What’s strategy got to do with business development? If I’d answered this question before I started seeing the first-hand outcomes of a modern strategy process, I wouldn’t have seen much of a direct link. On face value, they are two different disciplines.
However, now I can’t imagine running a strategy process without considering the connection between strategy and business development.
Early on in my strategy career, like a lot of people, I saw strategy and business development as two very separate areas of expertise. Strategy was for setting direction and making strategic decisions, achieved by following a defined strategy process.
On the other hand, business development was typically a separate discipline altogether, focused on direct customer growth and led predominantly by the sales and marketing functions.
So, how did I arrive at my current perspective of seeing the two as more intricately connected?
The modern strategy approach
After working for many years in both business development and strategic consulting, I had observed (and been a part of) teams in large corporate and mid-sized organisations who typically worked on these two areas separately.
It wasn’t until I left my corporate job and started Foundstone, that I began to see the direct connection.
Foundstone was launched with the core principle of helping CEOs and boards use modern strategy to achieve better and more tangible outcomes. Initially, our unique approach was largely based on bringing Design Thinking principles into the boardroom. That approach evolved to incorporate Open Strategy and other modern strategy principles across the strategy process.
Through this evolution, I started to see the unexpected connection between strategy and business development first-hand.
A bit more background on these two components of modern strategy:
A Design Thinking approach to strategy and problem-solving is grounded in interacting with the people who are closest to the problem itself. It does this by building a deep, empathy-based understanding of customers and includes diverse voices and perspectives into the process. These insights then form the direction for strategy and co-designing solutions.
Open Strategy is largely about incorporating an “outside looking in” approach across key stakeholders. Helping clients find unique insights by involving their own customers, partners and broader external stakeholders in the strategy process.
The a-ha moment
Through these modern strategy approaches and largely via our Qualitative Customer Conversations (QCCs) method, I started to realise that helping our clients involve and listen to their clients and potential customers was actually resulting in new business development opportunities!
I remember having a definite ‘A-ha moment’ and thinking “we’ve just unearthed a solid new business revenue stream for this client directly out of involving external voices in the strategy process”.
It was then that I truly became aware of what was also resulting from these modern strategy approaches – a straight-up, large dose of business development.
Is your existing strategy process driving BD?
If you’re a CEO and your strategy process doesn’t include some form of market and customer engagement directly with existing key clients and potential new customer segments, then you will likely be missing opportunities.
Not only opportunities to develop unique insights that are critical to making informed strategy decisions, but opportunities to engage with customers in a unique strategy context. When done correctly, it’s this engagement that can also uncover new business development opportunities.
If your strategy process does not include direct engagement with external stakeholders, then it could mean one of these things:
- Your sphere of engagement could be too internally focused, and you are likely missing nuanced customer perspectives and the opportunity to build new client relationships through the process.
- Your strategy could be missing significant turning points, emerging trends and disruptors in your market due to a lack of engagement with potential new customers and markets.
- You might be too focused on quantitative industry data that is general in nature, backward looking and does not give you unique and specific insights that only come from direct customer conversations.
- You may be missing the opportunity to co-design potential strategy and solutions with customers. Involving customers in the strategy conversation shows them that they are important, and that their insights/ideas can help form a key part of your strategy that ultimately solves their problems better.
The strategy & BD link in action
Below is a direct client example of where our modern strategy approach has resulted in direct business development and partnership opportunities.
We worked with the CEO, leadership and board of Amber Community (link to case study) to facilitate their organisation-wide business strategy process. Embedding direct market and customer insights in the strategy process upfront with potential new customers contributed to helping Amber Community achieve a 300% increase in business development opportunities.
“The Foundstone strategy approach helped grow a 300% increase in opportunities and pipeline for the organisation. This helped launch new service lines, resulting in new revenue and partnerships.” Bernadette Nugent CEO – Amber Community (RTSSV)
Get the same output in your own strategy.
Modern strategic planning that incorporates Design Thinking and Open Strategy principles, particularly in the insights-gathering phase, has a direct role in creating new customer relationships and business development.
I am continually surprised by the advantages that arise for organisations using strategy approaches that open up the process to external perspectives. One of these clear advantages is building new client relationships and new business growth opportunities.
I’ve also found that many CEOs who aren’t comfortable or experienced with business development can (through modern strategy approaches) start to build familiarity and become more adept at BD.
Modern strategy approaches have far more practical benefits than traditional strategy processes. It’s time to start getting this direct value and rewarding outcomes from your own strategy approach.
Learn more about using these principles:
- How do you uncover your strategy blindspots? – Our recent article on getting visibility on market blindspots and the impact on strategy.
- The Qualitative Customer Conversations (QCCs) Approach – When used the right way QCCs can help you develop new business alongside strategy insights.
- Foundstone – Execution, Business Development – Get unique market & customer insights through the Foundstone approach.
About Foundstone Advisory
Foundstone is a business and strategy advisory firm based in Melbourne. We are experts in incorporating Design Thinking, Open Strategy, and Co-Design consulting principles for impactful business strategy.
To find out how to start applying modern and impactful strategy in your organisation and leadership, enquire about our Strategy Consultation here.