A few months have passed since I joined the Codegram fam, and I’ve started to realise that from a developers' point of view, the concept of Business Development, being more of an art than a science, is often perceived as rather broad and somewhat obscure at times.
So, in this first of a series of "Biz Dev for Tech" related blogposts, I thought it might be useful to shed some light on what Biz Dev is all about, why it’s important, and what the initial stages of the Biz Dev process might be for digital agencies like our very own, Codegram.
So, what’s Biz Dev all about anyway…?
Broadly speaking, Business Development is the pursuit of opportunities for long-term growth from customers, markets, and relationships. At it’s core, the role of a business developer revolves around three core activities:
- Clients/Customers: Outbound prospecting to discover new opportunities, as well as further servicing previous client accounts.
- Markets: Figuring out who our ideal customers are, on both an organisational & individual level… where they’re based, their size and tenure, who the decision makers are, what positions they hold, and what keeps them up at night? Coupled of course with the appropriate go-to-market strategy through which we intend to reach them.
- Relationships: This includes building rapport, networking, establishing and leveraging business relations founded on trust, integrity and mutual benefit to facilitate long-term business growth and revenue driving opportunities.
I’m sure some readers may be thinking, “well, that seems pretty straight forward…”, and yes, in a nutshell it does indeed seem that way. However, leaving it at that is comparable to suggesting that climbing Mount Everest simply involves placing one step in front of the other until you’ve reached the summit. Of course, this would be an understatement of note, as achieving such a feat takes significant planning, training, strategising and the deployment of practical techniques to ensure success. Similarly, Biz Dev requires an intricate combination of skills to ensure the value derived from an opportunity, persists for the long haul.
Three Pillars of Biz Dev
As far as I understand it, the Biz Dev role is made up of three pillars: Strategy, Sales, and Relationship Management.
Pillar One: Strategy
Strategy can be broken down into two broad categories:
A - Where to Play?
Based on our core services and unique value proposition, which regional markets and industries are most suited and in need of our core services (i.e. market fit)?
B - How to Win?
Once we know where we should aim our efforts, we then need to determine how best to approach this market, how best to pursuit the opportunity?
Furthermore, we should keep in mind that not all opportunities are created equal. It is therefore crucial that we understand the fundamental drivers of not only our business, but also that of our customers, our partners, and our competitors in order to make well-informed strategic decisions.
The core strategic functions within the realm of Biz Dev therefore include:
- Opportunity identification and assessment of its potential long-term value,
- Determining the paths of least resistance in pursuit of the opportunity, and
- Understanding the associated risk-reward trade-offs associated with each strategic approach.
Pillar Two: Sales & Marketing
Generally considered fundamental aspects of almost any Biz Dev role, two core Sales & Marketing skills required whether selling a product, service or collaborative partnership include:
- Navigating through, identifying and understanding your target organisation, as well as its key decision-makers and their unresolved needs
- Concisely demonstrating the value of what you can offer, in the context of both the target organisation and the individuals' needs and objectives
Pillar Three: Relationship Management
Establishing relationships is really what Biz Dev is all about - a critical success factor in moving "from pursuit to fruit" - enabled by:
- An expansive network,
- Soft skills such as interpersonal communication, and
- The ability to build and maintain new relationships.
In light of this, my role as Head of Strategic Partnerships at Codegram seems well-titled as it implies a culmination of the above three pillars, set upon a foundation of my personal values and perception of business development, namely:
- An openness to collaboration
- Transparency, authenticity and trust
- Striving for mutual benefit in all interactions with key stakeholders
- Perceiving our operating landscape holistically, with many moving parts intricately connected.
Ubuntu: I am because we are
As a South African, I tend to base my professional approach on the concept of Ubuntu, broadly translated as: “I am because we are”. In the context of business development, this implies that our success is intricately connected to the success of our partners, clients and all other stakeholders.
And in my personal experience, this value-driven approach has served as the golden thread that effectively ties each of the three aforementioned Biz Dev pillars together, and thus far, has proven to be highly effective in identifying collaborative opportunities worth pursuing, establishing and maintaining long-term relationships and facilitating sustainable growth and development in all of my professional endeavours undertaken to date.
Although brief, I hope that this post has shed some light on the role of Biz Dev within Digital Agencies such as Codegram, including its varied, intricate and exciting nature. And despite the role of Biz Dev being somewhat ambiguous to some, I hope that I’ve managed to convey the importance of the role in a way that is now more clear to all.
I will be getting into the nitty gritty practical aspects of business development within the digital arena. I’ll be sharing a few practical learnings gained through implementing each practical application at Codegram.
My next blog post will shed some light on Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) & the Customer Journey - understanding why each of these matter in the context of digital agencies, Biz Dev and the tech industry.