Business development is all about growth – thinking outside the box, outsmarting your rivals, and growing your customer base. No business can afford to stand still in today’s competitive marketplace.
The first thing you need to do is take a strategic overview of where your business is now and where you would like to take it.
It may be you are looking to launch a new product or service, or reach new markets, whether at home or overseas. Whatever your goal, you need to do some planning.
The first thing to do is carry out a SWOT analysis – take a long, hard look at your business’s basic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
It’s important to be totally honest with this exercise – don’t try to make things look rosier than they actually are.
When that’s done, it’s time to take a wider look at the state of your market segment – is it growing or contracting? What are your competitors doing? Are newcomers about to enter the marketplace?
Again, honesty and objectivity are paramount. Has the market changed since you launched your product or service or is change imminent? Have you made the necessary changes to reflect that market shift? Are new opportunities emerging that you should exploit? (These might have come to light from your SWOT analysis.)
Focus on your niche
Assessing the threat posed by your competitors is key to business growth. You should never be afraid of competition – it ‘proves’ the market.
But you do need to focus on your niche, and don’t try to compete with big companies head on. Look at how you can specialise – what can you offer that your bigger competitors can’t?
For most small to medium businesses, their advantage lies in the speed with which they can adapt to change – be it responding to changing consumer demand or a competitor’s new product or service.
What might take a FTSE100 company two or three months of meetings to decide, a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) can probably decide in less than a week.
Great customer service
The other advantage of being a smaller business is customer service – crucial in today’s consumer-focused marketplace, but also vitally important in business-to-business sales, too.
An SME can personalise customer service in a way that is almost impossible for a giant corporation to replicate. The importance of going the extra mile for customers and being able to establish a personal rapport with key clients can never be overestimated.