Do you need a business plan in 2020? Especially if you’re only starting a small online business.
The answer is YES! Even if you’re just starting a blog.
You may not be writing your business plan for investors, but you do need to write a business plan that will help you to make money.
WHY DO YOU NEED A BUSINESS PLAN?
You wouldn’t start a journey without knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, would you?
That’s what your business plan is for your business.
It’s where you set out the vision and goals for your business as well as the action steps to meet those goals.
It should be the document that you set your milestones in and will be your strategic plan for your business that you work with every day, week and month.
It doesn’t need to be a 50-page in-depth analysis of your market, it needs to be a robust action plan that can be just 1 page long.
The Core Elements of a Good Business Plan
The key to creating a business plan that works for you and your business is to ensure you include the right information for your business needs.
1. Decide how you will use the plan
Are you creating the plan just for your day-to-day use or will you be using it for investors or other interested parties. I’ve written both types of business plan and they are very different. One is more flexible and the focus is different. The other needs to be more professional with more focus on the money you need, why you need it and how you will spend it.
In this guide we’ll be focusing on how to write a business plan that is more flexible and less structured. The type of plan you can use in your business every day.
The thing about business plans you write for an investor is that once you’ve got the money you tend to never look at that plan again. They are great for their purpose but for your online business you have to write a business plan that will actually help you make money sooner rather than later. Especially if you’re starting your business on a tight budget.
2. Include your business vision
When you write a business plan that is to get investment your plan would usually start with an executive summary and end with a conclusion.
However, when you write your plan it should include and start with your “big why”. Why you are starting the business and why your business exists. As well as your big vision for your business.
Always remember this is a document you’ll be looking at and using every day in your business, so keeping your vision in the front of your mind will ensure you don’t stray away from your vision in the day to day running of your business.
3. Focus on Results
Your plan should also focus on the results you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve them. Ultimately this is what your business plan is about and why you write a business plan in the first place.
4. Be Clear, Focused and Strategic
Your plan is the overall strategy behind your business not just your tactics. Your strategy should remain consistent, what can change more regularly is the tactics you use to meet your strategy. So get clear about your strategy and allow flexibility for your tactics.
How to Write a Business Plan: Section-by-Section
These are the key sections you should have when you write a business plan.
Section 1: What Will Your Business Do?
The first section of your plan should detail what your business does, as well as your big why and your business vision.
You can say what your business does in a simple one-line sentence stating what your business is about. Whereas your Why and Vision statement can be as long as you want it to be but you should keep it short and concise.
What the Business Does one-liner Example: We’re an online-based accounting business, selling accounting software packages and online Consultancy, via our own Website and App.
Section 2: Who Does Your Business Serve?
This section is where you talk about the niche you will cater to and detail your ideal client. Therefore you’ll be talking about who your customers will be. Who do you think needs your services?
You can be as detailed as you like with this section. However, you can have a separate document you can attach to your business plan detailing your ideal client in full.
Example: We work with Coaches and service-based businesses. Our ideal client is a Business Coach who earns £5,000+ every month, who is within their first year of business and has never had an account of purchased accounting software. They are a complete novice in terms of accounting and need help with setting up their financial systems. However, they are location independent and need someone who can work with them completely online.
Section 3: How Will You Serve Them?
In this section, you’ll list out all your products and services as well as the price you plan on charging. So think about your entry level offers, it can be your minimal viable offer that you try on your first few clients at a discount price that you improve on when you get feedback.
Example: We will offer 3 monthly packages: Starter Plan – £97 | Grow Plan – £ 197 | Pro Plan – £297. The Consultancy packages will be from £690.
Section 4: What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?
It’s important to know what problem you’re aiming to solve. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. Every business out there solves a problem. If you’re not, then the business won’t be successful. So, write out the problem your business is solving.
Example: Helping new service-based entrepreneurs get to grips with their business finances completely online so they don’t have to worry about having to be in a certain city to see their accountant. Problem: Business Finance Overwhelm + Location independent
Section 5: What Makes You Different From Your Competitors?
This section is all about identifying makes your business unique? How are you different from your competitors? This could be pricing, service level, the packages you create. It could even be you. Your experience, expertise or influence.
You may also want to include your top 5 key competitors here for reference.
Example: Accounting agency made for the location independent entrepreneur. With in-house experts in international business law. So, can help clients from around the world.
Section 6: How Will You Reach Your Ideal Client?
Here, you’ll discuss how you’ll market your products and services. This is all about getting leads and turning them into clients.
So, will it be content marketing, blogging, social media or paid advertising? List how you will drive traffic to your site, will you guest blog and where.
Write out your overall marketing strategy as well as the first 5-10 tactics you’ll be implementing to reach your goals.
You want to start thinking about your sales goals and how many leads your marketing will need to attract into your business to meet those goals.
Make this section detailed and the one area you come back to every day. You can add and remove items as needed. This section is the money section because without clients you have no business.
Section 7: What Are Your Sales Goals?
Goals are important in your business, without them you could just wander around aimlessly, not getting anywhere fast. When you have goals, you wake up every day with one question, how do I get to my goals today?
Most of this document is all about how you get to the goals you set out in this section. So, bear this in mind when writing the other sections. Once you’ve completed your sales goals, go back and see if any other sections need to be adjusted so you can meet your goals.
Section 8: What are Your Business Goals and Key Milestones?
You want to come up with 2-3 overall business goals then create your sales and marketing goals from your overall business goals.
Your sales goals can be broken down into actionable milestones, and this is what this section is for. It’s for you to write down all the actionable milestones that will get you to your financial goals.
Section 9: How Much Will It Cost to Start Your Business?
Your startup and ongoing cost are important to know in your business.
- They’ll give you a base level of how much your business needs to make each month in order for it to be viable.
- You know how much more you need to make not just break even but to make a profit.
- You can set sales goals that will help you grow your business.
That’s it 9 sections or questions you need to answer about your business so you can make it a success quicker.
You see, that by creating this type of business plan you get crystal clear about who you serve, how you serve them and how you make money from doing it. And most importantly you get clarity around how you can get your thing in front of your potential clients to get more leads and get more conversions.
With a short document that you go to every day, you can adjust and change as you really get into your business and you see the need to.
As your business grows your plan will change and grow with it. You should be going back to it every 3 months to rewrite as needed.