Long, long ago, business development required lots of time, lots of waiting, lots of boring cocktail parties and even more shots in the dark. OK, it wasn't that long ago, but the game has changed. There are so many more information sources and tools at the disposal of today's small business owner when it comes to developing new customers or clients. Let's take a look at a few of them...
It sounds simplistic, but a search engine can be a great first place to start your business development research. If you sell handmade, gluten-free ice cream cones, searching the web for "independent ice cream shops" can help you find some potential buyers. Better yet, narrow it down by geography.
Meetups are fantastic ways to get out and meet like-minded people, people in your industry and potential customers. Basically, Meetups are organized groups focused on a specific interest (like, say, writing), usually in a specific region (say, Boston). So if you're a Boston-based freelance writer looking to get involved in the Boston content development scene, it would make sense for you to join Content Strategy New England. There, you'll meet peers, learn about new opportunities... maybe even land a gig or two. But the best part about Meetups (aside from usually being free and having snacks), they get you out and about.
While social networks like Twitter or LinkedIn may not seem like they have immediate business development purposes, they do. For example, LinkedIn is great for researching companies. Twitter is great for getting sense for a how a potential client talks to their customers. The biggest thing to remember when using social as a business development tool is that they are means, not ends. The phone's not going to ring off the hook minutes after you set up your LinkedIn company profile. You need to put in consistent, frequent effort.
Popping up seemingly all over the world these days, coworking spaces are place where individuals, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small startups can set up shop. (After all, you can only work alone for so long!) Residents rent desk or office space and go about their workday in a real (and usually cool, funky) office. The secondary benefit you see happening at a lot of these cowork spaces is bartering. An independent web developer needs a front-end designer and it just so happens that a front-end designer in the same coworking space needs a web developer to get a project over the hump. Presto! Services traded, recommendations made, new business relationships formed! Plus, aside from residents, there always seems to be a steady flow of people—from investors to lawyers to accountants to advisors—stopping by to meet with their partners or clients or portfolio companies. So check out what coworking options exist in your area and stop by for a free tour.
So those are just a few ways in which you can jump-start your business development efforts in the digital age. Tell us on Twitter how else you rustle up new jobs, clients or customers.