As a small business owner, it can be tempting to jump right into launching your business and skip the step of creating a business plan. However, having a well-written business plan is essential to the success and growth of your business.
A business plan serves as a roadmap for your business, outlining your goals, strategies, and action plans. It helps you stay on track and focused, ensuring that every decision you make is aligned with your overall business objectives.
While creating a business plan may seem daunting, it’s worth the time and effort to ensure the long-term success of your business. In this article, I’ll dive into the insights on how a business plan can help your small business thrive and how to create one that stands out.
Ready to get started with creating a business plan to win over your investors? Pick from Venngage’s 10,000+ professional templates to customize your own for free!
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- Why is having a business plan important for small businesses?
- What are the 3Cs for writing a successful small business plan?
- What are the 7 steps of creating a winning business plan?
- How to make my small business plan stand out?
Why is having a business plan important for small businesses?
Nevertheless, you may be wondering – is it really necessary to go the extra mile and build a business plan even as a small business?
For many business owners, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running your business. However, it’s essential to take a step back and create a solid business plan – especially if you’re looking to:
1. Clarify your vision and goals
Whether you’re trying to start a new business or expand your existing business, it’s important to know what your goals are. The plan will serve as a blueprint for how you plan to grow and sustain your business over time.
2. Secure Funding
Another reason for writing a business plan is to seek out investors for your business. A compelling business plan demonstrates the potential for growth and profitability of your business and increases your chances of securing funding.
3. Identify potential challenges
From financial obstacles to operational and staffing challenges, having a business plan forces you to think critically about your business. From there, you can develop strategies to address these challenges more effectively.
4. Attract and retain customers
Having an exciting product or service is simply not enough. You need to think about how you can get customers to keep coming back to sustain in the long run. With a business plan, you can develop a strategy that resonates with your customers and stand out from the competition.
5. Measure performance
Your should include your financial projections and key performance indicators to measure your achievements. By regularly reviewing and updating your business plan, you can also ensure that your business is on track to meet its goals.
Ready to put your ideas down on paper? Here are 15+ business plan templates you can use for strategic planning.
What are the 3Cs for writing a successful small business plan?
As an entrepreneur, you’d know that running a successful business goes beyond just your day-to-day operations. Therefore, having a detailed business plan can help you take a closer look at your business — starting by analyzing your 3Cs.
By focusing on these three key areas, you can develop a plan that effectively communicates your business concept, identifies your target customer, and positions your business to compete in the market.
The first ‘C’ refers to the concept of your business. Look for gaps in the market you’re in and how your product or service solves a problem for your target market. Focus on what is your competitive advantage and how it sets you apart from your competitors.
Your business plan should also include information about your company’s history, business structure and mission statement. Having a solid understanding of your business will also come in handy when writing your company description and earn you extra first impression points.
The second ‘C’ is all about understanding your target markets and potential customers. Before you dive deep into your business plan, you should first conduct market research. This would help you identify your ideal customer profile, including their demographics, behaviors and preferences.
Additionally, you should explain how you plan to reach and acquire these customers with a detailed marketing and sales strategy plan. Creating a user persona guide helps you understand your target market and how they use your product or service. Here’s an example that you can use:
Visualize your customers with Venngage’s User Persona Guide tool today. It’s free and most importantly — no design experience is required.
Your final “C” in writing an effective business plan is no other than your competitors. Competitor analysis is critical in positioning your business for success. You should definitely research and evaluate your competitors, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, market position, and pricing strategy.
At the same time, you should also outline your strengths and weaknesses and explain how you plan to overcome them. You can always conduct a SWOT analysis on both your and your competitors’ business. This SWOT competitor analysis template is a good example of how it’s done:
Check out this article to learn everything about utilizing infographics to create an effective business plan.
What are the 7 steps of creating a winning business plan?
If you’ve read this blog on how to create a business plan, you’d know that a professional plan typically has the following sections:
- Cover page
- Table of Contents
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Organization and management
- Service or product line
- Marketing and sales
- Funding request
- Financial projections
- An appendix
This may seem overwhelming for many small business owners and you’re probably thinking of backing out at this point. Therefore, creating your business plan outline before you go into the details can ensure that you don’t leave any essential information out of your plan.
But let me assure you that you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful business plan that can help you achieve your goals by following these steps:
Step 1: Define your business idea
Every business idea should be born out of a problem that needs solving. You should clearly define your business idea and what you plan to offer. Don’t forget to also consider your business’s cost, feasibility, scalability, and profitability.
For example, this candle business highlights that handmade candles are made from 100% beeswax to ensure product safety and quality:
Once you have that figured out, it’ll be easy as pie for you to come up with your company description. Your company description should include details such as your business location, business resources, management team and more.
Step 2: Conduct your market research
Conducting thorough market research builds a strong foundation for your market analysis. What’s more, it provides insights into the viability of your business idea and helps you develop a winning strategy.
You can conduct primary market research with:
- Customer interviews
- Online surveys or questionnaires
- In-person focus groups
- Purchasing a competitor product to study packaging and delivery experience
Or secondary market research by:
- Reading company records
- Examining the current economic conditions
- Researching relevant technological developments
This market overview template will help you look into industry trends and your target audience and collect vital data for your marketing strategy:
Step 3: Analyze your competitors
A competitive analysis report outlines the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors compared to those of your own business.
Start by creating a competitor profile for each of your competitors which typically includes:
- The company’s revenue and market share
- The company’s size and management team
- A SWOT analysis
- An overview of how the brand is perceived by customers
In addition to specific product features, here are some attributes that you might want to look into:
- Product quality
- Number of features
- Ease of use
- Customer support
Use this competitor analysis report template to dive deeper into your competitor data and inform your marketing and business strategies:
Step 4: Develop a marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy can be brief, covering a single campaign, or it can be long-term, detailing your marketing plans for an entire year.
An effective marketing plan revolves around your target market and finding ways to reach them effectively. This may include branding, advertising, and social media.
While different marketing tactics are used to achieve different goals, they should always be in sync with the overall goals of your business.
Use a mindmap to organize your marketing goals and strategies to make sure that they are in line with your business goals.
If you’re running a small business, you may have limited funds to allocate toward marketing efforts. Some commonly used marketing strategies for small businesses include:
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Work with local influencers
- Customer referral programs
- Customer loyalty plans
This Japanese restaurant business plan details both their online and offline marketing strategies. They’re also keen to capitalize on the steady stream of tourists coming into the city by catering to groups with large orders.
You can also use a timeline infographic like this one here to keep you on track with your marketing goals:
Don’t know where to start? This article will give you a crash course on how to make your marketing plan.
Step 5: Identify your key performance indicators (KPI)
With all those marketing strategies in line, the next step is to identify the key metrics you’ll use to measure your business’s success. So, what is your KPI going to be? Is it revenue, profit margin, customer acquisition cost or customer retention rate?
KPIs give you a clear understanding of how well your business is doing and provide valuable insights that help make informed decisions. Without identifying KPIs, it can be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts.
Step 6: Develop a Financial Plan
We’ve finally reached the core of your business strategy, which is the section that your potential investors are most interested in – your financial plan.
Having your business plan lined out can help you understand the financial viability of your business and prepare for potential challenges. It can also persuade investors and get the funding you need.
Some of the important details that you’d want to include in your financial plan are your:
- Income statement
- Cash flow statement
- Balance sheet
- Sales forecast
- Break-even analysis
- Financial health
- Financial forecasts
Planning to start your own gym? Use this template to project your revenues and expenses:
Step 7: Determine your funding needs
Now that you have your financial plans worked out, you’ll have a clearer picture of how much funding you’ll need to start and grow your business.
There are several types of funding options available for small businesses seeking financing, including:
- Self-funding or bootstrapping
- Family and friend loans
- Angel investors
- Venture capital
- Business loans
For example, this non-profit business plan template details the fundraising activities they have to generate operational funds.
Start customizing your business plan with these 15+ templates that would help you win over your investors, lenders, or partners.
How to make my small business plan stand out?
As new business owners, having a strong business plan is essential for securing funding and laying the foundation for your company’s success. However, with so many business plans vying for investors’ attention, it can be challenging to make yours stand out.
In summary, the following tips can help you write a business plan that captures the attention of investors:
Focus on your competitive advantages
Furthermore, show customers and investors why they should choose you over others. Highlight what sets your business apart from your competitors and how your product or service can serve as a solution.
Show a deep understanding of your target market
Visualize your ideal customers and their needs with a user persona and analyze your competitors. This will help you explain how your business can meet those needs better than your competitors.
Provide a clear and concise executive summary
Start with a short, punchy summary that gives investors or lenders an overview of your business. Your executive summary should also include your plans, its value proposition, and the opportunities it presents to attract funding.
Provide solid financial projections
Investors and lenders want to see that your business has a foreseeable future. Make sure to detail your business financials such as cash flow statement, income statement, break-even analysis and balance sheet.
Be specific about your goals and milestones
Lay out achievable goals and milestones that you aim to reach in the short and long term. This will give investors a clear sense of your vision and your commitment to achieving it.
Show your passion
Finally, don’t be afraid to let your passion for your business shine through. Investors and lenders want to see that you are committed to your business and that you believe in its potential for success.
Elevate your small business with an exceptional business plan that sets you apart from the competition
Having a well-thought-out business plan can really max out your business’s potential and win over your investors. But as an entrepreneur, growing a business requires a lot of time and effort and you might not have the extra time to spend on designing your business plan.
But don’t you worry – Venngage has got it covered for you. Designing a business plan requires little to no effort with Venngage’s customizable professional templates. Most importantly, no design experience is required.
Pick from one of the templates above or browse for more Business Plan Templates and start customizing your own today!