You’ve decided that you’ll finally start your business in 2013 and it’s time to start putting the pieces in place to make it happen. In all the excitement of a start-up launch, something really crucial often gets overlooked: the business plan.
Writing a business plan usually isn’t the most energizing experience, and that’s probably why so many businesses launch without one. Still, a plan is crucial to help you keep track of whether you’re reaching your business goals, and it’s mandatory if you’re seeking financing from a bank.
Here are a few ideas to get you in the right mindset to write a business plan. They’re fun activities that will make the writing process much easier.
1. Visualize your Ideal Customer
Your target customer isn’t “all dog owners” any more than it is “anyone who shops in Gastown”. You need to get specific about who you’re going to sell to. Otherwise, how will you know where to find them? (and don’t assume they’ll just find you)
Try writing down every detail you can think of about your perfect buyer, until you can’t get any more specific. Start with that person and then expand your target market – not the other way around.
2. Set a Revenue Target
Fun! This is the part where you get to dream about how much money you’ll make in your first year. To get started, first decide how much income you need to be comfortable and cover all your personal expenses. Obviously your revenue goal needs to be higher than this. It’s okay to dream big, but when you sit down to work out your financial projections, you might have to adjust for a more realistic target.
3. Think about Marketing
What are some interesting ways you could promote your business? How can you best use social media? Will direct mail work for you? Should you advertise? Look up what others in your industry are doing to promote themselves, get some ideas, then zig where they are all zagging. Figure out how you can do marketing differently.
4. Test Your Product
Think of a unique way that you could get some feedback about your products or services. Hand out samples on the street. Offer up a free 15-minute consultation. Get a booth at a craft fair. Open a pop-up shop. Then ask people what they love or don’t love about what you have to offer. Product testing is fun and provides invaluable information about who your customers are and what they want most.
Once you’re ready to write, you might still seek some professional guidance to help you – but at least you’ll be in the right frame of mind to make 2013 your entrepreneurial year.