Danex Marketing & Business Resources
How to Write Business Plan and Why
By J. R. Beach
A business plan is your vision of where you want your business to go and how you’re going to get there. It’s a road map and, like a map, it helps to document the route on paper, rather than simply commit it to memory. A coherent, written plan is as important to your success as a set of blueprints is to a home developer. Without it, building becomes a chore.
As indispensable as it is, unless you’re using it to secure capital or financing, it needn’t be overly complex and exhausting. So let’s make it easy. We’ll cover some basic guidelines, enough to help you create one you can use.
Here are six sections you should write into your business plan.
This is the first section you’ll write because it drives the remainder of your plan. What is your company’s mission? What are you trying to do? This section describes why you’re in business. If this section reads “I’m in business to make money”, you’re in trouble. Any company can say that. Instead, the profile section should describe how you’re going to meet the needs of businesses or consumers in such a way that you can make money. You make money by
1.meeting the needs of customers
2. at a price they’re willing to pay
3. at a cost at which you can make a profit
A critical component, this section should demonstrate your knowledge of the market in general. It involves thinking about what you can do better than others in the same business, and honestly acknowledging what can they do better than you. Look at your competitors, compare them with your company. What you’re looking for is what Xerox called a USP, a “Unique Selling Proposition” and what I call a JND, a “Just Noticeable Difference” that makes you unique or different.
How is your industry doing? Is it growing? Shrinking? Are there barriers to entry that will keep others from offering the same product (service)? Are the big boys moving into your territory?
Also consider: Is your competition local, regional, national or global?
Consider external factors over which you have little or no control, such as the economy or changing laws or regulations.
This section outlines your sales strategies. You’ve got something to offer. Here you describe how you’re going to let people know about it. Advertising? Press releases? Direct mail? Word of mouth? Flyers? A blimp?
Take whatever is unique about your business (your JND) and make it the hero. Use it to develop a positioning statement, such as “I will be the cheapest source of this product”, or “I will add more value to the customer relationship than my competitors”, or “I’ll deliver it faster than my competitors”.
Consider how you’re going to obtain new customers and how you’re going to keep the ones you get. What are your goals for new business development? How many customers do you want? How many can you handle?
This section also encompasses new product (or service) development. What will you introduce during the coming year? When and for how much?
This section addresses your short-term and long-term financial goals. It might be the least fun but the most important section of your business plan. You don’t have to be an Excel genius to do it. Here you determine your company’s start-up cost (if new) or overhead costs (if it is an existing enterprise). You look at pricing and potential for profitability.
Your budget also is contained within this section. What are your fixed and variable expenses? List the various expenses and estimate how much you’re going to need each month. How much can you afford for advertising? You also outline equipment purchases, like a new PC or printer, a Zip drive or a new telephone.
The last part you’ll write, the first section to appear, it sums up the overall intent of the plan. Write it as if you are going to show it to others to explain your vision.
There, we kept it simple. If you need a more complex, detailed plan, here are some resources:
Here you’ll find a business plan template
This site has sample plans and some advice
Here are two software packages to help you create a credible plan.
BizPlan Builder Interactive ($90, www.jian.com) offers a template to make a fill-in-the-blank plan.
Business Plan Pro 3.0 ($90, www.paloalto.com) uses a wizard like the tax or financial software you’ve seen.
As you write your plan, think beyond what you’re doing today to what you expect to do (or may be forced to do) tomorrow. Railroads failed because they thought they were in the railroad business instead of the transportation business. And remember the six Ps: Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.
Mr. Beach is a marketing veteran and webmaster of award-winning BUSINESS-OPP.COM, featuring a Three-Step Process to make money on the internet offering opportunities carrying a money-back guarantee. Also: Free marketing reports, resources and an excellent marketing e-zine. http://www.business-opp.com/
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