28 Ways to Drive Innovation and Creativity in Business Development


Are you struggling to break out and get noticed in business development?

B2B buyers are heavily targeted by solution sellers. Enhanced creativity and value-add is required to break through and get noticed.

Driving innovation and creativity in business development

I spent the past two years interviewing best-in-class sales team to uncover unique approaches that work. These programs are cost-effective when compared to traditional drip or nurture marketing programs.

1. Magnet marketing

Magnet marketing is the use of peer-centric best practices studies to engage buyers in moderated prospect meetings.


Conde Nast leveraged this program to reach its top 100 prospects. They hired GTMP to reach out to prospects offering them a stipend to participate in a best practices study on development and utilization of Amazon-like marketplaces and related in-marketplace advertising. GTMP conducted the formal interview, and the Conde Nast team had 15 minutes of direct interaction and discovery with each prospect.

2. Benchmarking

Benchmarking helps buyers better define goals, journeys, and practical next steps to solve problems via relative performance scores and journeys. At Staples, I led the design and execution of a prospect benchmarking programs offering prospect ratings on the efficiency of their program to deliver office products and services to their employees. Once a prospect got their ratings, they were compared to best-in-class customers and were offered a path forward to improve their program.

3. Industry indexing

Industry indexing means scoring prospects against key competitors, identifying gaps and filler solutions, keying into a prospect’s competitive nature to bridge to excellence. For instance, Sailthru conducts independent research every year on the top 100 retailers in terms of marketing personalization proficiency. The rates have become the de facto standard for the industry, offering Sailthru an opportunity to engage prospects and help them improve their performance.

4. Customer performance

Perform an independent customer-centric experience audit. Optional builds include side-by-side time-based video performance comparisons, and you can show one version with your solution and a comparison to your prospect’s main competitor(s).

5. Maturity levels

Define maturity levels for your prospects and show their level of performance on solving key problems, defining gaps, and demonstrating what it takes to get to the next level. Reward and recognize those at the top and those who move up. Qvidian uses a four-tier rating platform as a way for prospects to understand their proficiency and a way to offer performance upgrade paths.

6. Three-dimensional mail, gifting, and integrated digital marketing

Engage buyers with creative breakout packages, and leverage personalized mail and emotional messaging. At Student Advantage, an 18 to 24-year-old advertising, membership, and social media platform, we sent CEOs a provocative DM about nipple rings and asked if they knew what it was. When they lifted the flap, we quoted a statistic about how many college students used one. We used this to ask if they really knew their customers, and it was a big hit.

7. Exclusive industry research

Offer prospect-centric research in return for a sales meeting. Arm Treasure Data publishes prospect-centric research every year. They tease it with an infographic and offer the full report after an intro meeting.

8. Tap into prospects’ personalized charity affiliations

Every year, Rapid7 builds a database of prospects and customers who are also veterans. They call, thank them for their service, and offer to donate to their charity of choice, specific to veterans’ needs. The program makes an emotional connection, makes the reps feel good, and drives company donations to customers and prospects. It’s called Calls for a Cause: Veterans Day Promotion, and it drives significant engagement and referrals.

9. Desired analyst access

Offer meetings with prospect-relevant or association-relevant analysts; this can also include authors with signed books. At SquareTrade, key prospects were very interested in the development of the Premium Remote Technology Market.

Top prospects wanted to hear from credible analysts. I partnered with the leading analyst to present their research on the growth and potential. We offered 1:1 analyst meetings, analyst prospect dinners, analyst/customer panels, and analyst market assessments.

10. Seek customer referrals

Reward and encourage customers for introductions or help with setting up prospect meetings. Several top B2B companies offer robust customer referral programs with surprise rewards.

11. Engage customer success, sales engineering, or customer training

They have enhanced credibility to ask their customer or prospect referrals. Customers respect and trust these teams, but they never ask for referrals. So, put a program in place to encourage and reward those who sought and delivered referrals (customers and prospects).

12. Leverage founder, angel investor, and CEO networks

Match individual networks on LinkedIn to your target prospects, seek intros or ideally, facilitate meetings.

13. CFOs, CIOs, CTOs, and BODs

Leverage side functions for non-sales-oriented networking. Match their LinkedIn networks to your target prospect list to seek intros and meetings.

14. Employee alumni programs

Offer access to high-value content and exclusive alumni events, seek introductions from former employees, and keep an active database of past employees and actively network with them. McKinsey is an expert at this, and their alumni sit in powerful positions at F500 companies globally. They proactively engage with employee alumni by offering them invitations to exclusive events and an online networking.

15. Prospect alumni programs

Follow all your past customers and network into their new companies and seek introductions or facilitate meetings. Investors Trust & Bank maintains a database of former customers and builds an ongoing relationship for referrals and new business.

16. Hackathons

Engage your prospect community in live 360-degree application development. AthenaHealth creates local hackathons for cities and calls customers, prospects, employees, physicians, healthcare coders in to define problems to solve or harness opportunities. They spend a weekend building actual products with the company, and the finalists are offered funds to develop ideas.

17. Time shifting

Meet with prospects during off-hours, like while commuting or over the weekend.

18. Customer podcasts

Interview your prospect’s executives and promote their podcasts. Peter Mahoney, CMO of Plannuh, regularly interviews his prospects’ CMOs, publishing thought-leadership podcasts that they promote on their social media. At the same time, Mahoney builds great relationships, leading to discovery meetings.

19. Reaction/pivot prospect study

Show how best-in-class prospects are adapting to COVID-19, major changes in the market, or new mandates, show them how to react, or give them a proven path forward.

20. Vendor introductions

Ask your vendors for targeted prospect introductions, proactively review vendor customer bases, and ask for introductions (especially at events). I recently helped a nonprofit seeking to raise funds. We reached out to our vendors for funding and referrals. Vendors are very responsive to this; we experienced a 100% increase in funds received YOY by doing this.

21. Access to C-level entertainment talent

Find desirable but reasonably priced, culturally relevant talent and leverage as a draw for meetings. For example, Sailthru just produced a live interactive online event with second-tier talent from The Office.

22. Virtual experiences

The pandemic brought on an explosion of in-home remote experiences offered by solution providers, wine tasting is one of the most effective programs for prospect engagement. B2B companies are offering in-home experiential programs with expert-led consumption including wine, chocolate, coffee or cheese.

23. Direct access to sought-after executives

Depending on the company and the visibility/demand for certain executives, one-on-one meetings or fireside chats can a draw for prospects

24. Create a partner referral channel

Offer commission for closed sales and ideally, rewards for prospect meetings booked (most partner referral channels are under leveraged)

25. Seamless online ways to offer prospects live meetings

Using chatbots, automatic calendars, and scheduling tools gets prospects to book short meetings while reviewing content. It also gets them to directly engage in live conversation with sales.

26. Complimentary onsite workshops

For prospects to see an opportunity and want to work with a vendor, a complimentary onsite workshop is a great way to go, it educates them about the problem you solve, shares pertinent best practices, puts specific meat on the bone for their company, creates use-cases to fund a solution and develops a relationship.

27. LinkedIn surveys

Conduct a LinkedIn survey posting a pertinent question that you solve, asking how they see if and what they do in practice, after they vote, thank them for voting, send them more robust/ or recent research, and offer to chat.

28. Multi-part content

Offer additional content during a prospect discussion and after, important to give reps something incremental to share or present during a discovery meeting.


While every approach listed here won’t work for every seller, you’re coming away with an array of new ideas. Try and see what works for your sales team, and keep innovating to see what other new ideas you develop!

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