Performing a competitive analysis can help you uncover:. This section will describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience? It can be helpful to build a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and get crystal clear on why you're targeting them.
Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. You might consider including information on:. It can help to already have a marketing plan built out to help you inform this component of your business plan. Laying these out can give readers of your business plan an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.
This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. For this reason, you might outline:. This section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to determine funding strategies, investment opportunities, etc. According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:.
While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details you'll want to include. Keep in mind, that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others will be in charts.
Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some templates. Download a free, editable one-page business plan template. The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot, and is perfect for businesses of any size -- no matter how much strategy they still have to develop.
Including fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline, this one-page business plan gives businesses a framework for how to build their brand and what tasks to keep track of as they grow. Then, as the business matures, it can expand on its original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.
We created a business plan template for entrepreneurs. Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. They created a fictional company called Acme Management Technology and wrote an entire business plan for them. Using their sample business plan as a guide while filling out your own will help you catch and include small yet important details in your business plan that you otherwise might not have noticed.
After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it. Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level -- it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.
With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum , you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service and the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture, rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.
The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you. If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, fund your business, gives information about small business tax, and provides marketing, sales, and service tips.
It describes what you should include in each of its sections, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch. The Small Business Administration offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan. Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need -- a traditional or lean start-up plan.
Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like. Culina's sample business plan is a great template to use if you just want to fill in your information. You can also use this template as a guide while you're gathering important details. After looking at this sample, you'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do for your own business plan.
This is one of my favorite sample business plans, because you can see how implementing visuals can help tell the story of your brand. The images in this template are cutting edge, which makes sense for an innovative company like Plum. When you create your own business plan, make sure that the pictures and design you use make sense for your branding.
Additionally, the financial charts included are incredibly helpful if you're not sure what financial information to include. With this business plan, the focus is the investment opportunity. This is an excellent template to use if you're going to use your business plan as a means to receive funding. The investment opportunity section is placed right up front and is several pages long.
Then, the plan goes into more detail about the company synopsis industry analysis. When you're first getting starting on your business plan, it can be daunting. That's why it's important to make sure you understand the format and information you'll want to include. Then, you can use a template to guide your process. Editor's note: This post was originally published in November and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Mar 30, AM, updated April 08 Logo - Full Color. Contact Sales. Overview of all products. Our business plan outline is structured so that each section answers a specific set of investor questions about your business. It also offers a natural progression making it suitable for both the investor who wants to read the plan cover to cover and the one who wants to simply jump into specific parts to clarify particular points.
Let me walk you through each section and get into the details of what to write and where to find the information. The first section, the executive summary, is the most important one. It is only if they find this section attractive enough that potential investors will dive into the other sections of your plan to get more details.
The executive summary is all about getting your investor excited in 5 minutes. Do not try to tell everything about your business. Keep it short and to the point. The objective of this section is to introduce the company and its management. The content of this section will vary slightly depending on if you already have a business or if you are starting a new venture.
If you are writing a business plan for an existing company this is where you would present the key highlights to date. The idea here is to build your credibility and show to your reader that you have a viable business. The main points you want to touch on are:. If you are writing a plan for a business for which location is important for example a shop or a restaurant or if you are managing a large business with multiple stores or factories this is where you would describe ideally using a map the main location s of your business.
This is one of the most important section of your business plan. You must demonstrate that your team has strong experience in your sector and the skills to run this business. If there are any important skill gaps in your team, you need to address them and mitigate them here. It could be that you are looking for someone with these skills or that you have a board member or a non-executive director that can fill the gap. Try to put some pictures if you can. It is always better when one can put a face on a name!
And it helps if you are due to meet your investors at some point. The key to writing a good product and services section is to be precise about the product or service you sell, the client you are targeting, and the channel you are targeting him through.
After this section, your reader will start thinking about how big, how crowded and how profitable your market is and try to guess what the overall strategy is going to be. You want to send him in the right direction! So be ultra-precise, don't say for example "I sell shoes" but "I sell leather boots targeted at women aged who buy online". By now your reader knows who you are and what business you are in. It is time you show him why this is a good opportunity.
This part is a summary of our article on how to do a market analysis, please refer to the article for more details. The way you look at the market will depend on your type of business. If it is a small business, such as a coffee shop for example, then you need to look at the market on a local basis your town, your street.
If you are targeting a wider audience, then you need to evaluate the market at a national or an international level. When assessing the size of your market, you need to come up with two variables: the number of potential customers and the value of the market. The idea here is to get a sense of how atomised your market is. If you are in a market where there is a small set of high-value customers then it might be complicated to compete against more established players and your business is likely to be dependent on a handful of customers meaning that losing one would potentially threaten your business.
Now if you are in a market with lots of low-value customers it might be complicated and costly to reach enough of them to get to the minimum volume for your business to be profitable. Ideally, you want to be in a market with a high number of medium value customers meaning that there are enough customers to leave room for a few players and that each customer brings a decent amount of revenues.
Once you have estimated the market size you need to explain to your reader which segment s of the market you view as your target market. The target market is the type of customers you target within the market. You need to identify the different segments in your market and explain who you are going after and why. One way to identify the segments is to group customers by buying pattern or demographics.
For example in the fashion market you could have:. This section is where you demonstrate that you have insight into your market. You know what makes people buy! You need to describe the buying pattern of your target customers. What triggers a purchase? Is it something they need such as food? Is it a value associated with the product or a brand perception?
Here you have to explain who your competitors are, how they are positioned on the market, and what their strength and weaknesses are. Some of the items you need to cover are. You should write this part in parallel with the Competitive Edge part of the Strategy section, as the idea here is to find a weakness in your competitors' positioning that your company will be able to use in its own market positioning.
Here, the objective is to show to investors that the risk of having new competitors entering the market is fairly remote. Hence if you are writing your business plan for a start-up then this section is a bit tricky as you need to show that you will succeed where others will fail! Once again, you can find more details on this section in our market analysis article.
In this section, you need to details which regulation is applicable to your sector and how you are going to comply with it. Until now all the sections of the business plan outline we covered were very descriptive, this is where things get a bit more interesting. Strategy is a big word for what is really just explaining your view of the market, how you want to attack it, and why it should work. The first part of the strategy section is the Competitive Edge sub-section which is where you explain your market positioning.
The competitive edge part is where you answer investors' favourite question: "what makes you different from the competition? Hopefully, you will have laid the groundwork for this section in the previous ones and orientated your analysis of the market in a way that prepares the reader to embrace your positioning. In order to explain and justify your pricing strategy you must touch on the following points:.
I won't touch on the two first points which are pretty obvious but I think the third one deserves a bit more explanation. Setting a price is not easy but there are a couple of techniques you can use to guide you. The first thing to do is to assess if you have control over your prices.
It could very well be that you have limited control over your prices. Now if you have control over your prices you then need to come up with a figure. Here are the two main strategies that you can use to do so:. Cost-plus pricing: this consist of adding a percentage margin to the cost of the good or service you are selling.
The advantage of this strategy is that you are guaranteed to earn your margin on every sale. The disadvantage is that your price could be below or above what customers are willing to pay for a product or service. Benefit driven pricing: this consist of estimating the gain procured by your good or service to the customer and set the price as a fraction of this gain. It is easier to do when your product or service procure a hard benefit i. The advantage of this technique is that it allows you to maximise the price of your goods and services.
The disadvantage is that it usually requires trying different price points in order to find the right market price. It is always a good thing to test different prices. Do one week with price A and one week with price B and compare the results in terms of sales and volume. Ok, so now we know who you will target and how you will price your products. It is time to explain how you are going to reach those customers. This is the first section where we start to leave aside the helicopter view of the market to really dive into the implementation and execution strategy of your plan.
Therefore you need to show your investor that not only you know your market inside-out but that you also have a credible plan to conquer that market. The best way to show that your business plan is realistic is to get into the specifics of the implementation. Your reader needs to feel that you are ready to go and that he just has to push on a button write you a check to make it happen. In the marketing plan section, you need to show that you have identified the best channels to use to target your customers.
By channel, I mean both the distribution network online, owned stores, third party network, door to door, etc. You want to start by listing all the different options and then start diving into the ones you picked and explain why you think they are the most relevant in terms of:.
This section is where you set the goals for your company. This is a commitment you are making to your investors and you will be judged on your ability to achieve these goals. It is therefore important that you take time to identify goals that are:. Here you will be judged on your ability to identify and focus on the key objectives to bring your business to the next level.
This will help build your credibility towards your investor and ultimately play a part in his investment decision. From a relationship perspective, being able to over-achieve these objectives will be key if you are to raise more money in the future. The risks and mitigants section has one key objective: enable you to anticipate any objection or doubt an investor might have on your plan or your ability to deliver it and give you an opportunity to show that:.
It is very important to be transparent in this section. If an investor spots a key risk in your plan that you haven't disclosed he is going to think "well I am not sure he knows this market as well as he claims", and that looks bad. You want to do everything to build credibility and trust with your investors because the moment they start doubting you they will start doubting the investment.