Business development plan: A step-by-step approach

January 16, 2023
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Skills
Business development plan: A step-by-step approach

A good business development plan can set you up for success. Learn how to create your own from scratch with zero experience!

If you’re just starting with business development, chances are that you’re a little confused about how you should do it. I got lost many times during my entrepreneurial journey. One of those moments was when I had to write a business development plan for the first time.

Now, the main problem was that I didn’t have a clue about what a business development plan was to start with. And of course, when I started digging, I got even more confused. I found a lot of information online, but nothing that would tell me how to do it step-by-step.

So after some years of trying and failing, I finally found my way to deal with it and build my own business development plan.

Below I’ll explain how to write a business development plan and what information you should include in practical terms. But first, let’s define what a business development plan is.

What is a business development plan?

A business development plan is a document that helps you implement your business development strategy in a step-by-step method. It involves a lot of research on the market and customers. But also, other aspects such as your competitors and buyer persona.

So, a business development plan is a detailed summary of important steps you’re going to take to grow your business. One key aspect to remember is that a business development plan is a LIVING document. This means that you have to update your plan continuously based on new information about your ecosystem.

This helps you strategize better but also ensures that it’s a document of quality insights.

A business development plan is divided into two main parts:

  • Research: in the research phase, you learn more about your market, customers, and competitors.
  • Action: you use your research and put it into action. Specifically, this translates into creating a value proposition, and content, and experimenting with ideas.

You can download our template for free at this link.

the business development school - the business development plan template

Step 1: Organize your business development plan

I’m a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis.

It doesn’t have to contain every piece of information. Keep it simple by including only essential and key facts that will help you build an effective business development machine. Your business development plan needs to be easily accessible and quick to consult.

In this sense, you don’t need to get fancy and start looking for the latest software that promises you great time savings. Stick to something basic yet powerful. Google Sheets is your best ally when it comes to your business development plan.

So, the main goal of a business development plan is to keep information structured so that you can spot growth opportunities easier.

You can download our template for free at this link and start your business development plan.

Step 2: Market research

Market research is a stepping stone in a business development plan. It’s an activity to gather more information about customers’ preferences and needs. Many companies overlook this step thinking that their intuition will guide them through their challenges. Intuition can be helpful, but it’s still essential to know your customers better using research and data.

After all, most ideas start off from intuition. However, basing an entire plan on assumptions is never a smart strategy to use in business development. So, do your homework and make sure you always take educated guesses before starting to work on your business development plan.

Market research takes into account 3 variables. These will tell you the realistic size of the market you’re trying to target.

You can download our template for free at this link.

1 – Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market (TAM)

The TAM takes into account the entire market you’re operating in and basically tells you how much annual revenue there is available for your product or service.

Now, finding this information can be the first bummer. To me at least, it sounded quite impossible to find out. Later, I figured that there are many people out there that dedicate their life only to market research.

You can use Google to find out this information. But of course, you first need to know what you’re looking for. The information you need, in this case, is basically knowing how many companies or people would benefit from your product or service.

You also want to know how many companies operate in your exact space both in terms of services and geography. To get relevant market news, try Googling “your industry market trends”, “your market report”, or “your industry report”.

Many big consultancy groups and governmental institutions dedicate a lot of time to this type of research. It’s a good and reliable starting point.

PRO TIP:
Choose your sources very carefully. You’ll find a lot of random information, learn to filter out what you’re reading.

2 – Total Served Market (TSM)

Once you know how big your market is, you need to check how much of it is already served by your competitors.

In this case, the information you’re looking for is all about your competition. You should ask yourself first how many of them you have.

Then you need to find out how well they’re doing and start hunting for as much intelligence as possible.

The info you need to look for is how many clients your competitors claim to have, what revenue they generate, and where they are present.

First, Google keywords to identify your competitors. Right after that, you can start digging deeper into their websites and find detailed info.

Bigger competitors will most likely have good press coverage. Read these articles to gather more insight.

Last, don’t overlook the importance of customer review websites. Customers can uncover many relevant details that your competitors don’t want to reveal. And of course, make use of technology to make the most out of your research.

3 – Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)

The last step in your market research is to quantify how much you can realistically obtain with your business development effort.

Your SOM is your share in the market. So, to put it simply, it’s not possible to have an entire market buy only your products and services. There is a specific customer base that will buy from your company. So, your SOM refers to your market share and the people that can become your customers if they see a benefit from your products or services.

SOM takes into account your brand awareness, market insights, but also competition. It helps you forecast potential earnings and also gain customers. Based on the research, you become aware of what your competitors are offering to the market. Moreover, you will be able to tailor your products and services to meet the needs and preferences of your customers.

the business development school - business development plan market research

Step 3: Competitor analysis

The third step to do when creating your business development plan is to do a competitor analysis. So far, I discussed market research and how it helps you get to know the preferences of your target audience better. But, to grow your business sustainably and profitably, it’s vital that you analyze your competitors as well.

First, figure out who your direct and indirect competitors are. So, in a Google search, we try to identify or find the ID of each company that competes in your market. This can be found in the website’s ‘About us’ section. Then, the aim is to find key personalities such as managers and executives, and so on.

Once you have this information, you can move on to products and services. You can find this on your competitor’s website as well. This specific section defines what the company specializes in. You can use this information to compare your products to those of your competitors and try to find ways to improve them.

Continue by checking their clients, and the pricing they offer for their products and services.

You can download our template for free at this link.

PRO TIP:
Read the customer reviews of your competitors to spot their strengths and weaknesses. Use the insights to improve your offer.

the business development school - business development plan competitor research

Step 4: Customer research

After identifying your market share, you can start thinking of what kind of customers within this segment, you are trying to sell your products and services to.

The best way to tackle this is by running proper customer research that will provide you with your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona.

This is the part I like the most because it really helps you understand who you’re talking to. But how do you do it? First, if you already have some customers, start analyzing them. You want to gather more information on who they are, what they do, and their habitual traits.

For example:

  • What job titles do these people have?
  • How old are they?
  • What communication tools do they use?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What are their personalities like?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What do they do in their daily lives?

You can find all this info by simply checking social media profiles. Really, just by observing their social media platforms, you can get to know them in-depth! Take some time to check a few ones (at least 10) and you’re going to start seeing patterns.

Then, check some job descriptions about the people you’re targeting. This will highlight what are their professional responsibilities and how your product or service can help them. Last, it’s always advisable to run a survey.

You can download our template for free at this link.

Step 5: Build your Buyer Persona

Right after having run your customer research, you can now create your buyer persona.

The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research,

In your buyer persona, you need to include all the relevant information you found through your customer research. It should look like something below:

the business development school - buyer persona template

Step 6: Value Propositions

The customer research concludes the research part of your business development plan. Now it’s time to put your insights into action and start building your business development strategy.

The first valuable asset you need to build is a value proposition.

A value proposition is the value your customers get should they choose to buy your products and services

The value proposition helps you communicate your value as a company and you can use it on your website, sales calls, social media posts, etc. Having a clear value proposition will help you attract the right audience and persuade potential customers to work with you.

Of course, a good value proposition is based on that, and if you followed all the steps, you should have all the insights you need.

To build a value proposition we will use the Job-To-Be-Done framework. This helps you identify what are the responsibilities of your buyer persona when they’re doing their job.

For example, a typical responsibility for a recruiter is to find the right talent.

the business development school - job-to-be-done framework

Second, consider the pains and gains of your customers. Customers’ emotions are usually the reason behind their buying decisions. They influence their preferences, frequency of buying, and also which companies they buy from.

Especially the challenges are a crucial element in your value proposition because you can immediately link your solution to a concrete pain that your customers are facing.

For example, let’s go back to the example of the recruiter. We know that one main responsibility of a recruiter is to find talent. One major challenge for recruiters is to have enough time to process all the CVs they receive daily.

Now, let’s assume you work for a company that provides recruitment software that can automate CV screening.

A good value proposition, in this case, would sound like this:

Save 70% of your CV screening time using our recruitment software

the business development school - value proposition design template

Step 7: Content plan

Once you have your value proposition, the next step is to share it with your target audience. That’s when having a content plan becomes a must.

A content plan helps you strategize the type of information you want to feed your audience. It also helps you select the channels on which you should build your presence.

For content to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience when you write posts/emails, or articles. So, always consult your buyer persona before creating content.

Just like the value propositions, effective content revolves around the pain point you identified earlier. Use them to get the attention of your audience and provide valuable information that helps them alleviate these pains.

This will help you establish yourself as a valuable resource and when they will want to solve their issues, you’ll be the first to pop into their minds.

You can download our template for free at this link.

Step 8: Experiments

The last step in your business development plan is all about creativity and finding opportunities. This is the moment in which we create experiments to validate some of our business assumptions. Your experiment should be ideas that you think will bring sustainable growth to your company.

Once you identify some ideas, define some goals and set up the methodology you will follow to run this experiment. For example, if you heard of a new social media and you think your audience might be on it, build an experiment to validate if this is true and if it can bring you results.

Attach a goal to this idea, for example, generating 10 qualified leads on this new channel.

Then decide for how long you will run the experiment – ideally a couple of weeks. Once the experiment is over analyze what happened. If the experiment was successful, you need to scale this activity. If not, take the learnings for further improvements.

You can download our template for free at this link.

Summary

The business development plan is a key document that helps you map your ecosystem and strategize your business development efforts.

It consists of a research part and an action part. In the first part, you analyze your market, competitors, and customers. In the second, you use your insights to build value propositions, content plans, and experiments.

The business development plan is a live document, so you have to update it every time you have new insights. Of course, you have to use it in your daily operations to make sure you’re on the right track.

The business development plan is one of the assets you will build during our training. Would you like to shake up your business development career and work in a more structured way? Then join our next cohort.

Last, if you are a company wanting to train your business development team, our custom training solutions are the best way to take your team to the next level.

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