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Interview with Jennifer Vancini, Business Development Strategist

Today we’re thrilled to be chatting with Jennifer Vancini, the acting General Manager of US Operations for the Symbian Foundation, about the role marketing plays in the successful execution of a business development plan.

Jennifer has over 15 years of experience leading strategic business development initiatives and alliances from genesis to maturity. Her experiences include building and managing business development teams, growing alliances, defining and executing business growth strategies for both start-ups and Fortune 1000 companies.

Jennifer offers a real world view on how the right marketing plan and programs can make or break your success when opening new markets.

Attain Marketing: In your opinion, what are the ingredients that make business development strategies successful and how does marketing factor into this success?

Vancini: Simply put, business development efforts are most effective when the needs of the target customer are clearly understood and the company, and its products, sufficiently meet or exceed these needs. It is essential for marketing to support business development efforts by properly framing the value proposition and then providing campaigns and sales tools that will move new target audiences to take the desired actions.

Attain Marketing: What causes business development efforts fail and what can companies do to be more successful?

Vancini: Many companies are too focused on short term revenue goals, which is understandable given the way people are often incentivized. However, they don’t spend the time or money required to develop new markets, which are ultimately necessary to sustain long-term growth objectives and smooth out revenue fluctuations. Companies falsely believe they can develop a few random marketing tools and then magically gain traction in a new market, but that isn’t the case unless, of course, the market was low-hanging fruit to begin with and the company lucks out. I don’t rely on luck for repeatable success.

A successful business development program takes time to develop and execute and includes the selection of target markets with the highest probability of success, customer and competitive intelligence gathering, strategic positioning and message development, and creation of ongoing lead generation programs.

Attain Marketing: In your experience, what issues arise between business development and marketing teams that impede success?

Vancini: The common mistakes all stem from the same problem. Despite the fact that marketing and business development people are both charged with expanding their company’s client base, they rarely start out on the same page.

I’ve seen classic examples of this throughout my career, such as:

The “one-off” marketing campaign. In this instance, a lack of budget and commitment to a new market is replaced with a few disjointed and shotgun marketing campaigns. This short sighted approach often produces disappointing results because marketing activities are not part of an integrated and ongoing campaign.

Another common mistake is trying to be all things to all customers. This is usually a result of limited resources, limited market understanding and impatience. Instead of focusing efforts around a tightly defined audience, the company rushes into new markets with broad messages and ineffective campaigns that try to reach too many people and often the wrong people.

Lack of credibility is often a hurdle when entering a new market. You can’t assume your company’s reputation will automatically transfer from existing to new markets. Prospects won’t believe your claims unless third-party experts and/or customers back them up. You must take the time to build credibility points and endorsements from influencers in new markets.

Finally, new business development ventures are often misaligned with corporate branding and strategy. Time must be taken to ensure that new business development marketing programs align with overall corporate branding strategies. Branding is much more than a logo. The consistent, cohesive presentation of a company brand, which includes all touch points to a customer and market (promotion, product, service, sales, etc.), increases customer confidence. On the other hand, branding “free-for-alls” make a company look unprofessional and unreliable. Depending on how radical the departure is, it can also raise suspicion in the customer’s mind that his/her business development contact is acting on his or her own without buy-in and support from the rest of the company.

Attain Marketing: What tips can you provide to our readers that will help them avoid these mistakes?

Vancini: The main point is to view marketing and selling as an integrated process. Teams from both sides should collaborate and execute on an overarching set of goals and objectives. Management support and proper budget – is the first step to success. Other tips include:

  • Concentrate business development and marketing activities on a few, well-budgeted product and service offerings to avoid fragmented resources and reduced market exposure for each product.
  • Organize the demand-creation process in a way that lines up with target customers’ view of the world and how they prefer to buy your products.
  • Base your marketing messages on well-researched business issues and solutions instead of forcing your target customer to think about these issues and how solve them from your perspective.

Attain Marketing: Great points. As you know, everyone is sensitive about the economy today, so we have to ask you how companies can successfully market their business development projects with limited budget?

Vancini: I expected that one. But really, integrated marketing campaigns don’t have to be expensive – it’s not an all or nothing proposition. What’s important is to be sure that all marketing programs are tied to business development objectives and selected campaigns can generate the best ‘bang for the buck’. Even in good economic times companies can find themselves operating with a self-defeating scarcity mindset, especially small companies who compare themselves to rich competitors. Just do the best you can with what you have, make choices that have the strongest link to objectives and be realistic about the results.

If your sales and business development people on the front lines feel they don’t have enough marketing support, they’ll come up with their own programs and tools. I’ve seen this range from creating their own PowerPoint templates to making up a new product line on the fly. Not only does this become a diversion from where they should be focusing their time, but messages and brands get diluted and overall results are hindered.

More than ever, opening new markets is key for a company’s long-term growth. When marketing and business development are aligned, companies have a significant competitive advantage and will have the greatest chance for success.