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 CXL, 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.
Join the conversation
Add your comment
This was an awesome post and video! Learned a ton from Hunter on how to approach Business Development at a tech company.
It could be me but video interview seemed bland. For a short interview, you covered a lot of things but that means very general answers.
I don’t think that’s the guest’s fault though.
If it’s going to be a short 10min interview, it’s better to chew on as few questions as possible so they can spend time on the answers and bring more meat.
You make a really good point, and that is definitely feedback I can work with for future interviews.
Overall though, would you like to see more of these?
What would you have liked more of out of this interview? I’m planning on doing a followup with Hunter in the future, so I’d love to know how you’d like to dig in.
Question: Who are you and why should my readers care?
Answer: They call me Steve and you need to listen to me because I am the few willing to say what most of your readers express only in their action. (i.e. not watch) And I do it with style.
Question: what other tips do you have for me?
Answer: Don’t spend too much time on a guest’s background. Frankly, had to fast forward. I don’t care about their role, responsibilities, or what they did (this should naturally come out as part of the interview) beyond a short intro to get me up to speed on them. Leave that for the end (“If you want to know more about X…”) I get we need to know who they are but after a certain point it’s just self promotion and that’s before I even know the guy. Maybe the question to ask is, “in 1-2 sentence, how would you introduce yourself to my readers”. They should have a USP. Or better yet, the host should briefly introduce them. You had to check up on them beforehand so should be easy to summarize.
Question: What do I do after informing my readers on the guest?
Answer: After the short intro, immediately hit the guest with a question. Let’s start the interview fast and furious, like you’re already in the middle of it. (“Where you been viewer?”)
Question: “Overall though, would you like to see more of these?”
Answer: I don’t know what that was. Let’s go with no.
Question: “What would you have liked more of out of this interview? I’m planning on doing a followup with Hunter in the future, so I’d love to know how you’d like to dig in.”
Answer: better questions & more guidance from the host. The guest is just there at your invitation. Imagine inviting members to a party & then expecting fun to happen when they arrive. Not that it can’t happen but then you’re relying on hope and fun loving attendees. No, you set things up with possibly some food, dance music, fun games, and such. Same here. The host needs to ask questions that requires some thinking and elicits good answers. When a host’s answer include phrases like “we incorporate”, “my company”, “opportunity”, “we are customer focused”, “we take very seriously ” then the host isn’t asking the right questions and you can be sure the interview is tanking since it doesn’t benefit the viewer. (Hey, that me) Check this good question that focuses on the guest and not anything else like his company: “When you first started out, what costly personal mistake broke conversions but in the wrong direction?” Boom. We get to listen in on someone else’s fumbling that we ourselves are experiencing or might. Someone with tons of experience also has tons of mistakes in his pocket. Pull them out for us and don’t let him off so easily once he tells you. We need to explore that mistake. What if one of us are going through that right now? Wouldn’t they feel ripped off if you stopped there? Ask him, “How did you tackle the problem? Was it successful? How did things finally turn out? What was your thinking process then and your reasoning while doing that mistake? What changed your mind? What would you do differently knowing what you know now?” Of course, you don’t ask them all at once. But the host needs to go beyond appearances. You have guests with good and bad experiences that we can learn from. Your job is to probe. Assume the first answer the guest offers is a broad answer; tips of the iceberg and one he came up with on the spot. We need to see how he thinks, acts, and believes. Not with PR-like words of theory but based on his past actions. What do we care what he believes or thinks if doesn’t actually implement them. We can easily look at ourselves for stuff like that. Here’s another question you can ask: “In your line of work, what do you find is one tactic most make often but isn’t truly effective in the long run?” Already that question makes me want to hear the answer.
Question: What topics do you want?
Answer: Well, that needs tie back to why are you doing these videos. (I dunno why btw) I can say more clowns but you might not do it. When I first started watching, I assumed a talk on conversions (it is cxl.com) but I won’t hold it against you if it’s not tightly focused on that. (I really won’t) All I can say is whatever the topic, (I’m going blank) just focus on the details of what the guest has done in the past. Don’t allow them to explain what they *think* about a topic so much as show what they’ve done in that topic, if that makes sense. If the guest can’t come up with personal stories showing his thinking in action, maybe he is not a good person to talk about said topic.
Question: anything else you wanna add in an imposing manner?
Answer: of course, make sure at the end you ask all guests: “how have all that we talked about today help increase conversions?” Let them think about it. Should be pretty easy to answer but it ties well with wait for it… the brand conversion XL. On a side note, what you are doing now is much better than what I can do. Takes guts to be in camera.
Question: Where else can we find more about you?
Answer: I can be found on twitter @stevevillaverde. Thanks for interviewing me.
Hunter is the man! When we partnered up with AWeber for our sms software Call Loop, Hunter made it a breeze.
Its all about the relationship and the value that both companies can provide each other. If its mutual, then its easy.
Great post. Hunter great to hear your insights on this!
Hey Rishi and Chris, thanks a ton for the feedback. Great to reconnect with you both recently — and I’m looking forward to cool new projects ahead!
Hi Steven. Thanks for checking out the interview and posting your feedback. You put a lot of good ideas in there. I know Tommy does an awesome job not only soliciting input, but applying it, so you’ll likely see that in future interviews. I think it’s cool to have such detailed response to an initial effort. Kudos.
On a few of your specific points:
* For this interview, instead of just plugging in my short bio (below) we added a bit more background because it was relevant to the topic. I probably could have been more concise, but I don’t mind getting a sense of who an interviewee is, so I guess it comes down to personal preferences. Here’s the short, 3-sentence version:
Hunter Boyle leads business development for email marketing powerhouse AWeber. A veteran digital content marketer, Hunter’s helped hundreds of organizations optimize their digital initiatives since the dot-com days. The former editor of Marketing Experiments and Internet Marketing Report, he’s also an avid traveler, photographer, volunteer and craft beer lover.
* Costly personal mistake when starting out in this business?
Building alliances is a tricky business. Even when everything looks and sounds good on the surface, things can unravel fairly quickly in the process of working together. So you need to be extra aware of red flags, false promises and concerns that projections don’t always indicate — and you really need to learn from those situations to avoid a repeat, which is why retrospectives are a must. If you enjoy collaborating with people, and on paper a partnership makes sense, you’re inclined to pursue it, but you can’t let gut feel override the deep research and due diligence.
* In your line of work, what do you find is one tactic most make often but isn’t truly effective in the long run?
Starting an email newsletter without thinking through a comprehensive strategy at least one year out: Why should anyone sign up or care? What unique value will I be offering, not just to get the opt in, but to keep them for 1-3 years? What’s going to resonate with them and drive conversions at week 1, month 2, month 10, year 2 as their needs evolve — and how will my content, segmentation and frequency adapt in line with them? How will I address the standard 30% list churn, low open and click rates?
Many marketers realize they need email, fire up a newsletter, and start cranking it out on regular schedule without thinking far enough ahead or addressing many of those areas in advance. Or they inherit one and keep it going, but still don’t look at revising and optimizing the strategy that way. That’s a costly and common oversight.
Thanks for adding these questions to the mix. I hope those additional answers are useful with your own marketing challenges.
Cheers — Hunter
In case there’s any misunderstanding, know that my comments above were 100% on the interviewer, Tommy. I wasn’t thinking about you when I wrote that nor was I implying you were a bad guest or an unqualified person. Rereading my post, it might come off like that but I was speaking in general. (and in the moment)
Whenever an interview flops, the blame falls squarely on the host because he holds the reins to everything. That’s why I’m happy that in his last interview, he is moving in the right direction. https://cxl.com/how-to-grow-your-business/
By the way, you didn’t need to answer those questions. They were meant to give Tommy an idea of what to ask in future interviews.
*whispers* and now he can’t ask those in the next interview with you. He’ll be maaaaaad with me for taking his thunder… (^_^;)
I will say what stood out throughout this interview was your identity: are you Hunter Boyle or an Aweber representative here? That might be a simple question easily answered with both but it’s more nuanced when you are presenting yourself. To me, I was listening in on a spokesman/salesman based on your words, your tone, and even your written short bio hat had “powerhouse AWeber”. And there’s nothing wrong with being a spokesman but it should be clear. Like they say, people love to buy, but they don’t like to be sold. Anyway, I’m sure you know what I mean. All I’m saying is you might want to make some tweaks. Just some unsolicited advice from a stranger with good intentions.
Nice meeting you. *waves*
Thanks, Steve. It’s all good. Didn’t take it negatively. I took the feedback at face value and figured I’d put my two cents in for the questions you raised, which were very good ones. And I agree that the recent piece with Lars is a great one.
In terms of identity, I don’t think I’m actively “selling” AWeber by mentioning details like company size and history; that was context for anyone who may not be familiar with the company. After all, the interview was all about the work I do, and that’s who I do it for, so it’s not a sales pitch in my mind, but everyone may see that differently.
If I totally separated my work identity from the piece, we’d have been talking about craft beer, graffiti art, literary magazines and sports cars. ;)
Thanks again for the dialogue. Good stuff!
I think it was more my initial unconscious impression of you more than anything else. While watching the video I noticed I was zoning out. The only thing I can think of to explain this were the words you used like “we incorporate”. Or could’ve been body language but I really don’t know.
Anyway, it was probably just me. Tommy says you’ll be back on so will check you out then.
Comments are closed.