Have you ever written a business plan? Did you follow it to the letter or are you guilty of writing down a few key points and never looking at it again?
Building a business plan is something a lot of modern entrepreneurs are skipping over. In fact, a lot of advice at the moment warns against the humble business plan. Investors want to invest in a company that’s up and running, not a plan.
It’s tempting to get stuck in the trap of writing a business plan and never actually start doing the work.
Every business idea starts with a plan, in my opinion. Maybe you’ll never take your business plan to an investor. But you should start one, for yourself. Even if you’re fully employed with a crazy idea for a future company – get it down on paper.
Well, a business plan is an ever-evolving, ever-changing thing. You’ll find yourself constantly adding to it. Goals change, targets change, businesses change. By creating a plan (even if it is a very vague one) you’re laying the foundation for a business.
You’re giving yourself permission to think about your idea beyond labeling it a crazy dream.
So, where do you start when the thought of writing a business plan already has you yawning?
Your Big Idea
Start by describing in detail your big idea. Write (or type) everything that your business will do. List the products/services you’ll offer. Your brand values, what you stand for and what you do.
Get creative with it.
You can add photos and links to your business plan to give it a feeling. Look for inspiration on the business you want to create and include it.
Start A Business Kit available here
All About You
Now it’s time to dig deep. Who are you and what experience do you have that will leverage this business? Why is this business important to you? Be realistic about your strengths and motivations.
Why are you the perfect person to launch this business?
The Market + The Competition
What does the market look like? Now you need to do some research. Why are you better than what’s out there, and how will you fit into the market?
You can use Google Trends to see what people have searched for and how the market has grown over time, but I’d recommend putting in as many search terms as you can to Google and just following the link trail.
Find out as many facts about the market as you can, try different free trials of market research tools. (This bit is more fun if you have a business plan template to fill in!)
Next, move on to the competition. List five brands or businesses that will compete with you and analyze them. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses?
There are plenty of competitor benchmarking websites you can use to make this easier, and most come with free trials!
Business Plan Keynote Template available here
Talk To People
Do some customer research. Talk to people who fit your customer profile. You can also use sites like Reddit and Quora to find out about the people you’re targeting. What do they need help with and how can you provide that? With this information, build four customer profiles.
You’ll need to know who they are, everything from where they live, what they earn to which car they drive will help.
You can even attach a photo to it, to make the customer seem more real.
Build A Buzz
Last, but not least. Think about the marketing side of things. How are you going to reach those customers? Are you an online company? If so what’s your plan to become visible? Will you use social media? Are you investing in print adverts?
You can spend some time looking into the best ways to market your business and come up with 5-10 key points to write up in your plan. Websites like Smart Insights will really help, there are guides and templates for everything. From editorial calendars to digital marketing workbooks.
Finally, Virgin StartUp has a business plan template you can download here. With the framework you’ve created, you can either leave it as is – or get more serious about it and turn it into a bonafide business plan for the future.
Do you have a crazy business idea you want to start planning this year?
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