25 June 2009

Now is the time to get serious about business development

I read an interesting article recently talking about how Apple had ramped up its advertising and business development activity when all of its competitors had cut theirs back. Interesting to see that Apple has had incredible success in recent years by adopting this approach and going against what other similar companies are doing.

The article explained how Apple had recognised that with an economic downturn their competitors would cut back because that is traditionally what they do. At the same time Microsoft had issues with its new operating platform with at least six months time lag before it could fix the issues. Apple saw this as an excellent opportunity and they ramped their advertising spend up by almost thirty percent. Will it pay off? I would say yes it most certainly will.

There are definitely two schools of thought out there in tough times. One is not to spend anything on business development because consumers and business customers won’t be buying anyway. The other is that times like this provide the perfect opportunity to go on the front foot and business develop to pick up new customers whilst the competition is doing nothing.

Personally I prefer the second. Surely we should always be in business development mode? Economic slow downs and other issues may slow demand for certain things, but they don’t stop demand. It normally means we just have to work harder to get the business.

I spent a few years working in the tourism industry. I was an international sales manager for a subsidiary company owned by the major Japanese shipping conglomerate, NYK. Part of my job was to travel the planet to work on new tourist markets for Australia. The tourism industry always seems to be affected by every issue imaginable including economic crisis, exchange rates, epidemics such as the Avian Flu, terrorism, strikes (like the infamous Pilots strike in the late 1980’s), dramatic weather events and just about every other issue imaginable. Yet throughout it all, the industry keeps going, it looks for new markets, it redefines itself and it keeps pushing to find new customers. I think it is the most tenacious of industries and I have a lot of respect for people working in it.

Necessity makes tourism reinvent itself, try new initiatives, invest in long term business development and be as proactive as it can be. It is a survivor industry. Others seem to just give up as soon as things get tough.

The key is that when times are challenging, you have to do more with less. You need to hit the pavement, you need to foster relationships with existing customers to help them grow, you have to think more creatively and do the hard yards. But it will pay off. I have seen this approach work time and time again. 

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