This is a series of five articles designed to help you build the relationships that bring value to yourself and your contacts. The series focuses on the small, but crucial steps you need to take to build valuable relationships.
We start with examining your own organization to identify your own value proposition – its strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Next, we do the necessary research to find those companies or agencies that would be interested in your product or service. We discuss making a connection to prospects, delivering value to your contact, and finally, setting performance metrics to manage your business development practice.
This series stems from my own experience in building great support and business development teams, and creating enthusiastic references for my software development firm. After being part of a team that built and sold a company to a major public company, I’ve applied these same principles to economic development in the federal space, building robust partner networks for the U.S. Department of Commerce, collaborating with local organizations to introduce companies to businesses assistance programs offered by the government.
Discovering Your Value Proposition
Finding your customer starts with an examination of your business, product or service. What do I have to offer my customer? What customers are most likely to use my product or service?
Begin the process of discovering your company’s core competencies by asking yourself some general questions to start your thinking process.
- How much revenue, what number employees, and what core competencies have you established?
- What specific agencies do you have in mind?
- Where do you have past performance?
- What skills sets do you wish to market?
- What do you think it takes to build your brand?
- How much time?
- What kinds of resources and how much do you plan to allocate to this?
- How do you feel about strategic acquisitions?
The next step is to conduct an objective, detailed analysis of company, or product from the standpoint of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Such an analysis is useful when it is done as a team exercise, and can also be useful as an individual exercise when looking at a smaller space, such as managing a territory. In either case, it is important that team members look objectively, and avoid the use of general statements.
Strengths are the advantages that the company has proven. They may be a focused management team, a strong supply chain, an established product or service in the market.
Weaknesses are internal challenges that need management attention and better resourcing in order to turn them into strengths. Weaknesses may be inadequate capital, the lack of a brand in the market, or very few use cases for the product.
Companies face a wide range of opportunities. In order to be successful, they need to concentrate their efforts where they have particular strengths. Think of opportunities as the possibilities for the company. They can come from a well-established need in the market, changes in technology and markets, government policy, social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc. They also come from an established market demand.
Threats are external to the company, but disruptive factors that must be considered when planning for strategic growth. Changes in technology and markets, government policy, social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc that can be opportunities for one company may be threats for another.
A SWOT can provide the information and insight to pinpoint your company’s product or services strengths, match them with opportunities, determine how to convert your weaknesses into strengths, while mitigating threats. SWOT allows you to focus on what is doable and attainable, identifying markets and opportunities that your company can exploit.
There are times when an unbiased assessment of your company can be quite helpful. A strategic advisor can help you see the possibilities; acting as an ‘honest broker’. The objective is to identify and present strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats without bias towards one side or another, allowing all sides to sit on the same side of the table. The value of reduced internal friction during stressful times cannot be overestimated.
The most valuable result of the SWOT analysis is that you will now have a clear plan to focus your efforts. By examining your organization to identify its value proposition, you’ve identified you company’s core competencies, those things they do better than anyone else, and also those markets that offer the most potential.
In the next article in the series, we do the necessary research to find those companies or agencies that are most likely to use your product or service.