As small business owners, no one needs to tell us how difficult it is to be one so I won’t dwell on it here either. Unquestionably, the most important facet of owning a business is keeping it running and the doors open. Three vital components of preserving a successful business require the combined effort of sales, marketing and new business development. Often confused as one in the same, they are not and can actually work against you if not performed in the right sequence and with the proper information. Together, they will work to achieve the same goal – a better bottom line.
Who your customers are, whether you are a start-up or a legacy enterprise, is determined by your efforts at Business Development. The key to getting the ball rolling is gathering the necessary information to obtain new business and that is where business development becomes paramount.
No matter what business you are in, you are at the mercy of your market. Your product and/or service must be capable of filling a need or want. Some needs and wants are easy to determine using common sense. If your type product or service is already on the market and a defined category of customer is using it, then you have won half the battle. New ideas on the other hand, require a deep commitment and strong belief that there is a market ready, willing and able to use what you have. However, in order to reach that market sector and perhaps others that could benefit from your offering requires research with the intent to develop new business.
Business Development is when you have an idea of who can use your product and you approach that industry to determine if your assumption is correct. The market will tell you if your idea is worthwhile and how to introduce your idea to gain the best foothold. Once you have collected all the input and refined your product/service to the needs and wants of your intended new customer, you are ready to go to Marketing.
How you get to those new customers requires Marketing. Marketing has many different working parts including internal (everyone in the company should tell the same “story”) and external such as social networking (e.g: Facebook®; LinkedIn®), advertising, public relations, simple “word of mouth” and more. Using these elements, marketing aggregates the information gained from the research process of business development and structures a Go-To-Market Plan. The plan’s purpose is to demonstrate to the potential customer base, the benefits and/or uniqueness of your company, product/service and where it’s best to promote and advertise your company, product and/or service.
Where we tell our story is the advertising. Often labeled as marketing, advertising is a piece of the marketing process and directly incorporates trade shows, forums, print and broadcast media, the Internet and word of mouth. While word of mouth continues to be a vital source of marketing, our technology driven age enables us to use a multitude of avenues available to enhance tried and true marketing methods such as print, social and broadcast media. The Internet has supplied us with instant knowledge and far reaching limitless communications. This new technology in turn, has updated and refined the routine and created many new methods and terminology for marketing including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), viral marketing, social media and a multitude of others. Old staples such as “branding” have taken on a new life. These new avenues also provide us with a much greater ability to tell our story to anyone we can get to listen but more specifically, our target audience and our message.
Marketing’s function is getting the intended audience listening, interested and remembering your story. This is the key to great marketing and it presents that message using the information initially provided by Business Development.
When both the research gathered by Business Development and targeted to your prospective customer by Marketing has been refined and focused, you are ready to initiate the Sales process. The potential customer base has been targeted and material focused on their needs has been created.
Sales are attained when you have made a compelling “value proposition” from the information acquired by Business Development and the message created from Marketing. Sales are maintained when the customer believes they have exchanged their cash for value and a trust in knowing they can return again and again not just for the product or service they were seeking, but with a real belief that their desire has been understood as a need, not just a want. When you have accomplished this goal, you have made a true sale.
Sales are made when business development has identified the customer and marketing has focused on the customer’s needs and wants. The objective of course, is to retain the interest of the prospective customer so they will feel compelled to buy what you are selling.
In summary, achieving “the sale” is a process. Attempting to develop new business, hence new customers with no definitive goal to provide for their needs will not produce interest. Similarly, marketing a product with no idea of the market sector requirements will produce the same disinterest in the potential customer as is being demonstrated to them and perhaps, develop a negative perception of your company as well.
A sale begins by knowing your customer, demonstrating this knowledge with relevant information and completing the task by succinctly conveying this to the acceptance of your customer who sees you, your company and your product or service as a value worth investing in. By following this common sense sequence, business development, marketing and sales becomes a comprehensible joint function which will add value to your business and provide the greatest level of long term sales and business success.