Filed Under:

Even as we’ve settled into routines around working remotely, meeting virtually, and supervising online learning, many of us still seem stuck when it comes to how to carry on doing business development. 

More than once recently we’ve heard the exasperated frustration, “I used to go to lunches and happy hours and events! Now I can’t do any of that, so how do I still do biz dev?”

Business development is a critical part of any business and vital to the healthiest brands. Branding requires having meaningful conversations regularly. If you’re successful in doing so, those conversations will become relationships, which become business. 

While showing up at conferences and live events is now out, a good business development practice is built on the same stuff that made you successful when that was in. 

Think about it. When you were in front of people, you’d use what you already knew, who you knew, and what you had to offer to remind people of your presence, to be helpful to them in their needs, and to engage them in relationship building. 

All of those things are still possible with current restrictions. 

A key question to ask yourself: how do you like to be approached? It’s likely that your audience will want the same things — sincerity, timeliness, value. 

Now let’s get tactical …

  • Become your clients’ biggest promoter. Time to take out your book of business. Analyze the relationships you have and what value they bring to you in terms of the relationship and the investment they make in your company. Start by identifying two or three relationships a week to personally talk to. If you or they are fatigued by virtual meetings, set up a time to chat on the phone. Find out what they are up to, what they are struggling with, how their kids are doing with online school. Work to understand their current business position, with an eye toward celebrating any wins or supporting any struggles. After the conversation, make some notes about how you might support them — then take action. If appropriate, make celebrations public. Ask permission to feature them on your company blog or submit them for other awards or recognition. 
  • Be a human. Your area of expertise is likely a commodity. So talking about what you do might not resonate. Instead, talk about who you are. Using blog posts or social videos, share how you are growing as a person, the struggles of being a business owner — and even how you are adapting to new realities at home, all of which humanizes you. It replaces the “Sarah, the accountant” with “Sarah, the real person.” Our friend and client, Amber Setter, is a great example of this. She does an excellent job of mixing her business expertise as a coach for CPAs with the realities of being an entrepreneur, a woman leader and a mom. She knows that coaching is a commodity, so she is intentional and sincere about how she shows up in the world, which makes her authentic, approachable and credible. 
  • Create some heartfelt opportunities to connect. It simply sucks to not be able to visit with people in person. And everyone is getting sick of being in front of their screens all day. So, get creative. Plan a regular (every other Tuesday, once a month) 15-minute coffee drop-in Zoom chat for your clients. Let them know there is no obligation to attend, but consider sweetening the pot by sending over some virtual coffee shop gift cards and a hand-written invite. Or, think about putting together a virtual summit, mastermind group or client get-to-know-you. Your clients may be struggling with business development as much as you are: what if you helped them to solve that problem by using your contacts to bring folks together?

Other right-now ideas for business development a la 2020 …  

  • Write a position piece about your brand’s philosophy and submit it to a website or industry publication for consideration. If you take this on, be sure your messaging and story are clearly defined and add to the discussion (lucky for you we’re hosting a BrandLab on storytelling on Sept. 18).
  • Craft a short talk that can be delivered virtually and pitch it to a local business college or MBA professors.
  • Join a community of professionals that gives you the opportunity to get to know one another deeply and authentically. While we’re not fans of transaction-minded networking groups, we are huge fans of communities built to support and expand thinking, growth and learning and now is a great time to engage.

One of the biggest misconceptions about branding is that it happens in a marketing-focused bubble, removed from the other parts of the business like sales or business development or customer service. This simply is not true. Branding is the practice of your business in every conversation and every interaction. 

Business development is brand building.

As a reminder, we are now offering Brand Therapy for new clients. In 50 minutes, we hone in on your most pressing branding issues and concerns. If one of those is business development, consider booking a session. 


We invite you to join our free, private community Being Marketers. Inside of Being Marketers you will find a space to help you harmonize between your marketing work and your soul. You’ll have access to full videos from our Being Marketers webcasts, customized content and tools and be the first to learn about our upcoming webcasts, private events and offerings.

Let’s Talk!