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Embracing Innovation in Business Development: Insights from the BD Pioneering Forum

Insights from the Business Development Pioneering Forum, sponsored by Grata, held at ACG's DealMAX

Embracing Innovation in Business Development: Insights from the BD Pioneering Forum

In an ever-changing business landscape, business development professionals are embracing change, adapting strategies and pioneering new approaches to secure deals.

To shed light on changes in the industry, the Business Development Pioneering forum, sponsored by Grata, convened on May 8 at ACG’s annual conference DealMAX in Las Vegas, bringing together business development experts in the field.

With a focus on new technology, data analytics and marketing techniques, these experts—Jason Cunningham, Vice President of Business Development at Argosy Private Equity; Meahgan O’Grady Martin, Director of Business Development at Palladium Equity; and Adam VeVerka, Partner at NewSpring Capital—explored the evolving role of business development and the strategies that have proven effective in navigating the changing business environment.

Moderated by Cory Mims, managing director of Audax Private Equity, the forum’s speakers delved into specific topics, such as proprietary deal flow, the impact of marketing on business development and the effective utilization of data analytics.

Leveraging Data Analytics to Optimize Deal Sourcing

Cunningham shared valuable insights on the role of data analytics in developing and maintaining effective deal-sourcing relationships.

Because relationship-building remains crucial for business development, and there’s limited time, it’s challenging to cover all potential options, he said.  

Over the past three decades, Argosy has gathered a lot of data, and they are now focused on trying to leverage it in strategic and meaningful ways.

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By analyzing its historical deal data, Argosy is attempting to examine what has yielded the most successful outcomes. Cunningham acknowledged that the insights derived from data may not always be groundbreaking, but they may help create efficiency and improve decision-making, which results in time saved. “The most critical challenge is that you only have limited hours, and we need to make informed decisions about where to spend our time,” he said.

The Art of Proprietary Deal Flow

Over the years, proprietary deal flow has changed due to the introduction of business analytics and artificial intelligence, but these new tools should only complement, not replace, the foundation of relationship-building, O’Grady Martin said.

To do the job well, business development professionals still need to sometimes pound the pavement and make some cold calls. But in the end, business development hinges on the ability to create relationships. “We are in the relationship game,” O’Grady Martin said.

She added that understanding the favor economy in which the industry operates is still critical to success. She encouraged professionals to explore avenues beyond monetary transactions and focus on reciprocity.

For instance, business development professionals might be able to introduce people to others in their networks as a way of building relationships down the line. Another idea would be for business professionals to direct others to deals their firms are not going to take to market.

Don’t forget how much work it does take to build real relationships, not transactional ones.

Meahgan O’Grady Martin

Palladium Equity

“Don’t forget how much work it does take to build real relationships, not transactional ones,” O’Grady Martin said. “We work in the favor economy so think about what you can give to others and how to generate business that will benefit you on the back end.”

Power of Marketing in Private Equity

VeVerka said marketing in private equity has evolved over the years with many firms implementing marketing teams as a critical tool for business development.

He said NewSpring Capital leverages its marketing team to maximize the firm’s online presence and engagement by focusing on SEO, email marketing, content development, social presence on platforms like LinkedIn and direct response emails.

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Marketing enables NewSpring Capital to engage with a wider audience and create awareness, facilitating conversations that can lead to business opportunities.

However, VeVerka emphasized the importance of personalized outreach and avoiding impersonal, cold contacts. Basic segmenting and ensuring prior engagement or a conversation before initiating contact are vital steps to maintain a positive brand image.

He added that the marketing team helps build the firm’s brand and makes his job easier by fostering greater awareness. “Marketing has built a brand for us, and it’s made my job so much easier by helping with that awareness,” VeVerka said.

O’Grady Martin agreed, adding that marketing should be considered passive business development. She said everything done on the marketing side should be leading to deal development.

At Palladium Equity, O’Grady Martin said the marketing team highlights the firm’s areas of expertise, so that more people approach the firm with opportunities that are good fits for its business. Simply forging ahead without a well thought out marketing strategy can backfire, she said.

“There’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it,” O’Grady Martin said. “You can burn a bridge if you’re considered spam so make sure your marketing is targeted and done in the right way.”


Sue Ter Maat is ACG’s communications manager, based in suburban Chicago.