Business Development is an untaught skill (if taught at all) but somewhat of a need in a startup or growing firm. This presents a challenge. Being a great practitioner is important but growth requires you to generate new work. This will be in the form of bringing on new clients and increasing existing client spend.

But how does that gel in uncertain times?

Well when I say ‘uncertain times’ I am referring to a widespread adverse change to a market or industry. Or during COVID, an impact felt the world over. But this could also be due to a change in government, interest rates or foreign policy.

And in these times of need, businesses will need more financial, legal and marketing support.

An opportunity lies in the poor management of most professional service firms. Most do a poor job of communicating and supporting clients in good times. So in the not so good times, their clients are wanting support and empathy. They are also scared and fear the worst and not feeling supported. Their appetite to change advisors has increased and you have an opportunity for business development.

There is a quote that I love:

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

In times of need, it is all about how people feel.

So here are some business development actions you can take to engage with existing clients and reach out to ideal clients – even those not supported by their advisors:

  1. Pick up the phone and call every client affected. Ask them what is their take on current events? What do they see unfolding? How will affect them? What are they going to do about it? Do they have a crystal clear plan in place? Do they think it would be a good idea to get together to nut out a strategy and way forward? Ask “how can I help you?”
  2. Reach out to business colleagues, referral partners and centres of influence and ask for their read on the situation. Let them know you are accepting new clients and if they identify businesses in need of support to make an introduction.
  3. Reach out to Associations for your ideal clients and suggest a collaborative event. Also remember Association run Professional Development events and need speakers/trainers. This is an overlooked opportunity.
  4. Host your own educational online and offline events and invite:
    1. Clients
    2. Friends of clients
    3. Fellow suppliers to the same client
    4. Promote through online social networks
    5. Associations, Chambers of Commerce, Peer Groups etc.
  5. If all your competitors are running webinars, put together a summarised and graphic designed 1-page document. Don’t follow the ‘sheeple’ and do what everyone else in the industry in doing. In fact I’d encourage you to do the opposite. You want to stand out, not fit in.
  6. If you are in the market, keep your eyes and ears peeled for acquisition opportunities. You will find doors will open a lot easier.
  7. Explore a cross-promotion with a fellow non-competing business. You both have the same target clients. Engage a copywriter to draft an email endorsing and introducing the fellow business owner and their services. This can be agree on a share-for-share basis or revenue-share basis.
  8. If you are more of writer, then a pen an article or two per week. Remember to include a call to action at the end (even throughout). This can be as simple as asking the writer to reach out if they’d like to see how X applies to them. Share on your social channels. Email to everyone on your list. Share with relevant media outlets (they are hungry for articles). Share with associates for their publications. Consider sending to a journalist if the article is red hot. Find journalists names in journals and newspapers. Locate them on LinkedIn. Reach out.
  9. Be a connector. You may have clients that could be introduced to solve one another’s problems or partner. You may be an accountant and your clients need marketing and communication support. Great. Reach out to an agency and ask if they are accepting new clients. They’ll be over moon. Suggest that if all goes well would they be open to endorsing your services to their clients? They will be.
  10. A few short ideas to end with:
    1. Do more video. It could be a quick snap on your phone or using Loom.com. It is personable and none of your competitors do it.
    2. If your target are on social media then consider increasing advertising spend. Important: Make sure your communication messages are appropriate. During COVID many businesses pulled their marketing spend. That caused a drop in demand and cheaper advertising.
    3. Send a weekly update email. It doesn’t have to be war and peace. Even send an update when there is no update.
    4. Use other communication means. If your clients prefer text, then text. If it’s WhatsApp or a Facebook group, go there.
    5. Introduce more availability times. In times of need your clients (and prospects) may need to chat early or late. You don’t need to be suited up in the office but you need to be available and let people know.
    6. If you do produce any social media content please don’t produce it for your peers. It is for your clients. I see this all the time. Accountants and lawyers write articles that speak to other accountants and lawyers. Drop the jargon, speak in layman’s terms and write as if talking to a client.

Helping in times of need comes down to your intention. If you want to help, get out there, pick up the phone and action one or two of the above. If you don’t like doing video then don’t do it. If you don’t want new clients then better service your existing clients. But if you want to better your relationship with existing clients and attract new ones, then go do some business development.

Brad Turville

Brad Turville

Consultant | I help professional service businesses fast track their growth by working smarter not harder.