Tips to Unify Your Business Development and Marketing

By Elizabeth Harr, Partner, Hinge Marketing |  June 19, 2018

When your professional services firm’s business development and marketing are in sync, you can realize significant increases in growth, visibility, profitability, and more. To succeed, each side of the equation needs to understand the other, and also know how to provide the most effective and best support. In reality, however, this is rarely the case.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities for these two distinct groups to collaborate on a common goal: growing the business. In this post, I’ll summarize the different (and sometimes conflicting) roles and responsibilities of the business development and marketing teams, and ways that the two functions can collaborate to support each other.

Let’s Start with the Differences
Business development and marketing have separate roles and responsibilities in achieving the same goal — growing the firm’s client base. These include:

  • Business Development – Forming strategic partnerships, relationships, and other professional contacts in the firm’s target markets that will eventually bring in new clients.
  • Marketing – Understanding the target market’s needs, developing the firm’s overall messaging, benefits, and capabilities, and communicating those qualities to the right audiences.

Clearly, both functions are working on the same challenge: how to engage prospective and current clients. The important thing to understand is that they have different drivers, tactics, and tools.

What Causes the Disconnect?
In many firms, there is almost a tradition of marketing and business development departments not working closely with each other. In a survey that my firm recently conducted of companies providing professional services, only a slight majority (54 percent) said that they strongly coordinated their marketing and business development activities. That can be a real problem, however, resulting in wasted efforts for the firm, as well as lost opportunities.

There are several possible root causes of this disconnect. For many firms, it’s simply how they’ve been operating for years. There may be few if any processes or occasions for the two departments to collaborate — and even worse, they may not even realize the opportunities they’re missing.

In other instances, business development and marketing teams may actually be working at cross-purposes. Even though they should both be working toward a common goal, it’s not always obvious in day-to-day operations. To name just one example, a firm’s business development folks might be pushing their marketing colleagues to deliver more and better qualified leads, while marketing might be pressing the business development team to improve how they nurture and close leads.

In an ideal situation, marketing is in charge of creating the messaging, content, and collateral that will best resonate with clients as well as prospects. Of course, no one is better positioned than business development to give marketing the insights they need to do so, such as the latest information on industry trends and clients’ pain points. Because business development professionals are talking with clients on a daily basis, it’s a very good bet that they have a pulse on how the firm’s offerings address the pressing business issues that keep target clients up at night. Sharing such insights helps marketing create the kind of content that attracts prospects’ interest, and ensures that all those warm leads get nurtured and moved further into the sales funnel — rather than lost or forgotten.

How to Get in Sync
Now that we’ve explored the two teams’ roles and the benefits that come from their close collaboration, the next question is, how can they do better at collaboration?

There are several opportunities for joint activities to consider that align with the firm’s over-arching priorities:

  • Strategy development – Business development and marketing should collaborate to identify the best strategies for communicating the firm’s core messages, following up on leads, and assessing the results of both teams’ efforts.
  • Content creation – The marketing team should develop client-facing educational content such as articles, blog posts, and webinars on topics identified by business development as being most relevant to the target audience.
  • Campaign development – Marketing should take the lead in creating and promoting campaigns and marketing events, while business development should handle outreach and follow up with the target audience.
  • Speaking opportunities – Marketing and business development should work together to pitch the firm’s SMEs as speakers and presenters at industry conferences and events. Meanwhile, business development staff should attend these types of events to meet prospects and current clients, and then do the critical follow-up.

To grow your business the right way (and generate real momentum), marketing and business development must be focused on the same goal: working together to attract those clients who will truly benefit from your services.

By making this commitment to collaboration, a firm will stand out against its competition. As an added bonus, the firm itself will benefit from less wasted time and increased revenue.

Are you ready to take a more strategic approach to growing your business?

Additional Resources

  • Download our free book Spiraling Up to learn how to develop a high-growth, high-value strategy for your firm.
  • Check out our free research-based book Inside the Buyer’s Brain to learn how your business development team can close more leads by understanding what the buyer really wants.
  • Our Lead Nurturing Guide for Professional Services explains how you can craft a powerful lead nurturing strategy for your firm, so you can turn leads into clients.

How Hinge Can Help
Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, The Visible Firm® to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.  

  Elizabeth Harr is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, management, communications, and alliance development. Elizabeth co-founded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management.