4 essentials of a successful business plan
By Anne Bachrach
The Accountability Coach
Does your business plan have holes? Do you even have a business plan? When was the last time you looked at it? Last January, when you created it? Many aspects of a business plan are overlooked and that can lead to professional disaster. Before you can build a successful business, you must first learn how to create a solid business plan.
Not surprisingly, writing a business plan can be a tedious process. You may be tempted to jump in head first, but it’s important to pinpoint some basic questions before you move forward. Given the adequate preparation and attention a successful business plan requires, your worthwhile investment will build your business on a solid foundation. Below are four essentials of successful business planning.
1. Defined purpose
Before you can go anywhere, you must first know where you are headed. Ever attempt a cross-country road trip without a map? Well, building a business plan without having a vision for the business is much like driving a car without a map or directions.
Defining the purpose of your business will give you a starting and ending point, both of which are essential to building a solid business plan. First, define the benefits you are delivering to clients. From there, define how those benefits will change your clients’ lives for the better. What will they specifically be able to do that they weren’t able to do before they purchased your product or service?
If you’re not quite sure of the answers, start with these bullet points:
- To whom will you be selling these items? Define your ideal client.
- What product or service are you providing? What purpose does it provide?
- Where will you be selling it? Catalog? Website? In person? Third party?
- Why would consumers purchase your product or service? What needs/hole/void does it fill?
2. Detailed marketing strategy
No business can survive without an effective marketing strategy. When starting a business, it’s imperative to be aware of exactly how you’re going to locate clients. Unfortunately, this is where most business owners fall short. If you don’t know where to find your customers/clients, you will not know where to find the sales.
Whether you’re creating a business plan to attract potential investors or for your own personal records, you need to take the time to craft a carefully detailed marketing strategy. Creating a detailed marketing strategy consists of defining your target market, understanding why they would want to purchase the product or service you are selling, and pinpointing the price they are willing to pay. The good news is that you’ve already done some of the work by pinpointing the product or service you will be providing. In addition, you’ve also pinpointed the benefits of the product/service and how those benefits will improve the lives of your prospects/clients.
Now you’re clear on the benefits of your product/service, but where do you find your clients? Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Where do your clients shop? Online? In-store?
- Are they users of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo and Twitter)?
- What do they read? Particular magazines? Newspaper? Online news?
- Do they have pre-existing businesses? If so, how can you get your product/service in front of them?
A cookie-cutter business will only go so far and unfortunately, it won’t be very far. Breaking the mold holds the potential of launching your business into success, because when you can fill a hole in the market, you create a nice little niche.
Differentiation isn’t just one of the essentials of a business plan; it’s an essential role in operating a successful business. You need to give your clients a reason to choose your business over the competition. Maybe you offer exceptional client service, a fairly discounted price, a unique service, or visually appealing products or storefront.
Creating a unique selling point (USP) is essential when crafting a business plan. Carve out your USP early in the game and you’ll be 10 steps ahead of your competition when the time comes to woo the clientele.
4. Be prepared for change
Anyone in business will tell you that you need to expect the unexpected. When you own a business, things can change in the blink of an eye. Regardless of how hard you’ve worked on your financial projections, market analysis or marketing strategies, you need to have a plan B.
Be prepared for change by anticipating possible changes (either in the market or in your lifestyle). Create an effective way of dealing with unexpected change by writing out hypothetical situations and possible solutions. Here are some examples:
- The stock market drops severely. How does that affect your business and how can you slow or eliminate the drawbacks?
- A family member becomes ill and requires 24-hour care. Do you take care of them yourself or hire an aid? How does that impact your business?
- A new business in the area becomes a direct competitor. How do you step up your marketing plan or product/service design to avoid losing sales?
There are many affordable business planning software packages available. Invest in one to help you. Don’t waste time trying to create a plan if you have never created one before. Visit the Small Business Administration website for information about online business plan workshops, as well as additional small business information.