Getting Started on Business Development as an Independent Executive
Why using multiple business development strategies instead of one is your best bet
Most executives we meet possess many, if not all, of the characteristics described in this article. It is how they are applied and leveraged that starts to mark the difference between one executive to the next.
Because the most common struggle across the board is getting leads and closing business, we are focusing the rest of the book on three key areas: marketing, business development, and sales. Many will see marketing and business development as interchangeable in an independent executive business (especially a business of one), which is a reason so many continue to struggle while others experience success.
Business Development Strategies
There is No One-Size-Fits-All: Use Multiple Marketing and Business Development Strategies
Not all successful independent executives take the same path or use the same playbook. They may end up with the same outcome of more clients, but build their business in a variety of different ways. What they all have in common is that they play to their strengths. If they love meeting new people, talking, and chatting, then networking and events are great resources. If they love to write and keep up on current news, leveraging social media and a strong online footprint may be more comfortable and productive. The important thing is to be sure not to rely entirely on areas of comfort, but instead to make progress on all marketing and business development fronts.
As in most situations, independent executives should never rely on just one source for all of their business-building. For starters, here’s a brief overview of the top marketing and business development channels we have seen independent executives use.
This is a great place to reinforce your brand and your expertise. What is the one thing you want to be known for? That should be the theme throughout your communications, postings, tweets, blogs, etc.
Intermediaries and Online Marketplaces
It’s always great when someone else can do most of your marketing and business development for you. Both of these are growing areas and are worth the time investment.
It is wonderful when you can show up to a networking function and meet someone who needs your help, but since that doesn’t happen very often, go to networking events with targets in mind. Is someone you know attending or one of the speakers? Do your research on them so when you do meet them at these events, you can carry on a conversation that will pique their interest in you.
These are past employers, past clients, networking contacts, social media contacts, etc. The number one thing we can say is, “Keep in Touch Regularly!” For the independent executive, marketing is determining what you will market, and business development is taking it to market. We see too many executives skip marketing altogether and focus solely on business development, then wonder why they have only received one referral in three months, despite the number of networking events, e-mails, and meetings they have had. It must start with marketing. Get the marketing right, and the rest of the puzzle will come together much easier than you can imagine.
Starting with the Right Foundation: The Independent Executive’s Tool Kit
These tools range greatly, from those that are used to build and run an independent executive business to those used to help client’s businesses. They can help reinforce the executive’s brand, establish a value proposition, differentiate the executive from the 3,048 other executives who do something similar, and often simply make life easier. From productivity tools to sales and marketing to client engagement, an independent executive’s toolkit can be the difference between a successful business and a struggling business.
So, let’s say an executive is a former CFO and will now be working independently as an interim executive or management consultant. He or she no longer has an organization (regardless of how big or small) providing the tools needed to do the job and serve the customer. The executive also no longer has coworkers to rely on for information and tools. As an independent executive, what tools should executives have at their disposal during the transition to help communicate what they do best and serve their clients?
We have seen some fairly extensive toolkits over the years. Some executives have even taken the unique tools they have come up with and transitioned them into a broader business centered around them. Others have transitioned their tools into a technology platform and created a technology-enabled business startup from it. For more detail on how executives can leverage their toolbox into an ongoing revenue stream, check out our book: How I Fired My Boss and Made More Money. What is simply “helpful” now could become your number one source of revenue a few years from now.
There are more resources out there than one can imagine for piecing together what is most useful to each executive.
Executives should beware of getting so lost putting everything together that they lose sight of building their business and serving their clients. The tools should support, not interfere, detract, or deter. Something being “cool,” or developing it because “everyone else is” falls into these categories. Keep the focus on your business and the client’s business, and the question of whether it is needed or not.