Does your business development have the edge it needs?
Whatever creative sector you’re in you’ll be feeling the strain. Profit margins are down, clients are demanding more for less and there’s competition coming from all directions. Business development is the biggest single challenge you face - and can be the difference between life and death. But if it’s so important why do so many get it wrong?
For most, it’s down to lack of direction. With leaders not thinking hard enough about the business ambition, how they’re positioned or about the best opportunities to win more business – and how to get there in the most profitably way. This poor focus hurts. Without real clarity, winning more business becomes very difficult and ends in disappointing results.
Even when there is clarity there’s still the hurdle of engaging clients, staying front of mind and opening up opportunities. The business development rules have changed. It’s about playing the long game – maintaining contact, building relationships and trust over time. So when clients are in the market to buy – you’re in the running. But still, day-to-day pressures get in the way, activity is turned on and off, and there’s a tendency to fall back on the same old things or worse, do the wrong things.
WHAT CAN GIVE YOU AN EDGE?
Maintaining business levels doesn’t happen by accident. It takes an edge to create the best opportunities to drive relationships and reputation.
You should look at your business and ask yourself if your activity stands out and has cut through. And then look around at your competitors. It’s no coincidence that the best performing businesses have something meaningful to say and are more visible. They’re the ones being invited to more pitches and picking up more briefs. Clients want to work with them and talent want to work for them.
They’ve found an edge. And as a leader you should want a piece of the action. And you can. Two of the key ingredients are compelling content and reputation management. But many of you struggle, which is no surprise, because they’re hard to achieve.
COMPELLING CONTENT: A VITAL BUT RARE ELEMENT
Good, clear campaignable ideas don’t come out of thin air. It takes time and effort, the right expertise, capabilities and commitment. And they need to work across all channels and communications. Content is fundamental for any growing business - if you’re going to stand out and engage clients. Without it your chance of success is limited.
But too many businesses are pushing out bland communications, relying on just news and case studies, and being surprised when nothing happens and there’s little engagement. When we talk to business leaders about content, we talk about content that makes a highly compelling, relevant case to potential clients. Instead of pitching products or services it helps them solve their issues – with a clear case how you can help the client with these challenges and how you can provide value. It makes the follow-up natural because the case is so well thought through. No uncomfortable hard sell. Just a process of narrowing down the clients who will really benefit from what you have to offer.
Sadly, we see the same mistakes being made over and over again. The biggest is creating and pushing out content that is meaningful to you, but not to the client. With clients so short on time, you need to demonstrate that you really understand them and really have a solution. And you have a small window to do this. Another common mistake is not thinking hard enough about the different personas and roles in the buying decision and tailoring the content accordingly.
But having quality subjects and a strong point of view is not enough. A good piece of content is multi-use, can work on and offline, can be written or a piece to camera. And should be designed with the different uses in mind. Always produced to high quality, reflecting your style and personality. Don’t leave anything to chance – right down to the titles you use, which can be ‘make or break’.
Content that lacks credibility, is ill informed, a hard sell and frankly, not interesting won’t get past the inbox. It will do more damage than good – to your reputation and will result in lost leads.
Always ask yourself is your content making the best possible impression. If the answer is no – it’s back to the drawing board.
ACTIVE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT: MISUNDERSTOOD AND UNDER-RATED
Then there’s reputation management - or PR as it’s often wrongly known as – tarnished with the old fashioned view that it’s just about press cuttings. The problem here is that businesses don’t understand the role of reputation in growth and how to use media coverage and third party influence to their advantage. If the only thing you want is a few press headlines, think again, you’re missing a trick. Be proud. Share with your clients, prospects and recruitment agencies, and include in pitch and proposal documents. But there’s more to it than just that.
When you’re prospecting the power of third party advocacy through ‘earned’ media can make all the difference. If prospects have heard of you, they are more likely to engage with your content, attend your events, and invite you to pitch. And at that all-important stage when your prospects Google you, media coverage gives an immediate impression – that you are an interesting business, doing and saying interesting things. But having a strong reputation really comes into play when a client’s decision is neutral or when there’s a decision maker in the mix who hasn’t met you – that’s when having visibility might just seal the deal.
Of course, having a solid reputation has a significant role with other audiences too. Visibility validates your clients’ decision to work with you and gives them a sense of pride when they see you in the media and being talked about in a positive way. This helps with client retention and organic growth. And a good reputation attracts and retains the best talent – and where’s a business without a great team.
Building your reputation is not easy. Those doing it well have it embedded in the culture with the right expertise in place. It’s always ‘on’ and they take a content-first approach, which is media ready for the right outlets to reach the right target audiences.
BE A WINNER NOT JUST ONE OF THE RUNNERS
Creating compelling content and active reputation management should be key elements of your business development programme - either or both can give an edge. But always keep your eye on the prize, be clear on the results you expect and gear the effort accordingly. Many clients struggle, but done well it will make the difference.
Is your business set to be a winner?