What is everyone else doing?
If the answer to this question informs 80% of your current business development strategy, you may need to apologise to your business for not fulfilling its true potential. Copying a strategy in professional service business development is a dangerous road that seems easy at first but leads to a destination that may oftentimes not be yours.
But, it is tempting isn’t it? Once the glass is shattered and we see the problem with our strategy, or note a lagging behind of our brand, our eyes are also assaulted by a barrage of solutions present in the activities that are being undertaken by our competitors. Its like a buffet out there; so much you can pick and replicate, and so you do. In fact more often than not, we home in to one competitor that we feel is doing as well as we would like to be doing and try to figure out and imitate their actions. Does my competitor have a newsletter on such and such topic? Well, there, now, so do I. Does my competitor have a BD manager? Well then, so must I. I’m not too sure exactly what a BD manager is and what they must do but I’m sure they will figure it out.
And in a short time, after throwing some money at these activities, things begin to feel better. It certainly looks better; you look like progress is being made on your end and movement is good isn’t it? Is it?
I’m not sure I agree.
Let us consider a few points why.
It does feel safer but is it really safe?
These quick ‘copy cat’ instant activities tend to give us the illusion that we are doing something progressive for our firms when we might not be doing so. The illusion of activity or motion tends to give us a false sense of progress and security which is like enjoying an evening run but finding that one was moving away from their intended destination and is lost when darkness does eventually catch up with them. Nothing beats planning, setting off towards a predetermined destination that can be accessed in our shoes, especially if darkness is imminent, and it is.
What can’t we see?
In copying, there is the assumption that what we see is the sum total of all that is being done but this is rarely ever true. The successful implementation of a good business development strategy involves many aspects which coordinate and form a highly effective engagement of the client; very few of these are actually visible to the general public; the deep impactful work is in the back.
What about the client?
The professional service service provision is an exciting and very intimate dance. We are consistently playing to our clients’ tunes whilst ensuring that they reach their objectives, without our stepping on their toes. To do this successfully and reach the client, we need to see them correctly. Take the time to understand them and then pick the right dance step. Now one may say that we and our competitors have the same clients after all. A bank is a bank is a bank is a bank, right? Actually no. Wrong! Between you and the bank’s purse lies a person or five, and keeping their variable professional interests managed is crucial to your success. Your competitors are pleasing their five points of contact and addressing all their efforts to them. By your replicating their efforts, you may be pleasing their five but not necessarily yours. After all, no two people are alike right?
This article is written by Wanjiru Mutung’u Kariuki, Director and Head of Strategy and Business Development at Hoist Africa. She supports our professional service clients in legal, tax, audit, healthcare and education sectors in developing strategies that allow them to maximise their engagement with their clients, markets and talent.
View her profile here: Wanjiru Mutungu Kariuki