Guest post by Peter Baskerville, an experienced business owner. See the original post on Quora: What are some Biz Dev best practices for startups?
My answer to this question is based entirely on my experience in the business development of ‘brick ‘n mortar’ startups, although most concepts would be equally applicable to online startups as well.
I think that the most critical aspect of business development for a startup is securing the initial traction in the market. The combination of tasks and processes implemented to develop growth opportunities in the early stage of a startup I refer to the ‘beachhead strategies’.
Some time ago I took some time to reflect on the beachhead strategies that I had implemented in establishing my 30+ ‘brick ‘n mortar’ businesses, and I came up with the following low cost Biz Dev strategies. For the sake of this forum I will try and keep the answer as succinct as possible for what is a very complex question.
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(1) Build Momentum – i.e. taking actions that make the business appear successful from the customer’s point of view and so create a desire by them to engage.
If needs be, rent-a-crowd of friends and family, offer lost leaders and opening specials, create a fun-loving buzz about your offer/enterprise, encourage ‘ownership’ by staff and partners, focus on winning over the internal staff, technicians and suppliers first and exude confidence as a relaxed winner who has faith in their offer and strategy.
(2) Become the topic of conversation – i.e. taking actions designed to get your target market talking about you in a positive way. The goal is to gatecrash their everyday conversations.
Be a little quirky and unusual at the start, get in the news with press releases and friendly PR, give early customers a post-sale benefit, offer outstanding quality on some products to elicit the customer’s ‘To die for’ response, create theater with technology, machinery and/or people skills in the supply of your product/service.
(3) Work with your champions – i.e. these are people (usually early adopters) who take great delight in giving referrals for your offer that will reflect positively on themselves as opinion leaders, cutting edge switched-on and with-it observers or simply being acknowledged by their friends as possessing good judgment.
Acknowledge them as ‘friends of the business’ – get their names and use it always, reward them with praise, ‘love the one your with’ by spending no time being anxious about customers that you don’t have, treat their customer referrals like royalty.
(4) Create memorable experiences – i.e. taking actions to create experiences that are way beyond what your customer would expect from your competitors in the same situation.
Turn transactions into a fun and enjoyable experience, take the opportunity to trust your potential customer if ever offered the chance, let them try before they buy, give them some useful/important information about the product that your competitors have never told them.
(5) Create addictions – i.e. taking actions to promote products or services that your customers could become highly addicted to.
Create a loyalty reward scheme, don’t drop any of your initial offer no matter how slow the sales (keep the faith with the customers), if the cash flow can afford it – make the first three uses free, organize your assortment at the start to sell a splattering of highly addictive products.
(6) Break habits and break through – i.e. taking actions to break the habit of your target market who have habitually gone to your competitor … but do so without starting a war with the competitors.
Outflank your competitors by being open for business when your competitor is closed, offer products that are not offered by your competitors , if cash flow and expertise are sufficient, then secure your business via a difficult route that few competitors would be comfortable to follow, engage the spies (champion customers and supportive suppliers) to understand your competitors actions/reactions, stay under the radar with your competitors (don’t do things or make statements that directly threaten your competitors and force them to react).
(7) Remove barriers – i.e. taking actions that makes it easy for the customer to engage with you and your products, without them feeling the pressure of commitment.
‘Blood the business’ by making the first sales of your business to non-core customers in non-core times to relax you and your stakeholders, create a public commons where customers can feel belongs to them, make sure you are easily found and identified by making your signage clear and significant, use music, TV or specific sounds to create the easy to enter environment, encourage the uninterrupted browse, initially include and make highly visible brands that your customer is very familiar with, present professionally, present with permanency, legitimize, be associated with established authorities, make the transition from public-space to your-space as smooth as possible.
(8) Linkup with the locals – i.e. taking actions that support those activities that are conducted by other businesses and community groups in your target area.
Create as many allies as possible with surrounding businesses, create a notice board that allows your community groups and other businesses to advertise special events, design giveaways that make them look good to their customers by offering a freebee at your business, aim to keep the customer in the local area for all their needs.
(9) Concentrate on the main event – i.e. taking actions to commit all your resources to achieving a few high level objectives and to simply ignore all lower level objectives.
See your business only through your customer’s eyes, make sure your offer to try (promotion) is activated after your capacity (staff ability, packaging, product) has been established, prioritize the establishment of a customer base not to make a profit, accept your mistakes quickly, learn from them and move on. Focus on the goal not on your causalities, promote products initially that have ready market acceptance and keep your innovation as second stage to what’s normal and understood by the target market. Launch with only the adequate range with intentions to later expand. Concentrate on delivering the core part of your offer well. Keep it simple. Think of nothing else. Analysis, doubt and reflection are of little value now. Run with what you have, do what you must do to achieve the objective and ignore the consequences. Go hard or go home. Forget about what the competition is doing. Become customer obsessed not rivals obsessed. Don’t make control your aim. Understand that you are in a highly volatile situation and that survival and just coping are the desired outcomes. Institutionalize your culture by repetitive words and actions.
(10) Exploit the unforeseen opportunities – i.e. taking actions to exploit the unforeseen opportunities that materialize during the implementation phase.
Identify the winners in the assortment early and back them fully. Find a micro-niche that may have no established competitor loyalty and win this niche quickly. Keep an open mind to everything. Serve on the front line. Look, listen, observe customer behavior, their reactions to price, products and systems. Respond quickly to any negatives, exploit the positives. Seek feedback. Don’t be defensive and protective. Be the general and make sure there is a clear authority in the beachhead phase with full rights and responsibility to exploit opportunities as they arise and to guide the business through to the breakeven point.
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