Basic Steps for a Business Plan
Tips for Writing Your Business Plan
No matter what type of business you have, writing a business plan, even a short one, will better prepare you for the challenges ahead. Here are some tips to help with your plan.
Clearly define your vision
Laying out your business idea will help you when things become clouded. What does your business do? Figure out who your target customer is. Do you sell services or products, and how do you deliver them? How will you expand your business? Is your current idea scalable, or will it need further development? What advantage do you have over your competition?
Create specific goals
Develop a list of goals. Define each goal with actionable steps. More short-term goals might be needed for startups, but don't ignore long-term goals. Where do you want to be in the next six months to a year and the next two to five years? Do you want to develop new products, launch into new markets, reach 100 employees or do $1 million in revenue? Do you have customer service goals? Would you like to gain market share? Do you want to make a difference in your community? Goals drive success.
Know your customer
Find your target market. Many businesses fail by trying to please too many people. Not everyone is your customer. When you find them, learn as much as you can about them. What problems do they have? How can you help? Do they want a certain buying experience? Where do they get their information? How can you best reach them?
Know your competition
Learn from your competition. What are they doing right or wrong? Are there areas where you can fill a void they leave in the market? If your competitors are all fighting on price, can you become the premium alternative? Keep an eye on the other players in your field.
Cash-flow or nothing
Without revenue, there is no business. Not only do you need to know how you'll make money, you need to know how much you need to simply break even. Financial projections can help you make many decisions. Consider any delays between accounts receivables and payables. Knowing the differences will tell you how much operating cash-flow you need in the meantime.
Plan your marketing and advertising. Consider your target market. Who are they, and are they willing and able to pay? How can you best reach the most promising of potential customers? Will you use print ads, radio, television, online pay-per-click or viral marketing? Start small and test the outcome. It's better to lose a little money on a marketing campaign that fails than to go all in and not find out until weeks or months later that it was a waste.
Keep in mind that a business plan is not a static document. Once you finish your initial version, periodically update it as things change.
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