A well-planned business development program has the potential to build the organization only when implementation is equally strong. Once guidelines and controls are in place, campaign action comes next.
Last month, I covered the challenges of creating a well-understood business development program, including accountability for your company as sponsor and your marketing partners in part one. Now, I want to talk about launching a program.
Potential business development activities can run a gamut far broader than this article could address. Regardless of what you and your partners decide will help move your businesses in any circumstance, everything should hang from an overall marketing strategy, not just a collection of random tactics or someone's pet project.
I've talked about the significance of strategy often because it's so consistently missing from marketing or business development efforts. I strongly suggest incorporating Richard Rumelt's three essential strategy components mentioned in my Avoiding 'Ready, Fire, Aim' post. If you do, you'll be heading in the right direction.
What's basic to clear communications strategy is twofold: 1) standing for something importantly different to customers compared to your competitors and 2) effectively delivering on that valued difference. By focusing on creating an effective strategy with appropriate tactic delivers a number of key benefits. For example, you'll spend considerably less time and money deciding what works and what won't. So time invested in pre-campaign strategy is more than covered by time and money saved later. Does the tactic support or reinforce your strategy or not? That's the tactical go/no go question that should be fairly obvious.
The action plan possibilities or tactics available to you and your business development partners are frankly endless. Basic questions about what to do include:
- How much time and money will it take to execute an idea?
- Are we copying our competitors or doing something original? (Occasionally copying can be useful, especially if you can bring more or different benefits than competitors.)
- Does the idea benefit both parties investing in it?
- Will results be measurable in some meaningful way such as leads and sales? (Is there a mechanism for tracking business development actions to sales?)
Some of the more obvious shared tactical possibilities and related costs include:
- Print advertising -- Newspapers, journals and magazines, space and production
- Collateral materials -- Brochures, ad reprints, catalogues, and newsletters
- Broadcast -- Radio, TV air time, production
- Direct mail -- Mailing costs, fax blasts, email blasts, production
- Demo CD or video -- Scripting, production
- Trade shows -- Major national/international or regional attendance, booth space, exhibit, travel
- Tabletop events -- exhibit materials
- Website or page development -- Professional production, content development, graphics, coding
- Sales promotions -- Incentives, promotional print, or online
- Special events or seminars -- Announcements, invitations, telemarketing, presentation materials, guest speaker fees, meeting room charges
- Product Sales/Technical Training -- Participation fees, training materials, production, facility fees, A/V equipment rental, and group meal functions
- Telemarketing -- Script development, agency fees, lead follow-up, outbound fulfillment, list rental, and call fees.
- Partner awards programs -- Prizes, trophies, bonuses, and incentives
- Joint speaking/authoring opportunities -- Public and media relations support services and ghost writing services
You'll undoubtedly discover other possibilities worth considering. Other areas that should be part of a business development program: entertainment; company business cards, stationary, forms for the partner; gifts gratuities or entertainment for your employees; general partner business expenses; work time of your or partners' sales or technical personnel; alcohol; partner sales conferences or parties; and partner corporate awareness campaigns.
Your business development program will help grow sales success if a clear engagement structure, financial controls, and reasonable expectations for measurable results, including an overall strategy guiding tactical decision making, are all in place. Working with your business partners is somewhat more complex than flying solo, but the "multiplier effect" of having several partners on board working cooperatively shouldn't be ignored.
After all, your mutual success depends on how strongly linked your marketing efforts can be, just as your supply and distribution capabilities are. Investing well in partner marketing connections can create a clear, competitive difference.