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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
- There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.
Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."
Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.
There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.
Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.
While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.
While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.
Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.
The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.
These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:
- Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
- Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
- Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.
2 Types of Business Plans
Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.
- Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
- Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.
How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.
Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.
A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.
Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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6 Reasons You Really Need to Write A Business Plan
Published: October 14, 2020
Starting a busine ss can be a daunting task, especially if you’re starting from square one.
It’s easy to feel stuck in the whirlwind of things you’ll need to do, like registering your company, building a team, advertising, the list goes on. Not to mention, a business idea with no foundation can make the process seem incredibly intimidating.
Thankfully, business plans are an antidote for the new business woes that many entrepreneurs feel. Some may shy away from the idea, as they are lengthy documents that require a significant amount of attention and care.
However, there’s a reason why those who take the time to write out a business plan are 16% more likely to be successful than those who don’t. In other words, business plans work.
What is a business plan, and why does it matter?
In brief, a business plan is a roadmap to success. It's a blueprint for entrepreneurs to follow that helps them outline, understand, and cohesively achieve their goals.
Writing a business plan involves defining critical aspects of your business, like brand messaging, conducting market research, and creating pricing strategies — all before starting the company.
A business plan can also increase your confidence. You’ll get a holistic view of your idea and understand whether it's worth pursuing.
So, why not take the time to create a blueprint that will make your job easier? Let’s take a look at six reasons why you should write a business plan before doing anything else.
Six Reasons You Really Need To Write a Business Plan
- Legitimize your business idea.
- Give your business a foundation for success.
- Obtain funding and investments.
- Hire the right people.
- Communicate your needs.
- It makes it easier to sell your business.
1. Legitimize your business idea.
Pursuing business ideas that stem from passions you’ve had for years can be exciting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a sound venture.
One of the first things a business plan requires you to do is research your target market. You’ll gain a nuanced understanding of industry trends and what your competitors have done, or not, to succeed. You may find that the idea you have when you start is not likely to be successful.
That may feel disheartening, but you can always modify your original idea to better fit market needs. The more you understand about the industry, your future competitors, and your prospective customers, the greater the likelihood of success. If you identify issues early on, you can develop strategies to deal with them rather than troubleshooting as they happen.
It’s better to know sooner rather than later if your business will be successful before investing time and money.
2. Give your business a foundation for success.
Let's say you’re looking to start a clean beauty company. There are thousands of directions you can go in, so just saying, “I’m starting a clean beauty company!” isn’t enough.
You need to know what specific products you want to make, and why you’re deciding to create them. The Pricing and Product Line style="color: #33475b;"> section of a business plan requires you to identify these elements, making it easier to plan for other components of your business strategy.
You’ll also use your initial market research to outline financial projections, goals, objectives, and operational needs. Identifying these factors ahead of time creates a strong foundation, as you’ll be making critical business decisions early on.
You can refer back to the goals you’ve set within your business plan to track your progress over time and prioritize areas that need extra attention.
All in all, every section of your business plan requires you to go in-depth into your future business strategy before even acting on any of those plans. Having a plan at the ready gives your business a solid foundation for growth.
When you start your company, and your product reaches the market, you’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more time focusing on your target audiences and generating revenue.
3. Obtain funding and investments.
Every new business needs capital to get off the ground. Although it would be nice, banks won’t finance loans just because you request one. They want to know what the money is for, where it’s going, and if you’ll eventually be able to pay it back.
If you want investors to be part of your financing plan, they’ll have questions about your business’ pricing strategies and revenue models. Investors can also back out if they feel like their money isn’t put to fair use. They’ll want something to refer back to track your progress over time and understand if you’re meeting the goals you told them you’d meet. They want to know if their investment was worthwhile.
The Financial Considerations section of a business plan will prompt you to estimate costs ahead of time and establish revenue objectives before applying for loans or speaking to investors.
You’ll secure and finalize your strategy in advance to avoid showing up unprepared for meetings with potential investors.
4. Hire the right people.
After you’ve completed your business plan and you have a clear view of your strategies, goals, and financial needs, there may be milestones you need to meet that require skills you don’t yet have. You may need to hire new people to fill in the gaps.
Having a strategic plan to share with prospective partners and employees can prove that they aren’t signing on to a sinking ship.
If your plans are summarized and feasible, they’ll understand why you want them on your team, and why they should agree to work with you.
5. Communicate your needs.
If you don’t understand how your business will run, it’ll be hard to communicate your business’s legitimacy to all involved parties.
Your plan will give you a well-rounded view of how your business will work, and make it easier for you to communicate this to others.
You may have already secured financing from banks and made deals with investors, but a business’ needs are always changing. While your business grows, you’ll likely need more financial support, more partners, or just expand your services and product offers. Using your business plan as a measure of how you’ve met your goals can make it easier to bring people onto your team at all stages of the process.
6. It makes it easier to sell your business.
A buyer won’t want to purchase a business that will run into the ground after signing the papers. They want a successful, established company.
A business plan that details milestones you can prove you’ve already met can be used to show prospective buyers how you’ve generated success within your market. You can use your accomplishments to negotiate higher price points aligned with your business’ value.
A Business Plan Is Essential
Ultimately, having a business plan can increase your confidence in your new venture. You’ll understand what your business needs to succeed, and outline the tactics you’ll use to achieve those goals.
Some people have a lifetime goal of turning their passions into successful business ventures, and a well-crafted business plan can make those dreams come true.
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1. Business planning is proven to help you grow 30 percent faster
2. planning is a necessary part of the fundraising process, 3. having a business plan minimizes your risk, 4. crafts a roadmap to achieve important milestones, 5. a plan helps you figure out if your idea can become a business, 6. you’ll make big spending decisions with confidence, 7. you’re more likely to catch critical cash flow challenges early, 8. position your brand against the competition, 9. determines financial needs and revenue models, 10. helps you think through your marketing strategy, 11. clarifies your vision and ensures everyone is on the same page, 12. future-proof your business, 13. tracks your progress and measures success, 14. your business plan is an asset if you ever want to sell, writing your business plan, 14 reasons why you need a business plan.
10 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
There’s no question that starting and running a business is hard work. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. And, one of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of success is to have a business plan.
A business plan is a foundational document that is essential for any company, no matter the size or age. From attracting potential investors to keeping your business on track—a business plan helps you achieve important milestones and grow in the right direction.
A business plan isn’t just a document you put together once when starting your business. It’s a living, breathing guide for existing businesses – one that business owners should revisit and update regularly.
Unfortunately, writing a business plan is often a daunting task for potential entrepreneurs. So, do you really need a business plan? Is it really worth the investment of time and resources? Can’t you just wing it and skip the whole planning process?
Good questions. Here’s every reason why you need a business plan.
Writing a business plan isn’t about producing a document that accurately predicts the future of your company. The process of writing your plan is what’s important. Writing your plan and reviewing it regularly gives you a better window into what you need to do to achieve your goals and succeed.
You don’t have to just take our word for it. Studies have proven that companies that plan and review their results regularly grow 30 percent faster. Beyond faster growth, research also shows that companies that plan actually perform better. They’re less likely to become one of those woeful failure statistics, or experience cash flow crises that threaten to close them down.
One of the top reasons to have a business plan is to make it easier to raise money for your business. Without a business plan, it’s difficult to know how much money you need to raise, how you will spend the money once you raise it, and what your budget should be.
Investors want to know that you have a solid plan in place – that your business is headed in the right direction and that there is long-term potential in your venture.
A business plan shows that your business is serious and that there are clearly defined steps on how it aims to become successful. It also demonstrates that you have the necessary competence to make that vision a reality.
Investors, partners, and creditors will want to see detailed financial forecasts for your business that shows how you plan to grow and how you plan on spending their money.
When you’re just starting out, there’s so much you don’t know—about your customers, your competition, and even about operations.
What’s your biggest business challenge right now?
As a business owner, you signed up for some of that uncertainty when you started your business, but there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk . Creating and reviewing your business plan regularly is a great way to uncover your weak spots—the flaws, gaps, and assumptions you’ve made—and develop contingency plans.
Your business plan will also help you define budgets and revenue goals. And, if you’re not meeting your goals, you can quickly adjust spending plans and create more realistic budgets to keep your business healthy.
A business plan is like a roadmap for your business. It helps you set, track and reach business milestones.
For your plan to function in this way, your business plan should first outline your company’s short- and long-term goals. You can then fill in the specific steps necessary to reach those goals. This ensures that you measure your progress (or lack thereof) and make necessary adjustments along the way to stay on track while avoiding costly detours.
In fact, one of the top reasons why new businesses fail is due to bad business planning. Combine this with inflexibility and you have a recipe for disaster.
And planning is not just for startups. Established businesses benefit greatly from revisiting their business plan. It keeps them on track, even when the global market rapidly shifts as we’ve seen in recent years.
To turn your idea into reality, you need to accurately assess the feasibility of your business idea.
You need to verify:
- If there is a market for your product or service
- Who your target audience is
- How you will gain an edge over the current competition
- If your business can run profitably
A business plan forces you to take a step back and look at your business objectively, which makes it far easier to make tough decisions down the road. Additionally, a business plan helps you to identify risks and opportunities early on, providing you with the necessary time to come up with strategies to address them properly.
Finally, a business plan helps you work through the nuts and bolts of how your business will work financially and if it can become sustainable over time.
As your business grows, you’ll have to figure out when to hire new employees, when to expand to a new location, or whether you can afford a major purchase.
These are always major spending decisions, and if you’re regularly reviewing the forecasts you mapped out in your business plan, you’re going to have better information to use to make your decisions.
The other side of those major spending decisions is understanding and monitoring your business’s cash flow. Your cash flow statement is one of the three key financial statements you’ll put together for your business plan. (The other two are your balance sheet and your income statement (P&L).
Reviewing your cash flow statement regularly as part of your regular business plan review will help you see potential cash flow challenges earlier so you can take action to avoid a cash crisis where you can’t pay your bills.
Competitors are one of the factors that you need to take into account when starting a business. Luckily, competitive research is an integral part of writing a business plan. It encourages you to ask questions like:
- What is your competition doing well? What are they doing poorly?
- What can you do to set yourself apart?
- What can you learn from them?
- How can you make your business stand out?
- What key business areas can you outcompete?
- How can you identify your target market?
Finding answers to these questions helps you solidify a strategic market position and identify ways to differentiate yourself. It also proves to potential investors that you’ve done your homework and understand how to compete.
A vital part of starting a business is understanding what your expenses will be and how you will generate revenue to cover those expenses. Creating a business plan helps you do just that while also defining ongoing financial needs to keep in mind.
Without a business model, it’s difficult to know whether your business idea will generate revenue. By detailing how you plan to make money, you can effectively assess the viability and scalability of your business.
Understanding this early on can help you avoid unnecessary risks and start with the confidence that your business is set up to succeed.
A business plan is a great way to document your marketing plan. This will ensure that all of your marketing activities are aligned with your overall goals. After all, a business can’t grow without customers and you’ll need a strategy for acquiring those customers.
Your business plan should include information about your target market, your marketing strategy, and your marketing budget. Detail things like how you plan to attract and retain customers, acquire new leads, how the digital marketing funnel will work, etc.
Having a documented marketing plan will help you to automate business operations, stay on track and ensure that you’re making the most of your marketing dollars.
In order to create a successful business, you need a clear vision and a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. This is all detailed with your mission statement, which defines the purpose of your business, and your personnel plan, which outlines the roles and responsibilities of current and future employees. Together, they establish the long-term vision you have in mind and who will need to be involved to get there.
Additionally, your business plan is a great tool for getting your team in sync. Through consistent plan reviews, you can easily get everyone in your company on the same page and direct your workforce toward tasks that truly move the needle.
A business plan helps you to evaluate your current situation and make realistic projections for the future.
This is an essential step in growing your business, and it’s one that’s often overlooked. When you have a business plan in place, it’s easier to identify opportunities and make informed decisions based on data.
Therefore, it requires you to outline goals, strategies, and tactics to help the organization stay focused on what’s important.
By regularly revisiting your business plan, especially when the global market changes, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way, and pivot faster.
You’ll also be in a better position to seize opportunities as they arise.
An often overlooked purpose of a business plan is as a tool to define success metrics. A key part of writing your plan involves pulling together a viable financial plan. This includes financial statements such as your profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and sales forecast.
By housing these financial metrics within your business plan, you suddenly have an easy way to relate your strategy to actual performance. You can track progress, measure results, and follow up on how the company is progressing. Without a plan, it’s almost impossible to gauge whether you’re on track or not.
Additionally, by evaluating your successes and failures, you learn what works and what doesn’t and you can make necessary changes to your plan. In short, having a business plan gives you a framework for measuring your success. It also helps with building up a “lessons learned” knowledge database to avoid costly mistakes in the future.
Down the road, you might decide that you want to sell your business or position yourself for acquisition. Having a solid business plan is going to help you make the case for a higher valuation. Your business is likely to be worth more to a buyer if it’s easy for them to understand your business model, your target market, and your overall potential to grow and scale.
Free business plan template
Join over 1-million businesses and make planning easy with our simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template.
By taking the time to create a business plan, you ensure that your business is heading in the right direction and that you have a roadmap to get there. We hope that this post has shown you just how important and valuable a business plan can be. While it may still seem daunting, the benefits far outweigh the time investment and learning curve for writing one.
Luckily, you can write a plan in as little as 30 minutes. And there are plenty of excellent planning tools out there if you’re looking for more step-by-step guidance. Whatever it takes, write your plan and you’ll quickly see how useful it can be.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.
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The importance of business plan: 5 key reasons.
A key part of any business is its business plan. They can help define the goals of your business and help it reach success. A good business plan can also help you develop an adequate marketing strategy. There are a number of reasons all business owners need business plans, keep reading to learn more!
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
What Is a Business Plan?
5 reasons you need a well-written business plan, how do i make a business plan, key takeaways.
A business plan contains detailed information that can help determine its success. Some of this information can include the following:
- Market analysis
- Cash flow projection
- Competitive analysis
- Financial statements and financial projections
- An operating plan
A solid business plan is a good way to attract potential investors. It can also help you display to business partners that you have a successful business growing. In a competitive landscape, a formal business plan is your key to success.
Check out all of the biggest reasons you need a good business plan below.
1. To Secure Funding
Whether you’re seeking funding from a venture capitalist or a bank, you’ll need a business plan. Business plans are the foundation of a business. They tell the parties that you’re seeking funding from whether or not you’re worth investing in. If you need any sort of outside financing, you’ll need a good business plan to secure it.
2. Set and Communicate Goals
A business plan gives you a tangible way of reviewing your business goals. Business plans revolve around the present and the future. When you establish your goals and put them in writing, you’re more likely to reach them. A strong business plan includes these goals, and allows you to communicate them to investors and employees alike.
3. Prove Viability in the Market
While many businesses are born from passion, not many will last without an effective business plan. While a business concept may seem sound, things may change once the specifics are written down. Often, people who attempt to start a business without a plan will fail. This is because they don’t take into account all of the planning and funds needed to get a business off of the ground.
Market research is a large part of the business planning process. It lets you review your potential customers, as well as the competition, in your field. By understanding both you can set price points for products or services. Sometimes, it may not make sense to start a business based on the existing competition. Other times, market research can guide you to effective marketing strategies that others lack. To have a successful business, it has to be viable. A business plan will help you determine that.
4. They Help Owners Avoid Failure
Far too often, small businesses fail. Many times, this is due to the lack of a strong business plan. There are many reasons that small businesses fail, most of which can be avoided by developing a business plan. Some of them are listed below, which can be avoided by having a business plan:
- The market doesn’t need the business’s product or service
- The business didn’t take into account the amount of capital needed
- The market is oversaturated
- The prices set by the business are too high, pushing potential customers away
Any good business plan includes information to help business owners avoid these issues.
5. Business Plans Reduce Risk
Related to the last reason, business plans help reduce risk. A well-thought-out business plan helps reduce risky decisions. They help business owners make informed decisions based on the research they conduct. Any business owner can tell you that the most important part of their job is making critical decisions. A business plan that factors in all possible situations helps make those decisions.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help you create a business plan. A simple search can lead you to helpful tools, like a business plan template . These are helpful, as they let you fill in the information as you go. Many of them provide basic instructions on how to create the business plan, as well.
If you plan on starting a business, you’ll need a business plan. They’re good for a vast number of things. Business plans help owners make informed decisions, as well as set goals and secure funding. Don’t put off putting together your business plan!
If you’re in the planning stages of your business, be sure to check out our resource hub . We have plenty of valuable resources and articles for you when you’re just getting started. Check it out today!
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What is a Business Plan and Why is it Important?
What is a business plan.
Whether you’re starting a small business or exploring ways to expand an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions. Think of it as a roadmap to success, providing greater clarity on all aspects of your business, from marketing and finance to operations and product/service details.
While some owners may be tempted to jump directly into startup mode, writing a business plan is a crucial first step for budding entrepreneurs to check the viability of a business before investing too much time or money. The purpose of a business plan is to help articulate a strategy for starting your business. It also provides insight on steps to be taken, resources required for achieving your business goals and a timeline of anticipated results.
In fact, businesses that plan grow 30% faster than those that don’t. 1
For existing small businesses, a business plan should be updated annually as a way to guide growth and navigate the expansion into new markets.
Studies show that nearly 71% of the fastest-growing businesses have business plans, indicating that even existing businesses can benefit from updating their plans. 2
Your plan should include explicit objectives for hiring new employees , market analysis, financial projections, and potential investors. The objectives should indicate how they’ll help your business prosper and grow.
Building an asset management business plan
Committing resources to capital improvements and new assets such as computers, software or cars/trucks is never an easy decision for budget-conscious small business owners. But a business plan can bring clarity to the process of whether to buy or lease and help determine the optimal amount allocated to those assets. A good business plan can also help you decide if it’s feasible to take on additional office, retail or work space.
Creating a marketing strategy
Marketing and market potential are important aspects of a plan for aspiring small businesses.
Getting your business in front of customers on a consistent basis is one of the keys to ensuring your business not only stays afloat but also thrives.
Marketing strategies can be simple, but before you decide on how you will get the word out, getting clear on your target audience and why your business solves their problem can make sticking to your marketing plan easier.
Knowing your unique market positioning can help you determine your messaging. Your marketing strategy should include who your target audience is, the platforms or methods you will connect with them on, and a measurement framework to determine if your efforts are working.
Take entrepreneur Scott Sultzer, who opened Sandwich Joint restaurant in downtown Los Angeles in 2009. “I included the potential marketing demographic of all those who lived in a certain area of the city,” he said of his marketing strategy. “My goal was to capture a certain percentage of all those people who lived and worked nearby.” 4
Created primarily as a marketing tool, Sulzer’s 10-page plan included such topics as target market breakdown, marketing strategy and market penetration. “My business plan was mostly about market projections,” he said. “How are we going to get those people that lead to an increase in our daily sales? And how are we going to reach them to let them know we’re here?” 4
Depending on your business, it’s important to have both brick-and-mortar marketing strategies as well as a plan for marketing your business online .
Seeking investment for your business
In addition to providing a roadmap for progress and a marketing plan , your business plan could also be important in securing funding .
Whether you’re seeking a credit line from a bank or an influx of capital from investors, a business plan that answers questions about profitability and revenue generation can make the difference between whether someone decides to invest – or how much they might choose to invest.
In fact, a study showed that businesses with a plan were more likely to receive formal financial support, such as funding, than businesses without one. 3
Hiring the right talent
A business plan may also be needed to retain other professional services as well, such as attorneys, landlords, consultants or accountants. Sulzer used his business plan to secure a lease.
“I had to have a viable document that they could trust,” said Sulzer, who leased from one of the largest landowners in downtown Los Angeles. 4
“With a corporate landlord, they wouldn’t deal with me unless I had a business plan. I had to submit all my information and a plan that presented what I wanted to do, with financial breakdowns and percentages, demographics, and how I was going to get customers.” 4
For a small business to succeed, attracting talented workers and partners is of vital importance. A part of a business plan for hiring employees is to help bring in the right talent, from the executive level to skilled staff, by showing them the direction and growth potential of the business. It can also help secure vendor accounts, especially with exclusive suppliers.
Setting business plan objectives for management
Finally, a business plan can be important in providing structure and management objectives to a small business. It can become a reference tool to keep management on track with sales targets and operational milestones. When used properly and consulted regularly, it can help you measure and manage what you’re working so hard to create.
Ready to take the next step? Learn how to write a business plan .
Don’t forget to consider insurance coverage in your business plan. When the unexpected happens, you want to make sure your small business is covered. Customized insurance solutions are crucial to protecting and keeping your operation going.
Find out how small business insurance from Nationwide can help you build and protect your business whether you are just starting up or already established.
1 https://www.effectuation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-Multiple-Effects-of-Business-Planning-onNew-Venture-Performance-1.pdf , Accessed October 2021. 2 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/0447-2778.00006 , Accessed October 2021. 3 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504851.2014.967377 , Accessed October 2021. 4 Nationwide Interview with Scott Sultzer, 2016.
Disclaimer: The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and the Nationwide N and Eagle are services marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.
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The importance of a business plan
Business plans are like road maps: it’s possible to travel without one, but that will only increase the odds of getting lost along the way.
Owners with a business plan see growth 30% faster than those without one, and 71% of the fast-growing companies have business plans . Before we get into the thick of it, let’s define and go over what a business plan actually is.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a 15-20 page document that outlines how you will achieve your business objectives and includes information about your product, marketing strategies, and finances. You should create one when you’re starting a new business and keep updating it as your business grows.
Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may have to stop and ask for directions or even circle back and start over, small business owners often use business plans to help guide them. That’s because they help them see the bigger picture, plan ahead, make important decisions, and improve the overall likelihood of success.
Why is a business plan important?
A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as their employees, the ability to lay out their goals and track their progress as their business begins to grow. Business planning should be the first thing done when starting a new business. Business plans are also important for attracting investors so they can determine if your business is on the right path and worth putting money into.
Business plans typically include detailed information that can help improve your business’s chances of success, like:
- A market analysis : gathering information about factors and conditions that affect your industry
- Competitive analysis : evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors
- Customer segmentation : divide your customers into different groups based on specific characteristics to improve your marketing
- Marketing: using your research to advertise your business
- Logistics and operations plans : planning and executing the most efficient production process
- Cash flow projection : being prepared for how much money is going into and out of your business
- An overall path to long-term growth
10 reasons why you need a business plan
I know what you’re thinking: “Do I really need a business plan? It sounds like a lot of work, plus I heard they’re outdated and I like figuring things out as I go...”.
The answer is: yes, you really do need a business plan! As entrepreneur Kevin J. Donaldson said, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support—you’ll eventually get lost and starve! Though it may sound tedious and time-consuming, business plans are critical to starting your business and setting yourself up for success.
To outline the importance of business plans and make the process sound less daunting, here are 10 reasons why you need one for your small business.
1. To help you with critical decisions
The primary importance of a business plan is that they help you make better decisions. Entrepreneurship is often an endless exercise in decision making and crisis management. Sitting down and considering all the ramifications of any given decision is a luxury that small businesses can’t always afford. That’s where a business plan comes in.
Building a business plan allows you to determine the answer to some of the most critical business decisions ahead of time.
Creating a robust business plan is a forcing function—you have to sit down and think about major components of your business before you get started, like your marketing strategy and what products you’ll sell. You answer many tough questions before they arise. And thinking deeply about your core strategies can also help you understand how those decisions will impact your broader strategy.
Send invoices, get paid, track expenses, pay your team, and balance your books with our free financial management software.
2. To iron out the kinks
Putting together a business plan requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves a lot of hard questions and take the time to come up with well-researched and insightful answers. Even if the document itself were to disappear as soon as it’s completed, the practice of writing it helps to articulate your vision in realistic terms and better determine if there are any gaps in your strategy.
3. To avoid the big mistakes
Only about half of small businesses are still around to celebrate their fifth birthday . While there are many reasons why small businesses fail, many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans.
According to data from CB Insights , some of the most common reasons businesses fail include:
- No market need : No one wants what you’re selling.
- Lack of capital : Cash flow issues or businesses simply run out of money.
- Inadequate team : This underscores the importance of hiring the right people to help you run your business.
- Stiff competition : It’s tough to generate a steady profit when you have a lot of competitors in your space.
- Pricing : Some entrepreneurs price their products or services too high or too low—both scenarios can be a recipe for disaster.
The exercise of creating a business plan can help you avoid these major mistakes. Whether it’s cash flow forecasts or a product-market fit analysis , every piece of a business plan can help spot some of those potentially critical mistakes before they arise. For example, don’t be afraid to scrap an idea you really loved if it turns out there’s no market need. Be honest with yourself!
Get a jumpstart on your business plan by creating your own cash flow projection .
4. To prove the viability of the business
Many businesses are created out of passion, and while passion can be a great motivator, it’s not a great proof point.
Planning out exactly how you’re going to turn that vision into a successful business is perhaps the most important step between concept and reality. Business plans can help you confirm that your grand idea makes sound business sense.
A critical component of your business plan is the market research section. Market research can offer deep insight into your customers, your competitors, and your chosen industry. Not only can it enlighten entrepreneurs who are starting up a new business, but it can also better inform existing businesses on activities like marketing, advertising, and releasing new products or services.
Want to prove there’s a market gap? Here’s how you can get started with market research.
5. To set better objectives and benchmarks
Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, without much rhyme or reason behind them. Having a business plan can help make those benchmarks more intentional and consequential. They can also help keep you accountable to your long-term vision and strategy, and gain insights into how your strategy is (or isn’t) coming together over time.
6. To communicate objectives and benchmarks
Whether you’re managing a team of 100 or a team of two, you can’t always be there to make every decision yourself. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions any time there’s an absence. Let your staff know that when in doubt, they can always consult the business plan to understand the next steps in the event that they can’t get an answer from you directly.
Sharing your business plan with team members also helps ensure that all members are aligned with what you’re doing, why, and share the same understanding of long-term objectives.
7. To provide a guide for service providers
Small businesses typically employ contractors , freelancers, and other professionals to help them with tasks like accounting , marketing, legal assistance, and as consultants. Having a business plan in place allows you to easily share relevant sections with those you rely on to support the organization, while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
8. To secure financing
Did you know you’re 2.5x more likely to get funded if you have a business plan?If you’re planning on pitching to venture capitalists, borrowing from a bank, or are considering selling your company in the future, you’re likely going to need a business plan. After all, anyone that’s interested in putting money into your company is going to want to know it’s in good hands and that it’s viable in the long run. Business plans are the most effective ways of proving that and are typically a requirement for anyone seeking outside financing.
Learn what you need to get a small business loan.
9. To better understand the broader landscape
No business is an island, and while you might have a strong handle on everything happening under your own roof, it’s equally important to understand the market terrain as well. Writing a business plan can go a long way in helping you better understand your competition and the market you’re operating in more broadly, illuminate consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions and other insights that aren’t always plainly visible.
10. To reduce risk
Entrepreneurship is a risky business, but that risk becomes significantly more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce the risk factor from an inherently precarious way to make a living. Having a business plan allows you to leave less up to chance, make better decisions, and enjoy the clearest possible view of the future of your company.
Understanding the importance of a business plan
Now that you have a solid grasp on the “why” behind business plans, you can confidently move forward with creating your own.
Remember that a business plan will grow and evolve along with your business, so it’s an important part of your whole journey—not just the beginning.
Now that you’ve read up on the purpose of a business plan, check out our guide to help you get started.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.
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Why You Should Write a Business Plan
Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
To Test the Feasibility of Your Business Idea
To give your new business the best chance of success, to secure funding, to make business planning manageable and effective, to attract investors, frequently asked questions (faqs).
The Balance / Getty Images
A business plan is the blueprint for your business. Starting a business without a business plan is like building a house without a blueprint. Yet, unlike a house, a business isn't static. We often make the mistake of thinking of a business plan as a single document that you put together once when you're starting out and never touch again. But as the business develops, so should its business plan. In fact, any particular business may have multiple business plans as its objectives change.
Writing a business plan is time-consuming, but it's essential if you want to have a successful business that's going to survive the startup phase.
- Writing a business plan reveals how tenable your idea is.
- Updating and amending a business plan as the business develops and its goals change is vital to your success.
- A good business plan helps you define your target market, competitive advantage, optimum pricing strategies, and better prepares the business for upcoming challenges.
- A business plan helps you secure funding and attract new investors.
Writing a business plan is the best way—other than going out and doing it—to test whether an idea for starting a business is feasible. In this sense, the business plan is your safety net. If working through a business plan reveals that your business idea is untenable, it will save you a great deal of time and money.
Often, an idea for starting a business is discarded at the marketing analysis or competitive analysis stage , freeing you to move on to a new (and better) idea.
Unfortunately, many prospective business owners are so convinced that their idea for a product or service is a can't-miss proposition, that they don't take the time to do the necessary research and work through a proper business plan. The more you know about your industry, your prospective customers, and the competition, the greater the likelihood that your business will succeed.
Writing a business plan will ensure that you pay attention to the broad operational and financial objectives of your new business and the small details, such as budgeting and market planning. The process will ultimately make for a smoother startup period and fewer unforeseen problems as your business gets up and running.
The exercise of budgeting and market planning will help you define your target market , your unique selling proposition, optimum pricing strategies, and outline how you intend to sell and deliver your products to customers. In addition, developing a budget for implementation will assist with determining your startup and operating capital requirements.
According to the Small Business Administration, one of the most-cited reasons why businesses fail is inadequate planning. By starting too soon and without a sufficient plan, your business is setting itself up for failure.
Most new businesses need startup and operating capital to get off the ground. Without a well-developed business plan, there is no chance of getting debt financing from established financial institutions such as banks or equity financing from angel investors.
Established businesses often need money, too, to buy new equipment or property, or because of market downturns. Having an up-to-date business plan gives you a much better chance of getting the money you need to keep operating or expand.
Even an angel investor will want to ensure their money is going to a business that knows what it's doing. The easiest way to prove this is via a well-developed business plan.
Investors and financiers are always looking at the risk of default, and word of mouth is no substitute for written facts and figures in a properly prepared business plan.
A business plan is essential if you're thinking of starting a business, but it's also an important tool for established businesses. Viable businesses are dynamic; they change and grow. Your company's original business plan needs to be revised as you set new goals .
Reviewing the business plan can also help you see what goals have been accomplished, what changes need to be made, or what new directions your company's growth should take.
Whether you want to shop your business to venture capitalists or attract angel investors , you need to have a solid business plan. A presentation may pique their interest, but they'll need a well-written document they can study before they'll be prepared to make any investment commitment.
Be prepared to have your business plan scrutinized. Both venture capitalists and angel investors will want to conduct extensive background checks and competitive analyses to be certain that what's written in your business plan is indeed the case.
What are the sections of a business plan?
A comprehensive business plan should include the following sections:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Competitor analysis
- Industry analysis
- Product and services description
- Financial data
What is the purpose of a business plan?
A business plan has four main purposes:
- Tests the feasibility and model of your business idea
- Attracts investors
- Sets a plan for growth
- Identifies capital needs
Small Business Administration. " Selecting a Business That Fits ."
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Why Is a Business Plan Important? (+ How to Create One)
June 21st, 2022 | Small Business Resources
A business plan is not something you create just for the sake of creating it—it’s a key factor in your company’s success. According to a SCORE survey , the next biggest source of support for small business owners just starting out—behind their friends and family—is having a solid business plan in place.
Aside box: What is a business plan?
A business plan is a written document that outlines what your business objectives are and how you will go about achieving them. Refresh your business plan regularly to reflect with your evolving business objectives.
Business plans can be both internal and external documents. If you’re looking to secure funding from an investor or get a loan from a bank, they will certainly want to evaluate your business plan first.
Why is this plan so important? Because entrepreneurship without a business plan is like traveling without a roadmap. You might reach your destination eventually without it, but the journey will be tough, if not impossible.
Know the location of your destination and what roads you’ll need to travel, and you’ll significantly increase your chances of success.
12 reasons why having a business plan is important
The process of creating your business plan encourages you to take a deep dive into every aspect of your company—helping you spot flaws and take steps to improve.
Beyond highlighting weaknesses, a strong business plan positively shapes a company’s reputation. It shows investors, partners, and even potential hires that your business is working toward clear objectives and is on a reliable growth path.
1. It helps confirm the viability of your business idea
The research that goes into creating your business plan will help you gauge whether your idea is a viable one. You’ll learn the size of your potential market, who your competitors are, who your target customers are, and what problem you’re solving for them.
With this information, you can evaluate your chances of creating a profitable and sustainable business.
2. It helps you make financial projections
According to CB Insights , almost 40% of startups ran out of cash or failed to raise new capital. Business plans require you to evaluate your current financials and projects in detail, so you can steer clear of draining your bank account.
3. It helps you protect your business from common risks
Very few companies and individuals are willing to work in any capacity with businesses that don’t protect their partners with professional liability policies. To form your business plan, you’ll need to learn about the business risks your company faces and put together an insurance plan that helps mitigate them.
4. It helps you form partnerships
Regardless of the type of partners you have—contractors, freelancers, vendors, manufacturers—you need to establish trust. Partners want to know the specifics of your proposed cooperation before they commit.
Successful partnerships depend on well-defined roles and responsibilities and clearly specified incentives and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Business plans clearly define what cooperation and success look like for partnerships, so external parties feel comfortable working with your company.
5. It helps you hire and retain top talent
You can’t hire good people if they don’t believe your business is viable. A business plan shows top talent that your company has potential and is a good place to work.
A clear business plan is also helpful when you’re seeking hiring advice from more experienced peers. Approaching them with a business plan in hand makes that process easier as well.
“Merely telling a friend or potential business mentor you’re aiming to start with ten employees, for example, is not an exceptionally detailed statement,” said Admir Salcinovic, co-founder and marketing manager of PriceListo . “Showing a business plan that outlines the exact duties, salaries, and expectations you have for employees gives far more information for people to provide advice about.”
6. It provides you with competitor analysis
Market analysis is one of the cornerstones of a business plan. This process involves identifying and researching your main competitors and their business models. This data can provide insights into how you should position your business on the market in order to be competitive and carve out a market share for yourself.
7. It helps you understand customer pain points
Along with highlighting competitors, your market research helps you pin down the problem you’re solving for customers and how you plan on helping them. This research often involves surveying customers to understand their pain points.
8. It helps you assemble the right executive team
According to CB Insights , 15% of new businesses failed because the team they had in place wasn’t right. A strong and experienced leadership team can help navigate the many bumps in the road that new business experience, like structural and personal problem solving, risk assessment, and dips in team morale.
Business plans must include a detailed analysis of your management—who they are, and what they bring to the table to evaluate your leadership internally and externally. Startups also commonly dedicate a section of their business plans to the type of culture they are looking to build.
9. It makes you more attractive to lenders/investors
Real talk—most investors and banks won’t even talk to you if you don’t have a business plan. Harvard Business Review research from 2017 showed that writing a business plan increases the chances of your team receiving funding, noting that having a business plan “builds legitimacy and confidence among investors that the entrepreneur is serious.” “When I went to banks to ask for loans, every one of them asked for my business plan,” said Marina Vaamonde, owner and founder of off-market house marketplace HouseCashin . “If I didn’t have mine ready at the time, I would have wasted time during a crucial growth phase of my business when I needed employees.”
Investors and banks will use your business plan to understand your revenue model, cash flow, and, most importantly, how you plan on using funding.
“No matter how great your idea, angel investors won’t invest without a formal business plan,” said Calloway Cook, president of Illuminate Labs . “It doesn’t need to be 50-pages long, but they want to see that you’ve done the work to validate your concept, both informally with customer interviews and formally with market research.”
Cook, whose team was able to raise a pre-seed round of slightly over $100,000, also recommends including directly sourced customer data in your business plan to attract investors.
“Get feedback from real users. This is what sways the minds of investors,” said Cook. “Anyone can create a hypothetical profitable scenario using market size and demographic information, but if investors can see real people interested in your product or service, they’ll be more likely to invest.”
10. It helps you create a marketing strategy
To form a business plan, you’ll need to research on customer demographics and preferences. This data can inform and strengthen your marketing and branding strategies—helping you target your ideal customer.
New companies often have a limited budget to work with and need to adopt strategies that can spark greater growth and cost less than traditional marketing channels. The market research you’re doing for your business plan makes it a perfect starting point for developing these strategies.
11. It helps you set your pricing
The market analysis you perform while writing your business plan will inform how you set your pricing. Your competitor pricing models, your cost of goods sold , and your break-even point are some of the valuable data points you’ll need to acquire to start shaping your pricing model and your sales strategy.
12. It helps you establish the right KPIs
You can’t report on the progress of your business without first establishing what metrics are important to track.
Business plans show what metrics are important to track, given your financial projections, sales goals, marketing plans, and budgets. When you know which metrics to track, everyone in your organization can report on the progress of your business.
KPIs are not just financial goals. They can include trackable data like customer count, the quality of customer service (first response time, customer service satisfaction), and staff-related data like attendance, quality of work, retention, and satisfaction levels.
How to write a business plan: What are the core components?
To provide a big-picture view of vital company insights that gives both your team and third parties an easy way to gauge your financial health and projected growth, a good business plan must include the following components:
The executive summary serves as a high-level synopsis of your business plan—like the Cliff Notes for a book. It gives a general overview of the topics that your business plan will cover.
An executive summary should always be fairly brief. But when presenting your plan to third parties, it’s also important to write a summary that’s compelling enough to intrigue them and make them want to read on.
Even though this summary appears first in a business plan, we recommend writing this section last. That way, you’ll be familiar enough with all of the business plan’s main sections to be able to write a concise and accurate summary to kick it off.
The business summary covers how the products and services your company offers serve the market. This section of your business plan should focus on your value proposition—defining what pain points you solve for your customers and how.
Explain what differentiates your brand from competitors by showing customer reviews and listing success stories and accomplishments. Readers of the business summary should come away from it convinced that your business is a viable one.
It’s also a good idea to wait until you’ve written the market analysis section before writing this section. Your business summary should consist of condensed takeaways sourced from market research.
This component of your business plan answers questions about the market in which your company is competing, such as:
- How big are your target market segments?
- Where does your business fit within these segments?
- Who are the main competitors?
- Who are your customers?
Performing market research is difficult work, especially for less experienced business owners. If you have the funds to do so, hiring a market research/competitive analysis agency to perform the analysis for you is definitely worth it.
The good news is that there are plenty of available resources for those who want to perform their own research, especially online, such as:
- U.S. census data tools : These tools and free industry research reports can help you determine your market size and gain insight into potential customer demographics data.
- Statista : One of the best research data websites, Statista covers hundreds of industries, constantly performing market research and providing hard business data. The website also uses graphs and charts to make their data more understandable for those who might be new to market research.
- Google Trends : Google Trends can help you understand what potential customers are most interested in, allowing you to see into the minds of consumers and audiences. The tool offers robust filter options to create detailed reports about what the trending stories and most searched terms are in a particular demographic.
If you’d rather find mentors and learn about your market through personal interactions, you can look to join local business organizations such as your local chamber of commerce , the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) , or Business Network International (BNI) .
Your market research helps you nail down your ideal customer segments. Uncover key customer demographics: where they live, how much money they make, how old they are, what their level of education is, what their buying habits look like, and more.
Market analysis will help you uncover who your direct competitors are, what their strengths and weakness are, and how your offer differs from theirs.
“Going in blind, without understanding who my competitors were, as well as their core strengths and weaknesses, would have decimated any chances of me establishing a worthwhile competitive strategy,” said Lisa Richards, CEO of the health website the Candida Diet . “Knowing who my competition was made it possible for me to develop a differentiation strategy that set me apart from them in terms of brand perception, allowing me to capture a large share of the market from the very beginning,” she added.
Marketing and sales plan
Along with identifying your target market, a business plan should outline how you plan on reaching this audience and selling your product or service to them.
This section of your business plan should detail your branding and marketing strategy. You should also cover any promotional strategies you plan to implement and a description of the current and future strategic partnerships you plan on installing. For example, if your business sells homemade soap, you could list the brick-and-mortar and online shops you plan on partnering with to increase the reach of your sales.
It should also include pricing strategy—the methodology and process behind how you plan on setting prices for your product or services. Set your prices too low, and you could struggle to turn a profit. Set the price too high, and customers could turn to your more affordable competition.
“After creating our initial business plan, we immediately saw how our business is not profitable enough given the current pricing ranges we have and the target market,” said Sherry Morgan, founder of animal content hub Petsolino . “After further investigation, we found out the holes in our initial plan. From there, we adjusted our pricing and selling strategies.”
The management-related part of your business plan should explain your company hierarchy and introduce your business’s leaders by providing information about their professional backgrounds, education, and achievements.
If you’ve received funding, be sure to highlight your investors, shareholders, and any professional advisors. If you have imminent hiring needs within management, detail them in this section.
The three statements that are integral to your financial plan section are your cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheet. You should include a short explanation or analysis of all three in your business plan. Don’t hesitate to ask for expert help here, especially if you don’t currently have an in-house accountant.
This section of your business plan is particularly important if you’re looking to attract potential investors or you want to take out a business loan. If that’s the case, in addition to the three mandatory financial statements, you must also provide a detailed list of what you need the money for (marketing, equipment, labor expenses, insurance costs, rent, etc.).
As you grow, your financial plan will help you develop a model for tracking your income and expenses that will enable you to allocate your resources more effectively.
Revisit and revise your business plan regularly
Business plans are never set in stone. They must evolve and change as your business grows and reaches new milestones. Set a regular review schedule to revisit your business plan and tweak it when necessary.
“Creating and evaluating your business plan on a regular basis is a wonderful approach to identify weaknesses, gaps, and assumptions you’ve made to establish contingency plans,” said Matthew Paxton, founder and owner of gaming website Hypernia .
As you make adjustments, don’t hesitate to pick the brains of more experienced business people and mentors to gain different perspectives on areas of improvement for your business plan.
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Nine reasons why you need a business plan
Building a great business plan helps you plan, strategize and succeed. Presented by Chase for Business .
Making the decision to create a new business is an exciting yet stressful experience. Starting a business involves many tasks and obstacles, so it’s important to focus before you take action. A solid business plan can provide direction, help you attract investors and ensure you maintain momentum.
No matter what industry you plan on going into, a business plan is the first step for any successful enterprise. Building your business plan helps you figure out where you want your business to go and identify the necessary steps to get you there. This is a key document for your company to both guide your actions and track your progress.
What is the purpose of a business plan?
Think of a business plan like a roadmap. It enables you to solve problems and make key business decisions, such as marketing and competitive analysis, customer and market analysis and logistics and operations plans.
It can also help you organize your thoughts and goals, as well as give you a better idea of how your company will work. Good planning is often the difference between success and failure.
Here are nine reasons your company needs a business plan.
1. Prove your idea is viable
Through the process of writing a business plan, you can assess whether your company will be successful. Understanding market dynamics, as well as competitors, will help determine if your idea is viable.
This is also the time to develop financial projections for your business plan, like estimated startup costs, a profit and loss forecast, a break-even analysis and a cash flow statement . By taking time to investigate the viability of your idea, you can build goals and strategies to support your path to success.
A proper business plan proves to all interested parties—including potential investors, customers, employees, partners and most importantly yourself — that you are serious about your business.
2. Set important goals
As a business owner, the bulk of your time will mostly likely be spent managing day-to-day tasks. As a result, it might be hard to find time after you launch your business to set goals and milestones. Writing a business plan allows you to lay out significant goals for yourself ahead of time for three or even five years down the road. Create both short- and long-term business goals.
3. Reduce potential risks
Prevent your business from falling victim to unexpected dangers by researching before you break ground. A business plan opens your eyes to potential risks that your business could face. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions that may need research and analysis to answer. This is also good practice in how your business would actually manage issues when they arise. Incorporate a contingency plan that identifies risks and how you would respond to them effectively.
The most common reasons businesses fail include:
- Lack of capital
- Lack of market impact or need
- Unresearched pricing (too high or low)
- Explosive growth that drains all your capital
- Stiff competition
Lack of capital is the most prevalent reason why businesses fail. To best alleviate this problem, take time to determine how your business will generate revenue. Build a comprehensive model to help mitigate future risks and long-term pain points. This can be turned into a tool to manage growth and expansion.
4. Secure investments
Whether you’re planning to apply for an SBA loan , build a relationship with angel investors or seek venture capital funding, you need more than just an elevator pitch to get funding. All credible investors will want to review your business plan. Although investors will focus on the financial aspects of the plan, they will also want to see if you’ve spent time researching your industry, developed a viable product or service and created a strong marketing strategy.
While building your business plan, think about how much raised capital you need to get your idea off the ground. Determine exactly how much funding you’ll need and what you will use it for. This is essential for raising and employing capital.
5. Allot resources and plan purchases
You will have many investments to make at the launch of your business, such as product and services development, new technology, hiring, operations, sales and marketing. Resource planning is an important part of your business plan. It gives you an idea of how much you’ll need to spend on resources and it ensures your business will manage those resources effectively.
A business plan provides clarity about necessary assets and investment for each item. A good business plan can also determine when it is feasible to expand to a larger store or workspace.
In your plan, include research on new products and services, where you can buy reliable equipment and what technologies you may need. Allocate capital and plan how you’ll fund major purchases, such as with a Chase small business checking account or business credit card .
6. Build your team
From seasoned executives to skilled labor, a compelling business plan can help you attract top-tier talent, ideally inspiring management and employees long after hiring. Business plans include an overview of your executive team as well as the different roles you need filled immediately and further down the line.
Small businesses often employ specialized consultants, contractors and freelancers for individual tasks such as marketing, accounting and legal assistance. Sharing a business plan helps the larger team work collectively in the same direction.
This will also come into play when you begin working with any new partners. As a new business, a potential partner may ask to see your business plan. Building partnerships takes time and money, and with a solid business plan you have the opportunity to attract and work with the type of partners your new business needs.
7. Share your vision
When you start a business, it's easy to assume you'll be available to guide your team. A business plan helps your team and investors understand your vision for the company. Your plan will outline your goals and can help your team make decisions or take action on your behalf. Share your business plan with employees to align your full staff toward a collective goal or objective for the company. Consider employee and stakeholder ownership as a compelling and motivating force.
8. Develop a marketing strategy
A marketing strategy details how you will reach your customers and build brand awareness. The clearer your brand positioning is to investors, customers, partners and employees, the more successful your business will be.
Important questions to consider as you build your marketing strategy include:
- What industry segments are we pursuing?
- What is the value proposition of the products or services we plan to offer?
- Who are our customers?
- How will we retain our customers and keep them engaged with our products or services and marketing?
- What is our advertising budget?
- What price will we charge?
- What is the overall look and feel of our brand? What are our brand guidelines?
- Will we need to hire marketing experts to help us create our brand?
- Who are our competitors? What marketing strategies have worked (or not worked) for them?
With a thoughtful marketing strategy integrated into your business plan, your company goals are significantly more in reach.
9. Focus your energy
Your business plan determines which areas of your business to focus on while also avoiding possible distractions. It provides a roadmap for critical tradeoffs and resource allocation.
As a business owner, you will feel the urge to solve all of your internal and customers’ problems, but it is important to maintain focus. Keep your priorities at the top of your mind as you set off to build your company.
As a small business owner, writing a business plan should be one of your first priorities. Read our checklist for starting a business, and learn how to take your business from a plan to reality. When you’re ready to get started, talk with a Chase business banker to open a Chase business checking or savings account today.
For Informational/Educational Purposes Only: The views expressed in this article may differ from other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Views and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone and are not intended as specific advice/recommendation for any individual. You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions and consult the appropriate professional(s). Outlooks and past performance are not guarantees of future results.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender, ©2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co
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20 Reasons Why You Need a Business Plan in 2023
Written by Dave Lavinsky
What is the Purpose of a Business Plan?
The purpose of a business plan is to provide a clear roadmap for the company’s future. It outlines the vision, goals, and strategies of the business, guiding entrepreneurs and stakeholders in understanding its operations and objectives. A well-crafted business plan helps attract investors and funding by showcasing the potential for profitability and growth.
Top 20 Reasons Why you Need a Business Plan
1. to prove that you’re serious about your business.
A formal business plan is necessary to show all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building the business. Creating your plan forces you to think through and select the strategies that will propel your growth.
2. To Establish Business Milestones
The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki, a milestone is something significant enough to come home and tell your spouse about (without boring him or her to death). Would you tell your spouse that you tweaked the company brochure? Probably not. But you’d certainly share the news that you launched your new website or reached $1M in annual revenues.
3. To Better Understand Your Competition
Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages. And if you don’t currently have competitive advantages, to figure out what you must do to gain them.
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4. To Better Understand Your Customer
Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business. Understanding your customers will not only allow you to create better products and services for them, but will allow you to more cost-effectively reach them via advertising and promotions.
5. To Enunciate Previously Unstated Assumptions
The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. By writing them down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity. For example, you might have assumed that local retailers would carry your product; in your business plan, you could assess the results of the scenario in which this didn’t occur.
6. To Assess the Feasibility of Your Venture
How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture. In some cases, the result of your planning will be to table the venture. And it might be to go forward with a different venture that may have a better chance of success.
7. To Document Your Revenue Model
How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model. And upon reading your plan, others may suggest additional revenue streams to consider.
8. To Determine Your Financial Needs
Does your business need to raise capital? How much? One of the purposes of a business plan is to help you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital for business and for effectively employing the capital. It will also enable you to plan ahead, particularly if you need to raise additional funding in the future.
9. To Attract Investors
A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy? While investors will generally want to meet you in person before writing you a check, in nearly all cases, they will also thoroughly review your business plan.
10. To Reduce the Risk of Pursuing the Wrong Opportunity
The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities. So you make the best decisions.
11. To Force You to Research and Really Know Your Market
What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace. And it will allow you to use this knowledge to make decisions to improve your company’s success.
12. To Attract Employees and a Management Team
To attract and retain top quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals. Importantly, as you grow your company, your employees and not you will do most of the work. So getting them aligned and motivated will be key to your success.
13. To Plot Your Course and Focus Your Efforts
The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones. You wouldn’t go on a long driving trip without a map; think of your business plan as your map.
14. To attract partners
Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.
15. To Position Your Brand
Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners. With the industry, customer and competitive insight you gain during the business planning process, you can best determine how to position your brand.
16. To Judge the Success of Your Business
A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).
17. To Reposition Your Business to Deal with Changing Conditions
For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.
18. To Document Your Marketing Plan
How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business. And the marketing strategies and tactics you use will evolve each year, so revisiting your marketing plan at least annually is critical.
19. To Understand and Forecast Your Company’s Staffing Needs
After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion. Importantly your plan can not only help you understand your staffing needs, but ensure your timing is right as it takes time to recruit and train great employees.
20. To Uncover New Opportunities
Through the process of brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business. It’s coming up with these ideas and executing on them which is often the difference between a business that fails or just survives and one that thrives.
Business Plan FAQs
What is a business plan.
A business plan is a document that details your business concept and strategy for growth.
A business plan helps guide your company's efforts and, if applicable, gives investors and lenders the information they need to decide whether or not to fund your company. A business plan template helps you to most easily complete your plan.
Why Do You Need a Business Plan?
A business plan provides details about your company, competition, customers and industry so that you make the best possible decisions to grow your company.
What is the Importance of a Business Plan?
The 3 most important purposes of a business plan are 1) to create an effective strategy for growth, 2) to determine your future financial needs, and 3) to attract investors (including angel investors and VC funding ) and lenders.
Why is a Business Plan Important to an Entrepreneur?
Business plans help entrepreneurs take their visions and turn them into tangible action plans for success.
Since 1999, Growthink’s business plan experts have assisted more than 4,000 clients in launching and growing their businesses, and raising more than $2.5 billion in growth financing.
Need help with your business plan?
Speak with a professional business plan consultant from our team.
Use our simple business plan template .
Check out our business plan examples .
Or, if you’re creating your own PPM, you can save time and money with Growthink’s private placement memorandum template .
Learn more about us via our Growthink Business Plan Review page
The World’s #1 Business Plan Template
Would you like to know the quickest and easiest way to create a winning business plan?
And how to use it to raise funding, improve your strategy, or both?
Well, we’ve developed the ultimate business plan template to help you do this. Simply click below to learn more.
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Table of Contents
Every year, thousands of new businesses see the light of the day. One look at the World Bank's Entrepreneurship Survey and database shows the mind-boggling rate of new business registrations. However, sadly, only a tiny percentage of them have a chance of survival.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, about 50% in their fifth year.
Research from the University of Tennessee found that 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. Among those that operate within specific sectors, like information (which includes most tech firms), 63% shut shop within three years.
Several other statistics expose the abysmal rates of business failure. But why are so many businesses bound to fail? Most studies mention "lack of business planning" as one of the reasons.
This isn’t surprising at all.
Running a business without a plan is like riding a motorcycle up a craggy cliff blindfolded. Yet, way too many firms ( a whopping 67%) don't have a formal business plan in place.
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It doesn't matter if you're a startup with a great idea or a business with an excellent product. You can only go so far without a roadmap — a business plan. Only, a business plan is so much more than just a roadmap. A solid plan allows a business to weather market challenges and pivot quickly in the face of crisis, like the one global businesses are struggling with right now, in the post-pandemic world.
But before you can go ahead and develop a great business plan, you need to know the basics. In this article, we'll discuss the fundamentals of business planning to help you plan effectively for 2021.
Now before we begin with the details of business planning, let us understand what it is.
What Is a Business Plan?
No two businesses have an identical business plan, even if they operate within the same industry. So one business plan can look entirely different from another one. Still, for the sake of simplicity, a business plan can be defined as a guide for a company to operate and achieve its goals.
More specifically, it's a document in writing that outlines the goals, objectives, and purpose of a business while laying out the blueprint for its day-to-day operations and key functions such as marketing, finance, and expansion.
A good business plan can be a game-changer for startups that are looking to raise funds to grow and scale. It convinces prospective investors that the venture will be profitable and provides a realistic outlook on how much profit is on the cards and by when it will be attained.
However, it's not only new businesses that greatly benefit from a business plan. Well-established companies and large conglomerates also need to tweak their business plans to adapt to new business environments and unpredictable market changes.
Before getting into learning more about business planning, let us learn the advantages of having one.
The Advantages of Having a Business Plan
Since a detailed business plan offers a birds-eye view of the entire framework of an establishment, it has several benefits that make it an important part of any organization. Here are few ways a business plan can offer significant competitive edge.
- Sets objectives and benchmarks: Proper planning helps a business set realistic objectives and assign stipulated time for those goals to be met. This results in long-term profitability. It also lets a company set benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) necessary to reach its goals.
- Maximizes resource allocation: A good business plan helps to effectively organize and allocate the company’s resources. It provides an understanding of the result of actions, such as, opening new offices, recruiting fresh staff, change in production, and so on. It also helps the business estimate the financial impact of such actions.
- Enhances viability: A plan greatly contributes towards turning concepts into reality. Though business plans vary from company to company, the blueprints of successful companies often serve as an excellent guide for nascent-stage start-ups and new entrepreneurs. It also helps existing firms to market, advertise, and promote new products and services into the market.
- Aids in decision making: Running a business involves a lot of decision making: where to pitch, where to locate, what to sell, what to charge — the list goes on. A well thought-out business plan provides an organization the ability to anticipate the curveballs that the future could throw at them. It allows them to come up with answers and solutions to these issues well in advance.
- Fix past mistakes: When businesses create plans keeping in mind the flaws and failures of the past and what worked for them and what didn’t, it can help them save time, money, and resources. Such plans that reflects the lessons learnt from the past offers businesses an opportunity to avoid future pitfalls.
- Attracts investors: A business plan gives investors an in-depth idea about the objectives, structure, and validity of a firm. It helps to secure their confidence and encourages them to invest.
Now let's look at the various types involved in business planning.
The Types of Business Plans
Business plans are formulated according to the needs of a business. It can be a simple one-page document or an elaborate 40-page affair, or anything in between. While there’s no rule set in stone as to what exactly a business plan can or can’t contain, there are a few common types of business plan that nearly all businesses in existence use.
Here’s an overview of a few fundamental types of business plans.
- Start-up plan: As the name suggests, this is a documentation of the plans, structure, and objections of a new business establishments. It describes the products and services that are to be produced by the firm, the staff management, and market analysis of their production. Often, a detailed finance spreadsheet is also attached to this document for investors to determine the viability of the new business set-up.
- Feasibility plan: A feasibility plan evaluates the prospective customers of the products or services that are to be produced by a company. It also estimates the possibility of a profit or a loss of a venture. It helps to forecast how well a product will sell at the market, the duration it will require to yield results, and the profit margin that it will secure on investments.
- Expansion Plan: This kind of plan is primarily framed when a company decided to expand in terms of production or structure. It lays down the fundamental steps and guidelines with regards to internal or external growth. It helps the firm to analyze the activities like resource allocation for increased production, financial investments, employment of extra staff, and much more.
- Operations Plan: An operational plan is also called an annual plan. This details the day-to-day activities and strategies that a business needs to follow in order to materialize its targets. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the managing body, the various departments, and the company’s employees for the holistic success of the firm.
- Strategic Plan: This document caters to the internal strategies of the company and is a part of the foundational grounds of the establishments. It can be accurately drafted with the help of a SWOT analysis through which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be categorized and evaluated so that to develop means for optimizing profits.
The Key Elements of a Business Plan
There is some preliminary work that’s required before you actually sit down to write a plan for your business. Knowing what goes into a business plan is one of them.
Here are the key elements of a good business plan:
- Executive Summary: An executive summary gives a clear picture of the strategies and goals of your business right at the outset. Though its value is often understated, it can be extremely helpful in creating the readers’ first impression of your business. As such, it could define the opinions of customers and investors from the get-go.
- Business Description: A thorough business description removes room for any ambiguity from your processes. An excellent business description will explain the size and structure of the firm as well as its position in the market. It also describes the kind of products and services that the company offers. It even states as to whether the company is old and established or new and aspiring. Most importantly, it highlights the USP of the products or services as compared to your competitors in the market.
- Market Analysis: A systematic market analysis helps to determine the current position of a business and analyzes its scope for future expansions. This can help in evaluating investments, promotions, marketing, and distribution of products. In-depth market understanding also helps a business combat competition and make plans for long-term success.
- Operations and Management: Much like a statement of purpose, this allows an enterprise to explain its uniqueness to its readers and customers. It showcases the ways in which the firm can deliver greater and superior products at cheaper rates and in relatively less time.
- Financial Plan: This is the most important element of a business plan and is primarily addressed to investors and sponsors. It requires a firm to reveal its financial policies and market analysis. At times, a 5-year financial report is also required to be included to show past performances and profits. The financial plan draws out the current business strategies, future projections, and the total estimated worth of the firm.
Best Business Plan Software
The importance of business planning is it simplifies the planning of your company's finances to present this information to a bank or investors. Here are the best business plan software providers available right now:
- Business Sorter
Become an AI-powered Business Analyst
Common Challenges of Writing a Business Plan
The importance of business planning cannot be emphasized enough, but it can be challenging to write a business plan. Here are a few issues to consider before you start your business planning:
- Create a business plan to determine your company's direction, obtain financing, and attract investors.
- Identifying financial, demographic, and achievable goals is a common challenge when writing a business plan.
- Some entrepreneurs struggle to write a business plan that is concise, interesting, and informative enough to demonstrate the viability of their business idea.
- You can streamline your business planning process by conducting research, speaking with experts and peers, and working with a business consultant.
Become an Expert Business Planner
Whether you’re running your own business or in-charge of ensuring strategic performance and growth for your employer or clients, knowing the ins and outs of business planning can set you up for success.
Be it the launch of a new and exciting product or an expansion of operations, business planning is the necessity of all large and small companies. Which is why the need for professionals with superior business planning skills will never die out. In fact, their demand is on the rise with global firms putting emphasis on business analysis and planning to cope with cut-throat competition and market uncertainties.
While some are natural-born planners, most people have to work to develop this important skill. Plus, business planning requires you to understand the fundamentals of business management and be familiar with business analysis techniques . It also requires you to have a working knowledge of data visualization, project management, and monitoring tools commonly used by businesses today.
Simpliearn’s Post Graduate Program in Business Analysis will help you develop and hone the required skills to become an extraordinary business planner. This comprehensive training program combined with the latest tools and methods can pave the way for you and equip you with the skills and the know-how to tackle any real-world challenges that may arise. Completing this industry-recognized course also earns you a valued certification as tangible proof of your talent.
What Is Meant by Business Planning?
Business planning is developing a company's mission or goals and defining the strategies you will use to achieve those goals or tasks. The process can be extensive, encompassing all aspects of the operation, or it can be concrete, focusing on specific functions within the overall corporate structure.
What Are the 4 Types of Business Plans?
The following are the four types of business plans:
This type of planning typically describes the company's day-to-day operations. Single-use plans are developed for events and activities that occur only once (such as a single marketing campaign). Ongoing plans include problem-solving policies, rules for specific regulations, and procedures for a step-by-step process for achieving particular goals.
Strategic plans are all about why things must occur. A high-level overview of the entire business is included in strategic planning. It is the organization's foundation and will dictate long-term decisions.
Tactical plans are about what will happen. Strategic planning is aided by tactical planning. It outlines the tactics the organization intends to employ to achieve the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
When something unexpected occurs or something needs to be changed, contingency plans are created. In situations where a change is required, contingency planning can be beneficial.
What Are the 7 Steps of a Business Plan?
The following are the seven steps required for a business plan:
If your company is to run a viable business plan and attract investors, your information must be of the highest quality.
Have a Goal
The goal must be unambiguous. You will waste your time if you don't know why you're writing a business plan. Knowing also implies having a target audience for when the plan is expected to get completed.
Create a Company Profile
Some refer to it as a company profile, while others refer to it as a snapshot. It's designed to be mentally quick and digestible because it needs to stick in the reader's mind quickly since more information is provided later in the plan.
Describe the Company in Detail
Explain the company's current situation, both good and bad. Details should also include patents, licenses, copyrights, and unique strengths that no one else has.
Create a marketing plan ahead of time.
A strategic marketing plan is required because it outlines how your product or service will be communicated, delivered, and sold to customers.
Be Willing to Change Your Plan for the Sake of Your Audience
Another standard error is that people only write one business plan. Startups have several versions, just as candidates have numerous resumes for various potential employers.
Incorporate Your Motivation
Your motivation must be a compelling reason for people to believe your company will succeed in all circumstances. A mission should drive a business, not just selling, to make money. That mission is defined by your motivation as specified in your business plan.
What Are the Basic Steps in Business Planning?
These are the basic steps in business planning:
Summary and Objectives
Briefly describe your company, its objectives, and your plan to keep it running.
Services and Products
Add specifics to your detailed description of the product or service you intend to offer. Where, why, and how much you plan to sell your product or service and any special offers.
Conduct research on your industry and the ideal customers to whom you want to sell. Identify the issues you want to solve for your customers.
Operations are the process of running your business, including the people, skills, and experience required to make it successful.
How are you going to reach your target audience? How you intend to sell to them may include positioning, pricing, promotion, and distribution.
Consider funding costs, operating expenses, and projected income. Include your financial objectives and a breakdown of what it takes to make your company profitable. With proper business planning through the help of support, system, and mentorship, it is easy to start a business.
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Why is a business plan important? Five reasons why you need one
Table of Contents
1) Plan for viability and growth
2) setting milestones and objectives, 3) supporting critical decisions and avoiding mistakes, 4) securing investors and financing, 5) minimise risk, making informed business decisions.
Why is a business plan important? A business plan is like a roadmap: you can start driving without one, but you’ll be more likely to get lost on the way.
To save yourself driving in circles, prepare a business plan from day one. This will help you focus on the details of your venture and give you the chance to do important groundwork before you begin trading.
Typically, a business plan will include detailed insights such as market analysis, competitor research, audience profiles, marketing goals, logistics and operations plans, cash flow information, and an overall strategy on how they will grow.
This guide will demonstrate why a business plan is important, including:
- Planning for viability and growth
- Setting milestones and objectives
- Supporting decision making and avoiding mistakes
- Securing finance and investors
- Minimising risk
If you have a business idea brewing or want to turn your passion, hobby, or side project into a full-time job, first do your research to understand if your business will be viable. A business plan can help you confirm that your business idea is sustainable in the current market.
To do this, carry out market research. Considering answers to the following questions will start to give you a more detailed picture of where your business belongs in the sector:
- Who are your customers?
- What do you offer them?
- What problems are you solving for them?
- Why would they buy from you over your competitors?
- Who are your competitors? What are you doing differently? Are you cheaper?
- Who dominates the industry? How can you improve on what is already out there?
Answering these questions will highlight gaps in the market that your business can occupy and give your company a better chance at survival long-term.
You may have in mind some future milestones that you would like to hit. In your business plan, it’s important to plot some top-level goals, then plan what objectives will get you there.
As an example, for an artisan craft business, one goal might be to sell 1,000 handmade products in the first year. Setting an objective such as ‘ Use social media advertising to drive half of the sales ’ will help you focus on the activity you need to achieve the goal.
Or if you offer professional services, like marketing support or a financial advisor, you might want to grow your client base by 50%. In order to grow this number consistently, you must also keep your existing clients on board. Therefore, an objective might be to improve customer relations to retain clients for longer. Then you can begin to research strategies to support your overall business goals.
By checking in regularly on your business plan, you will be able to track your progress toward important growth milestones and change tactics as you learn more about your customers. By having your plan in writing, you are setting yourself up to grow at a faster rate than businesses that don’t create a business plan .
Your aims and objectives will keep you accountable when making decisions for your business. As you grow, you will encounter chances to invest back into the business. Consulting the long-term vision you set for yourself will help you separate the ‘needs’ from the ‘wants’.
Including financial information such as cash flow and forecast reports in your business plan will make it easier to make informed decisions when it comes to major spending, growth or expansion. You will be able to know with confidence whether an idea aligns with what you have set out to achieve.
Consulting a detailed plan will also help you avoid common pitfalls of start-ups. You will have already done your research and spotted any gaps in your knowledge or strategy before it becomes an issue. Some mistakes that unprepared businesses make include:
- Not enough demand for what you’re selling
- Cash flow issues due to poor forecasting .
- Too much competition in the marketplace, when you don’t have a marked difference to them.
- Setting your price mark too high or too low for the industry.
Business plans are typically a requirement if you are looking to secure finance. Whether it comes from a bank, an outside venture capital firm, or a friend who wants to go into business with you. They will want to see the forecasts that prove your business is viable in the long run.
Also, if you ever consider selling your business in the future, a business plan will be needed to pitch for a higher valuation.
Another exercise to include in your business plan is a SWOT analysis. This is a process of identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that face your business. By doing this activity you are reducing risk by highlighting areas that may need contingency plans, and a thorough SWOT analysis will allow you to plan in advance for potential difficulties.
With all the data you’ve pulled together on your market, operational plans, finances and sales projections, you will have reduced any potential risks that arise from being uninformed. In doing your research, you can spot potential issues before they arise in real life, and create contingency plans as a safety net.
As the saying goes “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”. Revisiting your business plan regularly will help you avoid as much risk as possible when you start trading. It will also keep your mind focused on the bigger picture instead of the daily trials and tribulations of running a business.
Now that you are equipped with answers to ‘why is a business plan important’, you can start preparing a business plan to set your new venture up for success.
When you’re starting a business, it’s important to keep on top of your financial admin from day one. Countingup offers a business current account and an app with built-in accounting software, that will save you time and money when it comes to your bookkeeping. Find out more here .
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- The Basics of Writing a Business Plan
- The Benefits and Risks of Writing a Business Plan
- The Main Objectives of a Business Plan
- What to Include and Not Include in a Successful Business Plan
- The Top 4 Types of Business Plans
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Business Plan Deck
- 6 Tips for Making a Winning Business Presentation
- 12 Ways to Set Your Business Goals and Objectives
- 3 Key Things You Need to Know About Financing Your Business
- How to Use Your Business Plan Most Effectively
- How to Pitch Your Business Plan in 6 Minutes
- How to Use Your Business Plan to Track Performance
- How to Make Your Business Plan Attractive to Prospective Partners
- When to Update Your Business Plan
- How to Assess the Potential of Your Business Idea
- How to Fund Your Business Through Friends and Family Loans and Crowdsourcing
- How to Fund Your Business Using Banks and Credit Unions
- How to Fund Your Business With an SBA Loan
- How to Fund Your Business With Angel Investors
- How to Fund Your Business With Bonds and Indirect Funding Sources
- How to Fund Your Business With Venture Capital
- How to Raise Money With Your Business Plan's Executive Summary
- What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition? Use This Worksheet to Find Your Greatest Strength.
- How to Write the Management Team Section to Your Business Plan
- How to Create a Strategic Hiring Plan
- How to Write a Business Plan Executive Summary That Sells Your Idea
- How To Build a Team of Outside Experts for Your Business
- Use This Worksheet to Write a Product Description That Sells
- Customers and Investors Don't Want Products. They Want Solutions.
- Who Is Your Customer? 4 Questions to Ask.
- How to Determine the Barriers to Entry for Your Business
- How to Define Your Product and Set Your Prices
- How to Identify and Research Your Competition
- 5 Essential Elements of Your Industry Trends Plan
- How to Identify Market Trends in Your Business Plan
- How to Get Customers in Your Store and Drive Traffic to Your Website
- How to Effectively Promote Your Business to Customers and Investors
- What Equipment and Facilities to Include in Your Business Plan
- How to Write an Income Statement for Your Business Plan
- How to Make a Balance Sheet
- How to Make a Cash Flow Statement
- How to Use Financial Ratios to Understand the Health of Your Business
- How to Write an Operations Plan for Retail and Sales Businesses
- How to Make Realistic Financial Forecasts
- How to Write an Operations Plan for Manufacturers
- How to List Personel and Materials in Your Business Plan
- What Technology to Include In Your Business Plan
- 6 Steps to Getting Your Business Plan Seen
- The Best Ways to Follow Up on a Buisiness Plan
- The Best Books, Sites, Trade Associations and Resources to Get Your Business Funded and Running
- How to Hire the Right Business Plan Consultant
- Business Plan Lingo and Resources All Entrepreneurs Should Know
- How to Write a Letter of Introduction
- What To Put on the Cover Page of a Business Plan
- How to Format Your Business Plan
The Main Objectives of a Business Plan Here's what a business plan will reveal and how it can save you time and resources.
By Entrepreneur Staff • Oct 27, 2023
This is part 2 / 11 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 1: The Foundation of a Business Plan series.
You need to think of what you want and whether your plan's findings suggest you'll get it. For instance, is your objective to gain freedom from control by other people? If your plan shows that you'll have to take on several equity partners, each of whom will desire a chunk of ownership, you may need to come up with a business that does not require capital needs that are very intensive.
Perhaps you want a company that will let you do your work and get home at a reasonable hour, even a business you can start from home. There are so many options when it comes to starting a business, including the size, location, and, of course, the reason for existence. You will be able to determine all of these and so many more aspects of business with the help of your business plan. It forces you to think through all of the areas that form the main concept to the smallest details. This way you don't find yourself remembering at the last minute that your website is still not developed or that you still have most of your inventory in a warehouse and no way to ship it.
Related: How To Access The Potential Of Your Business Idea
Clarify Your Future Outlook
It may seem odd to say that a business plan can't predict the future. What are all those projections and forecasts for if they are not attempts to predict the future? The fact is, no projection or forecast is really a hard-and-fast prediction of the future. Not even the French seer Nostradamus could tell you for sure how your business will be doing in five years. The best you can do is have a plan in which you logically and systematically attempt to show what will happen if a particular scenario occurs. That scenario has been determined by your research and analysis to be the most likely one of the many that may occur. But it's still just a probability, not a guarantee.
You can, however, use your research, sales forecasts, market trends, and competitive analysis to make well-thought-out predictions of how you see your business developing if you are able to follow a specified course. To some extent, you can create your future rather than simply trying to predict it by the decisions you make. For example, you may not have a multimillion-dollar business in ten years if you are trying to start and run a small family business. Your decision on growth would therefore factor into your predictions and the outcome.
Related: Create A Business Plan Investors Will Love
There are all kinds of reasons why a venture capitalist, banker, or other investor may refuse to fund your company. It may be that there's no money to give out at the moment. It may be that the investor just backed a company very similar to your own and now wants something different. Perhaps the investor has just promised to back her brother-in-law's firm or is merely having a bad day and saying no to everything that crosses her desk. The point is that the quality of your plan may have little or nothing to do with your prospects of getting funded by a particular investor.
But what about the investment community as a whole? Surely if you show a well-prepared plan to a lot of people, someone will be willing to back you, right? Again, not necessarily. Communities, as well as people, are subject to fads, and your idea may be yesterday's fad. Conversely, it may be too far ahead of its time. It also may be an idea that comes about in a shaky economy or a saturated market. Timing is sometimes a factor that is out of your control.
Related: How To Use Your Business Plan
The same is true of the availability of funds. At times, banks everywhere seem to clamp down on lending, refusing to back even clearly superior borrowers. In many countries, there is no network of venture capitalists to back fledgling companies.
A business plan cannot guarantee that you will raise all the money you need at any given time, especially during the startup phase. Even if you are successful in finding an investor, the odds are good that you won't get quite what you asked for. There may be a big difference in what you have to give up, such as majority ownership or control, to get the funds. Or you may be able to make minor adjustments if you cannot snare as large a chunk of cash as you want.
Related: What To Include And Not To Include In A Business Plan
In a sense, a business plan used for seeking funding is part of a negotiation taking place between you and your prospective financial backers. The part of the plan where you describe your financial needs can be considered your opening bid in this negotiation. The other information it contains, from market research to management bios, can be considered supporting arguments. If you look at it that way, a business plan is an excellent opening bid. It's definite, comprehensive, and clear.
But it's still just a bid, and you know what happens to bids in negotiations. They get whittled away, the terms get changed, and, sometimes, the whole negotiation breaks down under the force of an ultimatum from one of the parties involved. Does this mean you should ask for a good deal more money than you actually need in your plan? Actually, that may not be the best strategy either. Investors who see a lot of plans are going to notice if you're asking for way too much money. Such a move stands a good chance of alienating those who might otherwise be enthusiastic backers of your plan. It's probably a better idea to ask for a little more than you think you can live with, plus slightly better terms than you really expect.
Related: How To Craft A Business Plan to Turn Investor's Heads
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
A professional financier such as a bank loan officer or a venture capitalist will see literally hundreds of business plans in the course of a year. After this has gone on for several years, and the financier has backed some percentage of those plans and seen how events have turned out, he or she becomes very good at weeding out plans with inconsistencies or overblown projections and zeroing in on weaknesses, including some you'd probably rather not see highlighted.
If you've seen the television show Shark Tank , you'll understand how shrewd those individuals with the dollars can be. In short, most financiers are expert plan analyzers. You have little chance of fooling one of them with an overly optimistic or even downright dishonest plan. That doesn't mean you shouldn't make the best case you honestly can for your business. But the key word is "honestly."
Related: Finding Funding - Part 1
You certainly shouldn't play down your strengths in a plan, but don't try to hide your weaknesses either. Intelligent, experienced financiers will see them anyway. Let's say you propose to open a small health food store at an address a block away from a Whole Foods. An investor who knows this fact but doesn't see any mention of it in your plan may suspect you've lost your senses—and who could blame her?
Now think about the effect if your plan notes the existence of that big grocery store. That gives you a chance to differentiate yourself explicitly, pointing out that you'll be dealing only in locally produced foods—which the superstore doesn't carry but many of its customers may want. Suddenly that high-volume operator becomes a helpful traffic builder, not a dangerous competitor.
Related: Business Plan Book
So, recognize and deal appropriately with the weaknesses in your plan rather than sweeping them under the rug. If you do it right, this troubleshooting can become one of the strongest parts of the whole plan.
More in Write Your Business Plan
Section 1: the foundation of a business plan, section 2: putting your business plan to work, section 3: selling your product and team, section 4: marketing your business plan, section 5: organizing operations and finances, section 6: getting your business plan to investors.
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Every small business owner wants to grow their business to some extent – from expanding into a profitable cross-border business to becoming a global mega-brand. Whatever your ambitions, as one of the world’s largest and most international companies, we can help you with advice and tips on business growth planning .
What is business growth .
Business owners have different ideas about business growth. You need to decide what is business growth, as far as you are concerned. Is it growing your customer base? Is it expanding your product range? Is it higher revenue? Is it higher profits? Is it a bigger share of the market? Is it hiring more people? Is it selling in more countries?
Before putting together your formal business growth plan, here are some strategies to consider for expanding your business.
A business growth plan. What is it and why is it important?
When you’re running a business, it’s hard enough to keep up with everything that’s happening day to day, let alone put multiple strategies for growth into action, monitor their success or otherwise, and adapt accordingly.
A business growth plan will force you to look ahead. It is an outline for where you see your company, usually with a timeline over the next year or two, and goals for each quarter. At the end of each quarter you can see which you have met and which you haven’t.
The key reasons a business growth plan is important are: to monitor your market share and penetration (which must increase or you’ll end up making losses rather than profits); to help you recoup any early losses your company made; to minimize future risks; to give investors an outline of future growth; and to show concrete revenue plans.
Ways to grow your business
As mentioned above, it’s up to you how you measure your business growth. But depending on the level of your ambition and what you want to achieve, here are some things to think about, to help you get where you want to be.
Use customer research
If you can pinpoint what made your current customers buy your product, you can decide what marketing strategies are working for you and what may not in the future.
It’s also vital to find out your customer pain points and challenges, so you can improve your products and processes, to increase loyalty and attract new customers.
You could do this kind of customer research by email, an online questionnaire or even some telemarketing. You can also get feedback from user reviews and by engaging with customers on social media.
And of course, tools such as Google or Adobe Analytics can help you focus your marketing efforts by giving you useful data about how your customers arrive at your website, which pages are most popular, what are the dwell times, and so on. That way, you can optimize your site accordingly.
Boost your customer service
Make sure you offer the best service you possibly can (your customer research will probably show you ways to improve it). And if a customer feels let down by your service, turn the situation around by offering a discount, for example.
Exceed expectations and you’ll find your reputation grows, through word of mouth and on social media, bringing in new customers.
Increase customer retention
Did you know it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one 1 ? Some say even more. So losing customers – and having to replace them – will damage your bottom line and hinder your growth.
On the other hand, if you can keep your existing customers coming back to you, they’ll end up spending more with you. A customer loyalty program, which rewards your customers for spending with you, will help. Probably the best way to execute this is via email marketing – one-to-one communications are very powerful when building customer loyalty.
You could also consider introducing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, to store data about your existing and potential customers and help you identify sales opportunities.
Improving customer retention is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business.
Use your competitors
Why not use your competitors to your advantage? Competitor research can be extremely useful as part of business growth planning. Look at what your competitors are doing, what works for them, and what doesn’t. Look at what their customers are saying about them in reviews, and draw insights from that.
Ronald Frasier, a successful business growth strategist, recommends using Similar Web and AdBeat platforms to research competitor sales funnels and uncover their online strategies 2 .
If you’re at an early stage in your business, you might be tempted to copy your competitors as a quick way to grow your business. However, to keep growing long term, you will have to define your brand against theirs.
Make the most of social media
The digital world offers huge marketing opportunities and one of the most cost-effective ways to grow your business is by reaching new customers on social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and so on.
Create a presence for your business and make sure you post content regularly on those platforms whose users match the profile of your target market. You might even consider some influencer marketing – you can find out more about influencer marketing here .
As well as marketing your business and building a relationship with your customers, some platforms now enable customers to buy products directly without leaving the app – giving you another new way to sell!
Interacting with customers on social media is also a great opportunity to research and get unfiltered, honest feedback. One thing to remember though: whatever you post on social media, keep it consistent with your brand.
For more about marketing your brand, check out our article, the six key principles of marketing .
Network, network, network
Attending networking events can raise your business’s profile, make your brand more visible, and often lead to new customers. By networking with people in your own industry, you can also get new insights on how to grow your business, hear about emerging trends, and build long lasting professional relationships. Once you’re feeling confident, you could even offer to speak at one, raising your profile even further.
And don’t forget to build your network on social media business networking sites, chiefly LinkedIn.
Engage in a strategic partnership
Partnering with another business can help you reach new customers and is a great way to grow your business. A good example of such a partnership is Starbucks coffee shops becoming integrated into retail stores, such as Target in the USA. While Starbucks gets to sell to more customers, the retailer has the customer in-store for longer, making them more likely to buy.
Diversify your products or services
Your customer research may well reveal a customer need or desire for a new product, or a new variation on a product you already offer. By offering new or different products, you can attract new customers. Consider products at different price points, too, in case price is a barrier.
Another option might be to find new ways of selling products or services you already offer, for example, bundling together some that are part of the same range.
Extend to new markets
If you’re not already selling your products cross-border, exporting them is a sure way to grow your business. And if you’re already doing so, why not think about new countries to sell to?
Of course, you could look at opening new bricks-and-mortar sales outlets abroad but, at least to start with, consider creating a country-specific webstore. Check out our article on how to grow business online .
And when it comes to shipping your goods to a new market, rapid, reliable logistics are essential. At DHL we can ensure it all happens smoothly.
Measure and adapt
There is no substitute for hard data when deciding what is working and what isn’t. So it’s good to set forecasts and targets in a business growth plan and measure against them.
For example, what are your customer retention levels before and six months after your customer loyalty program has kicked in? If the program isn’t meeting your targets, how could you refine it, so it does?
Keep monitoring and keep updating and adapting, until you find exactly what works.
Be a socially responsible business
Corporate and social responsibility (CSR) is a huge issue for every business right now. Many people will only work with, work for, or buy from businesses that practice good CSR. That means making changes to become a greener business, producing sustainable products and giving back to your local community.
On the other hand, if you publicize the fact that you insist on a logistics partner who uses electric vehicles for delivery, for example, or you’ve changed to sustainable packaging, or your employees are volunteering and cleaning up the local green spaces, this will all help build your brand – and create goodwill amongst current and potential customers.
For more insight on ways to grow your business, check out our top seven business growth strategies .
What factors impact business growth?
There are many factors that can affect your business growth, but according to business.com 3 , these are the three key elements:
- Leadership. You need to know the ins and out of your business processes and how external forces impact them. Otherwise, you can’t direct your team to drive your revenue and grow.
- Management. This includes the key areas of obtaining funding, resources, and physical and digital infrastructure. While it may be tempting to hold back on these to save money, it could restrict your growth – and the money you’ll earn after growing could cover your current costs. This is where you need to take a calculated risk.
- Customer loyalty. According to research by the Harvard Business Review, a 5% boost in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%!
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How to write a business growth plan, step by step
If you search online, you’ll find many different experts offering different views on how to write a business growth plan and what to include in it. However, here are some of the key points that most agree upon.
Step 1. Define goals
Set your goals according to your idea of how to measure business growth.
That could be growing your customer base, expanding your product range, bringing in more revenue, achieving higher profits, taking a bigger share of the market, hiring more people or – most likely – a combination of several of these.
Step 2. Decide on a timeline
Some experts encourage you to start with long-term goals (eg. 10 years), and then work backwards to decide your five-year, three-year, two-year and one-year goals. Others limit a business growth plan to one or two years. In the end, it’s up to you to decide how far you want to look ahead.
Step 3.Plan actions to reach your goals
If your goal is to increase revenue, for example, what are your best ways of achieving this? They might be adding to your sales team through a recruitment campaign, or increasing your website traffic through a marketing campaign, or increasing customer retention through a customer loyalty program. Think about the tactics and tools at your disposal.
Step 4. Add some metrics
Once you’ve set your goals, and planned how to achieve them, work out some key metrics to measure your success.
Try to keep them clear, simple and quantifiable. For example, if you’re thinking long term, ‘Increase our customer base by x% within 10 years’, or shorter term, ‘Increase revenue by x% in two years’ or ‘Expand into x new countries within a year’.
Add metrics to the smaller action items too. That might be, for example, ‘Run a recruitment campaign that brings in x new staff members’ or ‘Run a customer loyalty program that increases retention by x%.
Step 5. Research and adjust as necessary
Once you’ve defined your goals, decided on a timeline, and added some metrics, you need to check whether they are all practical. Do some research within your industry and among your current and potential customers.
This will help you justify your goals to yourself, adjust them if necessary, and ensure a realistic timeline to achieve them.
Step 6. Set funding
Again, you’ll need to do some research to find out how much your business growth plan will cost to execute. Then you’ll need to either secure some capital investment or set aside an internal budget.
Step 7. Execute your business growth plan!
How to measure business growth in six different ways
You may have chosen your preferred ways of measuring business growth, but it still makes sense to get a more rounded view. When checking your progress, consider the following six measures:
- Revenue: Revenue is a commonly used metric for business growth. However, remember to balance it with outgoings, because making more money often means spending more.
- Profit: this is a better indicator than revenue. A growing profit rate is desirable but, even if growth is minimal, it’s important that your company has a healthy profit margin. However, for new businesses, rapid growth in profitability is vital.
- Market share: Again, for new companies, it’s important to grow market share rapidly against competitors. Otherwise, it will be difficult to drive sales.
- Customer acquisition: a good way to grow market share is to focus on lead generation and sales volume – which obviously grows revenue too.
- Customer retention: it’s far less expensive to keep a customer than gain a new one, so retention should be a key focus and metric. Only if you retain your current customers will you grow by acquiring new ones.
- Employee head count: of course, you need enough employees to enable you to grow your business. But you need to balance this with how much your team costs and monitor this closely.
Want to learn more? Take a look at our wide range of additional advice on growing your business .
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What is a business plan why it is important.
Business plans are essential for entrepreneurs starting a business from scratch or expanding an existing business. At their core, they are the blueprint that guides you through the hurdles you will face during the course of your business operations. However, in business, plans can be extremely detailed and complicated. In this article, we will outline some of the critical elements you should consider when developing a business marketing strategy .
What is a business plan and what do they include? A business plan consists of five (5) different components: an executive summary, an introduction, a mission or statement, an organizational chart or balance sheet, and a statement of financial expectation or business case. In its most simple form, a business proposal is a blueprint a roadmap for the business that outlines milestones and details how you expect to accomplish those milestones.
What is an executive summary? The purpose of an executive summary is to provide a “highlight” of the full business plan outline. It presents to the readers key points associated with the business and the reasons why those points are important to the company. The summary also provides information necessary to interpret the business proposal, such as the description of the company and what it does. While the executive summary is not the focus of your business plan outline, it is an extremely important component.
What is a mission or statement? A mission statement is typically found at the top of the business plan, or at the very end, if a longer description of what the business is about is desired. A mission statement lays down the vision of the organization and what it is trying to accomplish. Important metrics are included in a mission statement to determine the expected return on investment for a particular business idea.
What is strategic planning? Similar to what was stated earlier, strategic planning is a blueprint of how to make money. However, strategic planning goes even further to define how money will be spent. This includes metrics on how money will be spent and the effects on the company over time. A strategic planning overview should provide a summary of what the company is doing at each stage of the strategy, including what the company is trying to accomplish.
What is a business plan for a specific target market? A business plan for a specific target market is an important aspect of what is a business plan in general. This is where you break down a segment of the target market into a smaller geographic area. This portion of the market will be broken down further into specific areas. Metrics describing the target market should be included in the overall overview.
What is a marketing plan? A marketing plan, as the name implies, is the road map that leads you to your target market. This plan will help guide your business throughout its life cycle. The first portion of the marketing plan may focus on defining your target market. The second portion can include the activities that should be undertaken to reach this market, whether these activities will be on a short term or long term basis. Finally, the third portion of the plan should focus on creating and executing a business model, which is described in the marketing plan.
These four sections are the core components of what is a business plan in general. These core elements when presented in an organized fashion in an executive summary is what a reader is looking for. Executive summaries provide a more informal way of presenting these core elements in a document. They make the reader more aware of what is a business plan and make it easier for them to understand the points being made in the document.
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What Is a Go-to-Market Strategy? (And Why You Need It to Beat Your Competition)
Learn how to create a go-to-market framework to turn your product ideas into growth opportunities for your company.
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Imagine a world where you create a new product that everyone wants. It’s a snap to make and it sells itself – a mega hit. Congratulations, you’ve smashed your goals! In this world, there is no overnight success. If you sell a product without attracting the right buyers and demonstrating how it meets their needs, it may just sit on the shelf. Meanwhile, a competitor does their research, knows what buyers want, and delivers it. Not only have you lost revenue, you’ve lost potential customers to the competition. Ouch.
How do you avoid this and capture customer interest? Build a comprehensive go-to-market (GTM) strategy that combines careful research with tailored messaging that hits on the right buyer pain points.
What you’ll learn:
What is a go-to-market strategy? Why is a go-to-market strategy important? How to build a go-to-market strategy framework Go-to-market strategy example
What is a go-to-market strategy?
A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step plan for introducing a new product to buyers. This includes market, customer, and competitive research that uncovers problems your product can solve. Creating a buyer persona lets you target prospects with key messaging that emphasizes your product’s unique problem-solving value.
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Why is a go-to-market strategy important?
A well-crafted GTM strategy ensures target buyers see your product, understand and appreciate its value, and are compelled to buy. As Howard Brown, CEO of Revenue.io put it , “Meeting expectations early and often builds trust and is the foundation of any successful partnership.”
You can launch a product without a go-to-market strategy, but buyers who really need your product might not see or appreciate its value. They might turn to competitors who are already established in the marketplace and are percieved to be stable. In the early stage, it’s normal for someone to see your solution and say, “Oh, you’re just like [competitor],” even if they don’t offer what you offer. Research bears this out, especially for smaller companies. Of startups that fail, more than a third do so because there was no identified market need.
How to build a go-to-market strategy framework
A successful go-to-market strategy requires understanding your market, prioritizing buyers’ pains, and identifying your competitive advantage. Building a framework around these four elements can help deliver your product in a way that makes it “ready to buy.” Let’s run through how to do that in six steps.
1. Create your buyer persona
Selling is about delivering value to your target buyer, and that often takes the form of a solution to a unique problem. To make sure you’re targeting the right problem, build out a buyer persona that connects their pain points to your solution.
To surface this detail, you’ll start with your existing customers. Dig into customer data in your CRM , conduct interviews with buyers whose problems you’ve solved, and lead market research efforts to see where else these needs surface in your industry. (Check out our comprehensive guide on buyer personas for more guidance.)
If you sell B2B, your team will likely be coordinating a purchase with multiple people at each prospective company. The buying group might include end users, the CFO , an operations lead, and so on. Make sure you include problems and needs for these roles in your buyer persona.
2. Conduct competitive research
Going to market with a new product isn’t just about making sure you solve prospects’ problems. It’s also about separating yourself from the crowd of products already in market. To make sure you’re delivering unique value, conduct research on competitors with similar products to see how they’re positioned. Use these questions to guide you:
- What similar products are already in market?
- What do you offer (features, price, functionality) that your competitors don’t?
- If a competitor’s product is popular, why is it resonating with customers? How can you use that information to frame your own messaging?
If you have an AI-powered CRM, you can likely offload some of this research. Use AI tools to scan sales call transcripts for competitor mentions and pricing information. Pair this with automated online research based on industry, competitor, and product keywords. (Here’s how Sales Cloud does this.)
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3. map customer problems to your product solutions.
You know your target buyer’s problems. You know what competitors are doing to solve those problems. And, you know what your product offers. It’s time to connect all three and deliver a high-value solution that’s unique in your market. Build out a simple matrix so you can see all three and how they connect. Here’s what this might look like:
Product: Long-lasting, high-performance running shoes with extra arch support priced 20% below similar products Example buyer: Casual runner, mid-40s, median income
To keep the focus on the buyer during this value mapping, review your matrix and ask: “How would my target buyer see or understand this?” That’s a good gut check before you frame your messaging.
4. Develop key messaging for marketing and sales efforts
Using your matrix from the previous step, draft messaging for each prospect problem that shows why your product is uniquely qualified to serve as a solution with proof points to back it up.
Let’s continue with the example of our shoe buyer. You know from your research that they are between the ages of 40 and 50, like to run as a hobby, and want to stay active despite minor injuries. But, they’re also price-conscious. Here’s what key messaging might look like for this target buyer:
- Problem: Their feet hurt when they run, likely due to prior injuries, muscle strain, or bad shoes.
- Product value: A pair of running shoes designed with input from an orthopedic surgeon, with research that finds 60% of wearers felt less foot pain after a month.
- What competitors offer: Some shoe brands advertise “extra support” but don’t have medical experts contributing to design or research showing this support works.
- Key message: Running doesn’t have to end when you hit middle age. Buy orthopedist-designed running shoes that keep you on the trail, whatever your age. Don’t believe us? Just ask our runners: 60% of customers in their 40s say they felt less foot pain after a month of running in our shoes.
Complete this messaging for every problem you’ve identified, making sure to demonstrate clear and measurable ROI. You can also emphasize the potential downsides to sticking with the status quo or going with the competition.
5. Identify your sales channels
Now you need to reach your prospective customers. But how do you take your key messaging and combine it with the right buying channel ? Start by identifying the channels your buyers typically use to make a purchase, then select the right strategy to match. Here are the most common strategies:
- Direct sales: This involves a rep talking directly to a customer, building a personal relationship over time before closing a deal. This is perfect for longer sales cycles that require ongoing negotiation, typical for complex products at high price points. These deals are often high-touch, requiring a nurture-heavy strategy with lots of explanation and sharing of valuable resources to build trust.
- Self-service sales: This strategy is much more hands off, letting customers make a purchase on their own without speaking to a sales rep. Consider this option when you want to make it fast and easy for your customers to buy, and/or when you don’t have a large team to handle individual sales. It works best for simple products that don’t require a lot of explanation and are offered at a low price point. I typically see this strategy with B2C business models, where customers can buy products on a website, but I also see it with SaaS companies that offer subscriptions. For example, Salesforce lets small-business owners buy software through the Salesforce Starter page.
- Partner sales : Consider this strategy, also known as channel sales, if you want to get your product to market quickly without adding headcount. It’s ideal for smaller, resource-strapped companies launching a simple product that’s relatively low-cost, but best sold directly through reps because it requires some assistance with delivery, onboarding, or setup. The big benefit here is broader market reach via preferred vendors like online marketplaces, resellers, and third-party distributors.
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6. go to market and measure results.
With the core elements of your go-to-market strategy in place, it’s time to get your product to the right buyers. As you ramp up marketing and sales on your channel(s) of choice, start tracking total units sold, prospect engagement and objections, and sales cycle length. You can do this easily with an AI-powered sales analytics tool that delivers insights in real-time.
If you lag behind expectations, consider adjusting elements of your go-to-market strategy to compensate. Go through the steps above again periodically (at least once a quarter) to make sure your research and persona are up-to-date. By surfacing any new needs or problems of your target buyers, you can adjust messaging to keep customers interested.
Go-to-market strategy example
Mary, a software as a service (SaaS) company founder, is working on launching her new product to the market. Mary has created an innovative solution that automates data entry for companies with high volumes of customer information to manage. Her soft launch was a success, and she’s ready to sell.
To make sure she’s bringing in the right prospects, Mary develops a buyer persona based on conversations with her current customers, and conducting market research. After a few weeks, she lands on the target buyer: mid-sized retailers that take a lot of customer orders online and by phone. The problem: the only other software providers on the market are too expensive for mid-sized companies, and their solutions take too long to get up and running.
With this as a guide, Mary decides on key messaging:
- Spending your weekend entering customer orders (only to ship them too late)?
- Automate your data entry to save your weekends and keep customers happy.
Mary also knows from customer conversations that she needs a sales team to engage with prospects – it’s a long-term investment for her customers, so they need to see demos before they commit. So, she hires 10 sales reps to start conducting outreach and connecting with prospective customers.
Within a few weeks, the team has scheduled demos and is having in-person meetings. She even lands some initial clients, who find the software easy to set up out of the box and affordable for their budgets. Most of them are impressed with how it works, but there’s a problem: people say they need more app integrations to make data management easier. That’s excellent feedback, so Mary takes it to her team. After some investigation, they land on the top 10 most requested apps to start. As customers start using Mary’s software with the app integrations, they see real time savings for their teams. Because they don’t have to spend extra time entering customer data manually, they can also save on headcount and ensure customer orders are shipped promptly. Within a few months, Mary saw a 40% increase in sales, with many customers saying they’ll write positive product reviews and refer their friends.
Build your customer base with a strong go-to-market strategy
A go-to-market strategy may seem like more fuss than it’s worth, but it helps you accomplish the most important task in sales: solving customer problems. Just keep in mind that it’s not a “one and done” effort. Continually monitor your sales and customer engagement to see how you can adapt your strategy to meet evolving buyer needs.
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Richard has more than 20 years of SaaS experience and teaches revenue teams how to earn the right to ask questions, which questions to ask, and when to do it. Richard’s clients include Zoom, Salesforce, Google Cloud, PagerDuty, DoorDash, Salesloft, and Gainsight. He’s also the co-founder of Surf & Sales.
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