How to Develop a Strategic Business Development Plan

Updated January 26, 2023

Business development is the process of identifying business opportunities, planning strategies, and implementing solutions. It covers a wide range of ideas, activities, and initiatives to make a business better. By considering your strategic goals when preparing a business development plan, you can drive business growth and profitability. In this article, we define strategic business development, why it's important, how to create a strategic business development plan, and review tips for implementing it effectively.

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What is strategic business development?

Strategic business development is the process of aligning business development practices with your organization's strategic goals. The focus is to improve sales and find innovative ways of gaining customers by delivering on agreed terms. While strategic business development targets an organization's sales, it may involve other departments such as human resources.

Why is strategic business development important?

Strategic business development is important because it increases your customer base, lead generation, sales, and employee satisfaction. By implementing the process correctly, your business market share may also improve. Business market share is a business's percentage of total sales in a specified market. Strategic business development can create an innovative culture that motivates team members to perform their duties effectively.

Related: Business Development Skills: Definition and Examples

How to create a strategic business development plan in 7 steps

A business development plan is a document that describes how you intend to implement your business development strategy. While business development plans may be for an individual or organization, it typically refers to marketing and sales functions. Follow these seven steps to prepare a strategic business development plan:

1. Define your target audience

Start by understanding your customers and prospects. Identifying your target audience can help you align strategies to fit their needs. Also, identify your target audience's buying behaviour. This includes getting to know how they spend money, the issues they face, and where they look for information. When defining your target audience, consider narrowing down prospects to those who are a good fit for your organization. For example, reach out to people in Saskatchewan instead of across Canada, if you offer a product or service in the province.

2. Conduct competitor analysis

Next, research your competitors to gain insights into how they reach their target audience. Analyze their products, services, and methods, and conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths: These are positive qualities.

  • Weaknesses: These capture areas for improvement.

  • Opportunities: These are situations that can lead to positive outcomes.

  • Threats: These are anything that can lead to negative outcomes.

Performing a SWOT analysis helps you see which products or services resonate with your target audience. You can also obtain information about your competitors' sales data or review feedback from their target audience. Consider your industry's trends when conducting your research.

Related: SWOT Analysis Example, Steps, and Importance at Work

3. Identify your business development goals and competitive advantage

Next, determine what value your business offers that other businesses don't provide. For example, your organization may produce the most cost-effective solution in the market. Ensure you have a well-defined business goal that aligns with your organization's mission and core values.

Related: How To Create a Personnel Development Plan in 5 Steps

4. Select a business development strategy

After determining your strategic goals, decide on an implementation strategy. Common business development strategies to use include:

  • Referrals

  • Sponsorships and advertising

  • Outbound telephone and mail

  • Content marketing

Consider combining strategies to obtain better results. For example, you can use a networking and referral approach to develop your farming business. You can have a team network with investors at conferences and events to gain leads and request referrals from your first few customers. After deciding on a strategy, outline what team member is responsible for completing each task. Consider hiring a business development manager to lead the process at multiple levels.

5. Choose business development tactics

Business development tactics are techniques for carrying out a strategy. The most impactful tactics include:

  • Providing consultations

  • Using digital ads

  • Public speaking

  • Creating video blogs and marketing videos

  • Speaking on podcasts

Ensure the technique you choose matches your target audience and strategy. Use traditional and digital tactics to appeal to a broader audience.

6. Determine implementation and monitoring steps

Document how you intend to implement and monitor your strategic plan. Define your desired outcome for each strategy and tactic. Tracking the actions you take helps to stay motivated and determine aspects for improvement. For example, record each increase in sales if you plan to improve sales by 20% at the year's end. Measuring the success of your business development strategy also helps to determine when to change strategies.

7. Conclude the plan

Finish by highlighting the main points that demonstrate how your plan would be successful. Include charts, graphs, or demographics in the plan you want to present to your colleagues. Mention the next steps, such as your business's contact details or implementation timeframe.

Related: What Are Business Development Executive Responsibilities?

Important business development skills

Here are valuable skills to have when implementing a strategic plan for business development:


Sales skills refer to your ability to discover a company's target audience and sell their goods and services successfully. These skills include cold calling or setting up in-person meetings. When developing a strategic plan, sales skills are also important for forecasting sales.

Effective communication

Business development requires excellent communication skills to speak clearly and relate to customers. Effective communication involves listening actively to the customer's responses and addressing the needs of prospects. Showing confidence and receiving constructive criticism about your business is also important. You can also apply your written communication skills when preparing a business development plan.

Read more: Four Types of Communication (With Examples)


In business development, good marketing skills are also necessary. Marketing skills include finding ways to promote a business or brand and determining what to offer your target audience. Show your marketing skills by thinking of ways to enhance your business's awareness. Business awareness is when people connect with your services or products emotionally.


Networking skills are qualities for maintaining professional or social contacts. Having excellent networking skills is important for business development. For example, by networking, you may find a mentor outside your organization who has experience developing a strategic business plan.

Read more: Guidelines on How To Network

Project management

Running a business is like any other project--you have to manage it effectively. The ability to lead departments is important because you likely won't handle every task yourself. Project management skills also include the ability to monitor projects effectively and manage risk efficiently. Learn how to use project management tools such as Scrum or Agile to delegate tasks and implement your strategic business goals.

Business intelligence

Business intelligence means gaining insights into the market space. In business development, these skills involve researching a business's needs and collecting and analyzing data.

5 tips for how to develop a strategic business development plan

Use these tips to learn how to develop a strategic business development plan effectively:

1. Focus on lead generation

When implementing strategic business development plans, try to find potential customers interested in your product or service. Consider gathering leads through sources such as social media ads and call-to-action buttons on websites. By focusing on lead generation, making sales can become easier if you already have prospective clients that have shown some consideration for your products. Looking for leads is also a good way to remain connected to your prospective customer base as well.

2. Encourage collaboration between the sales and marketing departments

Implementing a strategic business development plan effectively requires a collective effort. Increasing communication between the sales and marketing departments helps to achieve your strategic business goals. These campaigns can be more impactful and typically result in well-organized leads. Organize team meetings and brainstorming sessions to drive business development plans and identify initiatives for long-term growth.

3. Set a budget

Before you implement your plans, ensure you define its scope and the cost of your initiatives. This helps you stay within allocated budgets and determine when you overspend. Having a budget also helps you determine whether your strategic business development plans are worth the investment. For example, if the financial impact of your plans is greater than the projected returns, you may need to re-evaluate your business development strategies and tactics.

4. Use digital platforms

Enhancing your online presence is an effective aspect of any business development strategy. Promote brand awareness and build trust through social media networks and digital content. Using digital platforms can also help you track your customer's demographics. For example, you may use website traffic to better understand how your target audience interprets advertising strategies and responds to new products.

5. Build a first response initiative

In your business development plans, describe how you'd contact new leads and follow up with them. Always consider the timing of your response and try to make contact early. Successful business development typically comes from applying clearly defined initiatives and strategic plans.

Now that we've define strategic business development and why it's important you'll be better prepared to create a strategic business development plan and implement it effectively.

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