By Heather White
Business owners all over the globe are asking the same questions: how do I make more money, run my business more systematically, guarantee my success, enjoy my lifestyle, and leave a legacy for my family? Ironically, the answer to these complex questions, high expectations, and dreams is a simple plan of action based on common sense and common values. In essence, it goes back to fundamentals and a sturdy foundation. It’s a plan I like to call the business development system.
A marathon mentality
As you embark on creating a system of business development, getting clear on certain foundational elements is critical. First, business development should be approached with a ‘marathon mentality.’ Yes, we all welcome the chance to take a quantum leap or to ‘hit the jackpot.’ I’m not saying that won’t happen—however, it is important to approach business development with an attitude of longevity.
You want to see the big picture and be able to clearly articulate your dreams and goals. Where are you trying to go? What is the end result on the horizon? How will you know your business is everything you imagined it could be? Work backward from there to develop realistic and incremental steps that will keep you on course for the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
Second, be clear on exactly what you do for your clientele; in other words, move away from your title and get to the heart of what it is you provide. To determine that, consider the following questions:
- Why do your customers choose to spend their money with you?
- What kind of experience do they have when they engage with you and your business? Is it positive or negative?
- From the customer’s viewpoint, do you provide an acceptable solution when he or she has a complaint/problem?
- What makes your business unique?
Clarifying these points will save an endless amount of time, money, and resources.
Lastly, determine who your niche market is by answering the following question: “Who specifically needs and wants the unique offerings I provide?” It is unrealistic to believe you can please and service every segment of the market at all times. By focusing on and understanding exactly who your ideal customer is, your ability to create a remarkable experience can improve. Further, by customizing your clients’ experiences and appealing to smaller markets, you can more easily build strong relationships that will last over time and stand up to the competition.
See the sights
Now that you’ve got the foundation laid, it’s time to focus on the fundamentals. The first is visibility. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘location, location, location.’ I have a new saying for business owners everywhere—namely, ‘visibility, visibility, visibility.’ Access to an infinite number of marketing and advertising tools has expanded the market beyond brick-and-mortar locations. For retail business models, combining online marketing campaigns and network development with a physical location of interest could ultimately provide the holy grail of success. Regardless, it is important for businesses to have a plan for incrementally increasing their visibility over the course of time. This is why knowing your target audience is so important—it exposes the areas where you need to build visibility.
It’s not enough anymore to ‘build it and they will come.’ Instead, reach out to the market and let consumers know about your business and what you offer. Consumers need to know you exist. In turn, retailers should also connect with the market, shake their customers’ hands, ‘like’ their Facebook pages, follow them on Instagram, and donate to their charities. In other words, engage with them continuously to build strong relationships.
Tried and trusted
Fundamental number two is credibility. Customers need to not only know what you do, what you offer the market, and why you’re different and unique, but also trust your authenticity. In today’s marketplace, it’s more important than ever we build visibility about what we’re offering and back it up 100 per cent through our customers’ experience and their belief in our credibility.
Further, it is important to constantly build your business’s credibility by increasing its value in the eyes of your customers. That might take the form of:
- completing store upgrades and renovations;
- creating new marketing materials;
- further educating yourself and your staff;
- bringing in known experts to offer their input and advice;
- hosting information-sharing sessions to showcase your knowledge; and
- sharing your expertise in the public domain, perhaps as a media commentator.
All these ideas add to your credibility and your clients’ belief and trust in what you do. Today’s consumers have never had more choices and less time, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to discern and ultimately choose with whom they will do business. Constantly building your business credibility and consumer trust can allow you to become a ‘go-to’ service and product provider. There will be no decision to be made, because they will simply choose you every time. Of course, one spinoff effect is customers will tell their friends and family how much they love you and your business, and what a unique and amazing experience you offer. Referrals are one of the most effective and efficient ways to build a customer base and increase profits.
A game plan
The final fundamental to follow when implementing a business development system is using a written plan, rather than one that’s ‘all in your head.’ I am not suggesting writing a 40-plus page business plan that will inevitably sit on a shelf. Instead, try writing a succinct one- to three-page document outlining the basic things mentioned in this article and answering questions such as:
- What do you want to create? (What does good look like for your business?)
- Why do you do what you do?
- Who, specifically, wants and needs that?
Further, the plan should be inclusive of specific goals, key deadlines, and a matrix to measure your progress. Keep in mind if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Once you’ve got a plan in place, it is important to share it with key stakeholders and staff, ensuring everyone is on the same page. It also channels the time, energy, and resources of the entire business toward a clear focal point. A written plan applies ‘bumper bars’ to your day-to-day activities to keep you on course and heading in the right direction. It also alerts you when things are off course, so you can quickly adjust and get back on track.
Remember, you have the power to be it all, do it all, and have it all in business and in life. You’ve already displayed great courage and passion by creating something in the world that couldn’t have existed without effort—your business. This makes you a true leader. By applying a simple business development system, you can work toward great success and, ultimately, a lasting legacy.
Heather White is an entrepreneurial business coach who helps clients strike a dynamic balance between grounded self-care and accelerated profitability. As a fledgling business developer, White launched her career at one of the largest food service distributors in North America, managing a product list of more than 15,000 items and spiking regional sales by 700 per cent over the course of four years. Today, she leads 2020 Communications, a development consultancy for small- and medium-sized businesses. White can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.