What is Lean Business Development?
Many business leaders are constantly searching for a silver bullet that will unlock growth. They hear from their peers how they've been successful with PPC advertising or LinkedIn or (fill in the blank.) But they never seem to get the results they expect. Were their peers wrong? Not necessarily, there is no universal growth tactic that works for all businesses.
Lean Business Development follows the process developed by Eric Ries in his landmark book The Lean Startup. In it's most basic form, lean business development involves developing theories on which tactics will generate revenue, developing metrics to measure success and quickly pivoting away from tactics that don't work.
So if your theory is that PPC will generate revenue:
- Develop a digital ad that you think will resonate with your target audience.
- Create realistic goals for your ad using SMART goals.
- At the end of the time period you identified in your SMART goal, evaluate results and decide whether to persevere or pivot.
In practice, you will be running several "experiments" concurrently as you zero in on the tactics that will generate the revenue necessary to have a successful, ongoing business.
The pre-requisites for lean business development
Define target market and buyer personas.
Today's business buyer is looking for solution providers that understand their unique goals and challenges. Most SMB businesses are best served by targeting market segments like an industry, a geographic region or a size of business. This allows businesses to target good-fit prospects who will understand the unique value that you provide to that market segment. It doesn't make sense for a business with experience in the professional services industry to target retailers.
Likewise, you need to understand who typically is involved in the buying process in your target markets. Today's buying environment typically involves multiple people and roles included in the decision-making process.
Prior to running lean experiments on marketing channels, it may make sense to run lean experiments to decide which market segments to target and who you should be targeting within those segments. Executing marketing tactics without a clear idea of who you are targeting is a waste of time and money and is a fast track to failure.
Be realistic about short-term and long-term strategies
Many business leaders are understandably looking for a quick return on their business development investment. The truth is that inbound/content marketing usually takes time to produce results - it takes time to build social media audiences and to develop domain authority for your content with Google. So if you run a lean business development experiment with inbound marketing and set a 30-day time frame, you will fail - I guarantee it.
Does that mean you shouldn't create content and work to build your domain authority with Google? Absolutely not! It's undisputed that buyers are researching solutions to their business problems on the internet. If they don't find you when they search, it's difficult (but not impossible) to get on their short list of potential solution providers.
If you're in a knowledge-based business like professional services or technology, I highly recommend that you commit to inbound/content marketing as part of your business strategy.
So what should you do while you're building up a successful long-term inbound marketing channel? The typical arc of a business development strategy is to target prospects you know while you're creating the ability to attract those that you don't know. As you create blog posts, videos, webinars, eBooks and white papers, use outbound tactics to get them in front of potential buyers. Use prospecting emails to reach buyers you'd like to work with. Use your marketing content in your cross-selling and upselling process. Get the maximum utility out of your content marketing investment by using multiple channels to get it in front of buyers.
Define success metrics and be able measure them
You can measure just about everything in today's business development environment. You can see who is opening your emails and who is clicking on the links. You can see which of your blog posts are getting the most page views and which are generating leads.
In order to measure success, you need to have technology in place to that will track the data you need to measure success. We recommend using HubSpot to automate and measure your business development process. There are other technology products available that measure success.
The important thing is that you understand which metrics define success and be able to measure them.
So if you hear about the latest technique that your peer used to get 5 new clients last month, try it. But use lean business development techniques to see if it's right for you. As every carpenter knows, measure twice and cut once.