Today, I was fortunate enough to get Hunter Boyle – Senior Business Development Director of AWeber to talk with us about what exactly business development is, and the role it can play on conversions.
Because this is a new feature for ConversionXL, I would love to get your feedback so we can keep making it better.
In my interview with Hunter, we discuss:
- The key responsibilities of a business development professional
- How a biz dev would qualify a growth opportunity
- How to get big name testimonials and clients
- The importance of the customer feedback cycle & the role it plays for AWeber
- How to get your software business to the point where you can hire a business development director
Hunter shares some extremely valuable insights that will prove useful in building beneficial relationships and getting highly qualified customers.
Resources referenced in this interview:
- Value Proposition Examples & How To Create A Good One
- How To Come Up With A Value Proposition In A Crowed Market
- It’s Not A Conversion Problem, It’s A Customer Development Problem
- Think About Customer Experience, Not Just Conversion Optimization
For those of you who are more interested in scanning the text, here are the key takeaways from the interview:
1. Business Development Is All About Relationships
Even though Hunter goes over this very briefly in the beginning, he talks about the different types of partnerships he manages.
They include, but aren’t limited to:
- Content & Co-marketing
- Channel Partners
Looking at even this short list of external relationships, it’s easy to easy to see just how many “languages” a business development specialist might have to speak to get the word out about the business.
Talking to an API developer, for example, has a very different vernacular than an agency.
Yet, it’s equally important that a business development person is able to communicate the value of your product to each, in order to truly tap into their customer base.
Hunter also mentions that as a business development person he works with internal teams to:
- Improve the overall product to include requested features
- Coordinate internal & third party teams
- Co-market with external vendors to promote new integrations (i.e AWeber’s integration with Eventbrite)
All of this relationship and partnership building is all focused on getting the company in front of the right customers in the most creative, and useful way possible.
2. It’s Not About Technology or Tools
I asked Hunter what his “weapon of choice” was for doing his job well, and he made it very clear that it wasn’t about the technology, and all about the long-term relationship building.
That said, in order to build & maintain those relationships he spends a lot of time using:
- Face to face meetings
- Google Hangouts
Basically, any technology at his disposal to connect with the people who will best benefit the business.
3. Qualify Your “Growth” Opportunities Accurately
As a business developer, it’s vital you maintain balance with your “growth” opportunities.
Partnering with too many companies with customers aren’t similar enough to yours could have a dramatic negative impact on your conversion rates. Conversely, too many “good” partnerships too fast could lead to growth the company’s not prepared for.
With business development, it’s your job not just to help the business grow, but grow sustainably.
Take for example, New Jersey chocolate makers Chocomize. With one 30 word writeup in Oprah’s magazine, their sales increased by 5x, resulting between 50-100 emails and phone calls a day – for a 3 person team.
For software, this might translate to servers crashing, customer service issues going unanswered, and at worse, total meltdown.
For Hunter, he looks at a variety of factors when evaluating growth opportunities, such as:
- The Company’s Brand
- Leadership Team
- Position in the market
- Potential for growth
But perhaps the most important thing he said is to work with companies and people that you can build long term relationships with so you can work with them again and again.
4. Work Your Connections To Get That Big Name Client & Testimonial
We’re going to be publishing an article on the impact testimonials has on conversions soon, so I wanted to get Hunter’s input on this specifically.
His answer was simple: Work your connections.
“Whether it’s through friends, family, former company, other co-workers, someone you’ve worked with before… That gets you to fast forward through the trust and credibility phase[…] If you’ve got that trust and credibility built in, you’ve probably got 1/2 to 70% of your case already sold.”
Interestingly enough, I just read a case study about a comedian leveraging his Facebook network to promote his web-series. Just by talking to friends of friends, he eventually managed to get coverage on Mashable.
5. The Customer Feedback Loop Is Everything
When I asked Hunter how important the customer feedback loop was to their business, he said “It couldn’t be more important”
As it turns out, “Listen to What People Say About Us. Invite Feedback” is number 2 of the company’s 5 core values (beat out only by Foster Respect & Cooperation).
He told me their UX team is always making tweaks based on feedback. They also regularly conduct customer interviews & talk to former customers to find out what they’re doing well, and what they need to be doing better.
He emphasized that they try to implement that on every level, from site, service, product, integrations, marketing & partnerships.
6. Before You Hire Business Development, Find Product/Market Fit
My last question for Hunter was, “Say I’m a software startup founder, and I’m the only person in my company. How do I get my business to the point where I can hire someone like you?”
“I’m a big fan of the lean startup methodology[…] to have a real value proposition that’s driving [your business] that isn’t just clear to the founder, but it’s clear to everyone in the company and it’s clear to your potential customer base.”
To be honest, that wasn’t quite the answer I was expecting, but I’m glad it’s the one he gave.
Many of us, myself included, may look to the new hire as the person who’s going to “solve” a certain problem that’s been tough to crack.
We throw more money at ads, try to drive more traffic through social media, and generally try to force our product at the market, and hope they buy from us.
But from the business development standpoint, without product/market fit, it looks like a hard sell for most of the partnerships you try to forge. (I can hear it now, “Yeah, we do this thing, and our market’s well, we kind of have customers from all over, but trust me, your customers will totally be into it. Yeah!)
Hunter continued on saying that when customer experience & market validation is there, you have a great foundation for business development.
- Partners will want attracted to the opportunity to work with you
- Top talent will want to work with you
- And your company will have a much easier time growing & sustaining itself
“And if you have to pivot, doing that smartly can be a very big boost for a business.”
What Did You Think Of This Interview? We’d Love Your Feedback!
The idea behind these interviews is to offer valuable insights on what goes on before & after the “conversion” takes place to create experiences your customers are genuinely thrilled to participate in.
My hope is that by looking into areas like business development with Hunter or Habit Forming Products with Nir, in tandem with Peep’s website reviews, you’re able to really hone in on making your offering enjoyable every step of the way.
So, if you liked this interview, have suggestions on what could be better, or have a topic you’d like us to cover – let me know in the comments.