Young B2B businesses can only grow organically and via personal networks for so long. There will inevitably come a point when you just don’t know enough people and generate enough referrals to maintain high percentage growth. At that point you’ll have to invest in proactive measures, and there are a lot of options out there.
Many companies spend their money on marketing. Events, partnership programmes, advertising, PR and so on – there’s no shortage of things to spend your money on and since you don’t have a bottomless pile of money, you need to make some decisions. Our view is that content marketing, demand generation programmes, events, webinars, etc. are all excellent options. A good mix of those activities, if done well, will deliver against both needs of letting the world know you’re there and delivering immediately actionable leads and if you get the mix right it can be done at relatively low cost.
Others put a business development function in place and task them with finding and winning new clients. They give a website, sales collateral and some case studies to a business development person and set them to work to set up meetings with people.
Both scenarios are common. Many, many SMEs embark on one activity or another, and, 6 months down the line, when it doesn’t demonstrably work, they stop. It’s remarkably common among clients who come to us that they’ve tried marketing-based activities, and then tried sales-based activities, then gone back to a marketing activity because it hasn’t worked.
The problem with just going down the marketing route is that a demand generation programme (for example) will bring in a lot of tyre kickers and a lot of too small/not senior enough/no blueprint leads that can easily suck up a lot of scarce resource, so you need someone with a sales head to qualify, priorities and then actively push leads through the sales funnel. Alternatively, a business developer on their own has limited reach: outbound sales isn’t effective enough, and crucially, it does nothing to build your profile, develop your offering and increase awareness.
So what should you do?
Putting it simply, you need both marketing and business development, and you need both to collaborate to execute a jointly defined strategic plan. The ultimate goal for both sales and marketing is to win business. X clients worth Y this year, more of both next and subsequent years.
Of course, you need more definition of the task though. You need to work out ‘Who?’: What the ‘best’ clients (companies) look like – in annual revenue to you, headcount, location, contractually, and so on. This will allow you to segment your markets, define sales targets and direct your sales and marketing functions to focus their time and energy where they’re likely to deliver the greatest value.
Once you’ve done that you need to work out who the buyers & influencers are within those companies – their function and seniority mainly – and then create detailed buyer personas for the various buyers and stakeholders, with customer journeys mapped to those personas.
Then there’s the ‘What’: What’s your story? Your proposition, products, services and use cases? What makes your business better than the rest? In our experience there’s usually an over-arching offering that gets stronger or weaker for different types of client.
Then there’s the how – content, channels, sales processes, tools/software, data – all of which will need to be thought through and planned.
Often, the thinking around all of these things is fuzzy, which is why it’s crucial to involve both business development and marketing, including relevant principal figures within the business, in developing the strategy. Everybody knows what it’s best to sell to who and why your business is the best, but without it having been discussed, articulated and clearly defined, the inefficiencies that creep in can slow and ultimately derail a perfectly sound business growth strategy.
Marketing’s Job, Business Development’s Job
Once you’ve done all the thinking, the relative jobs of Marketing and Biz Dev are relatively straight forward.
Broadly speaking Marketing’s job is to do 3 things: Build the company’s brand proposition/offering, increase awareness & generate leads. Practically speaking, that means means winning awards, developing partnerships, headlining & hosting events. It means developing a content programme mapped onto the buyer personas and customer journeys. It means doing the nitty gritty stuff well: Making sure you capture all the visitors to your exhibition stand, building LinkedIn connections, offering content for download, tweeting, liking, commenting…all the stuff that should lead to people contacting you as a lead.
Business development’s job? The first thing is to qualify and prioritise all those leads. In our experience, the vast majority of incoming leads are a waste of time, while small numbers are the wrong contact or the wrong type of company, or at the wrong stage of the buying cycle – i.e. worth nurturing – and a tiny proportion are golden leads.
The second job? Executing your sales process(es). In other words, selling. You might vary your sales process depending on the client’s value, but one thing is for sure – you will want to go to town on potential key clients. Speaking to potential clients to understand their business challenges, their needs, why they thought your product might be able to help them and agree a set of steps for moving towards a sale; asking qualifying questions that uncover budgetary constraints, functional factors, and organisational dynamics; these conversations are what turn a lead into a relationship and take things forward towards a sale, and good business development people have the mindset necessary to make these conversations productive. Without business development people to pursue each lead, they will tend to die on the vine.
If you’re not sure that you can hit your growth targets based on your current pipeline, hopefully this will help. The key takeaways are that a business development person, on their own, will probably fail without marketing support. Similarly, marketing, on its own, won’t result in revenue unless there’s somebody there to qualify and then sell to the leads you get in. And the fact is, you will have to invest – either time or money – in doing enough to yield the results you want.