Are you the owner of a small business, or do you work for a company that provides marketing and communications services? If so, then you’ve probably been asked to write a business plan. And you’re in luck because we’ve got you covered on this front. In this article, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about writing a business plan for an online marketing or communications company.
The Purpose Of The Business Plan
As the owner or manager of a business, your number one goal is to ensure the sustainability of your business. In other words, you want to make sure your investment—be it financial or human—is not lost, and that you can continue doing what you do. To this end, the business plan serves two purposes:
- It will provide you with detailed information about the state of your business. By investing in this report, you are able to get a clear picture of your company’s performance, both financially and operationally. In particular, you’ll want to look into the following areas:
- The products you offer;
- The revenue generated from selling these products;
- The expenses incurred in operating your business (e.g., materials, manpower, etc.); and
- The liquidity of your business (e.g., whether you’ve raised any funds or are actively seeking investors).
- A brief description of the industry;
- A detailed description of the products and/or services you offer;
- A detailed description of the market for your products/services;
- A detailed description of your manufacturing or sourcing processes;
- A description of your pricing strategies and the rationale behind them (e.g., based on cost, demand, etc.);
- A list of your direct and indirect competitors (e.g., competitors, suppliers, customers, etc.);
- A description of the economic environment (e.g., economic news, recent trends, etc.);
- An analysis of the financial aspects of your business (e.g., a key financial analysis, such as the P&L statement, income statement, balance sheet, etc.); and,
- A conclusion that sums up the main findings of your business plan (e.g., “In conclusion, our company is going to be a major force in the industry because of our effective strategy and unique approach to dealing with our customers.”).
Although this information can be obtained from any number of sources (e.g., the Internet), a business plan is a much easier and more convenient method of doing so. Why? Because it brings all the information together in one place and makes it accessible to whosoever.]
When To Write The Business Plan
As mentioned above, one of the purposes of a business plan is to provide you with detailed information about the status of your business, both finanically and operationally. However, you need to write this plan at the right time. Letting yourself and your business get too far into the weeds on the financial side of things or the operational side of things can be problematic. For example, if you’re looking for investors or seeking loans, you don’t want to be presenting them with a speculative business plan, but rather, one that is both accurate and provides sufficient information for them to make a decision.
For this reason, you usually have to write a business plan at the pre-funding or pre-liquidity stages of your company’s life. That is, you have to write it before you’ve started spending money or taken on too many obligations. Or, if you’re seeking loans, you have to have already established creditworthiness and have demonstrated the ability to pay back debt. In this case, your business plan serves as supplementary documentation to support your business’s application for capital or credit. In either case, having a well-written business plan is a must if you want to move forward confidently and effectively. And, at the very least, it will provide you with a good idea of where you are heading and how you’re going to get there.
The Difference In Quality Between A Good Business Plan And A Great Business Plan
As a founder, entrepreneur, or manager of a small business, you’re used to pitching your business idea to investors, lenders, or the public in general. And, in most cases, your business plan is one of the main things you’ll be presenting. So, if you’re going to be pitching your business, then you want to make sure it is as good as it can be. This means you need to put in the necessary work to make it accurate and complete. With that being said, let’s examine the difference between a good business plan and a great business plan.
A good business plan should be objective and unbiased, and, when possible, it should be supported by solid research. In most cases, this means performing extensive research into the state of the market, identifying the competition, and developing detailed strategies for dealing with both the competition and the market. A great business plan, on the other hand, should be as creative as possible and should allow for plenty of flexibility and growth.
The Structure Of A Business Plan
Depending on the type of business you’re in, the structure of your business plan may vary, but, in general, it will include the following elements:
As a general rule, the more concise you can be while still conveying all the necessary information, the better. Over-complicating things will only serve to make your plan less effective.
Once you’ve written your business plan, it’s time to move on to the next step: revising it. Depending on your background and the type of business you’re in, you may know more or less what to expect here, but, in any case, this is where you’ll find the useful information. By revising your business plan, you are able to remove unnecessary detail, add more information, or make changes to make it fit specific criteria (e.g., for Y Combinator).