15 Tips for Creating A Business Development Strategy Plan

Do you have a business development strategy in place? If not, you’re missing out on a great way to strengthen and expand your business.

Business development-also known as “biz dev”- includes ideas, plans, and strategic activities that can making a business better. A better business means revenues are increasing, you have the ability to expand and increase profitability, and there are partnerships in place to help you make better business decisions.

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The business development point person can be yourself or an experienced employee. Investopedia suggests encouraging employees to brainstorm innovative ideas, which can help to improve the overall brand.

Here are steps to take to craft a development strategy plan for your small business.

Review performance/experience over the past year

You can’t move forward without knowing your successes and stumbles from the previous year. Take a look at your Key Performance Indicators to determine where you stand and how you got there. According to QuickBooks, the top KPIs for a small business are:

  • Cash Flow Forecast
  • Gross Profit Margin as a Percentage of Sales
  • Funnel Drop-Off Rate
  • Revenue Growth Rate
  • Inventory Turnover
  • Accounts Payable Turnover
  • Relative Market Share

Define target audience

The number one rule of marketing? Know your audience! A target audience is a specific group you want to reach with your marketing efforts. They should be the consumers most likely to buy your products or services who share common characteristics, like demographics and behaviors. It can be helpful to set up an “audience persona”. This is a fictional person based on data and research who represents a segment of a target audience. You might develop several personas to accurately reflect your audience.

Competitor analysis

You absolutely need to have a handle on your competitors. By performing a competitive analysis, you can discover the products and techniques that have been successful. You’ll also get a comprehensive peek at the audience you share. For guidance, review this article that includes an easy template to use: How to Perform a Competitive Analysis in 2019.

Define your USP

A unique selling proposition (USP) is a what makes your product or services different from competitors. Your USP might be that you have the lowest cost, the highest quality, or a unique-one-of-a-kind product. A USP could be thought of as “what you have that competitors don't.”

Choose development tactics

Here are 6 channels a small business should target. We’ve included resources from the SmartBiz Small Business Blog to help you pick the right channel for your business.


Our article, 8 Impactful Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic, reveals 7 tips you can implement to effectively improve traffic.

Social Media

Social Media is ever-changing and can be a complex channel to tackle. Check out Social Media Tips for Small Businesses to learn how to get started and pick a platform, how to define your plan, and how to measure results. If social media isn’t in your wheelhouse, consider hiring an outside consultant. We have tips to help you select the right person here: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist.

Email Marketing

Launching an email marketing campaign might sound overwhelming but the payoff can lead to increased brand awareness and sales. Our article, Email Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners, has what you need to know to plan and launch a campaign.

Content Marketing

Content marketing can establish your brand, increase your online profile, attract new customers, and engage potential customers. According to a survey from the Custom Content Council, 69% of marketers feel that content marketing is more effective than direct mail and PR. Blogging is one of the most popular types of content marketing. Other avenues include videos, infographics, case studies, eBooks, white papers, and interviews. Need more convincing? Check out our article about reasons to use content marketing and how it can help your business grow: 7 Solid Reasons to Use Content Marketing for Business Growth.


Search Engine Optimization is a must in the online space. Most consumers in the U.S. go online to find companies and research products or services. SEO Tips for Small Business Websites has information to help you hone your SEO efforts.


The best-known PPC platform is Google Adwords. Visit their website for all the information you need to get started: See How Google Ads Work.


One of the most effective ways to get positive word-of-mouth recommendations from your current customers is to provide the best possible customer service. Check out this post from the SmartBiz Loans blog to help you craft a great policy: Keys to Great Customer Service – Even if You’re a One Man Organization. For more ways to get word-of-mouth going for your business review: 10 Ideas to Get More Customer Referrals.


Define what success looks like

SMART goals are a great way to see if your efforts are moving the needle. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound. SMART goals are an easy tool business owners can use to create an actionable plan to reach results.

Define how you will monitor implementation

Having workable ideas and strategies is great. But who is going to implement? If you own a small business, you might have a lean and mean staff. Have experienced employees in place who have the resources, time, and tools to implement your plans. You may have to launch an employee training program to make sure your strategies are implemented correctly.

Determine required resources

Do you have a budget? Do you have time? These are two important questions to ask when determining the resources available to you. Before you finalize your plan, work with a financial professional on your budget and realistically look at your work week.

Common business development strategies to put in place


Networking is the lifeblood of most businesses. Getting your name out there and building relationships are keys to any successful business in any industry. Networking doesn’t come easy to every small business owner. It can be difficult to talk up your business and sell yourself. The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has an article you can use to build your skills in this important area: How to Turn Every Event Into a Networking Opportunity.


Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools out there. People trust recommendations and the right referrals can encourage consumers to check out your business and ultimately buy your products or services. The popularity and impact of online review sites proves this. As an example, the 2018 Online Reviews Survey by ReviewTrackers, reports that approximately 45 percent of consumers say they are likely to check reviews on Yelp before visiting a business. Incorporate strategies from our blog post into your business development plan: 10 Ideas to Get More Customer Referrals.


There are many ways to advertise your business from online social media ads to radio. If you have a good handle on your target audience, you’ll know how to pick the right platforms for your targeted advertising campaigns. And don’t forget about sponsorships. You can sponsor a local sports team, a community event, a school, or other organizations that could benefit. This gets your name out in the community and puts your brand in a positive light.

Outbound Telephone/Mail

Direct mail and telephone outreach are not dead! There is still plenty of justification for putting marketing dollars into these approaches. Telephone outreach can be tricky-you don’t want to turn off potential customers. However, benefits include increasing your brand reach and getting immediate feedback to analyze and measure the results of your campaign.

Direct mail is also alive and well and its response rate ranges from about five to nine times greater than that of email, paid search, or social media (Source: ANA/DMA Response Rate Report 2018). Business News Daily has a helpful resource to help you get started on a direct mail campaign: Small Business Guide to Direct Mail.

Thought Leadership

A thought leader is an expert in a specific industry who offers guidance and insight. Thought leaders have a good reputation and valuable knowledge to share. You can become a thought leader and build your brand by aligning with mentors and experts, participating in networking events, and being quoted as a source in articles, blog posts, and other media often as possible. One example is SmartBiz Loans customer Bryan Tracey. Tracey owns SkateXS, a unique company that manufactures kid-sized skateboards. Bryan is frequently quoted in articles about kids, skateboarding, exercise, and safety. There’s no doubt he’s a thought leader in that space.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that the end results matter most. You should have a system in place to track the success – or failure – of your business development activities. Measure leads developed, net income ratio and profit, customer acquisition, and employee satisfaction. A holistic view of your business will help you determine if adjustments are needed.