[Video Transcript for Conducting Business Development from a Distance by Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM. Minor edits for clarity.]
Greetings everyone, I’m Scott Butcher and today I’m going to talk about conducting business development when you can’t be there in-person.
The business climate today has shed a light on the challenges of business development when your job requires you to be out there, meeting prospects and clients. In many ways, the model has been turned upside down.
As business developers, we rely on business mixers, conferences, and trade shows. We “do lunch” and get together for coffee. We invite prospects to sporting events and host events at our office.
And when the business world is working remotely, these tried and true methods of business development are no longer available.
But that doesn’t mean that business development needs to stop. In fact, as the economy sputters and projects temporarily shut down, now is the time for business development, more than ever.
We must recognize that the playbook has changed, and modify our techniques accordingly.
I’ve led several research projects for the Society for Marketing Professional Services, or SMPS. The most recent initiative was the Marketing 2022 report, where we looked at how the industry is evolving to embrace current business-to-consumer approaches.
More than 300 firms participated, across all firm sizes and company types.
We saw a bit of an evolution. Asked about the most important current and future marketing and BD approaches, participants ranked Networking as the most important current approach, and Client Experience second. But the two were forecast to swap places in the coming years.
In fact, I recently led a webinar about the research, and asked the 400 participating sites about the most important approaches right now. 31% selected Client Experience, with 30% choosing Content Marketing and Thought Leadership. Networking dropped to third.
So a shift is happening.
For many years, surveys have revealed that roughly 80% of a firm’s work comes from existing clients, with 20% coming from new business.
So the most critical business development right now is with your existing clients. The success of your firm is based upon your ability to keep your clients happy.
The front lines of business development are with your client-facing staff. In the AEC industry, these are your project executives, project managers, and site superintendents – the people interacting weekly or even daily.
Delivering a quality product and keeping the client happy are givens. They are the baseline for any firm, but they don’t guarantee repeat work from the client.
The concept of Client Experience is far more than just customer service. Client Experience is about thoroughly understanding your client, their clients, their industry. It is recognizing every single touchpoint of a client’s journey with your firm, and adding value to every step. It is anticipating their needs, and responding to them. This may mean adding new service offerings or bringing in new partners to effectively address these needs.
SMPS research found that clients are increasingly looking for firms that offer more than just traditional design and construction services. So when it comes to conducting business development from afar, you need to start with your existing clients. Reach out to them via phone or email. Learn about their challenges – because they are facing many right now.
Research how other similar companies or institutions are addressing the same challenges. Determine if your firm is positioned to help them address those challenges. If not, can you pull other partners onto your team to help your clients? Evaluate your touchpoints and determine how you can add more value. Work with your project managers and other front-line staff to coach them on client outreach – what should they be saying? What questions should they be asking? What value can they be delivering right now?
In one of my recent videos, I talked about bringing value to every business development conversation. Now, more than ever, we need to provide value – whether making phone calls or sending email.
So conduct a “Value Inventory.” What resources do you have that will be valuable for your existing clients? Most likely, these resources will also be of value to your prospective clients.
But what does this look like?
Value can be blogs, studies, or videos that your firm pulled together. Value can be third-party resources that you’ve compiled. Be an aggregator of “news to use” for your clients and prospects.
This brings us to Content Marketing and Thought Leadership, which my webinar survey ranked as the second most-important marketing and business development approach right now, just a wisp behind Client Experience.
Thought Leadership is the highest form of Content Marketing, where you are providing information of value to your audience. It is not about you, it is about them. Thought Leadership can be a highly effective business development tool.
With so many people working remotely right now, we’re seeing an increased need for Thought Leadership, so your marketing and business development team needs to make a concerted effort to develop meaningful content right now.
In fact, if you’re able to newsjack – that is, take a current event and develop useful content around it – you’ll position yourself as an expert to existing clients and prospects.
For instance, what are recommendations for temporarily mothballing a retail facility? How fast does the air turnover in a typical office building? What type of filtration should be used? What are recommendations for making up lost time on a highway construction project?
Think blogs, FAQ’s, videos, or infographics.
Develop that information with your Subject Matter Experts, and get it out there – email the content or links to your existing clients and prospects. Post it on your website. Have your coworkers share it on their social media channels. If appropriate, send it to the local business journal, newspaper, or media serving your clients’ industries.
One of the common challenges that firms face is the inability to get information out of their Subject Matter Experts. But some of these SMEs might have more time on their hands in the coming weeks, so use that availability to pick their brains and capture content.
Social Selling has never been more important than it is today.
Social Selling entails using social media networks to develop relationships and drive business. And right now, in this world of remote business development, Social Selling needs to be a critical component of your strategy.
LinkedIn is Ground Zero for social selling – at least for most of us. Take the time reach out to your existing network and connect with them. Research your existing connections’ contacts – your immediate connections are first degree, their connections are second degree. Find other people you’d like to connect with.
Don’t send a generic connection, but rather something personal. Explain who you are, if necessary, and why you are connecting.
Consider asking a mutual connection for an introduction.
You’ll need to offer a value proposition if you try to connect with someone who doesn’t know you. Why would they want to connect with you?
Also find groups to join on LinkedIn. If you belong to any professional associations, start there. There may be an overall group for a national organization, and groups for local chapters. There are also many client organizations that allow non-members to join their LinkedIn groups.
And then there are the affinity or interest groups to consider joining.
For instance, if you target facilities managers, there are LinkedIn groups for the International Facilities Management Association and local IFMA chapters. There’s a Facilities Management Group and Corporate Facilities Management Professionals, among many others.
Join a group, then check out the conversations taking place. Consider starting a conversation by asking a question or sharing something of value. Research the other group members, and determine ones that you want to connect with. If you are both members of the same group, you now have an excuse to connect with them.
I’ve found that my network grows organically through Thought Leadership activities. When I post a blog or video and people like it or share it, second and third degree LinkedIn members reach out to connect with me.
See how I keep coming back to the value of Thought Leadership?
There are so many things you can be doing right now when it comes to remote business development – I’ve just hit on some of the key ones.
Now is the time to scrub and update your CRM.
Send personalized emails to your existing contacts and prospects – but make sure you’re offering value.
Work with your project managers to help them reach out to both current clients as well as former clients. Be a coach and a resource to them.
Put together training and host webinars. The content has to be valuable for your target audience. Promote it via email and social media.
Delivering presentations is a highly effective way to generate leads, and since conferences are being cancelled left and right, move that content online.
When you eliminate networking events, in-person meetings, and travel, business developers now have time on their hands to do those things they’ve been talking about doing for years.
Use that time wisely!
I’m Scott Butcher, and I help design and construction firms improve their marketing and business development acumen through consulting, training, and facilitation.
Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
[End of video Transcript]