Ideas For Formulating Your Business Plan

If you're stuck and not sure where to start, then this article shows you ideas to begin the process and the format that your business plan needs to be in to win over your readers.

When you are staring at a blank piece of paper, it's easy just to put the job to one side and forget about it. This guide focuses on what's easy to prepare from the information that you already know and then format it in a standard planning template that you can use to refer to on a weekly or monthly basis.

Planning Areas to Get You Started

One of the areas people struggle with when formulating their start-up is marketing. Marketing is your ability to entice prospective customers to buy your products. Below are four areas where we provide ideas on how to complete those planning sections.

  • Develop a comprehensive SWOT Analysis to highlight your personal attributes and how the market you're targeting operates.
  • How to undertake the market traits and competitors.
  • How to promote your products and services to customers effectively.
  • Getting your strategies put into action.

Below are those ideas in more detail.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses are from your own internal analysis and are things that you have direct control over. If you have a weakness you have identified then it's up to you if you improve on that for example by getting a qualification in a certain area if you feel that lets your ability down.

Opportunities and threats are from the external environment that you have no direct control over, but you can influence some of them especially in your marketplace.

Market Research and Targeting

Finding up to date market research can be a challenging area especially if your market focus is narrow or local. It's unlikely that you'll locate any primary research, or if it has, it's unlikely to be in the public domain. You can obtain national research data and trends by typing in "market research" + your industry into Google and see what's available. Some may be out of date, but it will provide you with an idea of overall trends.

When deciding which customers you are going to target with your products or services try to be realistic. For example in website development, don't say that every company needs a website because they don't. Perhaps it's just the local businesses that you can help out, and you'll need to understand how these customers think.

You can carry out your own questionnaire style of research by standing in the street and asking passers-by your questions or visit local companies and ask them about the service you are about to offer.

Of course, this is the wrong way around (as you should satisfy a need you have already researched) but if it's a standard product or service that people are buying already and you're just introducing it into your market, then that's fine. Just delve into peoples' minds on what they want and why they might just buy a service from you which includes the price they are willing to pay.

Marketing Your Business

Now you know your target market and their buying triggers you'll be able to think about how to "touch" them with promotional activities. Most brand type advertising is for awareness so that your company if front of mind when customers are thinking about the service you offer. But product or service based marketing is just specific to that one product.

Start Small Then Grow Your Customer Base

You may begin advertising by offering an introductory offer or some form of promotion to get people interested when starting up. Once some people are purchasing your products you'll have a customer base that you can a) sell to again or sell different products to and b) get those customers talking to different prospects such as their friends and family.

Using a member get member scheme can surprisingly help build a business, and you are effectively employing your customers as a sales force.

The marketing mix is something to think about that narrows your focus to product, price, promotion and place. The last is crucial for stores as everyone talks about location, location, location but the whole mix has to be right for customers to buy from you in the first place.

Action Plans

Once you have the necessary information from the ideas you have generated from your previous analysis you should write down 6-8 actions you are going to take over the coming months. Those that do nothing and hope customers naturally come to them will fail, and it's those people that take action that succeed well in any business.

For every action activity, you should write down the person who is going to undertake each item, when the deadline is and the monetary costs associated with each so that you can measure any return on investment.

Measuring Your Performance

Most people only write a business plan once and then file it away somewhere and never look at it again. But it's important to measure your success and failures, so you can copy the successes time and again and look at why things might not have gone as planned. You should really update your plan on a regular basis and add additional actions and targets as your business grows.

You can get additional help from places like BusinessLink and the PrincessTrust - also every major bank has some form of business planning software to help formulate your ideas and get your plan constructed quickly and professionally.