Anticipatory Business Development: Visiting the Future to Plan for Tomorrow’s Success

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When it comes to business development planning, design, construction, and related firms simply don’t spend enough time thinking about the future – even though that is where we will spend all our time. Granted, none of us are fortune tellers. Some things, like – say, a global pandemic – were really not on our radar in late 2019. So flexibility and agility are certainly necessary to adopt to unforeseen circumstances. And yet, if we take the time to understand our clients, their industries, the economy, design and construction trends, and other factors, we can develop a thoughtful strategy to leverage trends and create a competitive advantage.

Generational Demographics

For instance, we know that workplace demographics are changing significantly. 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, and that number will hit 12,000 in just a few short years. This is creating considerable disruptions in the marketplace. 

Think about who will be making decisions – and how those decisions will be made – in the coming years. As Baby Boomers reduce work hours or even retire, there simply aren’t enough GenX’ers to fill those positions. Many Millennials have been fast-tracked into management and firm leadership positions, which will only accelerate. The workforce in 2030 will be drastically different than it is today, with projections that by the end of the decade, two-thirds of the workforce will be from the Millennial Generation and Generation Z. We need to care about this, because recent research informs us that 75% of Millennials in B2B firms are already in decision-making positions, yet 55% of Millennials will not meet in-person with business developers. 

That’s a terrifying thought for some of us.  

What worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow. Several years ago, I participated on a call with design and construction firm executives to discuss things that were keeping them up at night, and the CEO of a national engineering firm, somewhat frustrated, declared, “I have Baby Boomer business developers trying to call on Millennial decision-makers, and it is simply not working!” This is a trend in the here and now, and yet we still pull together marketing and business development strategies based upon yesterday’s models: cold calling, trade shows, joining client organizations, advertising, direct mail campaigns.  

Is that how we’re going to reach the decision-makers of the future? Or even the now? 

The Platinum Rule

Don’t get me wrong, these are still important tools in our toolbox, but we really need to think about the Platinum Rule here. The Golden Rule recommends that we treat others as we would want to be treated. Well, that’s somewhat narcissistic, don’t you think? It is about us! The Platinum rule recommends that we treat others as they would prefer to be treated. Now we’re talking. Make it about them. Isn’t that the foundation of good business development, anyway? And how do the newer decision-makers want to be treated? This is important to understand.  

Research from the Society for Marketing Professional Services has found that we are on the verge of networking being less important than client experience, and personal selling is falling behind thought leadership and content marketing when it comes to the most important business development and marketing approaches moving forward.  

An Anticipatory Mindset

Are you keeping up with the never-ending changes, driven by a combination of demographics and technology – with a heaping of lessons learned from the pandemic on top? 

Anticipatory business development strategy requires you to research the future, identify those things that will absolutely occur, as well as those that are likely to occur. For instance, where will infrastructure dollars be spent? Not just in which areas – like roads and bridges, railroads, power, broadband, and water, but also where will those dollars flow geographically? How will the continued downward trend of higher education enrollment impact campus facilities? What about the looming “cliff” forecast for 2025, when enrollment is projected to drop by more than 15%. If you follow the demographics, it isn’t difficult to see the challenges that colleges and universities are facing. Now layer in that we have a generation of students that have spent time learning remotely. Do they even want an in-person college experience? 

Changing consumer buying behaviors have obviously disrupted the retail industry, but that creates new opportunities. Think of the growing importance of last-mile delivery – with vacant department stores seeing new life as fulfilment centers. And there’s a significant demand for cold storage facilities in the coming years, again driven by consumer behaviors. Why go to the grocery store when it can come to you? Third-party logistics providers are already reacting to this need. If you work in that market space, are you paying attention?  

Change creates opportunity, but only if you apply anticipatory thinking into your strategy discussion and go-to-market plans. If we don’t understand the changes headed our way, we will be stuck in the past, doing things the way we’ve always done it. 

Next Steps

Be sure to check out the Stambaugh Ness webinar, Business Development Planning: An Anticipatory Approach, where I take a deeper dive into these questions and opportunities. And if you’re looking to bring anticipatory thinking to your strategies, Stambaugh Ness has you covered. Reach out, connect, and let’s discuss what’s next for your firm. 

Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM

Categories: Marketing