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What Is Business Development?

  • Understanding the Basics
  • Areas of Development
  • The Process
  • Creating a Plan
  • Skills Needed

The Bottom Line

  • Small Business
  • How to Start a Business

Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills

Why more and more companies worldwide are embracing this planning process

business development plan introduction

In the simplest terms, business development is a process aimed at growing a company and making it more successful. That can include seeking new business opportunities, building and sustaining connections with existing clients, entering strategic partnerships, and devising other plans to boost profits and market share.

Key Takeaways

  • The overarching goal of business development is to make a company more successful.
  • It can involve many objectives, such as sales growth, business expansion, the formation of strategic partnerships, and increased profitability.
  • The business development process can impact every department within a company, including sales, marketing, manufacturing, human resources, accounting, finance, product development, and vendor management.
  • Business development leaders and team members need a wide range of both soft and hard skills.

How Business Development Works Within an Organization

Business development, sometimes abbreviated as BD, strives to increase an organization's capabilities and reach in pursuit of its financial and other goals. In that way, it can impact—and also call upon the specialized skills of—a variety of departments throughout the organization.

As the financial services giant American Express puts it, "When it comes to organizational growth, business development acts as the thread that ties together all of a company's functions or departments, helping a business expand and improve its sales, revenues, product offerings, talent, customer service, and brand awareness."

For example:

Sales and Marketing

Sales personnel frequently focus on a particular market or a particular (set of) client(s), often for a targeted revenue number. A business development team might assess the Brazilian market, for example, and conclude that sales of $1.5 billion can be achieved there in three years. With that as their goal, the sales department targets the customer base in the new market with their sales strategies.

Business development often takes a longer-range perspective in setting goals than many sales departments have in the past. As the Society for Marketing Professional Services puts it, "A traditional view of sales is akin to hunting, but business development is more like farming: it's a longer-term investment of time and energy and not always a quick payoff."

Marketing , which oversees the promotion and advertising of the company's products and services, plays a complementary role to sales in achieving its targets.

A business development leader and their team can help set appropriate budgets based on the opportunities involved. Higher sales and marketing budgets allow for aggressive strategies like cold calling , personal visits, roadshows, and free sample distribution. Lower budgets tend to rely on more passive strategies, such as online, print, and social media ads, as well as billboard advertising.

Legal and Finance

To enter a new market, a business development team must decide whether it will be worth going solo by clearing all the required legal formalities or whether it might be more sensible to form a strategic alliance or partnership with firms already operating in that market. Assisted by legal and finance teams, the business development group weighs the pros and cons of the available options and selects the one that best serves the business.

Finance may also become involved in cost-cutting initiatives. Business development is not just about increasing market reach and sales, but improving the bottom line . An internal assessment revealing high spending on travel , for instance, may lead to travel policy changes, such as hosting video conference calls instead of on-site meetings or opting for less expensive transportation modes. The outsourcing of non-core work, such as billing, technology operations, or customer service, may also be part of the development plan.

Project Management/Business Planning

Does an international business expansion require a new facility in the new market, or will all the products be manufactured in the base country and then imported into the targeted market? Will the latter option require an additional facility in the base country? Such decisions are finalized by the business development team based on their cost- and time-related assessments. Then, the project management /implementation team can swing into action to work toward the desired goal.

Product Management and Manufacturing

Regulatory standards and market requirements can vary across regions and countries. A medicine of a certain composition may be allowed in India but not in the United Kingdom, for example. Does the new market require a customized—or altogether new—version of the product?

These requirements drive the work of product management and manufacturing departments, as determined by the business strategy. Cost considerations, legal approvals, and regulatory adherence are all assessed as a part of the development plan.

Vendor Management

Will the new business need external vendors ? For example, will the shipping of a product require a dedicated courier service? Will the company partner with an established retail chain for retail sales? What are the costs associated with these engagements? The business development team works through these questions with the appropriate internal departments.

10 Potential Areas for Business Development

As noted earlier, business development can require employees throughout an organization to work in tandem to facilitate information, strategically plan future actions, and make smart decisions. Here is a summary list of potential areas that business development may get involved in, depending on the organization.

  • Market research and analysis: This information helps identify new market opportunities and develop effective strategies.
  • Sales and lead generation: This involves prospecting, qualifying leads, and coordinating with the sales team to convert leads into customers.
  • Strategic partnerships and alliances: This includes forming strategic alliances, joint ventures, or collaborations that create mutually beneficial opportunities.
  • Product development and innovation: This involves conducting market research, gathering customer feedback, and collaborating with internal teams to drive innovation.
  • Customer relationship management: This involves customer retention initiatives, loyalty programs, and gathering customer feedback to enhance customer satisfaction and drive repeat business.
  • Strategic planning and business modeling: This includes identifying growth opportunities, setting targets, and implementing strategies to achieve sustainable growth.
  • Mergers and acquisitions: This involves evaluating potential synergies, conducting due diligence , and negotiating and executing deals.
  • Brand management and marketing: This includes creating effective marketing campaigns, managing online and offline channels, and leveraging digital marketing techniques.
  • Financial analysis and funding: This includes exploring funding options, securing investments, or identifying grant opportunities.
  • Innovation and emerging technologies: This involves assessing the potential impact of disruptive technologies and integrating them into the organization's growth strategies.

The Business Development Process in Six Steps

While the specific steps in the business development process will depend on the particular company, its needs and capabilities, its leadership, and its available capital, these are some of the more common ones:

Step 1: Market Research/Analysis

Begin by conducting comprehensive market research to gain insights into market trends, customer needs, and the competitive landscape. Analyze data and gather additional information to identify potential growth opportunities and understand the market dynamics.

Step 2: Establish Clear Goals and Objectives

Leveraging that research, define specific objectives and goals for business development efforts. These goals could include revenue targets, market expansion goals, customer acquisition targets, and product/service development objectives. Setting clear goals provides a focus for the business development process.

Step 3: Generate and Qualify Leads

Use various sources, such as industry databases, networking , referrals, or online platforms to generate a pool of potential leads. Identify individuals or companies that fit the target market criteria and have the potential to become customers. Then, evaluate and qualify leads based on predetermined criteria to determine their suitability and potential value.

Step 4: Build Relationships and Present Solutions

Initiate contact with qualified leads and establish relationships through effective communication and engagement. Utilize networking events, industry conferences, personalized emails, or social media interactions to build trust and credibility. As your relationship forms, develop and present tailored solutions that align with the client's needs. Demonstrate the value proposition of the organization's offerings and highlight key benefits and competitive advantages.

Step 5: Negotiate and Expand

Prepare and deliver proposals that outline the scope of work, pricing, deliverables, and timelines. Upon agreement, coordinate with legal and other relevant internal teams to ensure a smooth contract execution process.

Step 6: Continuously Evaluate

Continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of business development efforts. Analyze performance metrics , gather feedback from clients and internal stakeholders, and identify areas for improvement. Regularly refine strategies and processes to adapt to market changes and optimize outcomes.

While it's common for startup companies to seek outside assistance in developing the business, as a company matures, it should aim to build its business development expertise internally.

How to Create a Business Development Plan

To effectively create and implement a business development plan, the team needs to set clear objectives and goals—ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). You can align these objectives with the overall business goals of the company.

Companies often analyze the current state of the organization by evaluating its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats through a SWOT analysis . That can make it easier to identify target markets and customer segments and define their unique value proposition.

A substantial component of a business development plan is the external-facing stages. It should lay out sales and marketing strategies to generate leads and convert them into customers. In addition, it may explore new potential strategic partnerships and alliances to expand your reach, access new markets, or enhance your offerings.

Teams should conduct a financial analysis and do resource planning to determine the resources required for implementing the plan. Once you implement, you should track progress against the key performance indicators (KPIs) you've chosen.

Skills Needed for Business Development Jobs

Business development is a fast-growing field across industries worldwide. It is also one that calls upon a wide range of hard and soft skill sets.

Leaders and other team members benefit from well-honed sales and negotiating skills in order to interact with clients, comprehend their needs, and sway their decisions. They have to be able to establish rapport, cope with challenges, and conclude transactions. They need to be able to communicate clearly, verbally and in writing, to both customers and internal stakeholders.

Business development specialists should have a thorough awareness of the market in which they operate. They should keep up with market dynamics, competition activity, and other industry developments. They should be able to see potential opportunities, make wise judgments, and adjust tactics as necessary. Because many of their decisions will be data-driven, they need good analytical skills.

Internally, business development practitioners need to be able to clarify priorities, establish reasonable deadlines, manage resources wisely, and monitor progress to guarantee timely completion.

Finally, people who work in business development should conduct themselves with the utmost morality and honesty. They must uphold confidentiality, act legally and ethically, and build trust with customers and other stakeholders.

Why Is Business Development Important?

In addition to its benefits to individual companies, business development is important for generating jobs, developing key industries, and keeping the economy moving forward.

What Are the Most Important Skills for Business Development Executives?

Development executives need to have leadership skills, vision, drive, and a willingness to work with a variety of people to get to a common goal.

How Can I Be Successful in Business Development?

Having a vision and putting together a good team are among the factors that help predict success in business development. A successful developer also knows how to write a good business plan, which becomes the blueprint to build from.

What, in Brief, Should a Business Development Plan Include?

A business development plan, or business plan , should describe the organization's objectives and how it intends to achieve them, including financial goals, expected costs, and targeted milestones.

Business development provides a way for companies to rise above their day-to-day challenges and set a course for a successful future. More and more companies, across many different types of industries, are coming to recognize its value and importance.

American Express. " Business Development and Its Importance ."

Society for Marketing Professional Services. " What Is Business Development? "

World Economic Forum. " The Future of Jobs Report 2020 ," Page 30.

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business development plan introduction

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Write a business development plan

Now that you’re in the growth stage of your business, set things in motion with a business development plan.

A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves.

How to write a business development plan

Your business development plan is your roadmap to growth, so make it clear, specific and realistic.

What to include in a business development plan

  • Opportunities for growth: Identify where growth will come from – whether it’s in creating new products, adding more services, breaking into new markets, or a combination of these.
  • Funding plan: Determine how you’ll fund your business growth. How much capital do you already have? How much more do you need and how will you get it? Check out our guide on financing your business.
  • Financial goals: Work out what revenue, costs and profits you’ll have if things stay the same. Use those numbers as a basis for setting new, more ambitious financial goals.
  • Operational needs: Identify what things about your business will need to change in order to achieve growth. Will you need extra people, more equipment, or new suppliers?
  • Sales and marketing activities: Figure out what sales and marketing efforts will effectively promote growth and how these efforts will change as the business gets bigger and better. Make sure your sales and marketing plan is sturdy enough to support your growing business.
  • Team needs: You may need people to take on some of the tasks you’ve been doing. Think about what parts of running the business you enjoy most – and you’re good at – and what parts you might want to delegate to others. And give some thought to the culture you want to develop in your business as it grows. Check out our guide on hiring employees.

A sample business development plan

Avoid these common business development mistakes.

  • Thinking short-term instead of long-term
  • Underestimating how much money it will take to grow
  • Not budgeting enough money to cover the costs of growth
  • Focusing on too many growth opportunities: think quality, not quantity

Micro-planning can keep you focused

You may want to create some micro-plans for specific growth projects so their details don’t get overlooked. And you can build in some KPIs to measure your progress and successes. As your business grows, take note of your progress and make periodic adjustments to your business development plan to make sure it’s still relevant.

Support is out there

Remember you’re not the first to go through this. Seek out mentors, advisors or other business owners who can help you with your planning. Your accountant or bookkeeper may also be able to help or point you in the direction of the right people.

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

Growing your business

Are you ready to drop the hammer and take your business to the next level? Let’s look at how to grow.

Before you leap into growth, reflect on where you’ve come from. Find out the stage of business growth you’re at.

Understanding your business performance will help you grow. Check out common examples of small business KPIs.

Increasing sales revenue is one obvious way to help grow your business. But how do you sell more?

You can grow your business by selling more things to more people, or fewer things to fewer people. Let’s look at how.

You’re all set to grow your business. But there’s so much to keep track of. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

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What is Business Development? Main Concepts and Best Practices

What is Business Development

What is Business Development? How to, Best Practices, Main Concepts

What is business development introduction.

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of commerce, businesses strive not just for survival but for expansion and prosperity. At the heart of this pursuit lies a strategic process known as business development. This multifaceted approach empowers companies to identify new opportunities, foster valuable relationships, and carve a path towards sustainable growth. In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of business development, effective methodologies, best practices, and the tools that can elevate businesses to new heights.

What is Business Development?

Business development is a proactive and strategic process that aims to unlock a company’s growth potential and enhance its overall value. It involves a meticulous study of markets, customers, and industry trends to identify unexplored territories and lucrative prospects. Rather than focusing on day-to-day operations, business development centers on long-term vision and strategic planning, aligning the organization with its long-term goals.

How to Do Business Development

While business development may vary depending on the industry and company size, certain core principles can guide organizations towards success:

Market Research

Market research is the foundation of effective business development. It involves thorough data collection and analysis to gain insights into potential markets, consumer preferences, and industry trends. By understanding the needs and desires of target customers, businesses can identify gaps in the market and opportunities for growth.

In-depth market research includes competitor analysis to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning. It also involves studying macroeconomic factors, technological advancements, and regulatory changes that could impact the business landscape. Armed with this knowledge, companies can make informed decisions on market entry, product development, and strategic partnerships.

Networking and Relationship Building

Building strong relationships is a crucial aspect of business development. Effective networking allows businesses to connect with potential clients, partners, and stakeholders who can contribute to their growth. Networking can take place through industry events, conferences, trade shows, and online platforms.

The key to successful relationship building is to approach interactions with a genuine interest in understanding the other party’s needs and objectives. By actively listening and offering value, businesses can establish trust and credibility, laying the foundation for potential collaborations or partnerships that benefit all parties involved.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

To achieve successful business development, alignment between the sales and marketing teams is paramount. Marketing teams should provide sales teams with insights from market research and customer data, helping them understand the target audience and positioning the products or services effectively.

In return, sales teams must communicate customer feedback and real-world observations back to marketing, allowing for adjustments in strategies. This synergy ensures that business development efforts are supported by well-coordinated sales and marketing campaigns, driving lead generation and conversion.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the roadmap that guides business development initiatives. It involves setting clear objectives, defining measurable goals, and charting the steps to achieve them. The process includes assessing the company’s current strengths and weaknesses, analyzing potential opportunities and threats, and formulating strategies to capitalize on the strengths and opportunities.

A well-crafted strategic plan outlines the specific actions required at each stage, allocates resources effectively, and sets timelines for achieving milestones. It also incorporates contingency plans to address unforeseen challenges, ensuring adaptability in a dynamic business environment.

Embracing Innovation

Innovation plays a pivotal role in business development, driving differentiation and competitive advantage. Encouraging a culture of innovation within the organization fosters creativity and empowers employees to explore novel ideas.

Businesses can engage in innovation by conducting research and development activities, exploring new technologies, and seeking feedback from customers and industry experts. They should be open to testing and iterating new concepts, products, or services, embracing the idea that failure can lead to valuable lessons and improvements.

Risk Management

Business development involves venturing into new territories, and with it comes inherent risks. Effective risk management is essential for safeguarding the company’s interests and resources.

To mitigate risks, businesses must conduct thorough risk assessments, identifying potential obstacles and challenges. They can then develop risk response plans to address these issues proactively. By being prepared for various scenarios, businesses can navigate uncertainties with greater confidence, ensuring that their growth trajectory remains on track.

Best Practices in Business Development

Implementing best practices can significantly enhance the effectiveness of business development efforts:

Customer-Centric Approach

Putting the customer at the center of business development efforts is essential for long-term success. This approach involves understanding the target audience’s needs, pain points, and preferences. Through customer surveys, feedback sessions, and data analysis, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior and expectations.

Once armed with this information, companies can tailor their products, services, and marketing messages to address specific customer needs effectively. By focusing on providing value and solving customer problems, businesses can build strong brand loyalty, foster repeat business, and gain a competitive edge in the market.

Continuous Learning

In the dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape, staying updated with the latest industry trends, technological advancements, and customer preferences is crucial. Continuous learning involves monitoring industry publications, attending conferences, webinars, and networking events, and engaging with thought leaders.

Through continuous learning, businesses can anticipate market changes, spot emerging opportunities, and proactively adjust their strategies. Embracing a culture of learning within the organization encourages employees to stay curious, innovative, and adaptable, fostering a culture of growth and improvement.

Agility and Adaptability

Business development should not be rigid but agile, ready to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances. An agile approach allows businesses to respond quickly to market shifts, emerging trends, and competitive pressures.

Businesses can embrace agility by promoting open communication channels and flattening hierarchies, enabling faster decision-making. Regularly reviewing and reassessing strategies based on performance metrics and market feedback ensures that the business remains on track and can seize new opportunities swiftly.

Long-Term Relationship Building

Business development is not solely about short-term gains; it involves nurturing long-lasting relationships with clients, partners, and stakeholders. Beyond mere transactions, businesses should focus on building trust, reliability, and mutual benefit.

To achieve this, businesses should prioritize exceptional customer service, actively seek feedback, and address any concerns promptly. Demonstrating commitment to long-term partnerships encourages collaborative problem-solving, customer retention, and advocacy, all of which contribute to sustainable growth.

Measure and Analyze

Data-driven decision-making is essential for effective business development. Implementing key performance indicators ( KPIs ) and regularly analyzing relevant data provides valuable insights into the success of various initiatives.

Businesses can use analytics to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, sales conversions, customer acquisition costs, and overall revenue growth. This data enables them to identify successful strategies, replicate them, and fine-tune underperforming aspects, ensuring continuous improvement.

Business Development Tools and Methods

Crm (customer relationship management) software.

CRM software is a powerful tool that streamlines and enhances business development efforts. It enables businesses to centralize and manage customer data, interactions, and communication in one integrated platform. CRM systems track every touchpoint with prospects and customers, including emails, calls, meetings, and purchases.

Beyond basic contact management, modern CRM software provides advanced features like lead scoring, sales pipeline tracking, and automated workflows. These features help sales and business development teams prioritize leads, identify potential upselling or cross-selling opportunities, and deliver personalized experiences to customers.

Business Intelligence (BI) Tools

Business intelligence tools provide businesses with a wealth of data-driven insights critical for effective business development. BI platforms collect and analyze data from various sources, transforming it into actionable information.

Through data visualization, dashboards, and interactive reports, BI tools help identify market trends, consumer behavior patterns, and emerging opportunities. Armed with this knowledge, businesses can make informed decisions, optimize their strategies, and stay ahead of the competition.

Social Media and Networking Platforms

Social media and networking platforms have become instrumental in modern business development. These platforms offer access to a vast pool of potential clients, partners, and industry influencers.

By engaging with their target audience through social media , businesses can build brand awareness, share valuable content, and foster a community around their products or services. Networking platforms like LinkedIn facilitate direct communication with key decision-makers, enabling businesses to form meaningful connections and explore collaboration opportunities.

Strategic Partnerships and Alliances

Collaborating with other organizations through strategic partnerships and alliances can significantly amplify business development efforts. By leveraging each other’s strengths, businesses can access new markets, share resources, and benefit from complementary expertise.

Strategic partnerships can take various forms, such as joint ventures, licensing agreements, or distribution partnerships. These collaborations open doors to new customer segments and enhance the company’s overall competitiveness in the market.

Main Tasks of Business Development Manager

The main tasks of a Business Development Manager (BDM) are diverse and encompass a range of responsibilities focused on driving growth and creating new business opportunities for the organization. Depending on the industry and the specific company’s needs, the tasks of a BDM may vary. However, some common main tasks of a Business Development Manager include:

  • Market research: Conducting comprehensive market research to identify potential business opportunities, analyzing industry trends, competitor activities, and customer needs. This research forms the foundation for strategic decision-making and market entry.
  • Lead generation and prospecting: Identifying and pursuing potential clients, customers, or partners through various channels, such as cold calling, email campaigns, networking events, and referrals. The BDM actively seeks out new business opportunities and creates a pipeline of potential clients.
  • Client relationship management: Building and maintaining strong relationships with existing clients, ensuring their satisfaction, addressing any concerns, and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling additional products or services.
  • Sales and negotiation: Collaborating with the sales team to convert leads into clients or customers. The BDM may participate in sales meetings, presentations, and negotiations to secure new contracts and close deals.
  • Partnerships and alliances: Identifying potential strategic partnerships or alliances with other organizations that can mutually benefit both parties. The BDM works to build strong collaborative relationships to expand the company’s reach and capabilities.
  • Developing business strategies: Working with senior management to formulate long-term business strategies and action plans that align with the organization’s growth objectives.
  • Market expansion: Assessing the feasibility of entering new markets or expanding the company’s presence in existing markets. This involves analyzing market potential, regulatory requirements, and competition.
  • Innovation and product development: Collaborating with the product development team to identify new product or service opportunities, ensuring that the company stays competitive and relevant in the market.
  • Marketing and promotional activities: Developing and implementing marketing strategies and campaigns to promote the company’s products or services, enhance brand visibility, and attract potential customers.
  • Data analysis and reporting: Utilizing data analytics to measure the effectiveness of business development strategies, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), and preparing reports to assess progress and make data-driven decisions.
  • Budgeting and resource allocation: Managing budgets allocated for business development initiatives and ensuring optimal utilization of resources to maximize the return on investment.
  • Attending industry events: Participating in conferences, trade shows, and industry events to network, identify trends, and stay updated on industry developments.

Overall, the business development manager plays a pivotal role in driving the company’s growth agenda, fostering strategic relationships, and exploring new opportunities to expand the business. They act as a bridge between various departments within the organization, contributing to the overall success and long-term sustainability of the company.

What is Business Development? Summary

Business development is a pivotal process that empowers companies to unlock their growth potential, explore new markets, and foster valuable partnerships. Through market research, strategic planning, and customer-centricity, businesses can navigate the ever-changing landscape of commerce with confidence. By embracing best practices and leveraging effective tools, organizations can adapt, innovate, and thrive in an increasingly competitive world, ultimately paving the way for sustained success and prosperity.

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1.1: Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan

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  • Page ID 21274

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Describe the purposes for business planning
  • Describe common business planning principles
  • Explain common business plan development guidelines and tools
  • List and explain the elements of the business plan development process
  • Explain the purposes of each element of the business plan development process
  • Explain how applying the business plan development process can aid in developing a business plan that will meet entrepreneurs’ goals

This chapter describes the purposes, principles, and the general concepts and tools for business planning, and the process for developing a business plan.

Purposes for Developing Business Plans

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. Externally, the most common purpose is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

As the road map for a business’s development, the business plan

  • Defines the vision for the company
  • Establishes the company’s strategy
  • Describes how the strategy will be implemented
  • Provides a framework for analysis of key issues
  • Provides a plan for the development of the business
  • Helps the entrepreneur develop and measure critical success factors
  • Helps the entrepreneur to be realistic and test theories

External Purposes

The business plan provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business. Thus, it is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel.

Business Plan Development Principles

Hindle and Mainprize (2006) suggested that business plan writers must strive to effectively communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future and to project credibility. The liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures much more difficult than for existing businesses. Consequently, business plan writers should adhere to five specific communication principles .

First, business plans must be written to meet the expectations of targeted readers in terms of what they need to know to support the proposed business. They should also lay out the milestones that investors or other targeted readers need to know. Finally, writers must clearly outline the opportunity , the context within the proposed venture will operate (internal and external environment), and the business model (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

There are also five business plan credibility principles that writers should consider. Business plan writers should build and establish their credibility by highlighting important and relevant information about the venture team . Writers need to elaborate on the plans they outline in their document so that targeted readers have the information they need to assess the plan’s credibility. To build and establish credibility, they must integrate scenarios to show that the entrepreneur has made realistic assumptions and has effectively anticipated what the future holds for their proposed venture. Writers need to provide comprehensive and realistic financial links between all relevant components of the plan. Finally, they must outline the deal , or the value that targeted readers should expect to derive from their involvement with the venture (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

General Guidelines for Developing Business Plans

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. Using a standard format helps the reader understand that the you have thought everything through, and that the returns justify the risk. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

As You Write Your Business Plan

1. If appropriate, include nice, catchy, professional graphics on your title page to make it appealing to targeted readers, but don’t go overboard.

2. Bind your document so readers can go through it easily without it falling apart. You might use a three-ring binder, coil binding, or a similar method. Make sure the binding method you use does not obscure the information next to where it is bound.

3. Make certain all of your pages are ordered and numbered correctly.

4. The usual business plan convention is to number all major sections and subsections within your plan using the format as follows:

1. First main heading

1.1 First subheading under the first main heading

1.1.1. First sub-subheading under the first subheading

2. Second main heading

2.1 First subheading under the second main heading

Use the styles and references features in Word to automatically number and format your section titles and to generate your table of contents. Be sure that the last thing you do before printing your document is update your automatic numbering and automatically generated tables. If you fail to do this, your numbering may be incorrect.

5. Prior to submitting your plan, be 100% certain each of the following requirements are met:

  • Everything must be completely integrated. The written part must say exactly the same thing as the financial part.
  • All financial statements must be completely linked and valid. Make sure all of your balance sheets balance.
  • Everything must be correct. There should be NO spelling, grammar, sentence structure, referencing, or calculation errors.
  • Your document must be well organized and formatted. The layout you choose should make the document easy to read and comprehend. All of your diagrams, charts, statements, and other additions should be easy to find and be located in the parts of the plan best suited to them.
  • In some cases it can strengthen your business plan to show some information in both text and table or figure formats. You should avoid unnecessary repetition , however, as it is usually unnecessary—and even damaging—to state the same thing more than once.
  • You should include all the information necessary for readers to understand everything in your document.
  • The terms you use in your plan should be clear and consistent. For example, the following statement in a business plan would leave a reader completely confused: “There is a shortage of 100,000 units with competitors currently producing 25,000. We can help fill this huge gap in demand with our capacity to produce 5,000 units.”

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Business development plan: A step-by-step approach

Lucia Piseddu

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A good business development plan can set you up for success. Learn how to create your own from scratch with zero experience!

If you’re just starting with business development , chances are that you’re a little confused about how you should do it. I got lost many times during my entrepreneurial journey. One of those moments was when I had to write a business development plan for the first time.

Now, the main problem was that I didn’t have a clue about what a business development plan was to start with. And of course, when I started digging, I got even more confused. I found a lot of information online, but nothing that would tell me how to do it step-by-step.

So after some years of trying and failing, I finally found my way to deal with it and build my own business development plan.

Below I’ll explain how to write a business development plan and what information you should include in practical terms. But first, let’s define what a business development plan is.

What is a business development plan?

A business development plan is a document that helps you implement your business development strategy in a step-by-step method. It involves a lot of research on the market and customers. But also, other aspects such as your competitors and buyer persona.

So, a business development plan is a detailed summary of important steps you’re going to take to grow your business. One key aspect to remember is that a business development plan is a LIVING document. This means that you have to update your plan continuously based on new information about your ecosystem.

This helps you strategize better but also ensures that it’s a document of quality insights.

A business development plan is divided into two main parts:

  • Research: in the research phase, you learn more about your market, customers, and competitors.
  • Action: you use your research and put it into action. Specifically, this translates into creating a value proposition, and content, and experimenting with ideas.

You can download our template for free at this link .

the business development school - the business development plan template

Step 1: Organize your business development plan

I’m a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis.

It doesn’t have to contain every piece of information. Keep it simple by including only essential and key facts that will help you build an effective business development machine. Your business development plan needs to be easily accessible and quick to consult.

In this sense, you don’t need to get fancy and start looking for the latest software that promises you great time savings. Stick to something basic yet powerful. Google Sheets is your best ally when it comes to your business development plan.

So, the main goal of a business development plan is to keep information structured so that you can spot growth opportunities easier.

You can download our template for free at this link and start your business development plan.

Step 2: Market research

Market research is a stepping stone in a business development plan. It’s an activity to gather more information about customers’ preferences and needs. Many companies overlook this step thinking that their intuition will guide them through their challenges. Intuition can be helpful, but it’s still essential to know your customers better using research and data.

After all, most ideas start off from intuition. However, basing an entire plan on assumptions is never a smart strategy to use in business development. So, do your homework and make sure you always take educated guesses before starting to work on your business development plan.

Market research takes into account 3 variables . These will tell you the realistic size of the market you’re trying to target.

1 – Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market (TAM)

The TAM takes into account the entire market you’re operating in and basically tells you how much annual revenue there is available for your product or service.

Now, finding this information can be the first bummer. To me at least, it sounded quite impossible to find out. Later, I figured that there are many people out there that dedicate their life only to market research.

You can use Google to find out this information. But of course, you first need to know what you’re looking for. The information you need, in this case, is basically knowing how many companies or people would benefit from your product or service.

You also want to know how many companies operate in your exact space both in terms of services and geography. To get relevant market news, try Googling “your industry market trends”, “your market report”, or “your industry report”.

Many big consultancy groups and governmental institutions dedicate a lot of time to this type of research. It’s a good and reliable starting point.

PRO TIP: Choose your sources very carefully. You’ll find a lot of random information, learn to filter out what you’re reading.

2 – Total Served Market (TSM)

Once you know how big your market is, you need to check how much of it is already served by your competitors.

In this case, the information you’re looking for is all about your competition. You should ask yourself first how many of them you have.

Then you need to find out how well they’re doing and start hunting for as much intelligence as possible.

The info you need to look for is how many clients your competitors claim to have, what revenue they generate, and where they are present.

First, Google keywords to identify your competitors. Right after that, you can start digging deeper into their websites and find detailed info.

Bigger competitors will most likely have good press coverage. Read these articles to gather more insight.

Last, don’t overlook the importance of customer review websites. Customers can uncover many relevant details that your competitors don’t want to reveal. And of course, make use of technology to make the most out of your research.

3 – Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)

The last step in your market research is to quantify how much you can realistically obtain with your business development effort.

Your SOM is your share in the market. So, to put it simply, it’s not possible to have an entire market buy only your products and services. There is a specific customer base that will buy from your company . So, your SOM refers to your market share and the people that can become your customers if they see a benefit from your products or services.

SOM takes into account your brand awareness, market insights, but also competition. It helps you forecast potential earnings and also gain customers. Based on the research, you become aware of what your competitors are offering to the market. Moreover, you will be able to tailor your products and services to meet the needs and preferences of your customers.

the business development school - business development plan market research

Step 3: Competitor analysis

The third step to do when creating your business development plan is to do a competitor analysis . So far, I discussed market research and how it helps you get to know the preferences of your target audience better. But, to grow your business sustainably and profitably, it’s vital that you analyze your competitors as well.

First, figure out who your direct and indirect competitors are. So, in a Google search, we try to identify or find the ID of each company that competes in your market. This can be found in the website’s ‘About us’ section. Then, the aim is to find key personalities such as managers and executives, and so on.

Once you have this information, you can move on to products and services. You can find this on your competitor’s website as well. This specific section defines what the company specializes in. You can use this information to compare your products to those of your competitors and try to find ways to improve them.

Continue by checking their clients, and the pricing they offer for their products and services.

PRO TIP: Read the customer reviews of your competitors to spot their strengths and weaknesses. Use the insights to improve your offer.

the business development school - business development plan competitor research

Step 4: Customer research

After identifying your market share, you can start thinking of what kind of customers within this segment, you are trying to sell your products and services to.

The best way to tackle this is by running proper customer research that will provide you with your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona.

This is the part I like the most because it really helps you understand who you’re talking to. But how do you do it? First, if you already have some customers, start analyzing them. You want to gather more information on who they are, what they do, and their habitual traits.

For example:

  • What job titles do these people have?
  • How old are they?
  • What communication tools do they use?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What are their personalities like?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What do they do in their daily lives?

You can find all this info by simply checking social media profiles. Really, just by observing their social media platforms, you can get to know them in-depth! Take some time to check a few ones (at least 10) and you’re going to start seeing patterns.

Then, check some job descriptions about the people you’re targeting. This will highlight what are their professional responsibilities and how your product or service can help them. Last, it’s always advisable to run a survey.

Step 5: Build your Buyer Persona

Right after having run your customer research, you can now create your buyer persona.

The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research,

In your buyer persona, you need to include all the relevant information you found through your customer research. It should look like something below:

the business development school - buyer persona template

Step 6: Value Propositions

The customer research concludes the research part of your business development plan. Now it’s time to put your insights into action and start building your business development strategy .

The first valuable asset you need to build is a value proposition.

A value proposition is the value your customers get should they choose to buy your products and services

The value proposition helps you communicate your value as a company and you can use it on your website, sales calls, social media posts, etc. Having a clear value proposition will help you attract the right audience and persuade potential customers to work with you.

Of course, a good value proposition is based on that, and if you followed all the steps, you should have all the insights you need.

To build a value proposition we will use the Job-To-Be-Done framework. This helps you identify what are the responsibilities of your buyer persona when they’re doing their job.

For example, a typical responsibility for a recruiter is to find the right talent .

the business development school - job-to-be-done framework

Second, consider the pains and gains of your customers. Customers’ emotions are usually the reason behind their buying decisions. They influence their preferences, frequency of buying, and also which companies they buy from.

Especially the challenges are a crucial element in your value proposition because you can immediately link your solution to a concrete pain that your customers are facing.

For example, let’s go back to the example of the recruiter. We know that one main responsibility of a recruiter is to find talent. One major challenge for recruiters is to have enough time to process all the CVs they receive daily.

Now, let’s assume you work for a company that provides recruitment software that can automate CV screening.

A good value proposition, in this case, would sound like this:

Save 70% of your CV screening time using our recruitment software

the business development school - value proposition design template

Step 7: Content plan

Once you have your value proposition, the next step is to share it with your target audience. That’s when having a content plan becomes a must.

A content plan helps you strategize the type of information you want to feed your audience. It also helps you select the channels on which you should build your presence.

For content to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience when you write posts/emails, or articles. So, always consult your buyer persona before creating content.

Just like the value propositions, effective content revolves around the pain point you identified earlier. Use them to get the attention of your audience and provide valuable information that helps them alleviate these pains.

This will help you establish yourself as a valuable resource and when they will want to solve their issues, you’ll be the first to pop into their minds.

Step 8: Experiments

The last step in your business development plan is all about creativity and finding opportunities. This is the moment in which we create experiments to validate some of our business assumptions. Your experiment should be ideas that you think will bring sustainable growth to your company.

Once you identify some ideas, define some goals and set up the methodology you will follow to run this experiment. For example, if you heard of a new social media and you think your audience might be on it, build an experiment to validate if this is true and if it can bring you results.

Attach a goal to this idea, for example, generating 10 qualified leads on this new channel.

Then decide for how long you will run the experiment – ideally a couple of weeks. Once the experiment is over analyze what happened. If the experiment was successful, you need to scale this activity. If not, take the learnings for further improvements.

The business development plan is a key document that helps you map your ecosystem and strategize your business development efforts .

It consists of a research part and an action part. In the first part, you analyze your market, competitors, and customers. In the second, you use your insights to build value propositions, content plans, and experiments.

The business development plan is a live document, so you have to update it every time you have new insights. Of course, you have to use it in your daily operations to make sure you’re on the right track.

The business development plan is one of the assets you will build during our training. Would you like to shake up your business development career and work in a more structured way? Then join our next cohort .

Last, if you are a company wanting to train your business development team, our custom training solutions are the best way to take your team to the next level.

business development plan introduction

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9 steps for writing a strategic business development plan Add Add

9 steps for writing a strategic business development plan.

Updated 04 October 2023 • 7 min read

Developing a business plan can mark the start of an exciting phase, as you start charting future growth. This document serves as the roadmap for your business development strategy as you take your business to new heights.

Creating an effective business development plan can be a tough task. It requires you to think through several aspects of your business that you may not consider on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t worry — we’re here to help. This article will walk you through how to write a business development plan, so you can grow your business in the most effective way possible. 

What is a business development plan?

A business development plan is the growth roadmap for your business. It’s a strategy document that lays out where you want to take your business and how you intend to get there. 

A thorough and carefully crafted business development plan lays out your growth targets, financial projections and the tools and resources your company needs. It may also define your marketing and efforts that support your goals.

A business development plan provides clarity and helps you keep your objectives in focus during the day-to-day grind. It also provides a strong foundation for making business decisions — if you’re not sure whether a move makes sense, you can always consult your plan.

Why do you need a business development plan?

Creating a proper business development strategy can be a lot of work. But it pays dividends by providing clarity and focus. It also helps when trying to secure funding, as it shows you've thought through all the possibilities. 

A business development plan helps you:

Get clarity

A strong business development plan helps you get clear about priorities during the hectic launch phase of your business. It helps you define your goals and objectives, as well as chart out how you’ll reach them. 

Stay focused

As you dive into the day-to-day running of your business, it can be easy to get bogged down in details and lose sight of your larger goals. Your business plan provides an anchor that keeps you in place. And if you’re already in business, it can help you take a step back and refocus on the fundamentals.

Secure funding

A detailed business plan is one of the most effective ways to show investors that you can be trusted. This is especially important when you’re just starting out and have no track record of performance. Your business plan shows that you’ve thought about how your business will fare in the long run, not just in the short term.

Achieve growth

A proper business development plan should include a roadmap. This is your high-level strategy document that serves as the map to your company’s growth. It lays out how you’ll measure success, provides targets to aim for and defines your plans for hitting them.

How to write a business development plan

If you’re convinced that you need to write your own business development plan (or update the one you have), you might be wondering where to start. Let’s walk through the process. 

1. Set clear financial goals

Your business development strategy should include clear financial goals. For example, every business wants to increase sales; however, that’s not a specific goal. Instead, set a target for your sales figures within a certain timeframe, and keep it realistic by using your current numbers as a baseline.

To do this, project your revenue, profit and expenses if business were to stay the same. Then consider what a realistic target might be and include that. This number may be lower than you'd expect, but it’s more important that it’s actually achievable.

2. Refine customer profiles

Detailed customer and audience profiles help your business effectively target its marketing efforts. Your business might already have customer profiles — updating your business plan is a perfect time to update these profiles, as well. And if you don’t have profiles yet, there’s no time like the present.

You can start refining your customer profiles by examining your current customer base. Look at their demographics and habits. Then use a similar strategy to create profiles of your ideal customers.

3. Identify key growth opportunities

Next, identify your key growth opportunities. These could be new products or services, an expansion into a new market, or even a complete rebuild of your current offerings.

Whatever these opportunities are, include them in your business development plan. Articulate how and why these opportunities will help grow the business. 

4. List funding sources

Your plan should include not just the amount of funding you’ll need, but how you plan to get it — loans , equity investors or crowdfunding , for example. Now is the time to come up with an in-depth funding strategy. Doing this legwork on the front end, while developing your plan, makes it easier to focus on execution when stress inevitably creeps in. 

This part of your plan should include the sources you’ve secured, as well as those you’d like to seek funds from. It should also include how much you’ll seek from each source, what form those funds will take, and any obstacles you might encounter.

5. Determine operational needs

You’ve laid out your goals, growth opportunities and potential funding sources. Now, look over these items and determine how to make all this happen. 

Be aware that as your operational needs expand, your business expenses will also increase. For example, you may require additional equipment, a new warehouse to enable expanded logistics, or more employees to help serve customers. Whatever it is, build it into your business development plan.

6. Develop a sales and marketing strategy

Your business development plan is the perfect place to include sales and marketing strategies. Ultimately, these will be some of the key drivers for leveraging your growth opportunities and hitting your financial goals.

As you draft these ideas, run them through this simple test: Will they still hold up if you reach your growth targets, or will you need to rework them? Ideally, you want sales and marketing strategies that can grow along with your business.

7. Create your elevator pitch

Your elevator pitch is the short-and-sweet version of your company’s mission. The premise is simple: If you were to meet someone on an elevator and only had that brief ride to pitch your company, what would you say?

Some people adopt arbitrary rules on their elevator pitch, such as limiting it to a Twitter-length 280 characters. While this limitation isn’t necessary, it should give you a good idea of the brevity of an elevator pitch and the impact you’ll need to make. 

8. Identify your resource needs

You’ve identified your broad operational needs — equipment, facilities and employees. You’ll also want to identify your resource needs. These include how you might manage your technology and team members in a more specific way.

For example, if your marketing plan involves creating video content, you’ll need the proper equipment and software to create it. Your sales strategy might involve retooling your CRM or migrating to a new system. Or, your growth targets might mean that you need to move to a new accounting platform .

9. Determine how you'll measure success

Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to decide how you’ll measure progress towards your goals. How will you know when you’ve hit that ambitious sales target or grown your business in that new market? 

You need to be able to measure your business performance and progress. Setting targets and KPIs for your employees may be good ways to keep things on track.

Business Development Plan Template

If you need a business development plan example, we’ve put together this template . It’ll help you shape your own business plan and outline the key sections. 

Stay productive and profitable with MYOB

A strong business development plan is a powerful asset for driving growth. It helps you outline your plans and stay on course, even when you’re overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks. 

Achieving your business goals is much easier when you have help — and that doesn’t mean you need to hire more people. MYOB accounting software automates business operations like invoicing, payroll, and tax reporting, so you can spend more time focusing on strategic growth.

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An Introduction to Business Development

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Business development is a vital part of building revenue, strengthening customer relationships, and recognizing the customers or enterprises that can benefit most from what you have to offer. But ask a hundred people “what is business development?” and you’re likely to get 99 answers.

Business development is especially crucial to B2B brands, but even large and sophisticated organizations don’t always have a biz dev process  per se . Instead, leaders “know it when they see it,” relating it in different degrees to sales, marketing, or account management.

It’s true that business development has relationships with all those things and more, but it can also be greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s take a closer look at the principles that drive successful biz dev divisions and what they really mean for a company.

1: Value Generators

Most of the time, it’s not hard to identify value: It’s reflected in the bottom line. But there are many other types of value that can drive sales, revenue, and profit. They include things like prestige, access to decision-makers, or anything else that drives results. Business development pros should look for ways to generate value for the enterprise, customers, and partners, too.

business development

2: Long-Term Orientation

When generating value, some parts of the business have the option of going for the quick win, even if it’s not their only tool. Business development is different: It is most effective when it creates innovative concepts that expand – literally, “develop” – the core reasons that enterprises or customers partner with you. That usually means big ideas with incremental execution.

3: Relationships

To succeed in business development, a leader needs to be looking for ways to align the business with customers’ needs in a cost-effective way. That means staying connected with decision-makers and being attentive to emerging trends. The best biz dev leaders are so attuned to key relationships that they can anticipate needs before they are fully articulated.

business development strategy

No Matter Your Angle, Business Development is Crucial

Business development is unique: With its cross-disciplinary outlook, it can be an important partner to sales, marketing, product development, and the senior leadership team. Through a hands-on approach, it generates customer and market insights with wide applications and shows – even helps forge – the path to sustainable ROI.

A business development team can start with sales, marketing, or product development experts. The more it’s allowed to grow into its own, however, the more value it will ultimately create. When all is said and done, the best thing that business development does for a company is this: Connecting innovation, existing strengths, and customer needs into a win-win package.

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How to write a business development plan: a step by step guide.

How to Write a Business Development Plan: A Step By Step Guide

So we’ve already tackled how to write the infamous business plan , but now that you’re in the growth stage of your business – what’s next?

Many business owners will look to write a business development plan with the aim to make their business better. Running a business is never a stationary job, you constantly have to be looking to grow and improve.

But what exactly is a business development plan and how do you write one? Let’s find out.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is a Business Development Plan?

How to write a business development plan, key takeaways.

A business development plan is a document put together by the business owner with the aim to grow and improve their business. The plan will set goals for growth and explain how you will achieve them.

A business development strategy can have a short-term or long-term focus, or both. They should also be constantly reviewed and revised as things shift and your goals may change.

A health plan is one that builds as your business evolves.

business development plan introduction

A standard business development strategy can be split up into 6 different sections, each one with a different aim and purpose. These sections are:

You should always be looking to grow your business. In this section, you will identify where growth will come from. For example, whether it’s new product development, adding different services or breaking into new markets. Your main business development goals should always point towards growth.

According to a U.S. Bank study, 82% of small businesses fail because of poor cash flow management and understanding. That’s why it’s vital that you have a constant eye on your funding and your bottom line.

You need to understand how you’ll fund your business development. So in this section, you should lay out your current capital, and how much more you will need to sustain growth.

3. Financial Goals

You should have a good idea of your current revenue, costs and profits. These numbers can then be used as a starting point for setting new, more ambitious revenue goals. This is for when you have expanded and developed your business.

4. Operational Needs

When growing a business, your operational needs will change. For example, what started out as a two-person job can develop into needing a whole team of people. So in this section, you will need to identify what things about your business will need to change to accommodate and promote growth.

5. Sales and Marketing

No business can succeed without a strong and stable sales team and marketing team. As your business grows, so will your sales and marketing needs. So you will need to take the time to figure out your target market and what sales and marketing efforts will promote growth. You should then put all of your focus on those efforts.

It’s vital that your sales process and marketing strategies are strong and sturdy enough to support a growing business.

business development plan introduction

6. Team Needs

Every strong business needs a strong team around it. When you started your business, it’s likely that you shouldered a lot of the jobs and responsibilities. As your business grows, you’ll soon come to realize that you can no longer do this alone.

So as a business developer, you need to think about what jobs and tasks you are best and most effective at. You should then correctly delegate the other responsibilities to the appropriate team members. This is often a good way to figure out if you have the right team around you. If you dread the thought of offloading tasks to your team, you may not have the trust in your team that you should.

Business development plans may seem like a relatively daunting task. But once you figure out the basics then they can almost write themselves.

You need to have an open mindset, a realistic approach and the ability to accept some potential failures.

Expanding and developing a business is hard work, but with the right plan in place, you are giving yourself the best chance possible.

Are you looking for more business advice on everything from starting a new business to new business practices?

Then check out the FreshBooks Resource Hub .

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The Ultimate Guide to Business Development and How It Can Help Your Company Grow

Discover the importance of business development and how the process can help your business grow better.

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FREE SALES PLAN TEMPLATE

Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

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Updated: 08/19/22

Published: 08/17/21

Imagine working for a company without any employees dedicated to growing and developing the business.

Nobody to challenge you to improve or tell you about new business opportunities, changes in the market, what your competition is up to, or how you can attract your target audience more effectively.

This would make it pretty hard to succeed, don’t you think?

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

Business Development

Business Development Reps

BDR Responsibilities

Business Development Ideas

Business development process, business development plan.

Business development is the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your organization to promote growth and boost revenue.

It involves pursuing opportunities to help your business grow, identifying new prospects, and converting more leads into customers. Business development is closely tied to sales — business development teams and representatives are almost always a part of the greater sales org.

Although business development is closely related to sales, it’s important to note what makes them different.

business development plan introduction

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Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent sales plan.

  • Target Market
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Business Development vs. Sales

As mentioned, business development lives on the greater sales team yet it serves a different function than typical sales work and responsibilities.

Business development is a process that helps your company establish and maintain relationships with prospects, learn about your buyer’s personas, increase brand awareness, and seek new opportunities to promote growth.

In contrast, sales teams sell your product or service to customers and work to convert leads into customers. Business development-related work simplifies the work of a salesperson or sales manager.

Let’s take a closer look at what business development representatives — the people responsible for carrying out the various business development tasks — do next.

Business Development Representative

Business development representatives (BDRs) seek out and establish new strategies, tactics, targets, employees, and prospects for your business. The goal of all BDRs is to find ways to grow and provide long-term value for the business.

Possessing the necessary business development skills and experience will help your BDRs achieve all of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

Business Development Representative Responsibilities

Although some BDR responsibilities may change over time and as your business grows, the following list will provide you with a solid understanding of typical BDR tasks.

1. Qualify leads.

BDRs must qualify leads and pinpoint ideal prospects to determine who they'll sell to. Typically, leads are qualified through calls, emails, web forms, and social media.

The key to qualifying leads (leads who are assigned to the BDRs as well as leads BDRs identify themselves) is to consider their needs and then determine whether or not your product or software could be a solution for them.

2. Identify and communicate with prospects.

By qualifying leads and searching for people who fit your buyer personas, BDRs will identify ideal prospects. They can communicate with those prospects directly to learn more about their needs and pain points.

This way, BDRs can determine whether or not the prospect will really benefit from your product or service by becoming a customer. This is important because it increases the potential of improved customer loyalty and retention.

Once the BDRs have identified ideal prospects, those prospects can be passed along to a sales rep on the team (or sales manager, if necessary) who can nurture them into making a deal.

3. Proactively seek new business opportunities.

Proactively seeking new opportunities — whether that’s in terms of the product line, markets, prospects, or brand awareness — is an important part of your business’s success. BDRs work to find new business opportunities through networking, researching your competition, and talking to prospects and current customers.

If a new business opportunity is identified, BDRs should schedule marketing assessments and discovery meetings with the sales reps on the team so they can all assess whether or not there’s potential for a deal.

4. Stay up-to-date on competition and new market trends.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your competition’s strategies, products, and target audience as well as any new market and industry trends.

This will allow you to more effectively identify ideal prospects. It also helps your business prepare for any shifts in the market that could lead to the need for a new approach to qualifying leads and attracting your target audience.

5. Report to salespeople and development managers.

As we reviewed, at most companies, BDRs report to sales reps and sales managers. BDRS must communicate with these higher-ups for multiple reasons such as discussing lead qualification strategies and how to get prospects in touch with sales reps to nurture them into customers.

BDRs also have to report their findings (such as business opportunities and market trends) to sales reps and managers. Relaying this information and collaborating with sales reps and managers to develop and/or update appropriate strategies for your business and audience is critical to your success as an organization.

6. Promote satisfaction and loyalty.

A BDR's interaction with a prospect might be the very first interaction that prospect ever has with your business. So, creating a great first impression right off the bat is crucial to promote interest early on.

Whether a BDR is working to qualify the lead, learn more about the prospect and their needs, or find the right sales rep to work on a deal with them, their interactions with all of your prospects matter.

Once a BDR researches the prospect or begins interacting with them, ensure they tailor all communication towards the prospect. Customizing all content sent their way shows them they’re being listened to and cared for. These actions are professional and leave a strong impression.

In addition to understanding how BDRs help you grow, business development ideas are another powerful way to engage prospects and identify new business opportunities. Let’s take a look.

  • Innovate the way you network.
  • Offer consultations.
  • Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.
  • Nurture prospects.
  • Provide prospects with several types of content.
  • Communicate with marketing.
  • Invest in your website.
  • Push your employees to expand and refine their skills.

Business development ideas are tactics you can implement to positively impact your company in a multitude of different ways. They can help you identify ideal prospects, network more effectively, improve brand awareness, and uncover new opportunities.

The following tactics are here to get you started — every business and team is different, meaning these ideas may or may not be suited for your specific situation. (So, feel free to modify the list!)

1. Innovate the way you network.

It’s no secret cold calls are less effective than they once were. Instead, innovate the way you network by establishing strong relationships with your prospects. You can do this by meeting with them in person at conferences, trade shows, or events related to your industry.

Browse your online networks including LinkedIn and other social sites for potential customers, too. Reach out to the people who sign up for your email subscription or complete other forms on your site.

2. Offer consultations.

Offer consultations and assessments for prospects. Talking about the ways your product or service applies to their needs will help prospects decide whether or not they’ll convert.

In contrast, consultations and assessments may also bring to light the ways a prospect is not an ideal fit for your product (which is equally as valuable since it prevents you from wasting any time nurturing them or having to deal with an unsatisfied customer down the road).

3. Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.

Provide your prospects and leads with sales demos so they can see how your product or service works in action. Ensure these demos are customized to show a prospect or lead how your product solves their challenge. You can share these demos in person, over email, on your website, or via video chat.

4. Nurture prospects.

Remember to nurture your prospects, whether it’s by phone call, email, meeting, or another mode of communication. The point of lead nurturing is to provide any information needed about your product or service so your prospects can decide whether or not they want to make a purchase.

By nurturing your leads , you’ll be able to tailor the content regarding your brand and product so your leads can better understand how your product will solve their specific pain points. You’ll also be able to show your support for the prospect and ensure they feel heard and understood by your company.

5. Provide prospects with several types of content.

Provide your prospects with different content types such as blogs, videos, and social media posts so they can learn more about your brand and product or service.

It’s best to meet your prospects where they are and provide the content they prefer to read or watch. Ensure all of this content is downloadable and/or shareable so prospects can send it to their team members to show them why your solution is their best option.

6. Communicate with marketing.

Although business development lives in the sales department, that doesn’t mean internal business development work only involves other members of the sales team. Host regular meetings and maintain open lines of communication with the departments at your company that impact your ability to succeed such as marketing and product development.

Think about it this way: Marketing creates content and campaigns for your target audience about how your product or service resolves their challenges. So, why wouldn’t you want to talk to them about the blogs, campaigns, social media posts, and website content they’re creating for the people you’re selling to?

Your reps and BDRs can share any content the marketing team creates directly with prospects to help them convert, as well as inform the marketing team of any content they feel is missing for prospects. If there are projects or campaigns out of your scope, you can opt to hire a marketing agency to help fill the void. But, like your marketing team, they'll need to understand your product and how to connect with your target audience.

7. Invest in your website.

You never get a second chance at a first impression, and in many cases, your website is exactly that — your prospects' first impression of your brand. So, it serves you to make it as accessible, navigable, visible, and helpful as possible.

Taking strides like making your site visually engaging, connecting your social media profiles, optimizing your site for search engines, linking to collateral like sales content , and maintaining an active blog can go a long way when conducting business development.

8. Push your employees to expand and refine their skills and knowledge.

Business development is never stagnant. Strategy, technology, and market conditions are all constantly evolving — so you're best off having your employees stay abreast of these trends.

Anyone involved in your business development should be liable to develop new skills as needed. If your organization adopts any sort of new technology, thoroughly train anyone the change touches on how to use it.

Encourage your employees to learn more about both the nuances of their field and the industries they serve. Is artificial intelligence starting to shift the dynamics of a specific industry? If so, make the BDRs who serve that market learn all they can about how it might change the nature of the companies they interact with.

A business development process is the combination of steps your business takes to grow effectively, boost revenue, improve relationships with leads, and more. These steps are what your business development team will work on every day. It includes everything related to delighting customers along each part of the buyer's journey.

By working through your business development process, your team will have a strong understanding of your organization-wide goals, sales targets, current business situation, who your target audience members are, and more.

How to Do Business Development

  • Conduct extensive market research.
  • Raise visibility and awareness.
  • Promote thought leadership.
  • Conduct outreach.
  • Qualify leads to pass off to sales.
  • Provide exemplary customer service.
  • Develop sales content from success stories.

1. Conduct extensive market research.

Successful business development rests, in large part, on you understanding your market and target personas. If you have no idea who you're trying to sell to and the state of the market they comprise, you can't successfully implement any other point on this list.

Study and survey your current customers to see who tends to buy from you. Look into your competition to get a feel for where you fit into your broader market. And take any other strides to get a better feel for the "who" behind your successful sales — without that intel, you'll never be able to shape the "how" side of your business development.

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5 Research and Planning Templates + a Free Guide on How to Use Them in Your Market Research

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2. Raise visibility and awareness.

Business development, as a broader practice, extends beyond your sales org — your marketing department can also play a central role in the process. You can't source a base of potential customers if no one knows who you are.

Actions like constructing an effective website, investing in paid advertising, leveraging social profiles, participating in co-marketing partnerships with industry peers, and maintaining an active blog can all go a long way in supporting successful business development.

3. Promote thought leadership.

This point is sort of an extension of the one above. Establishing credibility is one of the more important steps you can take when doing business development. You can't just stop with prospects knowing who you are — they need to trust you if you're ever going to earn their business.

Publishing in-depth, industry-specific blog content is one way to get there — if you can show that you have a firm grasp on every aspect of your field, you can frame yourself as a reliable, knowledgeable resource for your customers. That kind of trust often translates to sales, down the line. Other media like webinars, white papers, and video content can also help your case.

4. Conduct outreach.

Actively reaching out to prospects is one of the most crucial, traditional elements of business development. You need to touch base with prospects if you're going to vet them and ultimately convert them to qualified leads.

This step is typically supported by extensive research on individual prospects, paired with contacting warm and cold leads proactively but not aggressively. BDRs typically shoulder this responsibility — and for many people, it's the aspect of the process most closely associated with the term "business development."

5. Qualify leads.

Once your BDRs have connected with leads, they need to qualify them to determine their viability and understand whether they're worth the sales org's time and effort. That generally entails having conversations with leads and asking the right qualifying questions to reveal their fit for your product or service.

This is one of the most pivotal moments in the business development process — in some respects, it could be considered its last step. Successfully executing this point typically means the process, as a whole, has worked.

6. Provide exemplary customer service.

Business development is an ongoing process that involves virtually every side of your business in some capacity — and customer service is no exception. Your service org needs to keep current customers happy to generate positive word of mouth and bolster your company's reputation. That kind of effort offers you credibility and can generate referrals, making business development more straightforward and effective.

7. Develop sales content from success stories.

Another part of business development is translating customer satisfaction into actionable, promotable sales content — pointed, product-specific content that's used to generate sales. While marketing content is used for thought leadership and garnering general interest, sales content is used to appeal to potential buyers, looking into your company specifically.

Sales content can come in a variety of forms, including case studies and testimonials — two mediums that lean heavily on your current customer base. When you use customers' experiences to generate interest in your business, your business development efforts essentially come full circle.

Visual of the 7 business development process/strategy stages

By compiling these elements of business development and sharing them among your team, you create an actionable business development strategy or plan that encourages and promotes success and growth. Let's review the different steps involved in creating your business development plan next.

A business development plan is a strategy your team can refer to while working to achieve growth-related goals. Sales managers typically create the business development plan for BDRs to work on.

The purpose of a business development plan (or strategy) is to set realistic goals and targets that allow your reps to grow the business, close more deals, identify prospects, align members of the sales team (and other teams, company-wide), and convert more leads.

1. Craft an elevator pitch.

You can simplify any initial communication with prospects by having an elevator pitch ready to go. This elevator pitch should explain your company’s mission and how your product or service can solve the needs of your target audience. Your elevator pitch should grab the attention of prospects and leads — and get them excited to learn more about what you offer.

Additionally, you can help your team determine which elevator pitches used by both BDRs and reps are most successful in converting leads and then document it in your greater strategy so everyone has access to it.

2. Set SMART goals.

Set SMART goals for your strategy — meaning, make sure your targets are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. By creating SMART goals for your business development plan, you’ll be able to ensure these goals are aligned with those of your entire company.

For example, if one of your goals is to increase your number of identified qualified leads this quarter by 5% , make the goal specific by determining the type of prospects you’ll focus on and how you’ll identify them.

Then, decide how you’ll measure your success — perhaps by measuring the number of these prospects who then go on to talk with a sales rep to learn more about the product or service.

You determine this goal is attainable due to the fact you increased your number of qualified leads last quarter by 3%. 5% isn’t too much of a leap.

Your goal is relevant because you know it’ll help your business grow — it pushes you to make a greater impact on your team by contributing to the sales team’s ability to close more deals and boost revenue. Lastly, it’s timely because you’ve set this goal for the quarter.

business development plan introduction

Free SMART Goal Template

A free template to help you create S.M.A.R.T. goals for marketing campaign success.

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3. Conduct a SWOT analysis.

As mentioned above, part of any role in business development is to stay up-to-date on market and industry trends and understand your competition. This is where SWOT analysis comes in handy — SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats . The key to using SWOT analysis correctly is to have a clear goal in mind first.

For example, if your goal is to determine the best way to handle outreach with prospects , you can begin talking to your BDRs, sales reps, sales managers, and current customers about what works best for them.

Next, think about your strengths — what does your business do well? Maybe you have a large support team that provides helpful onboarding for new customers. Or you have several remote reps who can meet face-to-face with prospects in their desired location.

(You might have multiple strengths that make you stand out, so don’t be afraid to list them all and which ones have the greatest impact on your customers.)

Now, think about your weaknesses . Are your product’s limited offerings requiring some leads to consider your competition’s product in addition to yours? Is the need for your product growing faster than your production, or faster than you’re able to establish a large customer support team to assist your customers?

Onto your business opportunities . Think about where you’re going as a business and what you know you can accomplish. For example, maybe your business has recently partnered with another company that can help you boost brand awareness and attract a much broader base of leads and customers.

Lastly, who are your threats ? Think about your current competition — who’s producing a product or service like yours and is attracting a similar target audience? Who could become your competition in the future — is there a market gap that another company (new or established) could identify the need for and begin selling?

SWOT analysis allows you to identify the ways your company can create opportunities to grow and expand. It also helps how you establish new processes to address any weaknesses or threats such as identifying more qualified leads, efficiently converting prospects into customers, and shortening the sales cycle.

4. Determine how you’ll measure success.

Depending on the SMART goals you created and the SWOT analysis you performed, you’ll also need to decide how you’re going to measure your business development success.

Here are some examples of common business development KPIs that can help you analyze your efforts:

  • Company growth
  • Changes in revenue
  • Lead conversion rate
  • Leads generated per month/ quarter/ predetermined time
  • Prospect and customer satisfaction
  • Pipeline value

5. Set a budget.

Depending on the type of business development goals you set for the team, you may determine you need to set a budget. Consider your resources, the cost of any previous business development strategies you’ve developed, and other important operational line items (what you need, who’s involved, etc.).

Collaborate with the greater team to determine the amount you’re willing to, and need to, spend on business development to get the process started at your company.

6. Always keep your target audience in mind.

Whatever it is you’re working towards, keep your target audience and ideal prospects in mind. Assess their needs and understand exactly how your business and product or service will meet their pain points.

After all, this audience is the group who is most likely to buy your product. Make sure your plan addresses them and their needs so your team can convert more of them and grow your business.

7. Choose an outreach strategy.

As we’ve reviewed above, a major component of business development is finding new prospects and potential customers. To find new prospects, you’ll need to decide how you’ll perform outreach, or connect with these potential customers. Here are some ideas:

  • Use referrals
  • Upsell and cross-sell
  • Sponsorship and advertisement

Also, review any expectations or guardrails related to outreach reps are held to so your business has only professional and on-brand interactions with prospects.

Congrats! You’ve just completed your business development plan — with your strategy and ideas, your business will be growing in no time.

Business Development Resources

1. hubspot sales hub.

Business Development Resources Hubspot

Best for Businesses Interested in a Wide-Reaching, One-Stop Solution

HubSpot Sales Hub includes a suite of resources that enable more focused, effective business development. Features like email templates and email tracking lend themselves to well-targeted, productive prospecting.

Its conversational intelligence capabilities can provide invaluable insight into the "why" behind your BDRs' overall performance — letting you pinpoint the strengths and flaws in key business development elements like your messaging and pain point assessments.

Sales Hub is a dynamic solution that covers a lot of bases for your sales org — including several beyond business development. But that wide range of applications doesn't undermine its utility for BDRs and their managers. If you're looking for a solution that addresses almost every component of successful business development, consider investing in HubSpot Sales Hub.

2. Bloobirds

image_Playbook_Builder

Best for Businesses Interested in Keeping BDRs and Top-of-Funnel Activities on Track

Bloobirds is a sales engagement and playbook platform that guides SDRs and closing reps to convert more prospects into customers. It partners with your existing CRM — sitting on top of it to make it more functional for the sales team.

It eliminates admin tasks, makes selling more intuitive, and makes sure reps follow best plays with the in-app playbook's help. Bloobirds helps sales teams flow through their pipeline — it also collects crucial data and creates competitive insights.

3. Leadfeeder

Business Development Resources leadfeeder

Best for Businesses Struggling to Generate High-Potential Leads

Leadfeeder is a powerful resource for enhancing a central element of any business development efforts — lead generation The platform helps you identify high-potential leads by automatically analyzing your website traffic.

The software removes ISP traffic to pin down visitors' companies and gauge interest. It also lets you create behavioral and demographic filters for better-informed, more productive lead segmentation.

Successful business development often leans, in large part, on your ability to generate high-quality leads — so if you're interested in effectively sourcing those contacts, you'll need to invest in some sort of lead generation software. Leadfeeder is as good a place as any to start.

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4. LinkedIn

Business Development Resources LinkedIn

Best for Businesses Looking for a Free Way to Source Leads

LinkedIn is one of the most prominent, practical, effective resources for certain key elements of the business development process — namely, prospecting. The value behind leveraging social media for top-of-funnel sales activities isn't exactly some well-kept secret.

Plenty of business development professionals already use channels like LinkedIn to source, screen, and connect with potential leads. Strides like scrolling through skill endorsements, using alumni searches, and engaging with users who have looked at your posts are all excellent ways to find interested prospects and enhance your business development efforts.

Business Development Helps You Grow Better

Business development is a crucial part of any successful company. It’s how you determine the best ways to boost revenue, identify your ideal prospects, generate more leads, and close more deals.

Think about how you can make a strong business development plan and ensure you have the right group of business development reps so you can begin growing your business today.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Library Home

Business Plan Development Guide

(6 reviews)

business development plan introduction

Lee Swanson, University of Saskatchewan

Copyright Year: 2017

Publisher: OPENPRESS.USASK.CA

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.

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Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Kevin Heupel, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 3/4/20

The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element of the business plan. Some examples from actual business plans would be helpful.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

For the most part, the content is accurate. The content covers all important aspects of drafting a business plan. I thought the industry analysis could use more information about collecting primary and secondary sources; instead, this information was referenced in the marketing plan section.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Most of the content relies on cites as far back as 2006; however, when it comes to developing and writing a business plan nothing has changed. Thus, the content is current and there is no concern about it becoming obsolete in the near future.

Clarity rating: 4

The text is clear. There are no difficult terms used and the writing is simple. The text uses a lot of bullet points though, which gets tedious to read for a few pages.

Consistency rating: 5

The text does a good job of maintaining consistency in terms of framework and terminology. The text is organized where it's easy to find the information you want in a quick manner.

Modularity rating: 3

The text has a lot of bullet points and the paragraphs are dense. However, the use of subheading is excellent.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The book is organized as if you're writing a business plan from start to finish, which is helpful as a practical guide.

Interface rating: 5

There are no navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, or any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text is free of grammatical errors. The sentence structure is simple with many bullet points, which helps to avoid any grammatical issues.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

This book was written by a Canadian professor and provides references to Canadian sources. However, the information in this text can be used for U.S. schools.

This book is very short and provides a good, general overview about the process of creating and writing a business plan. It won't help a reader if he/she is confused about a certain part of the business plan. The reader will have to find another source, such as "Preparing Effective Business Plans" by Bruce Barringer, Ph.D. The book provides links to good resources and a finished business plan that the reader can reference. I would recommend the book for undergraduate courses.

business development plan introduction

Reviewed by Kenneth Lacho, Professor of Management, The University of New Orleans on 6/19/18

1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or... read more

1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or economic area relevant to this proposed business. 4. Business model ok as a guide. 5. Suggested mission statement to cover: product/business, target customer, geographical area covered. 6. Need detailed promotion plan, e.g., personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, networking publicity, and social media. 7. How do you find the target market? 8. Chapter 6 too much detail on debt and equity financing. 9. Discuss how to find sources of financing, e.g., angels. 10. Expand coverage of bootstring, crowdfunding. 11. Chapter 4 – good checklist. 12. Chapter 3 - overlaps. 13. Chapter 7 – 3 pages of executive summary – double or single spaced typing. Number all tables, graphs. 14. Some references out-of-date, mostly academic. Bring in trade magazines such as Entrepreneur.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

In my opinion, the content is accurate and error free.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

The material is relevant to writing a business plan. I wonder if the Porter, SWOT VRIO, etc. material is too high level for students who may not be seniors or have non-business degrees (e.g., liberal arts). Porter has been around for a while and does have longevity. The author has to be more alert to changes in promotion, e.g., social media and sources of financing, e.g., crowdfunding.

Clarity rating: 3

As noted in No. 9, the tone of the writing is too academic, thus making the material difficult to understand. Paragraphs are too long. Need to define: Porter, TOWS Matrix, VRIO, PESTEL. A student less from a senior or a non-business major would not be familiar with these terms.

Consistency rating: 4

The text is internally consistent. The model approach helps keep the process consistent.

Modularity rating: 4

The process of developing a business plan is divided into blocks which are parts of the business plan. Paragraphs tend to be too long in some spots.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The topics are presented in a logical step-wise flow. The language style is too academic in parts, paragraphs too long. Leaves out the citations. Provides excellent check lists.

There are no display features which confuse the reader.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

The text has no grammatical errors. On the other hand, I found the writing to be too academic in nature. Some paragraphs are too long. The material is more like an academic conference paper or journal submission. Academic citations references are not needed. The material is not exciting to read.

The text is culturally neutral. There are no examples which are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

This book best for a graduate class.

Reviewed by Louis Bruneau, Part Time Faculty, Portland Community College on 6/19/18

The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials.

Contents of the book were accurate, although it could have benefited from editing/proofreading; there was no evidence of bias. As to editing/proofreading, a couple of examples: A. “Figure 1 – Business Plan… “ is shown at the top of the page following the diagram vs. the bottom of the page the diagram is on. (There are other problems with what is placed on each page.) B. First paragraph under heading “Essential Initial Research” there is reference to pages 21 to 30 though page numbering is missing from the book. (Page numbers are used in the Table of Contents.)

The book is current in that business planning has been stable for sometime. The references and resources will age in time, but are limited and look easy to update.

Clarity rating: 5

The book is written in a straightforward way, technical terms that needed explanations got them, jargon was avoided and generally it was an easy read.

The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 5

The book lends itself to a multi-week course. A chapter could be presented and students could work on that stage of Plan development. It could also be pre-meeting reading for a workshop presentation. Reorganizing the book would be inappropriate.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.

Generally, the book is free of interface problems. The financial tables in the Sample Plan were turned 90° to maintain legibility. One potential problem was with Figure 6 – Business Model Canvas. The print within the cells was too small to read; the author mitigated the problem by presenting the information, following Figure 6, in the type font of the text.

I found no grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

I require a business plan in a course I teach; for most of the students the assignment is a course project that they do not intend to pursue in real life. I shared the book with five students that intended to develop an actual start-up business; three of them found it helpful while the other two decided not to do that much work on their plans. If I were planning a start-up, I would use/follow the book.

Reviewed by Todd Johnson, Faculty of Business, North Hennepin Community College on 5/21/18

The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan.

The content is accurate and seems to lack bias.

Content seems relevant and useful . It does not help an entrepreneur generate ideas, and is very light on crowdfunding and other novel funding source content. It is more traditional. This can be easily updated in future versions, however. "Social Media" appears once in the book, as does "Crowd Funding".

The book is comprehensive, but perhaps not written in the most lucid, accessible prose. I am not sure any college student could pick this up and just read and learn. It would be best used as a "teach along guide" for students to process with an instructor.

The text seems consistent. The author does a nice job of consistently staying on task and using bullets and brevity.

Here I am not so certain. The table of contents is not a good guide for this book. It does make the book look nicely laid out, but there is a lot of complexity within these sections. I read it uncertain that it was well organized. Yes there are many good bits of information, however it is not as if I could spend time on one swathe of text at a time. I would need to go back and forth throughout the text.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 2

Similar to the above. I did not like the flow and organization of this. An editor would help things be in a more logical order.

Interface rating: 2

The interface is just OK. It is not an attractice interface, as it presents text in a very dense manner. The images and charts are hard to follow.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

I a not certain of the origins of Saskatchewan, but I do feel this is a different read. It is more formal and dense than it has to be. This would be a difficult read for my students. I do not feel it is insensitive in any way, or offensive in any way.

I would not adopt this book if given the chance. It is too dense, and not organized very well, even though the information is very good. The density and lack of modularity are barriers to understanding what is obviously very good information.

Reviewed by Mariana Mitova, Lecturer, Bowling Green State University on 2/1/18

Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to... read more

Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to other resources add to the completeness of the textbook.

Content seems accurate.

Since the content is somewhat conceptual, the text will not become obsolete quickly. In addition, the author seems to be updating and editing content often hence the relevance to current developments is on target.

The text is very clear, written in clear and straight-to-the point language.

The organization of content is consistent throughout the entire text.

The textbook is organized by chapters, beginning with overview of the model used and followed by chapters for each concept within the model. Nicely done.

The flow is clear, logical and easy to follow.

Overall, images, links, and text are well organized. Some headlines were misaligned but still easy to follow.

No concerns for grammar.

No concerns for cultural irrelevance.

Reviewed by Darlene Weibye, Cosmetology Instructor, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on 2/1/18

The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning. read more

The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning.

The text was accurate, and error-free. I did not find the book to be biased.

The content is up-to-date. I am reviewing the book in 2017, the same year the book was published.

The content was very clear. A business plan sample included operation timelines, start up costs, and all relevant material in starting a business.

The book is very consistent and is well organized.

The book has a table of contents and is broken down into specific chapters. The chapters are not divided into sub topics. I do not feel it is necessary for sub topics because the chapters are brief and to the point.

There is a great flow from chapter to chapter. One topic clearly leads into the next without repeating.

The table of contents has direct links to each chapter. The appearance of the chapters are easy to read and the charts are very beneficial.

Does not appear to have any grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.

I am incorporating some of the text into the salon business course. Very well written book.

Table of Contents

Introduction

  • Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan
  • Chapter 2 – Essential Initial Research
  • Chapter 3 – Business Models
  • Chapter 4 – Initial Business Plan Draft
  • Chapter 5 – Making the Business Plan Realistic
  • Chapter 6 – Making the Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur
  • Chapter 7 – Finishing the Business Plan
  • Chapter 8 – Business Plan Pitches

References Appendix A – Business Plan Development Checklist and Project Planner Appendix B – Fashion Importers Inc. Business Plan Business Plan Excel Template

Ancillary Material

About the book.

This textbook and its accompanying spreadsheet templates were designed with and for students wanting a practical and easy-to-follow guide for developing a business plan. It follows a unique format that both explains what to do and demonstrates how to do it.

About the Contributors

Dr. Lee Swanson is an Associate Professor of Management and Marketing at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. His research focuses on entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, Aboriginal entrepreneurship, community capacity-building through entrepreneurship, and institutional-stakeholder engagement. Dr. Swanson’s current research is funded through a Social Sciences Humanities Research Council grant and focuses on social and economic capacity building in Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Scandinavia. He is also actively studying Aboriginal community partnerships with resource based companies, entrepreneurship centres at universities, community-based entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions. He teaches upper-year and MBA entrepreneurship classes and conducts seminars on business planning and business development.

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How to Develop a Business Strategy: 6 Steps

colleagues developing a business strategy using sticky notes on glass window

  • 25 Oct 2022

Business strategy can seem daunting, and for good reason: It can make or break an organization. Yet, developing a strong strategy doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

In the online course Business Strategy , Harvard Business School Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee posits that strategy is simple. His secret? Focus on your organization’s value creation.

“Strategy often sounds like a lofty concept that only the most senior executives can develop,” Oberholzer-Gee says. “But actually, anyone can think and act strategically. It doesn’t need to be difficult; all you need is a proven framework.”

Here’s a breakdown of why business strategy is important, the basics of value-based strategy, and six steps for developing your own.

Why Do You Need a Business Strategy?

Business strategy is the development, alignment, and integration of an organization’s strategic initiatives to give it a competitive edge in the market. Devising a business strategy can ensure you have a clear plan for reaching organizational goals and continue to survive and thrive.

According to a study by Bridges Business Consultancy , 48 percent of organizations fail to meet half of their strategic targets and 85 percent fail to meet two-thirds, highlighting why dedication to the business strategy process is crucial.

One type of business strategy is called value-based strategy, which simplifies the process by leveraging the value stick framework to focus on the advantage your business creates.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Value-Based Strategy?

Value-based strategy , also called value-based pricing, is a pricing method in which an organization relies on the perceived value of its goods and services to determine its pricing structure and resource allocation.

The value stick framework can be used to visualize how various factors impact each other and determine which initiatives to pursue to increase value for all parties.

The value stick framework

The value stick has four factors:

  • Willingness to pay (WTP) : The highest price a customer is willing to pay for your product or service
  • Price : The amount customers have to pay for goods or services
  • Cost : The amount a company spends on producing goods or services
  • Willingness to sell (WTS) : The lowest amount suppliers are willing to accept for the materials required to produce goods or services

To determine how to best create value, you can toggle each factor on the value stick to see how the others are affected. For instance, lowering price increases customer delight.

"As strategists, we really ask three questions,” Oberholzer-Gee says in Business Strategy. “How can my business best create value for customers? How can my business create value for employees? And how can my business create value by collaborating with suppliers? Think of a company's strategy as an answer to these three questions."

Related: 4 Business Strategy Skills Every Business Leader Needs

6 Steps to Develop a Value-Based Business Strategy

1. define your purpose.

When approaching business strategy, defining your organization’s purpose can be a useful starting point.

This is vital in creating customer and employee value, especially if your organization’s purpose is linked to a cause such as environmental protection or alleviating specific social issues.

A recent survey conducted by clean energy company Swytch found that nearly 75 percent of millennials would take a decrease in salary if it meant working for an environmentally responsible company. Nearly 40 percent selected one job over another because of an organization’s sustainability practices.

Additionally, research in the Harvard Business Review shows that consumers’ motivation to buy from sustainable brands is on the rise. Sales of products marked as sustainable grew more than five times faster than those that weren’t.

By starting with purpose, your organization can create more value down the line.

2. Assess Market Opportunity

Next, understand your market’s competitive landscape. Which companies own shares of the market? What differentiates your competitors’ products from yours? Are there any unmet needs your organization could take advantage of?

Conducting this research before planning a strategy is critical in identifying how your organization provides unique customer value and opportunities to create even more.

3. Create Value for Customers

With an understanding of the market and your company’s purpose, you can determine how your organization provides unique or greater value and strategize ways to improve.

On the value stick, the value captured by customers is called “customer delight.” It can be increased by raising their willingness to pay and decreasing the product’s price. If lowering the price isn’t an option, brainstorm how you could make the product more valuable to customers, thus increasing their willingness to pay.

Some ways to create customer value include:

  • Lowering the product’s price
  • Increasing the product’s physical quality and longevity
  • Providing quick, high-quality customer service and a smooth shopping experience
  • Leveraging network effects , if applicable, to create a community of users
  • Incorporating an environmental or social cause into processes, packaging, and branding

4. Create Value for Suppliers

In addition to creating value for customers, you also need to provide value for suppliers. Suppliers can include any company that provides raw materials, labor, and transportation to help your organization produce goods or deliver services.

Supplier surplus, also called supplier delight, is created when the cost of materials increases or their willingness to sell decreases. The relationship between a firm and its suppliers can be contentious, given that both want to increase their margins. Yet, there are ways to create value for both parties.

Some ways to create value for suppliers include:

  • Agreeing to pay more for higher quality materials : While this increases the supplier surplus, it may also increase customer delight by raising willingness to pay, or increase the firm’s margin by allowing you to raise prices.
  • Working with the supplier to increase efficiency : This strategy can increase supplier surplus by lowering the overall cost of the supplier’s labor and their willingness to sell.

Business Strategy | Simplify Strategy to Make the Greatest Business Impact | Learn More

5. Create Value for Employees

Creating value for employees is a critical part of an effective business strategy and can be assessed using the value stick. Think of your employees as the “supplier” of labor and the supplier margin as employee satisfaction.

Employee satisfaction can be increased by raising wages or lowering the minimum salary they’re willing to receive by delivering value in other ways. Satisfied employees may provide a better customer experience, resulting in increased customer delight.

The value you provide employees ensures they’re motivated to do their best work, develop their skills, and stay with your company long-term.

Some examples of ways to create value for your employees include:

  • Offering competitive salaries and bonuses
  • Offering benefits like ample paid vacation and sick days, generous parental leave, and wellness budgets
  • Providing flexibility of work location, whether your team is fully remote or hybrid
  • Aiding in professional development
  • Creating a workplace rich with a diversity of experiences, identities, and ideas
  • Fostering a supportive organizational culture

One example from Business Strategy is that of a call center for a diagnostics company. The employees were being paid minimum wage and expressed that the analytical nature of their phone calls with customers warranted higher pay. They also expressed pain points about cumbersome tasks and work conditions.

When a pay increase was implemented for all employees, along with operational changes to make processes smoother, employee productivity increased to the point that it balanced out the higher cost of salaries.

Because the employees’ satisfaction increased, they also began providing better experiences on the phone with customers. This increased the customers’ willingness to pay, directly impacting customer delight.

6. Map Strategy to Actionable Tasks and KPIs

Amidst creating value for each of the three groups, don’t forget the fourth party that needs value: your company. By creating value for employees, suppliers, and customers, you’re creating value for your firm, too.

To ensure you’re tracking to goals, determine your key performance indicators, what metrics constitute success, and how you’ll report results over time. Then, break each of the above value-creation goals into action items. For instance, what steps can you take to increase your employees’ compensation? Who will be responsible for each task?

Having actionable assignments and clear metrics for success will allow for a smooth transition from strategy formulation to execution.

Which HBS Online Strategy Course is Right for You? | Download Your Free Flowchart

Building Your Strategic Skill Set

By leveraging the value stick, you can create a business strategy that provides value to employees, customers, suppliers, and your firm.

To develop your strategies further and dig deeper into how to navigate value creation, consider taking an online course like Business Strategy . Professor Oberholzer-Gee walks through real-world examples of business challenges, prompts you to consider how you’d create value, and then reveals what those business leaders did and how you can apply the lessons to your organization.

Want to learn more about how to craft a successful strategy for your organization? Explore Business Strategy , one of our online strategy courses , to learn how to create organizational value. Not sure which course is the right fit? Download our free flowchart .

business development plan introduction

About the Author

  • A Game-Changing Business Development Strategy to Achieve Consistent Growth

Joe Pope

Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.

Business Development Defined

Business development (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.

The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown in Figure 1.

business development funnel

Figure 1: The three stages of the business development funnel

The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.

But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.

Business Development vs. Marketing

Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and it’s offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.

Download the Business Development Guide

Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.  

Business Development vs. Sales

Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.  

Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.

Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.

Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.

As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.

The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.

It is this expanded role, where business development encompasses the full range of lead generation, nurturing and sales tasks, which we will concentrate on in this post.

See also: Heller Consulting Case Story

Business Development Examples

To be clear on what this role entails, let’s consider this business development example:

Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved with any aspect of delivering the projects that the firm has signed. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—with either new clients or existing ones. 

For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of new materials she needs to sell to new accounts.

When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also has a role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. Moreover, she maintains a relationship with key stakeholders of her firm’s clients. If another opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component to that potential deal.

In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Imagine she has a colleague Greg who is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s first focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—should still be a part of his professional life. Perhaps Greg attends an industry conference with Bethany, he as a speaker and expert and her as the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany and should permeate the whole organization.

In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential for business development to not be ad hoc, but done strategically. Let’s talk about that now.

Strategic Business Development

Not all business development is of equal impact. In fact a lot of the activities of many professionals are very opportunistic and tactical in nature.This is especially true with many seller-doers. 

Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.

Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.

 Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.

Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.

Top Business Development Strategies

Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up with today’s buyers .

Networking is probably the most universally used business development strategy. It’s built on the theory that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.

It certainly is true that many relationships do develop in that way. And if you are networking with your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.

Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.

The close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.

Clearly, referrals do happen, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.

The problem is referral sources often do not know the full range of how you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One recent study puts the number at over 50%.

Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.

Learn More: Referral Marketing Course

Sponsorships and Advertising

Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.

Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.

The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.

Outbound Telephone and Mail

Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.

There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.

The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.

Thought Leadership and Content Marketing

Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.

Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.

But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.

But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.

Combined Strategies

It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.

But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.

Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.

It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.

Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.

Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics

The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.

From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.

On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.

10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics

Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at over 1000 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.

These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.

The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:

  • Outbound sales calls from internal teams
  • Providing assessments and/or consultations
  • Speaking at targeted conferences or events
  • Live product/service demonstrations
  • Presenting in educational webinars
  • Pursuing industry award opportunities
  • Business development materials
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Conducting and publishing original research
  • Networking at targeted conferences or events

There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number three on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.

The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.

Business Development Skills

Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.

When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms who grow faster have a skill advantage within their marketing and business development teams.

business development plan introduction

Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list. 

The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Activities like the proposal development see business development team resources manage and produce a strong proposal quickly, including the right stakeholders, and without sacrificing quality.

The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are strong communicators of your firm’s service offerings and capabilities. Those who are able to take a comlex scope of work and communicate it in a way that a potential buyer can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or overly complicated charts is a fast way to see a business lead become unresponsive. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.

The third most important business development skill is face-to-face networking. Despite the hiatus of many in-person events, high growth firms still reported that strong networking skills are a top skill enjoyed by their firms. Strong face-to-face networking skills are as much of an art as it is a science. While some can be more charismatic than others, everyone can prepare their teams with the resources and plan they need to succeed in a networking environment.

Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop. Strategy development for planning your business development plan, research for understanding the competitive landscape and industry trends, and social media prowess all play an important role in business development, too. Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.

How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan

A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.

Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.

Define your target audience

Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.

Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors

The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?

Identify your competitive advantage

What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative, or the industry’s leading expert? This “positioning” as it is often called, needs to be true, provable and relevant to the prospect at the time they are choosing which firm to work with. Be sure to document this positioning, as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.

Choose your overall business development strategy

Pick the broad strategy or strategies to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.

Click to play video

Choose your business development tactics

A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what works with the audience.

Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term nurturing. You need to cover the full funnel.

Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.

Online and Traditional Marketing

Figure 2. Online and offline marketing techniques

When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.

Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact

Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious affect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.

If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.

business development plan introduction

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business development plan introduction

  • 11.4 The Business Plan
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
  • 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
  • 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Review Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Case Questions
  • Suggested Resources
  • 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
  • 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
  • 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
  • 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
  • 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
  • 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
  • 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
  • 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
  • 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
  • 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
  • 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
  • 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
  • 5.3 Competitive Analysis
  • 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
  • 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
  • 6.3 Design Thinking
  • 6.4 Lean Processes
  • 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
  • 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
  • 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
  • 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
  • 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
  • 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
  • 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
  • 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
  • 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
  • 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
  • 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
  • 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
  • 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
  • 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
  • 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
  • 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
  • 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
  • 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
  • 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
  • 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
  • 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
  • 11.2 Designing the Business Model
  • 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
  • 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
  • 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
  • 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
  • 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
  • 13.2 Corporations
  • 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
  • 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
  • 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
  • 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
  • 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
  • 14.1 Types of Resources
  • 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
  • 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
  • 15.1 Launching Your Venture
  • 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
  • 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
  • 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
  • 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
  • A | Suggested Resources

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the different purposes of a business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a brief business plan
  • Describe and develop the components of a full business plan

Unlike the brief or lean formats introduced so far, the business plan is a formal document used for the long-range planning of a company’s operation. It typically includes background information, financial information, and a summary of the business. Investors nearly always request a formal business plan because it is an integral part of their evaluation of whether to invest in a company. Although nothing in business is permanent, a business plan typically has components that are more “set in stone” than a business model canvas , which is more commonly used as a first step in the planning process and throughout the early stages of a nascent business. A business plan is likely to describe the business and industry, market strategies, sales potential, and competitive analysis, as well as the company’s long-term goals and objectives. An in-depth formal business plan would follow at later stages after various iterations to business model canvases. The business plan usually projects financial data over a three-year period and is typically required by banks or other investors to secure funding. The business plan is a roadmap for the company to follow over multiple years.

Some entrepreneurs prefer to use the canvas process instead of the business plan, whereas others use a shorter version of the business plan, submitting it to investors after several iterations. There are also entrepreneurs who use the business plan earlier in the entrepreneurial process, either preceding or concurrently with a canvas. For instance, Chris Guillebeau has a one-page business plan template in his book The $100 Startup . 48 His version is basically an extension of a napkin sketch without the detail of a full business plan. As you progress, you can also consider a brief business plan (about two pages)—if you want to support a rapid business launch—and/or a standard business plan.

As with many aspects of entrepreneurship, there are no clear hard and fast rules to achieving entrepreneurial success. You may encounter different people who want different things (canvas, summary, full business plan), and you also have flexibility in following whatever tool works best for you. Like the canvas, the various versions of the business plan are tools that will aid you in your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Business Plan Overview

Most business plans have several distinct sections ( Figure 11.16 ). The business plan can range from a few pages to twenty-five pages or more, depending on the purpose and the intended audience. For our discussion, we’ll describe a brief business plan and a standard business plan. If you are able to successfully design a business model canvas, then you will have the structure for developing a clear business plan that you can submit for financial consideration.

Both types of business plans aim at providing a picture and roadmap to follow from conception to creation. If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept.

The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, dealing with the proverbial devil in the details. Developing a full business plan will assist those of you who need a more detailed and structured roadmap, or those of you with little to no background in business. The business planning process includes the business model, a feasibility analysis, and a full business plan, which we will discuss later in this section. Next, we explore how a business plan can meet several different needs.

Purposes of a Business Plan

A business plan can serve many different purposes—some internal, others external. As we discussed previously, you can use a business plan as an internal early planning device, an extension of a napkin sketch, and as a follow-up to one of the canvas tools. A business plan can be an organizational roadmap , that is, an internal planning tool and working plan that you can apply to your business in order to reach your desired goals over the course of several years. The business plan should be written by the owners of the venture, since it forces a firsthand examination of the business operations and allows them to focus on areas that need improvement.

Refer to the business venture throughout the document. Generally speaking, a business plan should not be written in the first person.

A major external purpose for the business plan is as an investment tool that outlines financial projections, becoming a document designed to attract investors. In many instances, a business plan can complement a formal investor’s pitch. In this context, the business plan is a presentation plan, intended for an outside audience that may or may not be familiar with your industry, your business, and your competitors.

You can also use your business plan as a contingency plan by outlining some “what-if” scenarios and exploring how you might respond if these scenarios unfold. Pretty Young Professional launched in November 2010 as an online resource to guide an emerging generation of female leaders. The site focused on recent female college graduates and current students searching for professional roles and those in their first professional roles. It was founded by four friends who were coworkers at the global consultancy firm McKinsey. But after positions and equity were decided among them, fundamental differences of opinion about the direction of the business emerged between two factions, according to the cofounder and former CEO Kathryn Minshew . “I think, naively, we assumed that if we kicked the can down the road on some of those things, we’d be able to sort them out,” Minshew said. Minshew went on to found a different professional site, The Muse , and took much of the editorial team of Pretty Young Professional with her. 49 Whereas greater planning potentially could have prevented the early demise of Pretty Young Professional, a change in planning led to overnight success for Joshua Esnard and The Cut Buddy team. Esnard invented and patented the plastic hair template that he was selling online out of his Fort Lauderdale garage while working a full-time job at Broward College and running a side business. Esnard had hundreds of boxes of Cut Buddies sitting in his home when he changed his marketing plan to enlist companies specializing in making videos go viral. It worked so well that a promotional video for the product garnered 8 million views in hours. The Cut Buddy sold over 4,000 products in a few hours when Esnard only had hundreds remaining. Demand greatly exceeded his supply, so Esnard had to scramble to increase manufacturing and offered customers two-for-one deals to make up for delays. This led to selling 55,000 units, generating $700,000 in sales in 2017. 50 After appearing on Shark Tank and landing a deal with Daymond John that gave the “shark” a 20-percent equity stake in return for $300,000, The Cut Buddy has added new distribution channels to include retail sales along with online commerce. Changing one aspect of a business plan—the marketing plan—yielded success for The Cut Buddy.

Link to Learning

Watch this video of Cut Buddy’s founder, Joshua Esnard, telling his company’s story to learn more.

If you opt for the brief business plan, you will focus primarily on articulating a big-picture overview of your business concept. This version is used to interest potential investors, employees, and other stakeholders, and will include a financial summary “box,” but it must have a disclaimer, and the founder/entrepreneur may need to have the people who receive it sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) . The full business plan is aimed at executing the vision concept, providing supporting details, and would be required by financial institutions and others as they formally become stakeholders in the venture. Both are aimed at providing a picture and roadmap to go from conception to creation.

Types of Business Plans

The brief business plan is similar to an extended executive summary from the full business plan. This concise document provides a broad overview of your entrepreneurial concept, your team members, how and why you will execute on your plans, and why you are the ones to do so. You can think of a brief business plan as a scene setter or—since we began this chapter with a film reference—as a trailer to the full movie. The brief business plan is the commercial equivalent to a trailer for Field of Dreams , whereas the full plan is the full-length movie equivalent.

Brief Business Plan or Executive Summary

As the name implies, the brief business plan or executive summary summarizes key elements of the entire business plan, such as the business concept, financial features, and current business position. The executive summary version of the business plan is your opportunity to broadly articulate the overall concept and vision of the company for yourself, for prospective investors, and for current and future employees.

A typical executive summary is generally no longer than a page, but because the brief business plan is essentially an extended executive summary, the executive summary section is vital. This is the “ask” to an investor. You should begin by clearly stating what you are asking for in the summary.

In the business concept phase, you’ll describe the business, its product, and its markets. Describe the customer segment it serves and why your company will hold a competitive advantage. This section may align roughly with the customer segments and value-proposition segments of a canvas.

Next, highlight the important financial features, including sales, profits, cash flows, and return on investment. Like the financial portion of a feasibility analysis, the financial analysis component of a business plan may typically include items like a twelve-month profit and loss projection, a three- or four-year profit and loss projection, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a breakeven calculation. You can explore a feasibility study and financial projections in more depth in the formal business plan. Here, you want to focus on the big picture of your numbers and what they mean.

The current business position section can furnish relevant information about you and your team members and the company at large. This is your opportunity to tell the story of how you formed the company, to describe its legal status (form of operation), and to list the principal players. In one part of the extended executive summary, you can cover your reasons for starting the business: Here is an opportunity to clearly define the needs you think you can meet and perhaps get into the pains and gains of customers. You also can provide a summary of the overall strategic direction in which you intend to take the company. Describe the company’s mission, vision, goals and objectives, overall business model, and value proposition.

Rice University’s Student Business Plan Competition, one of the largest and overall best-regarded graduate school business-plan competitions (see Telling Your Entrepreneurial Story and Pitching the Idea ), requires an executive summary of up to five pages to apply. 51 , 52 Its suggested sections are shown in Table 11.2 .

Are You Ready?

Create a brief business plan.

Fill out a canvas of your choosing for a well-known startup: Uber, Netflix, Dropbox, Etsy, Airbnb, Bird/Lime, Warby Parker, or any of the companies featured throughout this chapter or one of your choice. Then create a brief business plan for that business. See if you can find a version of the company’s actual executive summary, business plan, or canvas. Compare and contrast your vision with what the company has articulated.

  • These companies are well established but is there a component of what you charted that you would advise the company to change to ensure future viability?
  • Map out a contingency plan for a “what-if” scenario if one key aspect of the company or the environment it operates in were drastically is altered?

Full Business Plan

Even full business plans can vary in length, scale, and scope. Rice University sets a ten-page cap on business plans submitted for the full competition. The IndUS Entrepreneurs , one of the largest global networks of entrepreneurs, also holds business plan competitions for students through its Tie Young Entrepreneurs program. In contrast, business plans submitted for that competition can usually be up to twenty-five pages. These are just two examples. Some components may differ slightly; common elements are typically found in a formal business plan outline. The next section will provide sample components of a full business plan for a fictional business.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should provide an overview of your business with key points and issues. Because the summary is intended to summarize the entire document, it is most helpful to write this section last, even though it comes first in sequence. The writing in this section should be especially concise. Readers should be able to understand your needs and capabilities at first glance. The section should tell the reader what you want and your “ask” should be explicitly stated in the summary.

Describe your business, its product or service, and the intended customers. Explain what will be sold, who it will be sold to, and what competitive advantages the business has. Table 11.3 shows a sample executive summary for the fictional company La Vida Lola.

Business Description

This section describes the industry, your product, and the business and success factors. It should provide a current outlook as well as future trends and developments. You also should address your company’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Summarize your overall strategic direction, your reasons for starting the business, a description of your products and services, your business model, and your company’s value proposition. Consider including the Standard Industrial Classification/North American Industry Classification System (SIC/NAICS) code to specify the industry and insure correct identification. The industry extends beyond where the business is located and operates, and should include national and global dynamics. Table 11.4 shows a sample business description for La Vida Lola.

Industry Analysis and Market Strategies

Here you should define your market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends, and sales potential. You’ll want to include your TAM and forecast the SAM . (Both these terms are discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis .) This is a place to address market segmentation strategies by geography, customer attributes, or product orientation. Describe your positioning relative to your competitors’ in terms of pricing, distribution, promotion plan, and sales potential. Table 11.5 shows an example industry analysis and market strategy for La Vida Lola.

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy as it relates to the competition. You want to be able to identify who are your major competitors and assess what are their market shares, markets served, strategies employed, and expected response to entry? You likely want to conduct a classic SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) and complete a competitive-strength grid or competitive matrix. Outline your company’s competitive strengths relative to those of the competition in regard to product, distribution, pricing, promotion, and advertising. What are your company’s competitive advantages and their likely impacts on its success? The key is to construct it properly for the relevant features/benefits (by weight, according to customers) and how the startup compares to incumbents. The competitive matrix should show clearly how and why the startup has a clear (if not currently measurable) competitive advantage. Some common features in the example include price, benefits, quality, type of features, locations, and distribution/sales. Sample templates are shown in Figure 11.17 and Figure 11.18 . A competitive analysis helps you create a marketing strategy that will identify assets or skills that your competitors are lacking so you can plan to fill those gaps, giving you a distinct competitive advantage. When creating a competitor analysis, it is important to focus on the key features and elements that matter to customers, rather than focusing too heavily on the entrepreneur’s idea and desires.

Operations and Management Plan

In this section, outline how you will manage your company. Describe its organizational structure. Here you can address the form of ownership and, if warranted, include an organizational chart/structure. Highlight the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, areas of expertise, and roles of members of the management team. This is also the place to mention any other stakeholders, such as a board of directors or advisory board(s), and their relevant relationship to the founder, experience and value to help make the venture successful, and professional service firms providing management support, such as accounting services and legal counsel.

Table 11.6 shows a sample operations and management plan for La Vida Lola.

Marketing Plan

Here you should outline and describe an effective overall marketing strategy for your venture, providing details regarding pricing, promotion, advertising, distribution, media usage, public relations, and a digital presence. Fully describe your sales management plan and the composition of your sales force, along with a comprehensive and detailed budget for the marketing plan. Table 11.7 shows a sample marketing plan for La Vida Lola.

Financial Plan

A financial plan seeks to forecast revenue and expenses; project a financial narrative; and estimate project costs, valuations, and cash flow projections. This section should present an accurate, realistic, and achievable financial plan for your venture (see Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting for detailed discussions about conducting these projections). Include sales forecasts and income projections, pro forma financial statements ( Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , a breakeven analysis, and a capital budget. Identify your possible sources of financing (discussed in Conducting a Feasibility Analysis ). Figure 11.19 shows a template of cash-flow needs for La Vida Lola.

Entrepreneur In Action

Laughing man coffee.

Hugh Jackman ( Figure 11.20 ) may best be known for portraying a comic-book superhero who used his mutant abilities to protect the world from villains. But the Wolverine actor is also working to make the planet a better place for real, not through adamantium claws but through social entrepreneurship.

A love of java jolted Jackman into action in 2009, when he traveled to Ethiopia with a Christian humanitarian group to shoot a documentary about the impact of fair-trade certification on coffee growers there. He decided to launch a business and follow in the footsteps of the late Paul Newman, another famous actor turned philanthropist via food ventures.

Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee two years later; he sold the line to Keurig in 2015. One Laughing Man Coffee café in New York continues to operate independently, investing its proceeds into charitable programs that support better housing, health, and educational initiatives within fair-trade farming communities. 55 Although the New York location is the only café, the coffee brand is still distributed, with Keurig donating an undisclosed portion of Laughing Man proceeds to those causes (whereas Jackman donates all his profits). The company initially donated its profits to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group Jackman accompanied in 2009. In 2017, it created the Laughing Man Foundation to be more active with its money management and distribution.

  • You be the entrepreneur. If you were Jackman, would you have sold the company to Keurig? Why or why not?
  • Would you have started the Laughing Man Foundation?
  • What else can Jackman do to aid fair-trade practices for coffee growers?

What Can You Do?

Textbooks for change.

Founded in 2014, Textbooks for Change uses a cross-compensation model, in which one customer segment pays for a product or service, and the profit from that revenue is used to provide the same product or service to another, underserved segment. Textbooks for Change partners with student organizations to collect used college textbooks, some of which are re-sold while others are donated to students in need at underserved universities across the globe. The organization has reused or recycled 250,000 textbooks, providing 220,000 students with access through seven campus partners in East Africa. This B-corp social enterprise tackles a problem and offers a solution that is directly relevant to college students like yourself. Have you observed a problem on your college campus or other campuses that is not being served properly? Could it result in a social enterprise?

Work It Out

Franchisee set out.

A franchisee of East Coast Wings, a chain with dozens of restaurants in the United States, has decided to part ways with the chain. The new store will feature the same basic sports-bar-and-restaurant concept and serve the same basic foods: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, and the like. The new restaurant can’t rely on the same distributors and suppliers. A new business plan is needed.

  • What steps should the new restaurant take to create a new business plan?
  • Should it attempt to serve the same customers? Why or why not?

This New York Times video, “An Unlikely Business Plan,” describes entrepreneurial resurgence in Detroit, Michigan.

  • 48 Chris Guillebeau. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future . New York: Crown Business/Random House, 2012.
  • 49 Jonathan Chan. “What These 4 Startup Case Studies Can Teach You about Failure.” Foundr.com . July 12, 2015. https://foundr.com/4-startup-case-studies-failure/
  • 50 Amy Feldman. “Inventor of the Cut Buddy Paid YouTubers to Spark Sales. He Wasn’t Ready for a Video to Go Viral.” Forbes. February 15, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestreptalks/2017/02/15/inventor-of-the-cut-buddy-paid-youtubers-to-spark-sales-he-wasnt-ready-for-a-video-to-go-viral/#3eb540ce798a
  • 51 Jennifer Post. “National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs.” Business News Daily . August 30, 2018. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6902-business-plan-competitions-entrepreneurs.html
  • 52 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition . March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf
  • 53 “Rice Business Plan Competition, Eligibility Criteria and How to Apply.” Rice Business Plan Competition. March 2020. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2020%20RBPC%20Eligibility%20Criteria%20and%20How%20to%20Apply_23Oct19.pdf; Based on 2019 RBPC Competition Rules and Format April 4–6, 2019. https://rbpc.rice.edu/sites/g/files/bxs806/f/2019-RBPC-Competition-Rules%20-Format.pdf
  • 54 Foodstart. http://foodstart.com
  • 55 “Hugh Jackman Journey to Starting a Social Enterprise Coffee Company.” Giving Compass. April 8, 2018. https://givingcompass.org/article/hugh-jackman-journey-to-starting-a-social-enterprise-coffee-company/

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  • Authors: Michael Laverty, Chris Littel
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Business development for startups: A quick guide

business development plan introduction

An introduction to business development, why your startup needs it, and how to create a business development strategy that works.

If you want your business to grow and be successful, you need business development. Business development can be quite broad, as it involves a wide range of responsibilities. And while you probably won’t have a dedicated department in your startup, you can still improve sales with a good strategy. 

In fact, 71% of fast-growing companies have some sort of business development plan in place. So, let’s explore how you can create yours.

What is business development?

Business development focuses on discovering and creating opportunities that directly lead to new sales. It’s all about increasing growth and boosting revenue, and includes things like identifying and nurturing potential customers, building brand awareness, establishing new partnerships, and expanding into different markets.

Why your startup needs business development

Startups need to grow rapidly to survive and flourish. And business development offers one of the most effective paths to achieve this growth. By pursuing new business opportunities, startups can attract fresh customers and revenue, leading to increased scalability and success.

By putting a business development strategy in place during the early stages of your startup, you’re setting a clear path for expanding your customer base, increasing sales, and establishing a solid foundation for future growth.

Plus, you can keep referring back to your business development plan and regularly review your sales cycle to optimize its effectiveness.

How to create a business development plan for startups

Your business development game plan will differ depending on your startup’s unique circumstances, but there are three basic steps to forming a strategy.  

Step 1: Establish what you want to achieve, and when

Before you do anything, you need to set clear goals and define responsibilities. Ask yourself what you want your business to achieve, and in what timeframe. Once you’ve got your key milestones and performance indicators down, you can then assign each part of the process to the right team.

Step 2: Do your research

An unbeatable business development strategy requires thorough research. Dive deep into your market, analysing your competitors and potential clients inside out.

Take a peek at How to find your target audience and our Beginner’s guide to competitor analysis to get you started. 

Step 3: Start generating leads

To achieve business development success, you need a well-rounded plan with diverse marketing strategies to proactively connect with potential clients. And outbound marketing will be the heart of it all.

5 outbound business development strategies

1. email prospecting.

Email prospecting is a fantastic way to reach your target market. Sopro found that 77% of B2B marketing decision-makers prefer communication via email, making it the top channel for getting your brand in front of the right people.

But, prospecting can be time-consuming and inefficient without specialized software and expertise. That’s where Outbase comes in – our gorgeous platform makes finding and engaging with your ideal customers a breeze, freeing up your time and resources to focus on growing your business. See how it works . 

2. Networking

Networking events come in all shapes and sizes, and offer a unique advantage of face-to-face interactions. If you’re on the outgoing side of the personality spectrum, they’re a great opportunity to find like-minded founders and make personal connections.

Try joining your local chamber of commerce – most offer a plethora of in-person events such as coffee mornings and breakfast meetings. They can also arrange introductions to specific members if you’ve got your eye on a particular potential client.  

3. Trade events

Up to 81% of B2B event attendees are decision-makers with buying authority. That’s huge! And a big reason why events can be such a valuable addition to your business development strategy. So whether you’re exhibiting or just attending, make events part of your business development plan. 

4. Partnering

Collaborate, don’t compete! Teaming up with businesses that align with your startup’s vision and mission can help you enter the market faster, share costs, and learn from others’ experiences. Buddying with a more established brand also adds credibility, and lets you tap into resources that you might not have had access to otherwise.

5. Retention

Repeat after us: “customer retention is vital for a successful business.” It’s not just about ringing the sales gong and getting new customers through the door. You need to provide outstanding customer service from beginning to end. 

Make retention a priority, because it’s not enough to simply keep clients; you want to turn them into loyal, repeat buyers, who want to sing your praises at any opportunity.

Next-level business development with Outbase

Outbase’s smart and easy-to-use platform is designed to help you find new customers quickly and easily. With access to our extensive database of businesses and advanced filtering options, you can zero in on your ideal audience and start engaging with them in just a few clicks. 

Outbase runs in the background while you focus on developing your business. Try it for free today – your first campaign could be live in just five minutes!

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business development plan introduction

A Complete Guide to Business Development Process Flow

Introduction.

Despite your best efforts, you need more leads to hit your revenue goals. Your bottom line takes a hit and so does the growth rate. What's slowing the needle for your business? The lack of a well-structured business development (BD) strategy and team.

A dedicated BD team generates high-value leads that support your business growth over the long term. 

With a well-thought-out business development process flow, you can reach more prospects, qualify leads at scale, create compelling offers and maintain long-term relationships.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the process of business development and give you a step-by-step guide to creating a well-rounded business development strategy. Let’s get to it!

What is business development?

Business development creates growth and expansion opportunities for a business by developing strategic partnerships. Think of it as the spark plug that ignites the combustion engine running your company. 

A business development function designs and implements revenue-generating strategies in collaboration with the sales and marketing teams to boost a company’s bottom line.

Put simply, business development primarily involves:

  • Finding opportunities in a specific market.
  • Creating long-term value for the business.
  • Maintaining lucrative stakeholder relationships.

That said, it's important to note that the role of business development looks different in every organization. It can easily merge with the sales and marketing functions within a company. So, let's look at how business development stack up against sales and marketing.  

Business development vs. sales 

The business development process flow includes lead nurturing , but it doesn't involve closing deals—a sales team function. A BD representative prospects and qualifies a lead, whereas a sales executive converts the lead. BDRs also take care of the post-sale experience, building long-term customer relationships.

Business development vs. marketing

While business development involves transactional activities, marketing focuses on nudging the target buyers down the sales funnel. A marketing team warms prospective buyers to create a need for your product or service. Business development consultants convert this need into deals, bringing new sales through the right channels. 

A look into the ideal business development process flow

The business development process flow is a strategic step-by-step process starting from market research and prospecting to closing the deal and finalizing the paperwork. Let's break down each of these steps. 

business development process flow chart - starting with prospecting, lead qualification, creating an offer, lead nurturing, paperwork

Step 1: Prospecting to find new leads 

In simple terms, prospecting refers to finding new business opportunities. But at a granular level, it includes:

  • Knowing the product/service.
  • Conducting market research.
  • Identifying your competitive advantage.
  • Conducting a cost analysis from the buyers’ perspective.
  • Analyzing the target market size and its potential.

This step also includes a collaborative effort between the business development and marketing teams to expand your brand’s visibility. 

Once the marketing team has set the ground, business development ideas—like networking, sales demos and market segment analysis—come into practice.

Step 2: Qualifying leads to identify the ideal prospects

Prospecting will help you get leads in huge numbers. But there’s no way of knowing if these leads will convert. 

Lead qualification is when reps decide whether a prospective lead meets the characteristics of your ideal customer profile—in terms of pain points, budgets, time and other factors. 

To qualify these leads for the next steps of the buying process, you should:

  • Study their profile.
  • Discuss their decision-making process.
  • Compare your offering versus your competitors.
  • Assess their needs against the solutions you’re offering.

business development plan introduction

Qualifying leads minimizes the time BD reps might waste on chasing prospects that don’t have the financial authority or functional needs for your product/service. It’s simply about separating the wheat from the chaff. 

Step 3: Create an offer

The essence of a strong business development strategy lies in creating a high-converting offer your leads can’t refuse. This is where you need to highlight the main value propositions every lead can resonate with.

Here are a few tried-and-true tips for creating an irresistible offer:

  • Carefully analyze all the information you’ve collected about a prospect.
  • Fully understand their needs and pain points that you can solve.
  • Create a solid proposal with the right words. 

Remember not to oversell your product/service in this offer. Be completely transparent to start a potential relationship on the right note. 

Step 4: Lead nurturing

All of your leads might not convert right after seeing an offer. About 96 percent of your website visitors may not be ready to make a purchase yet. 

Enter—lead nurturing.

It’s the process of nudging leads to the next step in the buying process by building healthy relationships before the deal goes through. Nurturing leads is about winning their trust without hard selling. Here’s how:

  • Provide free advice and consultations.
  • Align your sales and marketing functions.
  • Automate business processes to identify, categorize and target buyers.

You'd be surprised it takes around eight touches on average to convert a lead. So, include multiple approaches and touch points in your business development process flow to convert leads consistently. 

Step 5: Paperwork 

Once you close the deal, the final step is finishing the paperwork. Create a comprehensive sales close plan entailing all the clauses (and more) to ensure you and your clients are on the same page. It can include:

  • Cover page.
  • Contact details.
  • Package inclusions.
  • Payment terms.

Training BDRs for your business development process

Training and documentation is the most critical link in the chain if you're building a dream team for the BD function within your company. You need end-to-end process documentation to help BDRs and team leads create repeatable success. 

This is where Scribe can do the heavy lifting on your behalf. 

The documentation tool is designed for busy BD teams looking to create SOPs , stepwise guides and other resources quickly and conveniently. It's the perfect tool to keep all crucial information in one place—for example, this guide on using LinkedIn Sales Navigator . 

How to create your business development strategy: a 6-step guide

Without a detailed business development process, your reps will be left to take their own route with every lead. 

Create a full-fledged business development strategy to set your BD team up for long-term success and align their efforts with the sales and marketing teams. Here's a 6-step guide to follow:

1. Be crystal clear about your audience

Start with defining your target audience. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But there’s a lot more to it. Narrow down and create a framework that includes the types of buyers, age, gender, income and preferences, among other factors. 

Be as specific as possible because clearly defining your target audience will give you a better understanding of how you can reach them.

2. Understand the market & competition

Once you’re clear about your target audience, conducting a deep market analysis is the next step. Evaluate the market to determine where you stand. How, you may wonder?

Try to learn about your target customers’ needs and how you can fulfill them better than your competitors. 

Here’s how Google did it. In 2002, when AOL (America Online) was almost synonymous with the internet, Google closed the deal and won the competitive gain. How did they do it?

The tech giant built a relationship with AOL and beat its biggest competitor – Overture. This gave Google a competitive advantage for years to come.

3. Set goals & metrics to guide the team

Set clear, specific goals to ensure your team is always on the right track. Make these results measurable, time-bound and attainable so you can continuously monitor your team's progress. Goals are the key to unlocking business process optimization that reduces errors and enhances efficiency.

4. Create a realistic budget for the strategy

No matter how strong your strategy is, it can fall flat without a budget. Create a realistic budget to get all the resources required to hit all targets. That said, don’t keep yourself from pushing the budget a little. If your plan works out, you’ll be able to recover all of it.

5. Build systematic workflows for efficiency 

The business development process is a rather complicated one—a BDR would know that best. With so many moving parts in the process, it’s best to create a systematic workflow to implement your business development strategy. 

This workflow will also let your BD, sales and marketing teams function collaboratively throughout the implementation process.

business development process flow chart

Here are a few handy tools to build an airtight business development process:

  • Kissflow Process : It’s a no-code tool that helps organizations automate repetitive business processes and create workflows in tandem with stakeholders.
  • Zoho Creator : A non-technical person’s playhouse , Zoho Creator is a low-code app development platform for designing, developing and running business software.
  • Scribe : Every BDR’s haven, Scribe is a process documentation tool that lets you record a process and convert it into a step-by-step guide in a few seconds. ‍

6. Document your strategy & processes 

Creating an action plan is just the first step. You also need to document the entire plan to monitor the progress of your business development strategy and keep a close track of your team’s performance.

While documentation might seem like an unnecessary extra step to some, a documentation tool like Scribe can make it look effortless . It’s 15x faster than manual documentation , super convenient to use and easily accessible across devices—it can’t get any better than this!

Boost your bottom line with a strong business development program

The role of business development starts with identifying and reaching out to potential leads and ( never ) ends with building a lasting relationship with customers. 

A strong business development program is a non-negotiable aspect of running a business successfully. Use this start-to-finish to create a solid BD strategy and train your team to boost revenue while nurturing strong relationships with your prospects.

While at it, remember to optimize the business development process flow using tools like Scribe to ensure you achieve your goals as efficiently as possible!

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10+ Business Development Plan Examples [ Marketing, Construction, Research ]

10 Business Development Plan Examples Marketing Construction Research

Not all of the so called development in business has the same impact. A lot of activities or projects implemented are tactical which is true to many sellers. Sometimes, we are caught within the pressures between having to work with a client and managing a new business which both have short term results and require little to no strategy. Getting to decide which target and decision to take would employ development in business . Something that obtains a good strategy leads to growth and more profit. That is why every business must secure a business development plan to help them be guided along the way.

10+ Business Development Plan Examples

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Business Development Plan Definition

A business development plan is a type of document that provides an outline of the method of implementation set on a particular development strategy. It can be a plan, a practice or a firm. It covers most of the business aspects of which it includes marketing , sales, services and more.

Before you are going to start making a business development plan, consider doing a SWOT analysis first. This will ensure that you are on the right track. SWOT analysis, by nature, has the ability to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Contents of a Business Development Plan

1. Opportunities

You will be able to identify opportunities in creating new products, more services, new markets and other opportunities as well. Choose the option that you think is best for the development of your business.

2. Funding plan

Determine ways on how to fund your business . This may be in the form of a business capital.

3. Financial goals

Financial goals would include how you are going to achieve and manage profit, cost projections, and revenue.

4. Sales and marketing strategies

Decide what type of strategies are effective in the market that helps in promoting business growth. Make sure that you have a plan that aims in supporting your business.

5. Team needs

Think of a way that helps improve the capabilities of your team members. As much as possible, evaluate them.

Components of a Business Development Plan

1. Situation Analysis

Situation analysis  is the process of gathering information both from internal and external sources. External information involves those that are about economy, industry, as well as the competitors. Internal information are basically from employees, satisfaction, longevity and customers as well. Gathering information that are specific and factual would help lead in the development of the objectives and strategies.

2. SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. This is what every businesses use to review some information that during an analysis to know how it impacts the business.

3. Establishment of Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics

Goals are the ones that needs to be accomplished in general sense. Objectives needs to be specific and clear. Strategies determine how a specific company can accomplish the objectives. Tactics are something that is operational and states what a company should do to achieve the strategies.

What to avoid in making a business development plan?

Avoid thinking short term and focusing too much on opportunities. Also, avoid not practicing the act of budgeting money.

Why is positioning important?

Positioning is essential during a time where you start choosing which firm to work with. Positioning will help in developing your marketing tools.

What are some of the typical marketing channels that can be considered when writing for a business development plan?

Marketing channels would include inbound leads, paid search advertising, paid social advertising, referrals, outbound leads, networking, channel sales, up-sells and cross-sells.

Generally, it is just all about picking for the right business development strategy. This enables you to reach, engage and convert your prospects. Writing a business development plan requires more time, effort and critical thinking skill to come up with an idea that helps in the growth and development of your company. As what the guidelines entail, you should be able to write specifically and with organized structure of plan.

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