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If you’re just starting out in the digital market or want to increase the range of your product, you will need a well-defined business plan.
The business plan is the document that will guide all your actions, answering basic questions such as: What is my Company? Where do I intend to get with my business? What is the growth potential of my product? How much do I expect to make next year? And so forth.
In this case, the question you should ask yourself is not “Must I have a business plan?” but rather “How do I write a business plan that will help me achieve the expected results?”.
If you still don’t know the answers to any of these questions, keep reading this text!
After all, what are business plans?
Business plans are strategic documents used by entrepreneurs to convey their business vision to team members or potential investors.
This means that you can focus your energy and your resources on what you really need to do, instead of wasting your efforts on actions that will not generate results for your business.
What do I need to consider when writing my business plan?
The first thing you should do is determine your goals in the short, medium and long term, considering a maximum twelve-month period.
Whatever your business goal is, a year is more than enough time to assess whether you’re on the right track or not.
An exercise that really helps at this moment is to write down everything that comes into your mind. Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself next year.
Where are you? Did your business grow? Do you have a solid customer base? Can you support your family just with your business venture?
Consider your answers as your macro goals.
Then, split the goals into components to define which actions you need to put into practice to achieve these results.
Do you want an example? If your goal is to increase your product’s visibility on social networking sites, getting to a million followers in the next year, you will need to invest in Facebook ads, Linkedin, Instagram or any other channels your audience is in.
How do I write a business plan that actually works?
Now that you understand why you need a business plan, and that you’ve spent some time gathering the information needed to write one, it’s time to take action!
A good business plan is the one that answers as many questions as possible about that project and, although no business plan is the same, some issues are common to all of them.
Let’s address them.
- What products and/or services do you offer?
- What are the strengths of your business?
- Which actions do you intend to implement in order to obtain a competitive advantage in your niche?
- How does your market work?
- Is there any room for your business to grow?
- How do market trends affect your goals?
- Who are the leaders in your segment?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competition?
- How do they promote the product itself?
- What works for them and could be adapted for your business?
- Who is your buyer persona?
- Where do your potential clients look for information?
- What are their demographic profiles?
- What problems do they face in their everyday life? And, most importantly, how can you solve these problems?
- How will you promote your product? (videos, posts, promotional actions, email marketing)
- Which channels will you use to talk to your client? (sales page, squeeze page, fan page, website, blog, YouTube channel, etc)
- How much do you intend to invest in ads? (in this case make an estimate, since this value will vary depending on your goals and the performance of their campaigns)
- What’s your plan of action?
- What milestones must you achieve by the end of the year?
- If you have partners in your business, what are each one’s responsibilities?
- How much money will you need to create your product?
- How much will you need to make the promotion?
- Will you have a product support service?
- Will you hire marketing automation tools?
- How many people will be working with you?
By answering these questions, you will be able to create a business plan that really matches your goals.
But remember to always come back to these questions as your business grows to make sure your strategy is still consistent with the product or service you offer.
How to make your business in tune with your marketing plan?
When writing a business plan, you automatically think of actions that can generate more sales. Right?
That’s exactly why your marketing plan is a key component for your business!
We’ve seen here on the blog, that it doesn’t matter how good your product is if nobody knows it. In other words, your product must have visibility.
The bad news is that, just like you, thousands of people launch products every day. Meaning, it will be necessary to invest time and effort to set yourself apart from your competition and become a point of reference in what you do.
Your communication needs to be engaging and develop empathy with your audience, to the point of convincing those users that your product is ideal for the problem they are facing.
It is no longer enough to satisfy your customers. You must delight them.
The sentence above, from Marketing authority Philip Kotler, sums up the importance of the marketing plan for the success of your business.
And it should be your mantra going forward if you want to increasingly offer a complete experience for your user, both in pre and post-sale.
To come up with an efficient communication, three aspects need to be in tune: message, target audience, budget.
To delight your lead, your message must go beyond “my product is great”. You need to offer really valuable content, compatible with the stage your user is in the sales funnel.
To identify which content is more relevant, you need to target your audience: people who don’t know your product, people who have already researched about your product, and people who have already purchased your product.
If you’re just starting out, most of your audience is in the top of the funnel, that is, they need to know who you are, to make a well-informed buying decision.
To be assertive with this audience, your sales page must answer three questions: what are the problems your product solve? What is the added value of your product? Why are you different from your competition?
Unless you have a product aimed at a very specific niche, consider your ever-growing audience. Every person who shares the same interests of your persona is a potential customer.
Imagine you have a baking course for lactose intolerant people. This is your initial target audience.
But you can also promote your course to people who are interested in baking since these people will have no problem in consuming dairy-free products.
Social Networking Sites are great allies to promote niche products because people with similar interests are together in the same place.
In the case of Facebook, you can use the feature Lookalike Audiences on Facebook Ads to find profiles that are similar to your persona, in order to direct your communication to them.
After you’ve decided what your message is, and who your target audience is, it’s time to define how much you will invest in your marketing activities including what you spend on campaigns, website, marketing automation tools, etc.
This amount is always an estimate and is subject to change as your business matures and your product becomes more well-known.
In the first month, your actions are more focused on generating more visibility for your product, then it is only natural that you invest more in paid media.
Over time your strategies will be more qualified, and maybe you will be able to allocate resources to other areas of your business.
So, don’t worry about being precise when quantifying everything!
This estimate of how much you’ll spend is just a reference to identify if you are spending too much or too little to achieve the goals you have established in the beginning.
How often should I review my business plan?
The answer to this question is: whenever possible.
You must update your business plan every day, week, month, or whenever there is a significant change in your business, your market, or consumer buying behavior of your persona.
Though it looks like a lot of work, it is exactly the opposite. An updated business plan will save you effort and resources because it already rules out everything you have tested and found out that doesn’t work for your venture.
Especially in the market of digital products, where things are constantly changing.
But if for some reason you can’t update it to the maximum frequency, you must do so at least once a year, to have a broader view of all the actions you put into practice and how they have impacted your results.
Talk to your customers and potential customers
To improve your sales performance, you need to know what most appeals to your audience.
You can find this out by performing A/B tests, analyzing your business data. But the simplest way to do that is still conducting satisfaction/opinion surveys.
Make room for your customer to express her questions and complaints. This is a way to nurture the relationship with your leads and keep them engaged, as well as to provide insights for you to improve what is not so good about your product.
Don’t be afraid to change the course
You need to understand that all business plans are flawed because they are based on assumptions and can’t predict all market changes.
It’s possible that your planning in advance may have predictions for a year and you may run out of money to invest right in the first month. But it can also go the other way around, and you may get all the money you have invested right in your first launch.
Many variables influence your customer’s buying decisions. So, whichever the scenarios above happen, it will require a change in your business plan. Whether to prevent your business to go bankrupt, or to become an online authority.
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