Sales and marketing are fundamental to a good business development strategy, but too many businesses neglect the third piece of the puzzle – Public Relations (PR).
There is no doubt that an effective business development strategy is one which ensures that marketing, sales and PR work in harmony. Marketing ensures that you know your customers and potential customers well; sales ensures that you persuade as many of them as possible to do business with you (or to continue to do so in the case of existing customers; PR to ensure that you are seen in a good light in readiness for the next round of marketing and sales. This forms a virtuous circle of business development.
Good PR is not just about getting the occasional mention in the papers – it's about deciding exactly how you want to be perceived by both your market and your existing customers, and doing what's needed to ensure that is the case. It's very easy to spend a lot of money on PR, but it's far more effective in the long run to adopt a targeted approach, which does not necessarily require you to spend a lot, as part of your overall business development strategy.
With your existing customers, good PR can help reinforce their confidence in you. As all the best salesmen know, a sale does not end once the contract has been signed – it's important that you keep offering them evidence that they've made a good decision by doing business with you. On the other side of the coin, potential customers will expect to see evidence of your skill and experience and will likely be impressed if you are, say, booked to appear on the radio as an industry expert.
When it comes to crafting a business development strategy, I generally divide PR into primary and secondary activities. Primary activities would cover things like press releases, conferences, sponsorship and charitable duties that you can do routinely. Secondary activities would cover more unusual things like speaking engagements or exhibitions. Even placing job adverts is a form of PR; If you are constantly on the lookout for new people, customers will naturally assume that you are an active, growing business.
Remember, the different 'constituencies' you may have for your PR activities include your customers; potential customers; the people that work with you; your suppliers; your business partners (I like to consider these as your ambassadors); your neighbors; the press; your business sector or profession and finally, the public at large.
PR should be planned, interesting and have a real human touch if it is going to have any impact on the peopl that you are trying to influence.