Who's covering the road? or...why a business development consultant

Ed Marsh | Oct 16, 2012

Knowing who's got it covered

Today's good news?  No sports analogies!  The bad news?  Another military analogy - but one that's really relevant to many SMB initiatives.

When planning a military operation there's a natural inclination to look at major features on a map and use those to define boundaries of responsibility for units.  At a first glance this makes sense.  It's much easier to use the river, highway, mountains, etc. as a clearly identifiable boundary.  Everyone knows which side they belong on and it's easy to keep everyone organized.


If you use the major river as the boundary you create an enormous tactical exposure.  Which unit is actually responsible for that corridor?  It's unclear.  And that's dangerous because it assures one of two undesirable outcomes.  Either the river remains uncovered (opportunity for enemy to penetrate or hunker down without challenge) or an uncoordinated mutual effort by both units to cover it results in frustration at best and friendly fire casualties at worst.

SMB business practices

Small & medium size businesses face similar dangers.  OK, friendly fire doesn't mean a life threatening injury, but it certainly means (and you now this from experience) pissing matches between individuals and departments that can absolutely cripple effectiveness.

business development consultingWhat do we mean by SMB?  There are lots of differing definitions.  Generally we refer to companies from $10-100MM in annual revenue.  Toward the higher end of that spectrum there tends to be more robust staffing which eliminates some of the need for cross-functional expertise.  Nevertheless silos tend to become more ossified, and a labeling a department doesn't mean that those staffing it have broad and fresh perspective.  Either way SMBs have challenges.

But what does that mean to SMB business development? Basically it's as important to understand where responsibilities begin and end as it is to define them.  And in the two areas where SMBs have exciting growth opportunities in today's markets - evolutionary B2B marketing and new markets - the science and art of both require strategies, tactics and skills which are infrequently well developed in-house but are critical to success.

The devil's in the details

You'd be amazed at how often I hear things like "She had a semester abroad in college so she's in charge of our international logistics." or "He's our marketing guy.  He pulls together great competitive research and wrote a whitepaper last year.  We're really already doing what you talk about."

Don't get me wrong - even thinking in terms of having someone responsible for international logistics is better than not.  But in all likelihood she doesn't understand nuance of INCOTERMS 2010, nor knows the details of the company's coverage for property in transit, or appreciates the issues with FCPA compliance which often arise from customs clearance snafus.

And the marketing jockey who has the company's most comprehensive understanding of lead generation may well be completely ignorant of marketing automation, have a rudimentary understanding of SEO and completely discount the importance of social media in B2B sales (where 41% of companies say they have sold deals that originated in Twitter!)

Outside expertise

Not many employees in today's markets are comfortable enough in their roles to acknowledge limitations to their expertise.  So executives who rely on the self-reported capability of employees to perform tasks are constrained by the combined ignorance (theirs and their employees) of not only what should be done in certain areas, but more importantly what could be done.

And the result?  The river and the highway are uncovered.  And as a result all sorts of mischief, not to mention potentially costly mistakes and unmitigated risks abound.

The solution is simple.  Identify and engage outside resources to help a business strategically leverage amazing opportunities available today.  This doesn't mean a golf buddy that builds websites, a 'sales expert' who succeeded 20 years ago, an international business expert who sold through US HQs into the northern Mexican 'maquiladoras' for their international sales prowess or someone who tweets about their lunch each day.  Rather it means finding solid business expertise in critical areas - paying for it and resolving to incorporate their suggestions.

Read our "Ultimate Guide to Selecting an Inbound Marketing Agency" and our whitepaper "6 Keys to Selecting the Right Export Advisor." 

Don't leave dangerous gaps in your strategy!

The bottom line?  You know from experience that if someone doesn't have clear responsibility, nobody does.  And when you start to tackle areas where some of the critical tasks aren't intuitive, then coverage is even more problematic.

A business development consultant (the right one, with pertinent expertise and an empathetic approach) carries short-term cost but delivers medium and long-term value.  The opportunity cost of a DiY approach can be enormous.  

Yet at the same time a risk analysis of doing nothing - simply continuing on the current traditional path - can be truly alarming for companies which look objectively at their situation.

Consilium's approach to business development is built on parallel approaches of evolutionary marketing and new markets.  Call us today to discuss whether our unique approaches and business development consulting expertise are the right match for your corporate strategy and objectives.

business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,