The most important part of writing a business plan is thinking critically about your business and forcing yourself to answer crucial questions about strategy. You can do that in 40+ pages or you can do it on one page, but you’ve got to get it done.
If you’re having trouble getting started with your business planning, try this: Write your business plan like it’s a series of 10 tweets—one for every section of your business plan. Seriously! 140 characters is all you need to get your point across, and forcing yourself to boil each section of your business plan down to one main point is an exercise in decision-making and strategy all in itself. When you’re done you’ll have everything you need to take your next step, whether that’s practicing your pitch to potential investors or a business partner, or sitting down to expand each tweet into a full section of a more traditional business plan.
What’s in a Business Plan?
These are the 10 sections you’ll want to cover as you compose your tweets:
- A one-sentence description of your business. (Value Proposition)
- The “problem” your product is responding to by being in the market. (Market Need)
- A description of your products (photos are great to add here). (Your Solution)
- Who else in the market is doing similar things and why are your products better? (Competition)
- Who buys or will buy your products? (Target Market)
- How much does it cost you to produce one of your products? How much do your products cost, how many of them will you sell this year, and how will you make a profit? (Financials: Budgeting & Forecasting)
- How do (or will) you market your products? (Sales Channels & Marketing Activities)
- What are your business achievements? What are you working toward? (Milestones)
- Who are you, and why are you the right person to lead your venture? (Management Team)
- Optional: How much money do you need to launch or grow your business, and what specifically will you use the funds for in your business? (Funding Needs & Use of Funds)
Let’s Break it Down (in Under 140 Characters)
To stick with the spirit of Twitter, here are descriptions of what’s needed in each section of your business plan in under 140 characters:
- Value Proposition: Describe the gist of your business. Hone in on what you do and what’s special about it. (See: Creating a Unique Value Proposition)
- Market Need: No market need=no need to market your product. If unsure, ask (potential) customers why they like your product. You’ll get your answer. (See: Know Your Industry Before You Start Your Business)
- Your Solution: Describe your product and why it’s so great. Think what you’d say if someone asked you, “What do you sell?” (See: What You Sell)
- Competition: Think about who your customers will buy from if your products don’t exist. Knowing competition is as important as knowing your customers.
- Target Market: Be specific about who buys your products (ex: gender, geography, age, etc). Segment your markets if you plan on reaching them differently. (See: Market Research and Industry Analysis)
- Financial Projections: How much does it cost you to make/market your products? How much do you plan to sell in a given time period? (See: The Financials)
- Sales Channels: This is where you will sell your product. Marketing Activities: How you will market your products. You may need different activities for each market segment. (See: How to Write a Marketing Plan)
- Milestones: What have you done so far, and what other goals are you shooting for? (Ex: buy supplies, create website, etc) This helps you stay on track. (See: Tim Berry’s video advice on milestones)
- Management Team: Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself and your team. Why are you the right person to lead your venture? Note unfilled roles on your team. (See: The People Behind The Plan)
- Funding Needs: You may need some funds (even just $500 to purchase materials). How will those funds help you, and when can you pay off the debt? (See: How to Get Your Business Funded)
Example: Haley’s Vintage Hats
Following the above guidelines, I put this pitch for a (fake) Etsy store together in under an hour using LivePlan:
Ready to get started? In only an hour’s time, you’ll be 100 percent closer to where you need to be.