Disguising PR as Strategic Business Development

business development

I have a lot of pet peeves with business development, having run the function for multiple companies.  This one in particular relates to how, too often, a PR-related effort is disguised as business development (BD).  An example might be a company that uses the BD team to get a mostly-meaningless MOU with another company just for the purpose of creating a press release that can be posted on the website.  Or maybe your BD team got you into some meaningless partner program that cost $5K to play but you have no real intention of doing much with it.  It’s not that the resulting press release has no value.  But the effort should be recognized as a marketing effort or something you’re doing to facilitate fund raising.  It’s just that your BD rep is the best one to deploy in order to secure the relationship compared to someone responsible for marketing.  Let’s explore further.

Real business development follows a similar, disciplined process as enterprise sales.

  • What are we trying to achieve from this strategic partnership (or whatever the relationship is)?
  • How do we go about accomplishing that?
  • What are we willing to give to the partner in return?

I love getting PR from large, strategic players in a market.  In fact, playing the PR game with a strategic partner can be used to suggest traction and help drive implied valuation (see related article titled “Establishing Valuation Before Revenue Traction“).    But at least amongst your management team treat this exercise as “hard to get PR” rather than strategic business development.  Otherwise, you might accidentally convince yourself that you’ve just struck some huge relationship that’s going to propel the company to new heights when all you really did is convince some company to do something worthy of a press release.  You’ve still got a few more important milestones before this partnership is going to bear fruit (see related article titled “Get the Strategic Alliance Partner to Come After You“).

Business developers can now throw their rotten tomatoes at me.  Sorry, I’m actually on your side and want you to be working towards relationships that make a difference to your company’s success.  Going for the easy press release is equivalent to going for the demo or POC in sales.  A seasoned sales person has their sights set on getting all the way to the purchase order.

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