All great businesses start with a great business plan. It might sound unnecessary, but taking the time to sit and map out your objectives and intentions for your business can help provide some much needed direction for your company, and showcase which areas you should be focusing on to get yourself off the ground.
Previously, we covered some of the internal factors you should be thinking about when starting your business, including your “why”, your business values and the solutions you provide. Now, it’s time to take a look at the market you’re operating in and one of the most crucial parts of a businesses success - your customers.
Keep reading to find out more about what you should consider when writing your business plan.
Realistically, your business will not appeal to everyone, and narrowing down your ideal customers can go a long way in helping you define your brand and create effective processes. Customer profiles will assist you in understanding who it is that you should be targeting and why.
You can create as many customer profiles as your business may need, but they should all answer a similar set of questions. In your customer profile, you’ll need to outline who your customer is, what they do and where they’re based. Are you providing a face-to-face service - or working remotely? How will you communicate with them?
Once you know who you’re looking to target, consider why you’re targeting them. What need do they have for your product or service? This may impact on the way that you reach them, and it’s worth considering which channels you’ll use to connect with potential customers.
From here, you should be looking at what you’ll do to convince them to buy from you. This could be an overview of your marketing - which we’ll look at in more detail later - or a rundown of any packages or deals that you’ll offer them.
When running a business it’s good practice to have an awareness of who else operates in your market, and running competitor analysis is a great way of highlighting areas to work on that you may have missed previously. Knowing what other companies you’re fighting against to gain customers will help you craft your marketing strategy and look for ways to stand out.
Much like your customer profile, there are a few specific areas you should be covering when looking at your competitors. Again, you can do this for as many competitors as you choose, but each should follow a similar structure.
Who are your competitors - where are they based, how are they similar and what size is their organisation? Use this information to look at the specific areas you’re competing on, and what advantages or disadvantages you may have over them.
This will help you create an understanding of why customers choose them, which will ultimately highlight the ways in which you can encourage them to make the switch to your business instead. Look at what you can do better, how you can provide additional value and make it obvious from the offset. Encouraging customers to make the move might not be easy, so you should think about the marketing messages and tasks you’ll need to undertake to promote your business to them.
Here’s the kicker - what services are you actually providing? In this section, outline the products and services you have on offer and the costs of these for the customer. At this point, you might want to look at packages for joint services, which can act as a marketing tool in itself.
When pulling together your services list, you should be putting in as much detail as possible, which will come in handy when creating quotes for clients in the future. You don’t need to make these public, instead use them to refer back to when necessary. You might find it useful to include a short explanation of how you came to these prices, too.
You can use this as a benchmark for future pricing increases too, as you’ll be able to look back and see what you were charging for specific services - and why you decided on that rate.
Once you’ve put together an idea of what it is you’re going to be offering, you can use this to determine what you’ll need to do to make your business viable. Are you operating at a loss? How many client hours will you need to book to make your living? This can help you set goals for the future, as well as monthly targets to meet within your business to ensure success.
Finally, your marketing. How are you going to promote your business? It’s all well and good getting started, but without marketing you’ll struggle to get your name out there. Use all of the information you’ve pulled together so far in your business plan to create a rough overview of your marketing strategy - including your platforms, any associated costs and your overall messages.
Marketing is a mountain in itself, but having a vague idea of how you’re going to reach your customers is the best way to get started. From here, you’ll be able to see if it’s something you can take on yourself or if you should consider bringing in some help to define and implement an effective strategy.