What is a business or marketing plan? Why do you need one? In a nutshell, a business and/or marketing plan is an essential mix of documents to help you create a clear picture of what your business is about, where you plan to go, and how you will get there. These plans will paint a picture in steps or form a map of your business – your goals, values, strengths, areas for development, finance and ways to market etc
When you start out you will have an idea in your mind as to how you see your business moving forward. This is a positive beginning however unless you get your thoughts and ideas on paper you will have nothing to reflect on as your business progresses. Successful business growth is about planning and this is a critical stage.
It is important to remember that your business or marketing plan is not designed to be set in stone. You will establish goals and objectives however be mindful that the growth of your business will be an evolution. Keep your options open and be fluid in your approach as you and your business learn, adapt, change and evolve.
First we’ll take a look at a business plan and what is involved.
As a start-up, keep your business and marketing plans simple.
Your business plan can include:
- An Executive Summary: A list of the main highlights of your business.
- A Company Description: How you started, what type of business you are i.e. sole trader/limited company, and what your plans are.
- Your Product or Service: What are you selling? Concentrate on the key benefits for your customer.
- A Market Analysis: Who is your market? What are your customers looking for? Who are your competitors? How will you target your audience? etc
- Your Strategy and Implementation: Specify your responsibilities including target dates and costs. This will help you track your results.
- A Web Plan Summary: What is the purpose of your website? What is the cost to build & maintain etc? How will you market your website?
- Who’s Who in your Team?: How does your organization work? Roles & responsibilities? Who reports to whom?
- Your Financial Analysis: How will you manage your expenses and costs? Include projected Profit and Loss and Cash Flow tables.
As your business develops you can always elaborate your process particularly if you apply for funding from investors or a bank.
Now onto your marketing plan. This plan involves how you will sell your product or service to your target audience. Like a business plan, your marketing plan will provide a map of your business, however with a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) you will gain a better insight into the market potential of your new business.
Your marketing plan can include:
- A Situation Analysis: Analyse your market using a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). Include in your analysis a current market forecast, information about your customer sector, and your market needs.
- Your Marketing Strategy: Outline your business philosophy and values i.e. your mission statement. What are your objectives, your plan to market and how you can best position yourself?
- A Sales Forecast: How will you create opportunities to meet your customer, track monthly sales, and follow-up with your customers? Breakdown the elements of your business i.e. sales by your product, area or market segment etc. A forecast provides a strong focus for your business.
- An Expense Budget: How will you manage your expenses/profits? Preparing a thorough budget allows you to maintain a positive cash flow.
You will notice that there are cross over elements for both types of plan. If you choose to write both a business plan and a marketing plan you will give yourself a very powerful insight into the potential of your business, as you will create a visual representation which you can revisit and reflect on as you progress.