Strategy or design | profanity & insanity in B2B business development

Ed Marsh | Mar 17, 2014

What's habit and what's not

Have you ever encountered a manufacturer of B2B products that didn't routinely follow some sort of design process when developing new products?  Or even improving existing ones?  

I haven't either. 

Of course the very reason that such an approach is ubiquitous is precisely because it is imperative.  Want a good product, you've got to have a good design process.

But at this point we encounter a dissonance in the way the same companies approach business development.  What is the business analog to product development design?  Strategy...and strategy as a word and/or concept seems to almost universally evoke disdain among sr. leadership of B2B manufacturing companies.

Why is strategy profanity among SMBs?

b2b business development often treats strategy as profanityGood question - one I'm not sure I can answer. But there are a few possible explanations:
  • sr. execs are in the weeds of HR, AP, AR, logistics, etc. and simply don't have bandwidth
  • the strength of linear thought fundamental to product engineering and development isn't well suited to abstract approaches
  • capable, driven people like those who start and build companies hate being wrong - and strategy will certainly involve being wrong to some degree
Whatever the reason, business development strategy is often missing among B2B manufacturing companies.  Sure they may say "we will add another sales person next year", "allocate 3% more to marketing for more PPC ads", etc.  But those are tactical responses.

Why strategy is necessary

It's amazing (and common) to encounter reasonably successful companies where sr. management can't articulate a profile of the ideal target buyer and account.  That means they also can't explain how that is evolving and how it likely will in the future.  Nor can they describe the process by which that ideal buyer will find them, understand the business value they represent, and elect to actually buy.

That's obviously fundamental to developing a complimentary business development plan; and not having that is akin to beginning design without knowing what the finished product should be able to do!

Frequently they are also at a loss to explain how and why growth targets are set.  Of course there's always some shallow (maybe even vapid) statement like "We need to grow 5% to create an environment satisfactory to our stakeholders and provide continued service to our valued customers."  What does that mean?  And how will that really drive decisions and resource commitment to growth?  Progress requires clear goals - and an understanding of the consequences of failure.

From those basic understandings, then it's possible with the right expertise and background to project the types of B2B lead generation, sales, and market expansion that are consonant with strategic goals.

Because without it....you'll just do "stuff"

b2b business development strategyThat process may seem stifling, arbitrary and constraining for SMBs. And in a sense, if 'whimsy' has been the guide to that point, it is constraining.  But absent that strategy, resources are squandered and potentially beneficial activities are perverted.

Typical examples of fruitless expenditure of resources include:
  • pursuing leads and projects that don't support long-term success
  • blindly charging into inappropriate export markets
  • engaging an SEO consultant
  • spending on pay per click (PPC) ads
  • reflexively engaging reps that claim to have projects
  • undertaking social media efforts....and handing them off to "the intern"
  • blogging because "that's what we need to do"
  • website redesign by yet another graphic designer
But the flip side is that the same investment of resources focused on the right prospects in the right markets delivered through the right channels can yield amazing results. 

Maybe we should call it "BDD" (for B2B business development design.)  If that makes it more palatable, and companies can embrace it, then persisting in calling it "strategy" is folly.

But regardless the moniker - the concept is critical!

Want to learn more about the great B2B business development opportunities available to companies that are willing to build upon a solid strategy?  More here.

business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,


image credit here and here