Patience is not always my strongest virtue, so I’ll allow that I may not be spending enough time searching. Still, it seems that when I enter the term “Business Development 2020”, first page results offer little after February 2020.
Did we all stop business development efforts in March?
Although Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting and other video conferencing platforms saw usage skyrocket exponentially in the early weeks of lockdown, an interesting question is what percentage of those meetings were devoted to business development rather than purely the go-to alternative for pursuing business-as-usual as best as possible? (Of course, the rhetorical question of the year may be, “What is Business as Usual?”)
Our company works in several industries. For our clients and their teams, the year has been “tough”, “challenging” and even “behind plan” or “off from 2019”, but fortunately, none of them have sustained serious damage that leads to shutting down.
Even so, that virtue of Patience has been one getting a lot of exercise in 2020. Whether supply chains were disrupted making production difficult, or demand in a particular customer segment shot up over 40%, or whether all those trade shows where we had new product introductions planned were cancelled, the unexpected brought twists and turns like never before.
And, in cases where sales have been coming in “behind plan” or “off from 2019”, the push to bring in new business is an area where Patience has not only been given a back seat, but at times, kicked off the bus.
I’ve had to rein in clients who, in sending Patience to the sidelines, could sustain damage that’s wise to avoid, particularly in a year where margins for error may be tighter than usual.
One client launched a new nutritional supplement in March with focus planned on healthcare professionals. As these front-liners on the COVID19 crisis became immersed in the urgency of saving lives, a new target market came into focus: spas and salons. Perhaps a potential pivot, but one that also requires resources appropriate to a very different industry, including resources to support an entirely different product position.
Another client serving markets as different as institutional facilities and outdoor/recreation accessories wanted to offset soft revenues in the institutional market by redesigning their website. When pressed on what objectives were identified for the redesign, nothing specific or quantitative could be defined.
Okay, so Patience in excess is not the answer. Doing nothing is not the answer. But Patience in practical terms, in returning to the matter of strategy, is in order.
At a time when access to a core strategic market is temporarily shut down, certainly pivoting to another channel can mean survival. However, basics such as positioning and messaging, among others need to be reworked to make the most of the new objective.
When a market that is a primary audience for the website is soft, using that digital real estate to speak to opportunities in a more energetic market is rational. But racing to change architecture and shoot new photography are probably not the best first steps.
The same goes for business development. If a strategic industry is idling or slow, it makes sense to find customers in another market. However, the business development team shouldn’t be sent out “dialing for dollars” without a well-thought-out strategy that offers relevance and value to the new target audience.
It’s so fundamental it feels silly to point this out: begin EVERY business development initiative with a foundation in your business strategy. I’ve seen panic set in so many times without the groundwork laid. Often when this happens, the lack of planning creates costs that outpace the new revenue.
In business development, Patience has its place. It feels comfortable to be taking action for the sake of fixing problems. However, “go slow to go fast.” Set out the strategy; ensure all areas of the company can support it. Be sure that action is more than just action for the sake of doing something. Take thoughtful action that truly delivers success.