A Compelling Business Plan
I am on the topic of Business Plans. In the previous delivery I argued my point of view that the Business Plan has a place in the entrepreneur’s arsenal, and that it is an indispensable tool if it is used what it is intended for – planning. My view is that it is a matter of “horses for courses” and the amount of detail and the level of “professionalism” in a Business Plan will differ from business to business. Based on the responses I received, it seems that it is still a case of opposing opinions concerning the “worth” of the Business plan, with some support for it, and some viewing it as an utter waste of time.
It has to be compelling
Well, whether you are in support of a Business Plan or not, I committed to sharing some pointers on how to draft a compelling Business Plan. I am using the word “compelling”, because it is a synonym for many descriptions of what I believe a business plan should be like, e.g. convincing, captivating, persuasive and exciting.
There are a magnitude of resources available on the Internet for drafting Business Plans, from advice to document templates to online versions where you just input the information and then print out the final version, etc. I do not want to replicate information you can find with the click of a button, so being an advocate of the Business Plan being a planning tool, I first want to look at which planning aspects should be included in a Business Plan and why.
Creating a plan at the beginning will help guide your vision and direction as you continue along you entrepreneurial journey. Think of your business plan as your blue print…you wouldn’t just start building a house without a plan would you? Also, I am not saying this is the only or the best way, it is just my take on it.
So, at minimum you should think about and plan for the following:
1.) Who will be your target audience? The sole reason for a business’ existence is to create customers. Appealing to everyone equals appealing to no one. You need to think about your target audience and style everything from your offering to your website and marketing campaigns around them. The only way to provide a product or service people really want is to get inside their heads. You need to figure out how you will do this: Ask them? Formal research? Secondary research? Focus groups? I strongly advise you to not make assumptions here, this is make or break for any business.
2.) Size up the competition. Who else is doing what you’re planning to do? How well do they do it? By studying the competition you can learn from others’ mistakes – or even what their customers appreciate. Learn how much people are willing to pay for your product or service and how you could enhance the current offerings.
3.) Financing. How will you fund this business of yours? How will you get paid? Finances and accounting can be one of the most tedious and intimidating aspects of running your business, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowledge is power so start reading up on how others have done it and research the tools that are available to help you!
4.) Your Debut. What is your go-to-market strategy? How will you get the word out and create a buzz? Start with the basics and build from there. Understanding the basics of marketing is essential in getting your name out and gaining customers. If people don’t know your products or services exist, their benefit or where to get them, how will they ever buy?
Concerning the “compelling” part, thinking about these matters will create the right foundations, but I also recommend the following when writing it: Keep it simple. If you can’t easily express your vision for your business, you will struggle to raise money from investors, convince prospective employees to join you, or sell to customers, no matter how great your business concept is. Just say it like it is, don’t over-complicate it.