Where does the biz dev stop and the real work begin? The obvious answer is ‘not soon enough.’ The budget logistics, the proposals, the pitch decks – at some point there comes a time when we have to take the plunge with a new campaign. Although some broader points are clear and easy to articulate at this time, sometimes the actual day-to-day tactics are not. We might not have every minute of work during the early stages set in stone when the project starts. This is because an agile strategy – a strategy that allows for tactics to be based on data and metrics – is a feature which the success of any campaign hinges upon.
My goal as DragonSearch’s business development lead was always to get out of the way as fast as I can to let the production team take the reins. Nice as that may sound, it is hard to get to that point before painting a vivid picture get of how we’ll approach the project and effectively set clear expectations. The picture I help paint includes the top of the mountain and the immediate foreground, showing the path in between that we’ll take together to reach the top. The balancing act is determining how many details are painted along the path before the project actually starts. Too many details and you dictate the direction of the campaign without sufficient data to adjust the strategy as the results come in. Too vague or too little and you may not win the project. The first, and perhaps most blatant convergence comes in the simple question of just what services are actually being provided.
When a new project comes in, we approach it from a process-oriented perspective. That means that we don’t have all the answers before the project starts; that’s what website audits and data collection are for. Any problem-solving process begins with identifying the problem. One of our fundamental principles is that we’re solving business problems with marketing. That means that the prescription can change from month to month. We’re not bound by a targeted follower count increase or a desired click-through-rate. If our clients are making money, that’s the end goal.
But what does this mean for proposals? When I send out a proposal to a new prospect, it’s likely that our breadth of services is part of what attracted them to DragonSearch in the first place. That is, after all, a central premise in illustrating the value of a going with an agency over hiring in-house. But we all exist in an environment of limited resources, and thus we have to make choices. The first choice is critical because it dictates which process will begin once the project kicks off. At a very basic level, we’re determining what line-item will show up on the client’s invoice – and that has to be something they’re comfortable with!
Setting expectations is critical, but to set in stone the allocation of resources to be put behind each tactic, or even to create an exhaustive list of tactics, at that stage would be lunacy! For those that pride themselves on data-driven decision making, setting the allocation of effort at that stage is anathema. Start with a basic premise, and then let the data do the talking!
At DragonSearch, we’re no one-trick pony and our services are always evolving. The amount of energy that goes into keeping abreast of, and anticipating, the industry around us is staggering. Seriously, our team is up at all bizarre hours of the day reading blogs, reviewing client analytical data and always thinking a few steps ahead.
That means product development efforts are always in full swing. Amazing things can happen when you deviate from the path you laid out at the beginning of the project. Being ready to experiment, to change tactics, and to have an agile approach to a project, means that resources might not be allocated the same way each month.
These decisions happen between account managers and clients, rather than being driven by biz dev. Once they have the resources and trust they need, the team will do whatever is necessary to improve the client’s bottom line.
By hiring solid marketers, investing in internal development, and having a “do what it takes” approach to problem solving, we’re able to strip away the bureaucracy of allocation happening at the proposal or invoice level. In other words, Google Analytics tells us where to put our effort, not Microsoft Word or Quickbooks.
Biz dev is a balancing act, and a means to an end; build trust and hand the project off to the production team, that’s the broad goal. How has your company handled this balancing act? We’d love to hear from brands and agencies about how to best strike the balance. Let us know in the comments!