Developing a business plan is an essential step for guiding your business to success. Taking the time to organize your thoughts, contemplate your goals, and develop a strategic plan for the future of your business will help you to shape your marketing efforts and identify promising opportunities. In this post, I’ll walk you through the essential pieces of a dynamic business plan and tips on how you can create one for your business.
Your business summary, or executive summary, is a snapshot of your business as a whole. It should include what your business does, what products or services it provides, and the overall goals you hope to accomplish. A business summary should also present a brief description of your target market, and how you anticipate your business will serve them.
Tip: If you’re struggling to put together some of these points, try writing your summary after you’ve assembled the rest of your plan. Thinking through these next pieces of information might assist you when you’re organizing your thoughts.
Your business objective sets the stage for what you want your business to accomplish. This is where you will want to consider the overarching goals you’re aiming to reach soon. Are there a certain number of products you wish to sell, or a specific clientele you’d like to develop? Think about what you would like your business to achieve in your first several years, or how you might want to see it grow.
Your mission statement should clearly state why your business exists and provide a convincing explanation of what you bring to the table. When you’re creating your mission statement, give some thought to what your business stands for (your ethics and values), your ideal customers and what they need, and what your business provides that might serve them.
Included with your mission should be your vision – our idea of how you would like to see your business evolve in time, and what you would like it to ultimately become. Consider what success for your business would look like to you, and don’t be afraid to aim high.
The company profile is an overall view of your business. It takes into account how your business came to be, product or service offerings, who you serve, problems your business hopes to solve, and what makes it unique. You’ll often see a business’ company profile on the “About Us” page on their website, and that’s the perfect place for this content to live outside of your business plan.
Begin with what made you start your business and the story behind it. What is your philosophy, what’s important to you, and what are your values? You can also mention who has ownership of your business here.
A description of the services or products you provide is an important part of your business plan – focus on your four primary offerings here. Start by thinking about how these things serve your customers. What benefits do your customers enjoy by working with you, or buying from you, and why do they choose you?
It’s good to include anything unique about what you provide, or what sets your products apart from the competition. What needs of your customers are being met with what you provide – what problem are you solving for them? Working through these points will help you assess what you’re doing well, where you might be able to improve, and what you might want to do next.
Your ideal audience, or target audience or target market, is who you want to reach, and who will invest in your business. When you have a clear picture of your ideal audience, you’re in a good position to create content that will interest the right people, and to select the perfect channels to connect with them.
Part of developing getting to know your ideal audience is creating a persona, or a symbolic character that represents your target customer. A persona should be a complete idea of a person, with a name and demographic details like where they live, how old they are, what they do for a living, and their gender. Listing out your persona’s hobbies and interests will let you formulate an idea of who they are and what they might be seeking.
Defining your persona goals lets you identify your customer’s goals, what’s important to them, and what frustrations or pain points they might be facing. With those pieces, you’ll be able to figure out how your business can appeal to your target audience, and what you can do to build trust and loyalty.
What do they want to simplify, where do they wish they could invest more time or money, or what changes would make their lives easier or better? What sort of content do they prefer, and how can engaging with your content help them? What might convince them to work with you or buy your products? Consider these questions so you can ensure your goals align with theirs.
You’ve worked hard to prepare services or products that you’re excited to share. Now, armed with customer personas and a clear concept of your target audience, you can strategize how you will market and sell to them. Start by thinking about the best way to reach the people who align with your persona, and focus on the opportunities where you’re most likely to pique their interest.
Next, decide what strategies you’ll use to engage them. Depending on your persona and what you know their habits and behaviors to be, these could range from a well-crafted social media campaign to an attention-grabbing, targeted email approach. Don’t spread your efforts too thin, and focus on select, well-planned strategies. Keep in mind your marketing goals and what you’re trying to achieve.
How do you want to “sound” to your audience when they consume your content? Determining your brand voice and tone creates an idea of how you might come across to them, and any written content you create should be consistent with the voice of your business. While your messaging should be targeted and intentional, you should also be yourself and true to your voice.
If your business is cheerful and upbeat, your messaging should be, too. If your business is more professional and data-driven, that should come across in your tone and what you share.
Using promotions is a great way to check-in with customers, stay top-of-mind, and activate a response from them, and your business plan should outline what promotional tactics you and your team will use to promote your content. Different approaches to promotion can build interest in your business, persuade potential customers to try your services or products, provide information, encourage repeat business, or identify new customers.
Deciding what strategies you will use, and with what frequency you will use them, will help you to plan for success.
Having a clear understanding of your competitive landscape lets you see where your business can stand out in the crowd. With a competitor analysis, you can build a clear picture of who your competitors are, what they have to offer, where they’re succeeding, and how they’re marketing themselves.
List each of your major competitors and the marketing strategies they use. With that information, you can craft your unique business strategy to differentiate yourself from your competition.
A SWOT analysis is a classic and well-loved tool for assessing the current state of your business, and it’s incredibly useful. Using a SWOT analysis, you can identify what aspects of your business are functioning well, what areas might need improvement, and what your next steps might look like. These are very important concepts for your business, and using a SWOT analysis is a simple but very productive way to tackle them.
As a refresher, here is what a SWOT analysis entails:
Earlier in your business plan, you defined goals you have for your business, and what accomplishments you want to be able to claim. By creating milestones to support those goals, you can create actionable steps that you can check off along the way, so you can record your successes and make sure you’re staying on track.
Creating a thoughtful, strategic business plan lays the groundwork for the success of your business and achieving the dreams you have for it. By organizing your thoughts, identifying your goals, conceptualizing your target audience, and examining your business opportunities, you’ll be able to craft strategies and goals to grow your business.