We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. It’s true there are more overnight successes than ever before, and ideas take off quickly in today’s business environment. But the big question is — will these businesses last? In this post, we’ll share eight business development ideas that work long-term.
You can go about business one of two ways. You could:
- Follow the shiny objects and make shortsighted decisions to turn a profit
- Build a foundation that will sustain you through changes in the market
If you want to be the business that lasts, this article is for you.
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What is business development?
Business development includes all the actions you take to make your business stronger. These activities are often a combination of internal and external efforts that lead to long-term growth rather than a quick sale.
Let’s say you attend your local business networking event. If you hope to walk away from the event with 10 business cards so you can make a sales call the next day, you’re focused on short-term wins.
If you attend the event to meet people and learn about other local businesses that can help your business grow, you’re now thinking like a business developer.
Business development is NOT sales
Business development is often lumped in with sales. If you search Indeed.com for business development jobs, you’ll find ‘sales’ throughout the job listings.
While growing profits is part of business development, it’s shortsighted to think of sales as the only way to develop a business.
Sales teams have short-term goals. They often look for the fastest way to make a sale. Business development, on the other hand, involves strategies and activities that could take years before you reap the benefits.
Eight business development ideas that work
Check out these strategies to grow your business long-term. A few might surprise you.
- Be active with business associations.
- Hire the right people.
- Maintain relationships.
- Improve your time management.
- Find new markets.
- Build your brand.
- Become scalable.
- Seek strategic collaborations.
Long-term success takes long-term effort. Keep reading for all the details.
1. Be active with business associations
This deserves the top spot because networking will help you achieve the seven ideas that follow. When you change your mindset and use networking events to form long-term relationships, the uncomfortable small talk becomes less awkward.
Don’t forget about online networking channels — this is a valuable way to make connections too.
2. Hire the right people
The right employees will help you be more productive and help the business grow. Take time to find the best fit for your business. Without quality employees, you’ll spend more time than you can afford training and retraining.
You could consider outsourcing or using subcontractors and temporary workers until you find the perfect match.
3. Maintain relationships
Everyone vital to the success of your business needs ongoing attention. This includes your:
- Potential collaborators
In the age of social media, we have lost the art of maintaining meaningful relationships with people. A Facebook post is not going to cut it here. A follow-up thank you email, phone call or coffee can make a big difference to your business.
4. Improve your time management
You may be questioning where you’ll find time to develop your business on top of the day-to-day tasks. Part of your business development plan needs to focus on improving the internal processes just as much as external relationship-building. Sharpening your time management skills and streamlining your workflow will help you get off the hamster wheel.
5. Find new markets
One of the biggest responsibilities of a business development manager is to research new business opportunities. Finding new markets could mean:
- Exploring creative uses for your products
- Targeting a new demographic
- Considering exporting overseas
By thinking bigger, new possibilities become more obvious and provide new avenues for revenue.
6. Build your brand
Your brand builds relationships with the world while you sleep.
Branding goes beyond a flashy logo or easy-to-use website — it actually creates relationships too. The process is slow, but that’s what we’re looking for with business development. Coca-Cola is the epitome of branding; they’ve been grooming their name for 127 years.
Related: How to make a logo in 6 steps
7. Become scalable
Scaling your business means you’re able to take on more work, keep costs low and increase profitability. When you’re ready to scale, you’re looking for ways to expand. Outsourcing and embracing technology are two common ways of becoming more efficient and profitable.
8. Seek strategic collaborations
The best companies collaborate with other companies to reach their goals. Strategic partnerships help you:
- Grow your network
- Save money
- Solve problems
On a large scale, this could mean acquiring another business. On a smaller scale, you can look to partner with other businesses to provide your customers with a more complete solution than you can provide alone.
Be proactive vs. reactive
We all know the ‘hamster on the wheel’ feeling of working hard but not moving ahead. The biggest challenge for small business owners is to stop and plan.
How would you answer these questions?
- Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels?
- Do you constantly change course on a whim?
- Do you have a strategic plan?
For the most part, marketing, sales and production are all short-term activities. Yes, they’re crucial, but they won’t help you grow as much as you think they will. They consume your day and leave little time to be proactive. Block out time on your calendar now to do some planning.
Next steps: craft a business development plan
Do you think now-defunct companies such as Masters, ToysRUs, Sanity Music or Friendster had a business development plan? They may have, but it’s possible they started their business development efforts too late.
Business development is for those who want longevity.
It’s a slow process and patience is required. If you want your business to last, build your business development strategy into your business plan.
If you don’t have a business or a strategic plan, start with an easy one-page plan. This key exercise will help you select the best business development options. The result? Long-term success.