What is business development?
“It’s simple – it refers to finding ways to increase your business numbers by generating sales, either with new clients or with your existing client base. This applies to all industries and activity sectors,” explains Patrick Turmel, Vice President, Commercial Banking at National Bank.
The expert believes that business development is crucial and requires serious thinking and a solid action plan on behalf of the entrepreneur. “Regardless of the economic situation, strong business development will allow you to be competitive and, in fact, stay in business.”
What business strategies should you establish given the current situation with COVID-19?
“First of all, I advise all entrepreneurs to pause and think about their current situation and business model. Get back to the basics and take a look at your business plan. What do you have to offer as a business? Is your communications plan and your messaging suitable for the current situation? What products are your clients buying right now? Are there new client bases you can reach? Is your industry or business sector doing well at the moment? These questions will allow you to define and build an action plan for your business and its development,” Turmel explains.
Need ideas? A group brainstorming session with your team could produce new business development ideas. Looking to approach a new business to offer them your products or services? Find out if there’s anyone in your business network who has a contact at that company and ask them to introduce you. If your natural market is experiencing more of a difficult situation, you’ll have to come up with new growth strategies.
For example, B2B SMBs in the food sector may have to rethink their strategy and processes by focusing on phone calls, organizing livestreamed presentations, or broadcasting content on their social media. They could also contact their own satisfied clients for new client referrals.
For entrepreneurs who sell goods, they could optimize (or create) their online store and promote it.
What tools and channels should I prioritize for my communications plan?
“Before you start thinking about channels, your messaging should be adapted to the current context. I suggest showing empathy and a lot of humanity and authenticity. After that, you do have to review your communications plan and channels to make sure you keep in touch with your existing clients, and also to reach new clients,” he adds.
Having a strong online and social media presence is more important than ever. If your online presence isn’t the greatest, you may have to accelerate your digital transformation. If you feel like you’re lagging behind in this respect, build a plan to speed up your optimizations.
There are also many tools that could be very useful for your communications:
Video or web conferences
- An online appointment system
- Online polls
- Online contests
- Automatic confirmations of receipt
- CRM database tools
- Phone calls
- Newsletters and targeted emails
How do you choose which ones are right for you? “Analyze your clientele and your market segmentation, and think about their purchasing behaviours. This could help you make an informed decision. Also, take a look at what your competitors are doing. The idea is that you don’t want to do what they’re already doing; you want to differentiate yourself.”
For example, a restaurant that has a list of their clients’ email addresses could send out a weekly email of their delivery menu. A neighbourhood store could organize contests on their social media in order to generate online sales and offer free delivery within a certain area.
Obviously, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, seek help from others within your organization. You might have experts on your team; if that’s the case, invite them to take part in the conversation and in developing your communications plan. Otherwise, feel free to get advice from outside the company.
Should I rethink my business plan and growth strategies?
Whenever the economic situation changes, we always recommend reviewing your acquisition and development strategies, as well as your business model, to ensure that your plan and goals are optimized. To review your growth strategy, Turmel suggests thinking about the following:
- Your acquisition strategy: You may be in a position to attract a brand-new client base to your business. “If you operate in a sector that is currently closed or slowing down, you could think about other client segments that might be interested in your service or product offering. In the last year, we’ve seen many B2B SMBs reach out to the consumer directly (B2C), and the reverse.”
- Your traffic strategy: A strong social media presence can generate a large amount of traffic to your business’s website. If you’re not comfortable with social media, get advice from some experts. Careful: generating traffic to your website is great, but your website must be up to date and have a shop section if you want to generate sales online.
- Your loyalty strategy: “Building loyalty among your current client base is as important as building loyalty among new clients,” Turmel warns. “Don’t forget that you can also generate growth with your current clients. It’s important to take care of them and show empathy towards them. They’re going to be talking about you; you can probably get referrals and new clients.”
Should I review my action plan when the pandemic ends?
“Yes, but you should review it continuously. If you only review it when the pandemic is over, it could be too late for you depending on your sector. We recommend that companies continuously review their business model, business development process, messaging, and potential clients; rethink their strategies, product offering, and service offering; and adapt to their environment. Entrepreneurs must update their goals every time their situation changes. All of these tips apply to many businesses, regardless of the ongoing economic or health situation,” says Turmel.
He believes that entrepreneurs will have to adapt to a new reality once the current situation has changed. “Before, businesses had a physical and a digital presence. Physical operations will come back; I’m sure of that. People need to interact with other people; we need to see each other face to face and communicate with one another. We need to form relationships, and most of the time, it’s harder to build relationships and engagement remotely. However, digital will have a bigger role in business operations. People are currently forming new habits with regards to how they work and how they shop. Entrepreneurs must learn from this for the future. I think that collectively, we’ll have accelerated business development and online sales.”
Finally, the expert also recommends checking out the government measures and other support measures for businesses to help stimulate economic recovery. They’re not specifically aimed at business development, but these measures could help you continue to employ your workers so they can help you come up with ideas. And keep in mind that whether you have unlimited resources or just a few employees, your efforts should go towards what matters most.
Make sure you have a digital transformation plan to develop your company’s business.