Look at the expense line items recorded for your marketing and business development (BD) investments.
Take a calming breath. Most CEOs and managing partners and directors experience unease because there are few direct relationships that correlate revenue production to BD expenses, which can run into the millions of dollars. Shortening the time it takes from meeting a prospective client to being hired can be influenced by reliable data analysis similar to any other business operation.
BD in most market segments is a sport of attraction, pulling and nudging prospects to recognize they should choose your firm. Your success in generating worthwhile returns, whether you are using marketing software or a spreadsheet, stems from two known factors:
(1) The quality of event participants identified by their titles or request for professional accreditation at an event, for example, and their interactions with BD efforts over time (e.g., attended multiple events or forwarded your newsletter). This is the nudging effect.
(2) Using the right data and trends to predict best BD decisions as you go forward.
This article is a hands-on approach if you are starting an ROI analysis of your BD department, or if you want to re-evaluate assumptions built into your software analysis.
Count the Right Things
There is a prioritized hierarchy of BD tactics that produces the best results in generating new and ongoing revenues. That hierarchy by ROI, from high to low is:
- Speaking engagements to high-quality target audiences;
- Publishing useful information directly to clients and prospects and through social media;
- Providing expert commentary in the media, usually as a result of numbers 1 and 2;
- Networking within highly qualified groups, listed last because the time to secure client acquisition is usually the longest from having to meet and become known to people on a one-to-one basis, even in a rich networking setting.
Let’s take each category of action (except media commentary, which emanates from speaking, publishing and related PR efforts in large part) and detail the types of ROI factors that trend in a positive manner and correlate with measurable revenue production in BD.
Speaking Engagements to High Quality Audiences
Speaking engagements are persuasive in gaining new clients and continuing client matters because they exemplify both the expertise and personality of the speaker. The indicators of revenue production reside in the countable quality and interaction of the audience members as appropriate decision makers for your firm’s services. The measurable factors that predict revenue production and trends are:
(1) More highly qualified audience members attending over time, such as:
- If professional accreditations are part of the event, a growing number of audience members who request professional credits over time;
- Attendees who come to more than one event or registered a group from their workplace;
- Attendees with job titles appropriate as financial decision makers for your services.
(2) “Sales” behaviors exhibited by attendees: Audience members who request follow up meetings, refer business, request an in-house rendition, or ask that your presentation be given to their network or association;
(3) Media inquiries for expert commentary from the speaker(s) on the substance of their presentation. It is always advisable to invite reporters and editors to events and to publicize the event over social media.
Publishing Useful Information
Assuming newsletters, white papers and news as a video production are sent via bulk email software, there are critical behaviors that are tracked over time as part of the software itself. The most important critical numbers are:
- The number of recipients who open the newsletter;
- The number of recipients who forward the newsletter to other colleagues;
- If newsletters are sent as videos, the number of recipients who open and view the entire video;
- The number of recipients who comment positively or otherwise (good or bad, comments are a sign of interest) on newsletters and videos;
- The number of recipients who ask for a meeting as a result of the newsletter or video;
- The number of recipients who click through to a writer’s biography, assuming those links are embedded in the information shared. Checking credentials is a valid indicator of positive buyer behavior.
Networking Within Highly Qualified Groups
Because networking is an individual’s, rather than a firm’s, marketing tactic, reportable numbers indicative of superior, rather than mediocre, BD performance still apply, and yes, they are countable and show trends over time toward BD success.
Here are important criteria to guide an evaluation of membership expenses:
(1) Assuming an appropriate group membership, is the individual marketer a member of a worthy committee or task force in the group so that other members get to know him/her in a more personal way, which necessarily precedes a buying decision?
(2) Does the marketer attend the group regularly so that membership dues are justified?
(3) Over time, has the member produced any new clients from being in the group?
(4) When asked to buy an ad or table in the group’s biggest meeting, such as an annual gala, can he/she produce valid reasons, such as clients produced or imminent prospects, to invest further money expenses in this type of activity?
Evolve Data Into Trend Analysis and Watch the Black Box
Nothing is more valuable to a firm attempting to increase profitable revenues than a monthly BD analysis by the numbers, paired with month-to-month and year-to-date trends. Investing in high-result BD actions—speaking, publishing, giving media commentary—are solid choices to increase business.
The variables you cannot control, the black box of BD, are economic changes affecting consumer and business buying behaviors. The issue then to be addressed is not which BD function to support, but investing in knowing your clients and prospective clients better than your competitors do, so that you address the substance, and not so much the format, of valued guidance.