Whether you are thinking of starting up a business or wanting to revamp your existing one, a business plan is a must. There are several things you need to consider when creating your plan. Here are eight critical elements to include.
Don’t expect to write a business plan in one or two sittings. Take your business plan apart section by section. Revisit it several times. There are many things you might not think of right away.
The executive summary is an overview of your company. Basically, it summarizes your entire business plan. There is no set length of the executive summary, but a page or two should suffice. Think of it as an elevator pitch of your business plan that covers the key points. If you are looking for investors, make sure to make the executive summary intriguing enough that they will want to keep reading. As you are writing your business plan, you may find yourself revisiting the executive summary section – adding, removing and adjusting the copy based on other verbiage you include in other sections.
Although this may sound similar to the executive summary, it is a bit different. While the executive summary covers the key points of the entire business plan, the company overview will focus on the products and/or services your company offers. Although you might want to list the features, try to concentrate on the benefits instead.
Analyze your industry. Give an overview of the market including size, characteristics and the market share you are expecting to achieve. Remember to be realistic with your goals and numbers. It is also advised to set tiered goals such as 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and so on.
When writing your business plan, think for the future – not just the next few years, but also long term goals and plans for your business.
Competition is good. It means your products or services are needed by others. Take a deep look at your competitors. Write down their strengths, weaknesses and the benefits they provide. Look at their online presence. Do they have a website, social media channels or a blog? Make sure to ask yourself how your products and/or services differ from your competition. What extra benefits are you going to provide? How are you going to stand out from your competition?
Who is your target audience? Start by thinking of your ideal customer and develop a buyer persona. A buyer persona includes information such as demographics, goals, job title, married, single, number of kids, etc. The more information you can include on your buyer personas, the better. And remember, you don’t have to have just one buyer persona. You may have three, five or even 10. Think in terms of your ideal customer – who are they? If you already have an existing business and are revisiting your business plan, don’t just make up your buyer persona. Interview your customers and get to know them. You can even do this by offering something of value to them such as a discount or a giveaway for filling out a survey. That way, you know exactly who your ideal customer is. This will make it easier to target and acquire more customers and leads if you know who your existing ones really are.
Once you have your buyer personas created, it will be easier to create a marketing plan because you will know who your ideal customers are. Is your customer more likely to look at print or digital media? Are they on social media channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn? Do they prefer to read emails or get mail in their mailboxes? Knowing your ideal customers can help you save money and create the most effective plan to give you the best return on investment.
Your business needs people to cover and run day-to-day operations. Think about the different job duties and roles that will need to be covered. How will your company operate and how many people will you need to fulfill these duties? Outline the main job titles and duties in your plan.
How are you going to finance your company? What’s the best option for your business – bank loans, invoice factoring, investors or a combination? Weigh out the options to see what fits your needs the best.
Hopefully this list can help you get started in creating or revising your existing business plan. It can be an overwhelming task, but using some online resources and finding a good template can help you get the start you need to create a solid business plan that sets your company up for success.