What’s the best investment a new business can make? You may think it’s skilled employees, quality products, or effective branding. But while these are all elements of success, the most important investment isn’t any one of them, but rather something that ties them all together: a plan. Effective business planning means anticipating everything you need for success and determining how you’ll get it. So when founding a startup, you must come up with a plan that includes:
Business planning begins by summarizing what your company does and how it does it. Consider what problems you’re helping clients solve and how your products or services solve those problems. Then decide how you’ll be distributing those products or services. Will you be selling them from a store you control directly? Or will you be franchising your business? Finally, come up with as clear a sense as possible of who your customers are and how to target them. What age group do they belong to? What are their interests? Where do they spend time online?
Once you know what your business is, analyze the broader market for the products or services you’ll be selling. What other companies will you be competing with for customers or suppliers? What advantages and disadvantages do you have compared to those competitors, and how might you come out on top?
After identifying a way to stand out from the competition, set ambitious but achievable goals for yourself. What customers do you think you’ll be able to capture early-on, and how much market share and revenue can you gain in your first few years in business? With these goals in mind, come up with a strategy to achieve them.
Marketing & Sales Strategies
Marketing is an essential part of any business strategy. Once you know who your customers are and what problems they’re dealing with, consider where they are likely to look for solutions. Might they search for them on Google? Watch instructional YouTube videos? Look to social media influencers as experts? If you aren’t sure which type of marketing will suit you best, consider bringing in a marketing professional who can help you. The better you anticipate where and how customers will look for information, the easier it is to target them effectively.
Put together a clear picture of how your business will operate. What departments, branches, or other divisions will your company have, and who will direct each? How will systems and responsibilities flow between departments, and how will they communicate ideas with each other? You should also have a plan for resolving disputes between departments, so everyone can get the support they need to do their job well.
Once the other elements of your company are planned out, you should estimate your likely expenses and revenues for your first few years in business. Make a budget for each department, and consider loans and other sources of funding to cover any shortfalls.
Your business plan is both an indicator of progress and a model for reference that keeps you on the right track. By incorporating marketing, operations, finances, goals, and other elements, business planning prepares you for success under any circumstances.