dropping and picking up the ball
I’ve been getting into doing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis. I’m constantly reminded during those 15-30 minute (or sometimes even just 3-5 minute) sessions of the importance to get back on track. The mind wanders off and drifts into thoughts and distractions. It has that tendency. The practice of mindfulness is to accept that tendency and learn to gently bring the mind back to stillness, again and again. Meditation is hard for someone whose mind constantly bursts with ideas and new directions - but oh so necessary. I come to think about the definition of vipassana - “to see things as they really are”. Only from a still, centered and focused mind, can we respond naturally and optimally to the events and situations that arise around us.
How is this applicable to entrepreneurship? To me, I’m more and more learning not to try to avoid being sidetracked. Sidetracking happens - we will never be able to command our circumstances fully. When it happens, I just see to it that I make a good mental and physical note - whether it’s something I need to deal with now, at all or never - and then I try to get back to focusing at the task at hand. No excess mental bagage - but “externalized distractions” instead of internalized. This is huge. And it’s a constant practice. Try it.
Life’s a pitch, and then you die
The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it.
If something is not happening for you it doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen. It means you’re not ready for it.
Listen To The World With Opinionaided
Opinionaided is a fantastic tool to “hack into the hivemind” and get great realtime feedback on survey questions. Let me describe what it can do for your business with a few paragraphs - after I ran a little test on it last night I can hardly contain my excitement about this genius app. Keep reading to understand why!
I just discovered Opinionaided, or rather rediscovered it when looking through old deleted apps to redownload on my iPhone. The thing is, I’ve been on an app-downloading frenzy lately, monitoring price drops and being on the lookout for useful productivity tools (as well as sales on games that I’ll be, err… playing when I have the time! ;)). But all this digging around in the appstore also reminded me of a few forgotten gems that I’ve been meaning to get to sometime later. Boy am I glad I decided to give this app a proper test drive - I’ve now spent a few hours tinkering around in the Opinionaided community of question askers and responders, and I’m convinced it’s gonna be an important tool to collect lightweight decision-making data when creating Minimum Viable Products (link to Eric Ries’ blog, of course) for my present and future business projects and ideas. Besides, it’s just plain FUN with a great UX design and cleverly implemented gamification mechanics.
How did I start, and why am I now raving so hard about this app? I started by asking this question:
And then I waited. Or rather, I browsed around other people’s questions on my chosen topics “food & drink” (of course) and “business & finance”, providing thumbs up/thumbs down/neutral responses plus a short comment where my knowledge could be helpful. Anyway, after what felt like five minutes (ok, it was probably more like 20-30 minutes) I checked back on my question. I was amazed with the results - I had already gotten FORTY replies with a 60-40 lean towards “thumbs up”, and in addition I had gotten 4-5 comments from people explaining their response with a few words. What I did next was engage in dialogue with all the commenters, thanking them and inviting them to share more of their thoughts. All this comes very naturally in the design of the app - and on it went…
At the time I’m writing this, I have gotten 84 votes on my question including 10 commenters. And what’s the verdict? Well, just go and give your reply here and you’ll find out! Basically, I really recommend you to give the app/service a try. I don’t know how big the Opinionaided user base is, but obviously it’s big enough. You can even segment your responders to target only males/females or a specific age group. It’s completely free - and at the very least it will give you some inspiration on a simple and engaging idea, well executed!
Making the box bigger
Funny things happen in dialogue. I was interviewed by a student in entrepreneurship for her thesis, and when asked the question whether I was an “out-of-the-box-thinker” I replied like this:
“Rather than thinking outside the box, I prefer finding ways to make the box bigger - that is, expanding the frameworks and the playing field.”
I hadn’t really thought about it like this before, but to me the sentence above kind of sums up my view on lateral and integral thinking. When it comes to having an entrepreneurial attitude towards what’s new, different, unknown, mysterious and even strange or weird… I always want to be able to go beyond the initial response of surprise and awe or even shock, into a state of exploration and embrace.
When Ken Wilber talks about holarchic progression of organisms and organisations, his elegant term is that each further level of development “transcends and includes” the former. I guess I just had an epiphany about what that feels like in the smallest, most incremental sense - because expanding our boxes is something we can strive for in small steps at a time and not only in a “quantum leap” way.
What are your thoughts on this?
Everything Must Start Small…
… and some things are better off if they stay small, too.
Scalability is the hottest thing you can say when pitching your business to bigtime VCs or promoting growth in entrepreneurship in political circles. Of course we want to paint pictures of ourselves building empires and becoming ultra-rich. (“A million dollars isn’t cool. Wanna know what is? A BILLION dollars” like the Justin Timberlake-played character says in that movie).
I’m relieved, even elated, when I read words of reason like the following, from the blog of Justin Vincent:
The absolute truth is that each and every one of us can build a business that can support us. We don’t need to build a million dollar business to survive. We just need a regular paycheck. Just like the paycheck that we already get working for someone else, except it’s a paycheck we pay ourselves.
If you build a micro business it means you’re your own boss, you make your own rules, you live life on your own terms.
If you genuinely have the spirit of an entrepreneur inside of you, it’s perfectly possible to build a $10k/month webapp business that can set you free.
… and this post will mainly act as an informal prelude to my following writings, in which I report from a few important conferences and other knowledge-heavy events I’ve attended recently. My mind is buzzing, so stay tuned!