tl;dr: Meet people, get introduced or recommended and invest in marketing. Leads will follow.
Business is one big funnel, starting with generating leads. Leads come from many different places:
- Connections: overall the most common way we end up getting work.
- Referrals & Intros: we sometimes ask for them and sometimes our clients or connections offer them on their own.
- Content (social media, blog posts, newsletter): this usually works better for recruitment but also yields occasional business leads.
- Meetups: meetups and conferences are a great way to put our team in the spotlight (which is why we organize so many of them). Same as for content, it chiefly generates recruitment leads, but still brings us some business.
- Cold contacting: it sometimes happen that we actively reach out to a specific team/organization. These usually convert poorly though and/or take time.
- Vendor databases: being listed on some of the vendor databases (e.g. World Bank or UN), we receive RFPs once in a while.
Ultimately, we want to move as much as possible towards inbound leads (e.g. leads coming from our content or reputation), as these tend to scale better than outbound business development (e.g. cold emailing). However, meeting people (through events, introductions, etc.) will most certainly remain a core component of our success.