How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needi

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated May 7, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

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  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: 10 AI prompts you need to write a business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information to include in a business plan is sometimes not quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

There are plenty of great options available (we’ve rounded up our 8 favorites to streamline your search).

But, if you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template , you can get one right now; download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

Grow 30% faster with the right business plan. Create your plan with LivePlan.

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.



A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

business plan software for dummies

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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business plan software for dummies

Small Business Trends

How to create a business plan: examples & free template.

This is the ultimate guide to creating a comprehensive and effective plan to start a business . In today’s dynamic business landscape, having a well-crafted business plan is an important first step to securing funding, attracting partners, and navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

This guide has been designed to help you create a winning plan that stands out in the ever-evolving marketplace. U sing real-world examples and a free downloadable template, it will walk you through each step of the process.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or launching your very first startup, the guide will give you the insights, tools, and confidence you need to create a solid foundation for your business.

Table of Contents

How to Write a Business Plan

Embarking on the journey of creating a successful business requires a solid foundation, and a well-crafted business plan is the cornerstone. Here is the process of writing a comprehensive business plan and the main parts of a winning business plan . From setting objectives to conducting market research, this guide will have everything you need.

Executive Summary

business plan

The Executive Summary serves as the gateway to your business plan, offering a snapshot of your venture’s core aspects. This section should captivate and inform, succinctly summarizing the essence of your plan.

It’s crucial to include a clear mission statement, a brief description of your primary products or services, an overview of your target market, and key financial projections or achievements.

Think of it as an elevator pitch in written form: it should be compelling enough to engage potential investors or stakeholders and provide them with a clear understanding of what your business is about, its goals, and why it’s a promising investment.

Example: EcoTech is a technology company specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable products designed to reduce energy consumption and minimize waste. Our mission is to create innovative solutions that contribute to a cleaner, greener environment.

Our target market includes environmentally conscious consumers and businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. We project a 200% increase in revenue within the first three years of operation.

Overview and Business Objectives

business plan

In the Overview and Business Objectives section, outline your business’s core goals and the strategic approaches you plan to use to achieve them. This section should set forth clear, specific objectives that are attainable and time-bound, providing a roadmap for your business’s growth and success.

It’s important to detail how these objectives align with your company’s overall mission and vision. Discuss the milestones you aim to achieve and the timeframe you’ve set for these accomplishments.

This part of the plan demonstrates to investors and stakeholders your vision for growth and the practical steps you’ll take to get there.

Example: EcoTech’s primary objective is to become a market leader in sustainable technology products within the next five years. Our key objectives include:

  • Introducing three new products within the first two years of operation.
  • Achieving annual revenue growth of 30%.
  • Expanding our customer base to over 10,000 clients by the end of the third year.

Company Description

business plan

The Company Description section is your opportunity to delve into the details of your business. Provide a comprehensive overview that includes your company’s history, its mission statement, and its vision for the future.

Highlight your unique selling proposition (USP) – what makes your business stand out in the market. Explain the problems your company solves and how it benefits your customers.

Include information about the company’s founders, their expertise, and why they are suited to lead the business to success. This section should paint a vivid picture of your business, its values, and its place in the industry.

Example: EcoTech is committed to developing cutting-edge sustainable technology products that benefit both the environment and our customers. Our unique combination of innovative solutions and eco-friendly design sets us apart from the competition. We envision a future where technology and sustainability go hand in hand, leading to a greener planet.

Define Your Target Market

business plan

Defining Your Target Market is critical for tailoring your business strategy effectively. This section should describe your ideal customer base in detail, including demographic information (such as age, gender, income level, and location) and psychographic data (like interests, values, and lifestyle).

Elucidate on the specific needs or pain points of your target audience and how your product or service addresses these. This information will help you know your target market and develop targeted marketing strategies.

Example: Our target market comprises environmentally conscious consumers and businesses looking for innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Our ideal customers are those who prioritize sustainability and are willing to invest in eco-friendly products.

Market Analysis

business plan

The Market Analysis section requires thorough research and a keen understanding of the industry. It involves examining the current trends within your industry, understanding the needs and preferences of your customers, and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

This analysis will enable you to spot market opportunities and anticipate potential challenges. Include data and statistics to back up your claims, and use graphs or charts to illustrate market trends.

This section should demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the market in which you operate and that your business is well-positioned to capitalize on its opportunities.

Example: The market for eco-friendly technology products has experienced significant growth in recent years, with an estimated annual growth rate of 10%. As consumers become increasingly aware of environmental issues, the demand for sustainable solutions continues to rise.

Our research indicates a gap in the market for high-quality, innovative eco-friendly technology products that cater to both individual and business clients.

SWOT Analysis

business plan

A SWOT analysis in your business plan offers a comprehensive examination of your company’s internal and external factors. By assessing Strengths, you showcase what your business does best and where your capabilities lie.

Weaknesses involve an honest introspection of areas where your business may be lacking or could improve. Opportunities can be external factors that your business could capitalize on, such as market gaps or emerging trends.

Threats include external challenges your business may face, like competition or market changes. This analysis is crucial for strategic planning, as it helps in recognizing and leveraging your strengths, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and preparing for potential threats.

Including a SWOT analysis demonstrates to stakeholders that you have a balanced and realistic understanding of your business in its operational context.

  • Innovative and eco-friendly product offerings.
  • Strong commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
  • Skilled and experienced team with expertise in technology and sustainability.


  • Limited brand recognition compared to established competitors.
  • Reliance on third-party manufacturers for product development.


  • Growing consumer interest in sustainable products.
  • Partnerships with environmentally-focused organizations and influencers.
  • Expansion into international markets.
  • Intense competition from established technology companies.
  • Regulatory changes could impact the sustainable technology market.

Competitive Analysis

business plan

In this section, you’ll analyze your competitors in-depth, examining their products, services, market positioning, and pricing strategies. Understanding your competition allows you to identify gaps in the market and tailor your offerings to outperform them.

By conducting a thorough competitive analysis, you can gain insights into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to develop strategies to differentiate your business and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Example: Key competitors include:

GreenTech: A well-known brand offering eco-friendly technology products, but with a narrower focus on energy-saving devices.

EarthSolutions: A direct competitor specializing in sustainable technology, but with a limited product range and higher prices.

By offering a diverse product portfolio, competitive pricing, and continuous innovation, we believe we can capture a significant share of the growing sustainable technology market.

Organization and Management Team

business plan

Provide an overview of your company’s organizational structure, including key roles and responsibilities. Introduce your management team, highlighting their expertise and experience to demonstrate that your team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.

Showcasing your team’s background, skills, and accomplishments instills confidence in investors and other stakeholders, proving that your business has the leadership and talent necessary to achieve its objectives and manage growth effectively.

Example: EcoTech’s organizational structure comprises the following key roles: CEO, CTO, CFO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, and R&D Manager. Our management team has extensive experience in technology, sustainability, and business development, ensuring that we are well-equipped to execute our business plan successfully.

Products and Services Offered

business plan

Describe the products or services your business offers, focusing on their unique features and benefits. Explain how your offerings solve customer pain points and why they will choose your products or services over the competition.

This section should emphasize the value you provide to customers, demonstrating that your business has a deep understanding of customer needs and is well-positioned to deliver innovative solutions that address those needs and set your company apart from competitors.

Example: EcoTech offers a range of eco-friendly technology products, including energy-efficient lighting solutions, solar chargers, and smart home devices that optimize energy usage. Our products are designed to help customers reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

business plan

In this section, articulate your comprehensive strategy for reaching your target market and driving sales. Detail the specific marketing channels you plan to use, such as social media, email marketing, SEO, or traditional advertising.

Describe the nature of your advertising campaigns and promotional activities, explaining how they will capture the attention of your target audience and convey the value of your products or services. Outline your sales strategy, including your sales process, team structure, and sales targets.

Discuss how these marketing and sales efforts will work together to attract and retain customers, generate leads, and ultimately contribute to achieving your business’s revenue goals.

This section is critical to convey to investors and stakeholders that you have a well-thought-out approach to market your business effectively and drive sales growth.

Example: Our marketing strategy includes digital advertising, content marketing, social media promotion, and influencer partnerships. We will also attend trade shows and conferences to showcase our products and connect with potential clients. Our sales strategy involves both direct sales and partnerships with retail stores, as well as online sales through our website and e-commerce platforms.

Logistics and Operations Plan

business plan

The Logistics and Operations Plan is a critical component that outlines the inner workings of your business. It encompasses the management of your supply chain, detailing how you acquire raw materials and manage vendor relationships.

Inventory control is another crucial aspect, where you explain strategies for inventory management to ensure efficiency and reduce wastage. The section should also describe your production processes, emphasizing scalability and adaptability to meet changing market demands.

Quality control measures are essential to maintain product standards and customer satisfaction. This plan assures investors and stakeholders of your operational competency and readiness to meet business demands.

Highlighting your commitment to operational efficiency and customer satisfaction underlines your business’s capability to maintain smooth, effective operations even as it scales.

Example: EcoTech partners with reliable third-party manufacturers to produce our eco-friendly technology products. Our operations involve maintaining strong relationships with suppliers, ensuring quality control, and managing inventory.

We also prioritize efficient distribution through various channels, including online platforms and retail partners, to deliver products to our customers in a timely manner.

Financial Projections Plan

business plan

In the Financial Projections Plan, lay out a clear and realistic financial future for your business. This should include detailed projections for revenue, costs, and profitability over the next three to five years.

Ground these projections in solid assumptions based on your market analysis, industry benchmarks, and realistic growth scenarios. Break down revenue streams and include an analysis of the cost of goods sold, operating expenses, and potential investments.

This section should also discuss your break-even analysis, cash flow projections, and any assumptions about external funding requirements.

By presenting a thorough and data-backed financial forecast, you instill confidence in potential investors and lenders, showcasing your business’s potential for profitability and financial stability.

This forward-looking financial plan is crucial for demonstrating that you have a firm grasp of the financial nuances of your business and are prepared to manage its financial health effectively.

Example: Over the next three years, we expect to see significant growth in revenue, driven by new product launches and market expansion. Our financial projections include:

  • Year 1: $1.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $200,000.
  • Year 2: $3 million in revenue, with a net profit of $500,000.
  • Year 3: $4.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $1 million.

These projections are based on realistic market analysis, growth rates, and product pricing.

Income Statement

business plan

The income statement , also known as the profit and loss statement, provides a summary of your company’s revenues and expenses over a specified period. It helps you track your business’s financial performance and identify trends, ensuring you stay on track to achieve your financial goals.

Regularly reviewing and analyzing your income statement allows you to monitor the health of your business, evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies, and make data-driven decisions to optimize profitability and growth.

Example: The income statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

  • Revenue: $1,500,000
  • Cost of Goods Sold: $800,000
  • Gross Profit: $700,000
  • Operating Expenses: $450,000
  • Net Income: $250,000

This statement highlights our company’s profitability and overall financial health during the first year of operation.

Cash Flow Statement

business plan

A cash flow statement is a crucial part of a financial business plan that shows the inflows and outflows of cash within your business. It helps you monitor your company’s liquidity, ensuring you have enough cash on hand to cover operating expenses, pay debts, and invest in growth opportunities.

By including a cash flow statement in your business plan, you demonstrate your ability to manage your company’s finances effectively.

Example:  The cash flow statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

Operating Activities:

  • Depreciation: $10,000
  • Changes in Working Capital: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Operating Activities: $210,000

Investing Activities:

  •  Capital Expenditures: -$100,000
  • Net Cash from Investing Activities: -$100,000

Financing Activities:

  • Proceeds from Loans: $150,000
  • Loan Repayments: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Financing Activities: $100,000
  • Net Increase in Cash: $210,000

This statement demonstrates EcoTech’s ability to generate positive cash flow from operations, maintain sufficient liquidity, and invest in growth opportunities.

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

business plan

1. Be clear and concise: Keep your language simple and straightforward. Avoid jargon and overly technical terms. A clear and concise business plan is easier for investors and stakeholders to understand and demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively.

2. Conduct thorough research: Before writing your business plan, gather as much information as possible about your industry, competitors, and target market. Use reliable sources and industry reports to inform your analysis and make data-driven decisions.

3. Set realistic goals: Your business plan should outline achievable objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Setting realistic goals demonstrates your understanding of the market and increases the likelihood of success.

4. Focus on your unique selling proposition (USP): Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition. Emphasize your USP throughout your business plan to showcase your company’s value and potential for success.

5. Be flexible and adaptable: A business plan is a living document that should evolve as your business grows and changes. Be prepared to update and revise your plan as you gather new information and learn from your experiences.

6. Use visuals to enhance understanding: Include charts, graphs, and other visuals to help convey complex data and ideas. Visuals can make your business plan more engaging and easier to digest, especially for those who prefer visual learning.

7. Seek feedback from trusted sources: Share your business plan with mentors, industry experts, or colleagues and ask for their feedback. Their insights can help you identify areas for improvement and strengthen your plan before presenting it to potential investors or partners.

FREE Business Plan Template

To help you get started on your business plan, we have created a template that includes all the essential components discussed in the “How to Write a Business Plan” section. This easy-to-use template will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

The template is divided into the following sections:

  • Mission statement
  • Business Overview
  • Key products or services
  • Target market
  • Financial highlights
  • Company goals
  • Strategies to achieve goals
  • Measurable, time-bound objectives
  • Company History
  • Mission and vision
  • Unique selling proposition
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Pain points
  • Industry trends
  • Customer needs
  • Competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Competitor products and services
  • Market positioning
  • Pricing strategies
  • Organizational structure
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Management team backgrounds
  • Product or service features
  • Competitive advantages
  • Marketing channels
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotional activities
  • Sales strategies
  • Supply chain management
  • Inventory control
  • Production processes
  • Quality control measures
  • Projected revenue
  • Assumptions
  • Cash inflows
  • Cash outflows
  • Net cash flow

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a strategic document that outlines an organization’s goals, objectives, and the steps required to achieve them. It serves as a roadmap as you start a business , guiding the company’s direction and growth while identifying potential obstacles and opportunities.

Typically, a business plan covers areas such as market analysis, financial projections, marketing strategies, and organizational structure. It not only helps in securing funding from investors and lenders but also provides clarity and focus to the management team.

A well-crafted business plan is a very important part of your business startup checklist because it fosters informed decision-making and long-term success.

business plan

Why You Should Write a Business Plan

Understanding the importance of a business plan in today’s competitive environment is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are five compelling reasons to write a business plan:

  • Attract Investors and Secure Funding : A well-written business plan demonstrates your venture’s potential and profitability, making it easier to attract investors and secure the necessary funding for growth and development. It provides a detailed overview of your business model, target market, financial projections, and growth strategies, instilling confidence in potential investors and lenders that your company is a worthy investment.
  • Clarify Business Objectives and Strategies : Crafting a business plan forces you to think critically about your goals and the strategies you’ll employ to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for success. This process helps you refine your vision and prioritize the most critical objectives, ensuring that your efforts are focused on achieving the desired results.
  • Identify Potential Risks and Opportunities : Analyzing the market, competition, and industry trends within your business plan helps identify potential risks and uncover untapped opportunities for growth and expansion. This insight enables you to develop proactive strategies to mitigate risks and capitalize on opportunities, positioning your business for long-term success.
  • Improve Decision-Making : A business plan serves as a reference point so you can make informed decisions that align with your company’s overall objectives and long-term vision. By consistently referring to your plan and adjusting it as needed, you can ensure that your business remains on track and adapts to changes in the market, industry, or internal operations.
  • Foster Team Alignment and Communication : A shared business plan helps ensure that all team members are on the same page, promoting clear communication, collaboration, and a unified approach to achieving the company’s goals. By involving your team in the planning process and regularly reviewing the plan together, you can foster a sense of ownership, commitment, and accountability that drives success.

What are the Different Types of Business Plans?

In today’s fast-paced business world, having a well-structured roadmap is more important than ever. A traditional business plan provides a comprehensive overview of your company’s goals and strategies, helping you make informed decisions and achieve long-term success. There are various types of business plans, each designed to suit different needs and purposes. Let’s explore the main types:

  • Startup Business Plan: Tailored for new ventures, a startup business plan outlines the company’s mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections. It helps entrepreneurs clarify their vision, secure funding from investors, and create a roadmap for their business’s future. Additionally, this plan identifies potential challenges and opportunities, which are crucial for making informed decisions and adapting to changing market conditions.
  • Internal Business Plan: This type of plan is intended for internal use, focusing on strategies, milestones, deadlines, and resource allocation. It serves as a management tool for guiding the company’s growth, evaluating its progress, and ensuring that all departments are aligned with the overall vision. The internal business plan also helps identify areas of improvement, fosters collaboration among team members, and provides a reference point for measuring performance.
  • Strategic Business Plan: A strategic business plan outlines long-term goals and the steps to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for the company’s direction. It typically includes a SWOT analysis, market research, and competitive analysis. This plan allows businesses to align their resources with their objectives, anticipate changes in the market, and develop contingency plans. By focusing on the big picture, a strategic business plan fosters long-term success and stability.
  • Feasibility Business Plan: This plan is designed to assess the viability of a business idea, examining factors such as market demand, competition, and financial projections. It is often used to decide whether or not to pursue a particular venture. By conducting a thorough feasibility analysis, entrepreneurs can avoid investing time and resources into an unviable business concept. This plan also helps refine the business idea, identify potential obstacles, and determine the necessary resources for success.
  • Growth Business Plan: Also known as an expansion plan, a growth business plan focuses on strategies for scaling up an existing business. It includes market analysis, new product or service offerings, and financial projections to support expansion plans. This type of plan is essential for businesses looking to enter new markets, increase their customer base, or launch new products or services. By outlining clear growth strategies, the plan helps ensure that expansion efforts are well-coordinated and sustainable.
  • Operational Business Plan: This type of plan outlines the company’s day-to-day operations, detailing the processes, procedures, and organizational structure. It is an essential tool for managing resources, streamlining workflows, and ensuring smooth operations. The operational business plan also helps identify inefficiencies, implement best practices, and establish a strong foundation for future growth. By providing a clear understanding of daily operations, this plan enables businesses to optimize their resources and enhance productivity.
  • Lean Business Plan: A lean business plan is a simplified, agile version of a traditional plan, focusing on key elements such as value proposition, customer segments, revenue streams, and cost structure. It is perfect for startups looking for a flexible, adaptable planning approach. The lean business plan allows for rapid iteration and continuous improvement, enabling businesses to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions. This streamlined approach is particularly beneficial for businesses in fast-paced or uncertain industries.
  • One-Page Business Plan: As the name suggests, a one-page business plan is a concise summary of your company’s key objectives, strategies, and milestones. It serves as a quick reference guide and is ideal for pitching to potential investors or partners. This plan helps keep teams focused on essential goals and priorities, fosters clear communication, and provides a snapshot of the company’s progress. While not as comprehensive as other plans, a one-page business plan is an effective tool for maintaining clarity and direction.
  • Nonprofit Business Plan: Specifically designed for nonprofit organizations, this plan outlines the mission, goals, target audience, fundraising strategies, and budget allocation. It helps secure grants and donations while ensuring the organization stays on track with its objectives. The nonprofit business plan also helps attract volunteers, board members, and community support. By demonstrating the organization’s impact and plans for the future, this plan is essential for maintaining transparency, accountability, and long-term sustainability within the nonprofit sector.
  • Franchise Business Plan: For entrepreneurs seeking to open a franchise, this type of plan focuses on the franchisor’s requirements, as well as the franchisee’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. It is crucial for securing a franchise agreement and ensuring the business’s success within the franchise system. This plan outlines the franchisee’s commitment to brand standards, marketing efforts, and operational procedures, while also addressing local market conditions and opportunities. By creating a solid franchise business plan, entrepreneurs can demonstrate their ability to effectively manage and grow their franchise, increasing the likelihood of a successful partnership with the franchisor.

Using Business Plan Software

business plan

Creating a comprehensive business plan can be intimidating, but business plan software can streamline the process and help you produce a professional document. These tools offer a number of benefits, including guided step-by-step instructions, financial projections, and industry-specific templates. Here are the top 5 business plan software options available to help you craft a great business plan.

1. LivePlan

LivePlan is a popular choice for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features. It offers over 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, and the ability to track your progress against key performance indicators. With LivePlan, you can create visually appealing, professional business plans that will impress investors and stakeholders.

2. Upmetrics

Upmetrics provides a simple and intuitive platform for creating a well-structured business plan. It features customizable templates, financial forecasting tools, and collaboration capabilities, allowing you to work with team members and advisors. Upmetrics also offers a library of resources to guide you through the business planning process.

Bizplan is designed to simplify the business planning process with a drag-and-drop builder and modular sections. It offers financial forecasting tools, progress tracking, and a visually appealing interface. With Bizplan, you can create a business plan that is both easy to understand and visually engaging.

Enloop is a robust business plan software that automatically generates a tailored plan based on your inputs. It provides industry-specific templates, financial forecasting, and a unique performance score that updates as you make changes to your plan. Enloop also offers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget.

5. Tarkenton GoSmallBiz

Developed by NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, GoSmallBiz is tailored for small businesses and startups. It features a guided business plan builder, customizable templates, and financial projection tools. GoSmallBiz also offers additional resources, such as CRM tools and legal document templates, to support your business beyond the planning stage.

Business Plan FAQs

What is a good business plan.

A good business plan is a well-researched, clear, and concise document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, target market, competitive advantages, and financial projections. It should be adaptable to change and provide a roadmap for achieving success.

What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan?

The three main purposes of a business plan are to guide the company’s strategy, attract investment, and evaluate performance against objectives. Here’s a closer look at each of these:

  • It outlines the company’s purpose and core values to ensure that all activities align with its mission and vision.
  • It provides an in-depth analysis of the market, including trends, customer needs, and competition, helping the company tailor its products and services to meet market demands.
  • It defines the company’s marketing and sales strategies, guiding how the company will attract and retain customers.
  • It describes the company’s organizational structure and management team, outlining roles and responsibilities to ensure effective operation and leadership.
  • It sets measurable, time-bound objectives, allowing the company to plan its activities effectively and make strategic decisions to achieve these goals.
  • It provides a comprehensive overview of the company and its business model, demonstrating its uniqueness and potential for success.
  • It presents the company’s financial projections, showing its potential for profitability and return on investment.
  • It demonstrates the company’s understanding of the market, including its target customers and competition, convincing investors that the company is capable of gaining a significant market share.
  • It showcases the management team’s expertise and experience, instilling confidence in investors that the team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.
  • It establishes clear, measurable objectives that serve as performance benchmarks.
  • It provides a basis for regular performance reviews, allowing the company to monitor its progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • It enables the company to assess the effectiveness of its strategies and make adjustments as needed to achieve its objectives.
  • It helps the company identify potential risks and challenges, enabling it to develop contingency plans and manage risks effectively.
  • It provides a mechanism for evaluating the company’s financial performance, including revenue, expenses, profitability, and cash flow.

Can I write a business plan by myself?

Yes, you can write a business plan by yourself, but it can be helpful to consult with mentors, colleagues, or industry experts to gather feedback and insights. There are also many creative business plan templates and business plan examples available online, including those above.

We also have examples for specific industries, including a using food truck business plan , salon business plan , farm business plan , daycare business plan , and restaurant business plan .

Is it possible to create a one-page business plan?

Yes, a one-page business plan is a condensed version that highlights the most essential elements, including the company’s mission, target market, unique selling proposition, and financial goals.

How long should a business plan be?

A typical business plan ranges from 20 to 50 pages, but the length may vary depending on the complexity and needs of the business.

What is a business plan outline?

A business plan outline is a structured framework that organizes the content of a business plan into sections, such as the executive summary, company description, market analysis, and financial projections.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

The five most common business plan mistakes include inadequate research, unrealistic financial projections, lack of focus on the unique selling proposition, poor organization and structure, and failure to update the plan as circumstances change.

What questions should be asked in a business plan?

A business plan should address questions such as: What problem does the business solve? Who is the specific target market ? What is the unique selling proposition? What are the company’s objectives? How will it achieve those objectives?

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan focuses on the overall vision, goals, and tactics of a company, while a strategic plan outlines the specific strategies, action steps, and performance measures necessary to achieve the company’s objectives.

How is business planning for a nonprofit different?

Nonprofit business planning focuses on the organization’s mission, social impact, and resource management, rather than profit generation. The financial section typically includes funding sources, expenses, and projected budgets for programs and operations.

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business plan software for dummies

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

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Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.


Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

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Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

business plan software for dummies

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

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The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

Related content

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business
  • How to Get a Business License: What You Need to Know
  • What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

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How to start a business

Business plans for beginners: a step-by-step guide

business plan software for dummies

Have you ever put together a business plan before? It’s no joke. There are a lot of factors to consider as you start to build one, and there’s often a nagging feeling at the back of your mind: is my idea good enough? Will anybody be as excited about this business as I am? 

Don’t worry; we’re here to help.

If you’re ready to start a small business, a business plan is the way to take your idea and put it into action. As you’ll see, it’s not just for the investors or the bank’s benefit. When it’s done well, a business plan can serve as your very own road map to a successful, sustainable new business. 

The good news is, there’s no one right way to write a business plan, but there are some tips and tricks that can ensure you include all the important information any lender or investor will want to see before they go into business with you. 

Today, we’ll share: 

4 guiding principles for a successful business plan

  • 8 common mistakes in writing a business plan
  • Choose your own adventure: which business plan is right for you?  

Build your own traditional business plan in 8 steps

  • Build your own lean business plan (sample plan included!)

BONUS: Add depth to any business plan with these sections

  • 7 tips for a killer business plan pitch deck
  • Tools to help you build your business plan
  • More resources: helpful books for starting a small business  

We have lots of in-depth advice ahead on how to craft a business plan that’s specific to your small business idea. But first, here are some broader guidelines that should help you get in the right headspace:

1. Be objective

We know this idea is your baby, your pride and joy. It’s hard to stand back and evaluate it without the rose-colored glasses. But the better you are at seeing your idea’s strengths and weaknesses, the better you’ll be able to improve and see issues coming before they snowball into problems, both before you launch and as a business owner. 

2. Be realistic

Some new small business owners think they need to pad the numbers and set lofty expectations for the first few years of a business. But when you overpromise, you’re bound to underdeliver, and that impresses nobody. You also should avoid sandbagging, or underpromising on purpose just to look extra successful. Be honest as you build your plan. Investors and lenders understand the first five years of a small business can be tough with limited to modest profits. 

3. Be specific

You might be a big-idea person who doesn’t love the details, but this is the time to take a deep breath and dive into the details. The more details you understand about your business, the better you can respond to the questions and concerns of lenders and investors.

4. Ask for help

While most of the pieces of your plan might come from your own heart, soul, and brain, there are sure to be sections that aren’t as easy to rattle off. A business plan takes a lot of different skills, and it’s uncommon that anyone is good at all of them: market analysis, financial projections, strategic thinking, supply chain… the list goes on. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your community and find some experts to help make your plan sing. This could mean engaging a market research analyst or an accountant to help with financial projections, or even a fellow small business owner who’s been through the new-business wringer before and can help you navigate the red tape and share what investors appreciate most in a plan. 

If you don’t know anyone who can help you yet, we’ve got you covered. The Small Business Administration offers free, local counseling for entrepreneurs that can point you in the right direction. 

Pro-tip: A business plan isn’t just for your investors or loan officers. It’s a guide for you and a great way to attract top talent to your business. A well-written and researched plan helps you best understand your own idea and its viability so you can sell that idea to all important stakeholders. Put in the time to make this document a reliable resource; we promise you won’t regret it.

8 common mistakes in writing a business plan 

Before we dive into the different ways to build a business plan, let’s start with some of the common traps that new business plans fall into: 

1. Financial projections that don’t add up

Loan officers and most investors know money and the realities of new-business revenue and spending, and they can smell fishy numbers from a mile away. Your financials are not a place to fudge it. Make sure you get some expert advice and assistance to ensure your projects are as airtight as can be.

2. Unfounded claims 

Three words to live by when building a business plan: do your research. The research you do into the markets, potential audience, and competitors will inform your projections and instill confidence in the assumptions you make. This is another area where it might help to have a professional assist you, if you’re new to the entrepreneurial game.

3. Unclear goals 

Don’t leave your investors guessing about your key milestones and objectives. Use your research and financials to create realistic, specific goals. These will be especially important to investors, who are looking to make a return on their investment and want a trustworthy timeline on when that could happen. 

4. Ignoring the competition 

Unless you’ve invented something the world has never seen before, your business idea will have competitors. And even if your idea is completely novel, chances are you’re looking to better fill a need that other businesses or industries are currently serving. What we mean to say is: you’ve got competition, no matter your business idea. Investors know this, and they want to know that you can clearly see who your competitors are and how you’ll set yourself apart. 

5. A blind spot for your business’s weaknesses and risks

You might think that you should avoid talking about the risks to your idea when you’re building your business plan. And while you don’t need to harp on them, you should fully understand what your weaknesses are and acknowledge them somewhere in the plan, along with potential solutions to compensate for them. If you don’t show your awareness of risks and weaknesses in the plan, investors might think you’re hiding something. 

The better you know your own weaknesses, the better you can address lender and investor concerns about them.

6. Overhyped impact

Your little bookstore doesn’t have to change the world. We know you’re excited about your business idea, and you should be; that passion will take you far. But a common pitfall of new entrepreneurs is to overstate how their idea will impact the market or the community. Remember, you’ll have to live up to what you put down in your plan, so be sure you can make good on the statements therein.

7. Not enough outside insight

If you’re the only person looking at your business plan, you might be heading for a “no” from lenders or investors. It’s critical that you get other people’s eyes on your plan before you present or submit it.

Even if the people in your life have no experience in business, your plan should be easy enough for them to read, understand, and critique. And if you want expert feedback, there are several free resources available to hopeful small business owners, including the Small Business Administration’s network of counselors .

8. Poor readability

Spelling and grammar matter. If your investors and lenders can’t get through your plan because of easy-to-fix mistakes, they might question your attention to detail. If grammar isn’t your thing, have a friend proofread your plan before you share. It can also help to read your plan aloud to catch these kinds of errors. 

Choose your own adventure: Which business plan is right for you? 

Business plans aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are lots of ways to create the right plan for you, depending on what your financial backers and other stakeholders need to see in order to have confidence in your idea. But overall, most plans fall into one of two models: 

Impress with a traditional business plan

A traditional business plan is the more in-depth of the two, full of fleshed-out financials, market analyses, risk assessment, and other nitty-gritty factors. This is the model to use if you’re looking for a small business loan from a bank and some investor situations. 

The pros: This comprehensive plan is extremely detailed and, if done properly, is sure to make your investors feel safe putting their funding into your new venture.

The cons: These plans take a longer time to pull together, which could slow down your timeline. Plus, the traditional model is more granular and tends to leave out more high-level, strategic ideation that some investors might find important. 

To follow the traditional business plan model, click here . 

Inspire with a lean business plan, or business model canvas

If a traditional business plan is the trees, a lean plan is the forest. The one-page approach, also known as a business model canvas, is more about the concepts and big picture of your future business and is focused on relationships, key activities, and your overall value proposition. This type of plan is popular for startups or super-simple and small business ventures looking for independent investors. 

The pros: This version might get you out the door first, since it usually involves less upfront analysis. It can also be the more inspiring and visionary of the two models, since it focuses on the big ideas and broader impact than the nuts and bolts. 

The cons: Investors kind of love the nuts and bolts, most of the time. After you’ve sold them with your high-level concept, chances are you’ll have to dig in on the details, which might feel like you’ve doubled your work. 

To follow the lean business plan model, click here . 

Start your remote-ready business in 10 steps

business plan software for dummies

It’s time to get those facts and figures together and floor your potential investors! 

Here are the main sections of a traditional business plan that you should include:

1. Executive summary

Whether it’s a bank loan officer or an investor reading your business plan, chances are they’re short on time and need the fast facts up front. The executive summary opens your plan, and it’s where you share your overall mission statement, along with important market analyses and financial projections.

A top-notch executive summary will give readers the most important details in the first few pages of your plan so they feel confident in your idea and interested in reading on.  

Pro-tip: Write your executive summary last. You’ll be able to see the full picture of your plan more clearly, and that means you can sum it up more effectively.

2. Company description

In this section, give all the specifics about your business, and don’t be afraid to brag. The more tangible and sure-footed you can make the company feel, the more confident your investors will be in the concept. 

Here are some of the questions your company description should answer: 

  • Who are you? What’s your business’s name?
  • What are you selling?
  • Where and how do you plan to sell it? 
  • How does your business solve problems for customers? 
  • Who do you plan to serve? Individual customers, other businesses, or both? 
  • How is your business unique from its competitors? 
  • What makes this business a successful idea… or, why should someone give you money to pursue it? 

3. Market research and competitive analysis

Here’s where the nitty-gritty details come into play. It’s time to do some research on your future market and analyze that data to make decisions on how to structure your business, and what you can reasonably charge for goods and services. 

Not a huge fan of data? Don’t sweat it. You can hire market research analysts who will do the heavy lifting for you. We highly recommend finding a professional to help with the research if it’s not in your wheelhouse, since it’s really important to get the numbers right.  

Here are some areas of analysis you’ll need to include in your business plan: 

  • Where does your business fit in the world? 
  • How large is the current market? 
  • How is the market currently structured? 
  • What does year-over-year growth look like in this market? 
  • Is the market trending in a positive direction? If not, how will a business like yours pick up the slack and reinvigorate the market?
  • What are consumers clamoring for in this market today?
  • How have businesses adjusted to customer demand? Where have they fallen short?
  • Are businesses themselves setting trends that have taken off? What are they and how will your business respond? 
  • How does your business answer the call for these trends and themes? 
  • How does your business anticipate trends on the horizon? 
  • Who’s currently doing what your business plans to do? 
  • What are these other companies’ strengths and weaknesses? 
  • How will your business outdo competitor strengths and pick up the slack on their weaknesses? 
Pro-tip : Be sure to include ways your business idea disrupts the status quo of the market you’re targeting, if it plans to do so. Disruption is the name of the game today, and investors who are looking for the Next Big Thing might be excited and impressed by this potential. 

4. Company structure and operations

This section is where you detail the people and processes that will keep your business profitable. 

In the company operations section, it’s a good idea to include: 

  • Your proposed business’s legal structure: LLC, nonprofit, sole proprietorship, etc.
  • An organizational chart for easy reading and understanding 
  • A detailed breakdown of who is responsible for which aspects of the business
  • Bios of your team members: showcase the expertise and experience your team has, especially in this market, since that can instill confidence in your idea
  • Projected staffing needs and onboarding process, as well as the cost to compensate these team members 
  • Your approach to building relationships in the community and market to promote business growth 
  • Plans for growth: how will you scale up efficiently while offering the same level of service to your customers? What might need to be outsourced to third-party partners as you grow?
  • Zoning permits, licensing, rent (if applicable): nail down the brass tacks of what it costs to keep your doors open in this section, so your investor knows you’ve thought of everything.

5. Your service and product line

You’ve mentioned what you plan to sell in your executive summary. Now it’s time to, you guessed it, dig into the details. 

In your service and product line section, be sure to include:

  • A list of the initial products and/or services you plan to sell 
  • The initial pricing for each of these items
  • The product life cycle (if applicable): how are your products made, how long does it take, and what does it cost?
  • Third-party services (if applicable): do you engage outside help for the development of your products? For example, if you sell perfumes, do you fill vials yourself or do you work with a bottling company? 
  • Intellectual property plans (if applicable): where are you in the patent process? 
  • Research and development details (if applicable): What is the R&D process for new products, who is involved, and what does it cost?

6. Sales and marketing plan

The data is all well and good, but how will you take action on it and move your products and services? Having even a tentative sales and marketing plan in place that discusses how you’ll position yourself in the market and attract customers can go a long way to proving you have a game plan beyond getting the doors open.

Here are some key elements to include in your sales and marketing plan: 

  • Sample messaging : How do you plan to talk about your company in the market to attract customers? What solution are you selling, and how will you convey that? 
  • Sample design work : How will you grab the market’s attention? Decide on the “look and feel” of your business: the website, packaging, and advertisements.
  • Promotion strategy : How much do you plan to set aside for advertising and other promotions? Where will you advertise, and how will you measure success? 
  • Sales process : How will your team nurture a new lead until they become a customer? How will they upsell/cross sell to them? Where will they look for new leads and relationships? 
  • Customer service and retention : Marketing doesn’t stop when a customer buys from you for the first time. Keeping customers happy is a huge piece of growing a small business. Be sure to outline your plan for proactive, delightful customer experiences.

7. Your ask

Even if you have to close your eyes while you do it, you’re going to have to write down the exact amount of money you’re asking for from investors or the bank. If you’ve done the rest of this business plan with great attention to detail and objectivity, the number should be pretty clear and based on your projected overhead. 

The Small Business Administration recommends asking for the amount you’ll need to keep the doors open for the first five years, so be sure to think ahead when calculating that number. And whether you’re working with a bank or an investor, clearly outline the terms you seek for repayment. 

Be specific in this section about how you will spend this particular funding. If you’ve already nailed down a loan for business supplies, for example, be upfront with your investors about needing their support to compensate your team and keep the lights on. People are likely to feel more comfortable investing if they know exactly how their money will be used. 

Pro-tip: Don’t sell yourself short. When looking for investors, ask for what you need, not what you think someone will give. You never know what someone is willing to invest until you ask, so give them the opportunity to pleasantly surprise you!  

8. Financial projections

You might see some investors skip right to this section of your proposal, after seeing the highlights in your executive summary. While everything else in your business plan is important, you can’t blame them for wanting to know how financially sound your idea is… and how much money they might stand to make as a result. 

This piece is also crucial to you as the potential business owner. Numbers don’t lie, so make sure you listen; if the projections aren’t positive, you might need to rethink your plan. 

Here’s what your financial projection section might include, depending on your position as you launch a new business: 

  • Projections for the first five years: Provide detailed, quarterly financial outlooks for the first year or two, and annual projections after that. Total operating expenses: Be explicit about what exactly it will cost to run your business for the next five years. This includes everything from office space to supplies to salaries. And be sure to account for inflation and business growth! 
  • Break-even analysis: The amount of revenue you’ll need to cover costs and, well, break even. This should be pretty accurate for the first year, given your projected operating expenses, and should be adjusted for increased expenses in the next four years, depending on your projected growth. 
  • Forecasted income and expenses: What can you reasonably expect to bring in over the next five years? What ongoing expenses can you plan for or predict?
  • Projected balance sheets: Balance sheets tell investors what financial resources you’ll have on hand after your expenses to re-invest into growing the business: basically, how healthy do you expect your business to be in five years’ time? 
  • Projected cash flow statements : This tells your investors how much cash will be coming into your business from sales and how that cash is being spent in a given year. 
  • Potential collateral: If you’re looking to get a bank loan, be sure to include any additional collateral that you can put up against the loan. 
Pro-tip: Don’t skimp on the expert input. Find a great accountant you trust to help you develop the financial projections for the first five years of your business, so you know they’re sound enough to share with your investors or bank.  If you want help calculating costs, try the Small Business Administration’s startup calculator here .

Build your own lean business plan 

It’s time to polish up your vision and inspire those potential backers to believe in your idea with a high-level, conceptual plan. Some startups are able to accomplish their lean plan in one page, but feel free to add the amount of detail that makes you (and your investors) most comfortable. 

Here are the usual sections of a lean business plan that you might want to include or adjust as you see fit. We’ll lay it out in the traditional lean plan format, based on the Small Business Administration’s suggestions, to show you just how high-level it can be. But remember: a lean plan can be whatever you need it to be, so don’t be shy about adjusting the structure and content to suit your investors’ needs. 

Here’s an idea of what you can include in your one-sheet lean business plan, using an online flower delivery service as an example: 

Pro-tip: An appendix can really come in handy if you’re doing a lean business plan. Attach some more concrete financial projections and any other background research you’ve done to bolster this more conceptual, strategic plan model.

Here are a few extra sections you can sprinkle in to either plan format to give your investors even more peace of mind: 

Your story. Paint a complete picture of your business’s journey up to this moment. Tell the story of how your idea was born, why it’s important to you and the world, and what your vision is for the future.

Product development and distribution plan. If you’re selling products, this is a great piece to add within your product line section. A distribution plan shows exactly how your products go from concept to customer. Seeing that flow chart clearly is helpful for both you and your investors. 

Risk assessment and mitigation. Are you looking to break into a high-risk industry like construction, cannabis, or even owning your own restaurant? Chances are your investors want to see that you are aware of the risks and have plans in place to manage them. 

Early wins. Do you already have proof that your business is in demand? Maybe you’ve been selling your products informally to family and friends to gauge interest, or other investors have already ponied up because they love your idea. It’s a good idea to include these wins in your business plan. Seeing that others already believe in you will make it easier for new investors to make that leap of faith, so include these facts and figures to invigorate confidence. 

7 tips for a killer business plan pitch deck 

As you do research for writing your business plan, you’ll probably hear about a pitch deck. This is a slide-show version of your plan that might come in handy. You’re likely to need a pitch deck if you’re looking for investors. Most banks’ small business loan officers just want the facts on paper and don’t expect to see a pitch deck. 

Here are some pointers to help you create a dynamic, easy-to-follow pitch deck:

1. Include overview and conclusion slides 

This is a classic teacher technique: tell the audience what you’re going to show them, show them what you promised, and recap what you’ve shown . This gives your listeners an experience that has a beginning, middle, and end… and you’ll see in #2 that this might be more important than you thought. 

Take a moment at the top of your presentation to tell your investors exactly what you’ll cover in your allotted time, so they know what’s coming. Then include a wrap-up slide at the end, with a few of the key points from the presentation, to tie it all together. 

2. Tell a story

Since the beginning of humankind we’ve loved and gravitated toward storytelling, from cave paintings to binge-watching the latest season of our favorite show. And it’s not just for entertainment purposes; a classic Stanford study once showed that people retain information when delivered in the form of a story six to seven times better than they do when the same information is given as dry lists or statistics. 

This doesn’t mean you need to open your presentation with “Once upon a time.” Just focus on the story of you and what brought you to this big idea: what roadblocks were you running into when you saw the solution? What product did you need that didn’t exist? Share the cold, hard financial facts, of course, but don’t leave out the you of this journey. Use storytelling to build trust in your vision and inspire passion in this new business venture. 

3. Hit the high-level points of your business plan

A pitch deck should stick to the most important pieces of information that investors need, in order to hold their attention from beginning to end. 

Here’s where you should spend your time in a pitch deck: 

  • Who you are and why you’re the one to run this business
  • What problem the business solves
  • How you’ll spend the investment money 
  • When investors will see an ROI, or return on investment

4. Make your data more digestible

In both your business plan and your pitch deck, make sure your market research and financial projections are easy to read and understand. Use the tools at your disposal to make the numbers sing: charts, graphs, statistics spelled out big and bold. 

5. Keep it simple

The more uniform and clean your pitch deck is, the easier it will be to read and retain. Stick to one font, one color scheme, throughout the deck. Make sure the graphics you decide to use—images, charts, graphs, other designed pieces—are high quality and sprinkled in. Do your best not to clutter slides with multiple graphics, as this can make your presentation harder to follow. 

6. Brevity is your friend

Speaking of holding your audience’s attention: pare down the text on your slides to the most essential points. A good pitch deck is usually 10 to 15 slides, with around a minute spent on each slide. Be sure you’re only tackling one topic per slide to keep things focused.

Your pitch deck is for the investors’ engagement, so if you need more detailed reminders about what to cover, create separate notes for yourself instead of crowding the slides with text. If you need to provide your audience with more context, you can always add an Appendix at the end of the deck, which investors can review on their own time. (And don’t forget your business plan! It should answer most of the more detailed questions your investors have.) 

7. EXTRA: Present your deck

The way you present your pitch deck is as important as its contents. Here are some

  • Be clear on your time frame, and stick to it. If someone has money to invest in your business, odds are good that they’re a busy person. Show that you respect their schedule by ensuring your pitch fits into the timeframe they’ve carved out for you. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. The smoother your presentation can go, the better. Give your potential investors added confidence by knowing your facts, figures, and slides backward and forward. Set a timer while you practice, so you know if you need to pick up the pace or speak more slowly.
  • Make eye contact. Have you ever sat through a presentation where someone stood at the screen, reading off their slides without any acknowledgement of the audience? It’s not exactly the most dynamic approach to a pitch. It’s okay to glance at your notes when needed, but make sure you also engage with your listeners. When you look at your audience, you can see questions bubbling up on their faces. Stopping to ask for understanding before a question is even asked might encourage more people to speak up and interact with you, which builds trust.  Practicing your material ahead of time goes a long way toward this important step.
  • Stop for questions. It can be hard to remember to ask for listener input while giving a presentation, especially if you’re nervous. Work this important piece into your practice, so it becomes part of the presentation itself. Also: even if you stop for questions, you might get interrupted with them at other points. Let it happen, and answer their question fully. Finding out where people are either confused or looking for more detail will also help you tweak your pitch deck if you plan on presenting to multiple audiences.
  • Stay on your toes. No matter how well you prepare, live presentations can always surprise you. As you prepare and practice, remember to expect the unexpected and not get tunnel vision on your pitch. Handle whatever is within your control with grace and a sense of humor.
  • Watch the clock. Pace yourself, and make sure to stop at your given time. Depending on the number of questions you’ve taken during the pitch, you might be behind when time’s up. It’s better to stop and ask if the investors have time for your final slides than to potentially make them late for their next appointment.
  • Wrap up with earnest thanks. Don’t forget to say thank you! Your conclusion is also a good time to remind your investors why you’re the one who should run this new business. Leave them with the memory of your passion for the venture.
  • Save sharing your presentation until the end. Whether it’s via email or hard copies, you’ll retain people’s focus better if they don’t have something to flip through while you’re talking. Pass around or send out your presentation once you’ve concluded, so folks can peruse on their own time. 

Tools to help you build a business plan 

If you need some help organizing your ideas and building your first business plan, here are some tools that can assist: 

  • The Small Business Administration’s startup calculator. Not sure what to project as your initial costs? Download this editable worksheet , plug in your categories and numbers, and you’ll get a better idea of what funding you need to ask for.
  • LivePlan. This online business-planning tool helps you write your plan (either in-depth or lean) and comes with industry benchmark data that can help with your market research. You can also track your funding progress right in the app. Multiple review sites have named LivePlan the best software for help writing a business plan.
  • RocketLawyer. Get legal assistance on your documents without having an attorney on retainer. RocketLawyer has an entire section of their website dedicated to helping folks launch businesses, and you can breathe easy knowing the legal side will be handled. 
  • SCORE free business resources. SCORE is a resource partner of the Small Business Administration and offers free business counseling to entrepreneurs. Visit SCORE to find a mentor, download business plan templates, and explore their library of resources.

More resources: helpful books for starting a small business

Starting a business is a big undertaking. If you want to do some more research before you start making your plan, here are some helpful reads: 

  • Mind Your Business: A Workbook to Grow Your Creative Passion Into a Full-time Gig (Ilana Griffo, 2019). In addition to covering all the basics of starting a business, including the legal and tax hurdles, this workbook-style guide has checklists and other writing activities to help you put the theory of starting a business into practice.
  • Starting a Business QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Successful Small Business, Turning Your Vision into Reality, and Achieving Your Entrepreneurial Dream (Ken Colwell, 2019). This book comes backed with the author’s 20 years of experience working with entrepreneurs and will help you sort out how viable your business idea is and how to get it off the ground.
  • Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days (Chris Guillebeau, 2017). This book takes a more entertaining, conversational approach to launching a new business, and it’s backed up by hundreds of case studies and written by a New York Times bestselling author in the entrepreneurial world. 
  • Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business (Fred S. Steingold, 2017). This book is in its fifteenth edition, and we can see why. It breaks down the legal intricacies of starting a business that most new entrepreneurs aren’t familiar with: taxes for small businesses, structuring partnership agreements, creating an LLC, and more. 
  • Small Business For Dummies (Schell & Tyson, 2018). From the classic how-to series comes the fifth edition of their popular book on starting a small business. You’ll get all the basics you need in the no-nonsense approach the Dummies series always provides, from authors with decades of experience in launching businesses. And if you’re specifically looking to start an online business, try Starting an Online Business for Dummies . 

Your business plan: the hard work will pay off

Creating a business plan can feel overwhelming at first if you’ve never made one before. And we won’t lie; it does take a little bit of elbow grease to put one together. 

But a business plan done well, be it traditional or lean, will either reinforce how great your idea is or help you find ways to make it even better. Take the time to do it well, and you’ll have a much easier time securing funding for your new small business venture. 

Got your plan in hand? Read on to learn about key business fundamentals for success.

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How to write a business plan in 10 easy steps

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Does writing your first business plan sound a bit daunting? You’re not alone. Many startups struggle with this essential step in getting a small business off the ground. If you need a helping hand with writing a business plan, we’ve broken it down into ten easy steps.

Before we get started, let’s understand why writing a business plan is such an important ingredient in the recipe for startup success.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a document where you record everything you plan to achieve, state how you’re going to do it and detail the resources you’ll need to succeed. It includes information about your vision for the business, the products or services you plan to provide and financial projections.

From outlining your goals and organisational structure to explaining your marketing strategy, your business plan should keep you on track and help you avoid potential pitfalls. The document doesn’t have to be complicated but it does have to be well thought through and based on strong research.

Why do I need to write a business plan?

Writing a business plan is the first step to startup success. Research shows that business owners who write a business plan are more likely to succeed than those who don’t .

But why? How can a single document make so much difference?

  • Writing a business plan helps you think through every element of your business in advance, so there should be no unexpected surprises to derail you along the way.
  • Referring to your business plan during your first year of trading can help you stay on track, prioritise your resources and measure progress against your goals.
  • A business plan is essential if you hope to secure startup funding, such as a Start Up Loan or other investment.

How to write a business plan

Ready to get stuck in? Use the ten sections below to write your business plan and you’ll be one step closer to starting your dream business.

  • Cover page and contents
  • Executive summary
  • Mission, vision and goals
  • Products and services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Organisational details
  • Financial plan

Before you start, remember, your business plan needs to be a living document: something that articulates your vision to potential investors and employees. So keep it simple and don’t use complicated jargon.

Most importantly, be realistic. Base your plan on market research and sensible financial projections. Underestimating costs or overestimating demand will only harm your chances of success, and it will undermine your credibility with potential funders.

With that in mind, let’s get started.

1. Cover page and contents

Despite the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, it’s best to be on the safe side! Prepare a smart cover page that includes your company name, a high-resolution image of your logo, your name and contact information.

Once you’ve completed your business plan, you can insert a contents page in between the cover page and executive summary to list key sections and page numbers.

2. Executive summary

The executive summary communicates the key points of your business plan. This may be the only part of your business plan that someone will read, so it needs to summarise the rest of the document in a single page and encourage them to read on.

Potential funders are busy people, so get straight to the point and use concise paragraphs . Cover the headline news about your business, namely:

  • What your business does
  • Your products or services
  • What makes you unique ( your USP )
  • The target market and projected demand
  • A brief financial overview

As this section is an overview of everything else in your business plan, you should write this last, once the rest of the content is finalised.

3. Mission, vision and goals

Why does your business exist and what do you want to achieve? You can answer these questions with your mission, vision and goals.

Your mission statement is a short and inspiring summary of why your business exists. It’s a way to communicate what you do and provide a focus for your business activities. It can even help you plan and prioritise, by reminding you of your core purpose.

For example, a commercial cleaning business might have the following mission: ‘To make businesses a better place to work by providing high-quality commercial cleaning that goes above and beyond the industry standard.’

For more inspiration, take a look at these examples of mission statements from successful businesses .

Your vision is how the world will look if you’re successful in your mission. Consider the ultimate benefit your business will bring to its customers. How do you want people to see your business?

Express the dream scenario, whether it’s to be the leader in your market or to make a difference in your customers’ lives.

For example, our cleaning company’s vision might be ‘Higher standards, healthier workplaces, happier staff’. This communicates the company’s USP (higher standards) and the benefit they bring to their customers (healthier workplaces, happier staff).

Goals are an essential part of your business plan. These aren’t just guesses about what you might like to do. Strong business goals are based on what you need to deliver in your first year of business and how you plan to achieve that.

Remember, goals always need to be SMART : specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

For example, our cleaning firm might have a goal to recruit 24 new clients in their first year. That’s a great start because it’s definitely SMART.

Next, they’ll need to break that down into smaller, more manageable goals, to help them achieve it. For example:

  • To have a basic website in advance of launch, and online booking within three months
  • To grow a social media audience comparable to their nearest competitor within the first six months
  • To distribute flyers to 250 local businesses each month and follow up with a phone call within two working days

Each of these goals could be broken down even further to create a month-by-month work plan for the business. This makes it much easier to stay on track and prioritise time effectively.

4. Products and services

Next, it’s time to talk about what your business is actually going to sell. Whether that’s products or services, describe them in detail. Consider information like:

  • What the product or service is
  • Unique features
  • Customer need
  • Whether you’re filling a gap in the market
  • Why customers will choose you over competitors
  • Where customers will buy it
  • Where customers will use or experience it
  • Pricing strategy (what you plan to charge and why)

You want to paint a clear picture of what you’re selling, why people will choose to spend their money with you and what benefits they get as a result. Thinking this through will really help when you start to promote your business.

5. Market analysis

This, alongside your financial projections, is the most important part of your business plan. It’s where you’ll record the results of any market research you’ve conducted. And if you want to have a successful startup, market research is a must!

Below is a quick rundown of basic market research. Once you’ve conducted it, use what you’ve discovered to demonstrate the potential of your product or services. Use graphs and charts to make it easier to digest.

Identify your target market

Firstly, you need to decide who your target market is. Who exactly will buy your products or services? Are they individuals or businesses? Where are they based? What income group do they belong to? This will help you plan effective pricing, marketing and sales.

For example:

  • Young professionals aged 21-35 in the Liverpool region
  • UK-based food manufacturers
  • Cost-conscious fashion fans in north-east England

Assess the size of your target market

Next, you need to work out how many people there are in your target market and how many, realistically, are likely to become customers. There are lots of sources of information to help you, including census information and commercial reports.

Survey your target market

Market research with your target customers can provide valuable insights that will help hone your business plan. For example:

  • Do they like the product?
  • What would they be willing to pay?
  • Who else might they buy from?

There are lots of ways to solicit opinion: from online surveys to in-person focus groups. Find out about different market research techniques and choose what’s right for you.

Identify your place in the market

Once you’ve researched your target market, you need to understand your place within it. Who are your competitors? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Market analysis typically includes:

  • SWOT analysis - looking at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • PEST analysis - political, economic, social and technological factors that might impact your business
  • Competitor analysis - who you’re competing against and how you compare

6. Marketing plan

Once you’ve completed your market analysis, you’re well equipped to write your marketing plan.

Marketing is made up of different elements which are sometimes referred to as ‘the four Ps’:

  • Product: what are you selling and what’s the USP?
  • Place: where will you sell your product to maximise access to your target market?
  • Price: what will you charge for your product to appeal to your target market?
  • Promotion: what’s your strategy for reaching your target customer?

Your marketing plan should explain how you’ll combine these different elements to stand out and maximise your appeal to your target market.

Consider your budget and how you will measure success. If you’d like to know more, check out this beginners’ guide to startup marketing .

7. Operations

This is where you go into detail about what you’ll need to deliver your product or services.

For relatively simple businesses, such as offering freelance services, this might be uncomplicated. But for other businesses, such as manufacturers or retailers, it can require more advance planning. Consider factors like:

  • Ingredients, materials and supplies
  • Suppliers and distributors
  • Routes to market
  • Technology, including accounting software such as FreeAgent

This will prepare you for the reality of setting up your business, the relationships you’ll need to develop and the potential costs you’ll incur.

It will also help funders understand how you plan to spend their investment and have confidence that you understand what you’re proposing.

8. Organisational details

This is where you record information about how your company will be structured and run. This section should provide clarity about different roles within the business. It should also give any investors confidence in your ability to deliver.

Include information like:

  • Your business structure ( limited company , sole trader or Limited Liability Partnership )
  • When you were established and began (or plan to begin) trading
  • Your management team, their roles, qualifications and experience - even if it’s just you!
  • Any actions you’ve taken as a business so far, such as registering patents or copyright
  • Your registered address and contact details

9. Financial plan

Now it’s time to outline your business finances. Investors will be reading this section carefully, so make sure to double-check your figures.

Many startups fail because of poor financial planning - such as failing to understand the impact of cashflow on a fledgling business - so this stage is really important.

As a new business, you’re likely to incur startup costs before you start making any sales, so you’ll always need enough money in the bank to keep you afloat.

A financial plan typically includes:

  • Profit and loss (income statement) - the income statement allows your reader to see your revenue and expenses. If you’ve only just started your business, this can be a forecast.
  • Cashflow statement - this is an estimate of what you expect to spend and receive over a period of time.
  • Balance sheet ( assets and liabilities ) - outline what you own and what you owe.

If you’re unclear on any of the above, it’s worth speaking to a bookkeeper or accountant.

Software such as FreeAgent can help you keep an eye on your business finances and prepare for Self Assessment.

10. Appendix

The appendix is a section where you can include additional information to support your business plan. It lets you provide extra detail for people who are interested, without making the body of your business plan too bulky.

Here, you can include numbers in more detail, your CV, legal agreements and any additional product information, such as market data, imagery, copy and designs.

Congratulations, you’ve made it. You’ve written your business plan, gone back to complete the executive summary, and you’re ready to share it with the world.

If you’re going to use your business plan to apply for funding, it’s a good idea to print a copy and professionally bind it, so it looks smart and credible.

Even if it’s just for your reference, keep a copy of your business plan to hand and refer to it regularly. Think of it as your roadmap to success.

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FreeAgent makes it easy to manage your daily bookkeeping, get a complete view of your business finances and relax about tax.

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Top 10 Business Plan Software to Help with Your Business 2024

Edward simmons.

Updated by March 18,2024

Business Plan software is a one-stop solution for the entire business plan creation process. It will help you organize information for the business plan and allow you to choose between a traditional business plan or a more dynamic video presentation.

Most entrepreneurs have to rely on the best business software to draft business plans electronically. It works best when they need to show their plans to investors or consulting companies. When using the business plan software of your choice, you'll come across various templates that are basically samples of effective business plans to make your job a bit easy.

Many great business plan software providers focus on essential templates designed for different categories of businesses like service companies, the manufacturing industry, the health industry, the food industry, retail, banks, restaurant, sports and entertainment, education, and so on.

However, there are many business plan software options available to help you create a professional plan that can guide your business to success. With so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which software is best for your needs. So, this write-up will mention the top ten business plan software to help with your business in 2024, so let's begin with the first one.

  • 10 Business Plan Software to Help Your Business   Show list  
  • Business Sorter
  • MAUS MasterPlan

Wrapping Up

1. liveplan.

First, in this list, we have LivePlan , which is effective for those looking for template-rich and affordable business plan software. With LivePlan, you get over 500 free and full-length sample business plans and step-by-step assistance to make a trouble-free start.

Coming to its features, you get to compare the industry benchmark, gain access to educational materials, a one-page business plan, and more.

As LivePlan is one of the most affordable options you can get, you need to pay as per its plans, and the price for them are:

  • Pay-as-you-go Plan: $20/month (billed monthly)
  • 6-month Plan: $18/month (billed every 6 months)
  • Annual Plan: $15/month (billed annually)

According to some users, using LivePlan requires a learning curve, and they cannot customize the financial projection dates. Apart from that, you get limited third-party integration which can be a major drawback of this software.

When it comes to understanding the whole perspective of growing your business, Cuttles comes forward as the best business plan software . Its fully interactive and guided interface helps entrepreneurs to start businesses more efficiently than they could. In addition, Cuttles has features such as a freemium version to use, a one-page pitch section, proper financial forecasts, a team feature to showcase your team, a multilingual option, and multiple share & export options.

Regarding the prices, most users rely on its freemium plan with limited features, no guidance, and no share & export option. Other than that, you get three plans:

  • Seed Plan - €8 (billed annually) - for startups and early-stage businesses with a one-page business plan template, financial forecasting tools, and investor readiness tools.
  • Grow Plan - €16 (billed annually) - for small to medium-sized businesses with a five-year financial forecast, a pitch deck builder, and a business model canvas.
  • Series Plan - €48 (billed annually) - for larger businesses seeking funding or planning to go public with a detailed financial model, advanced analytics, and a fundraising dashboard.

3. GoSmallBiz

GoSmallBiz was founded in 1996 by a famous name Fran Tarkenton. This business planning software works efficiently for small business consulting and running your business as you like. GoSmallBiz offers a step-by-step guide to go through every single aspect of the platform and comes with about 100 business templates. In addition, you get reports on your financial data, and you can integrate with social media platforms.

To use GoSmallBiz, the paid plans start at $15/month to $199/year . It is a great option for entrepreneurs who need several additional business tools and a wide range of templates. However, the interface of GoSmallBiz may feel outdated to some, and it can be a bit more costly than other options available.

BizPlan is specifically built for startups, and you can use it for customizable business pitches and planning options to attract investors. It has a modern, and easy-to-use user interface that startups may find highly beneficial. It also comes with a step-by-step business plan builder and multiple drag-and-drop tools to build templates. Coming to its pricing, there is no free trial, but there are three pricing plans to use BizPlan:

  • Monthly Plan: $29 / month
  • Annual Plan: $20.75 / month
  • Lifetime Access Plan: $349

BizPlan provides a financial command center through which you can track all business financials in one place. It also offers a plethora of online courses and the option of unlimited account collaboration. However, BizPlan can be problematic for those looking for industry-based templates and mobile compatibility.

5. PlanBuildr

PlanBuildr is an excellent business planning software for entrepreneurs and small business owners that helps create comprehensive business plans. It comes with a user-friendly interface through which users can create professional-grade business plans without any prior experience in the same field.

One of the key features of PlanBuildr is its customizable business plan templates. Some pre-built templates are great for restaurants, retail stores, and service-based businesses. In addition, PlanBuildr also includes a financial forecasting tool that enables users to create detailed financial projections for their business.

PlanBuildr comes with a free trial and annual subscriptions as well. The annual subscription is available at $7.99 per month, and you must pay $47 to use PlanBuildr for 60 days.

6. Business Sorter

Business Sorter is a cloud-based business plan software that is focused on creating business plans in a more simplified manner. With the help of Business Sorter, you can create an effective business plan in hours and keep track of everything. The reason behind that is the novel 273 card sort system which speeds up the whole process.

You can keep your ideas and thoughts in one place and get effective tips for drafting the strategies. In addition, Business Sorter also provides educational resources for experienced users and multi-device access. Coming to its pricing, Business Sorter offers four different plans, and they are:

  • Small Team Plan: $80/ year for only 3 users (billed annually)
  • Medium Team Plan: $240/ year for only 10 users (billed annually)
  • Large Team Plan: $640/ year for up to 30 users (billed annually)
  • Enterprise Plan: Custom Pricing with unlimited users.

However, there are no video educational resources and limited options for financial planning.

Enloop is a web-based business plan software created to help entrepreneurs and small business owners create and manage business plans effectively. With the help of artificial intelligence and automated financial forecasting tools, you can easily analyze data and gain valuable insights regarding business growth.

Enloop guides users through the process of creating a comprehensive business plan by providing templates, financial modeling tools, and analysis of key performance indicators. Users can input financial data, market analysis, and operational plans, and Enloop will generate a customized business plan complete with financial projections and charts. In addition, Enloop offers business plan grading, industry benchmarking, and collaboration tools for teams.

Users have to pay $11/ month (billed annually) for the Detailed plan and $24/ month (billed annually) for the Performance plan. However, several users have claimed that the customer support of Enloop can be improved.

8. Upmetrics

If you're about to start a business and looking for the right business planning software, Upmetrics would be a good option. It provides almost everything, from planning processes to building growth strategies. You get more than 200 sample plans, step-by-step-step guidance, and financial forecasting options when using Upmetrics. Coming to its reliability, Upmetrics is used by more than 100k entrepreneurs worldwide to plan their businesses and create effective growth strategies.

To use Upmetrics, there's a free demo, and the paid plans include the following:

  • Upmetrics Solo: $9 per month
  • Upmetrics Team: $14 per month
  • Upmetrics Premium: $48 per month

Despite all the useful features, you won't find real-time live tracking of the system when using Upmetrics. In addition, many users have claimed that it creates pretty generic business plan templates and provides financial forecasts for 5 years.

9. PlanGuru

PlanGuru is a business plan software known for financial planning and budgeting. You get 20+ forecasting methods, effective performance analyzing tools, and a rolling forecast. With PlanGuru, you also get a rolling forecast, and this tool enables you to assess the potential effects of your expenditures on your cash flow in advance. It helps you make informed decisions about spending and better understand the impact it may have. In addition, PlanGuru works with Quickbooks, Xero, and Excel.

Regarding the pricing, the Monthly plan is available at $99/month , but if you want additional users, it will cost $29/month . Also, the Annual plan is available at $899/year with additional users at $299/year.

However, you'll get no templates for basic plan drafting, and a user must have some prior financial knowledge to use the PlanGuru property.  

10. MAUS MasterPlan

MAUS MasterPlan is a strategic planning and business management software developed by MAUS Business Systems, an Australian-based company. It is highly effective in assisting business owners and managers when forming comprehensive business plans and strategies.

MAUS MasterPlan offers a range of features, including financial forecasting, goal setting, SWOT analysis, and risk assessment. With a myriad of templates and tools for creating business plans, marketing plans, and financial reports, MAUS MasterPlan surely becomes one of the best business planning software out there. The software keeps a structured and well-organized approach to planning and managing the finances, helping them to achieve their goals and grow their businesses.

Coming to its pricing, the Business planning & HR Pack is available at $97/month , the MasterPlan Lean plan at $299/year , and the Business Planning Pack at $499/year .

Overall, MAUS MasterPlan is a useful tool for businesses looking to create a detailed and well-structured strategic plan. It can help businesses to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set achievable goals, and develop a roadmap for success.

As you've now gone through the 10 best business plan software available in 2024, you can easily decide which one will fit well for your business needs. You can consider specific features, the pros and cons, and most importantly, your budget to determine the right option for you.

For future recommendations related to eCommerce and other marketing trends, continue reading the blogs available on DSers blog page .

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BA Techniques

Challenge yourself by keeping up with practical business analysis techniques you can apply on the job.

MoSCoW : Requirements Prioritization Technique

MOSCOW TECHNIQUE - Includes Free Template

Requirements need to be prioritized because stakeholders can’t always have everything they want, or should I say, because we can’t always give them everything they want. This is not because we don’t like their faces but because most projects are faced with a limited budget and time frame. As a BA, how do you ensure you focus on the most important requirements?

The MoSCoW technique is used by analysts and stakeholders for prioritizing requirements in a collaborative fashion.

Using a Human Resources System as an example, here’s an explanation of the MoSCoW Technique:

Defines a requirement that has to be satisfied for the final solution to be acceptable e.g. The HR system “must” store employee leave history.

This is a high-priority requirement that should be included if possible, within the delivery time frame. Workarounds may be available for such requirements and they are not usually considered as time-critical or must-haves. e.g. The HR system “should” allow printing of leave letters.

This is a desirable or nice-to-have requirement (time and resources permitting) but the solution will still be accepted if the functionality is not included e.g. The HR system “could” send out notifications on pending leave dates.


This represents a requirement that stakeholders want to have, but have agreed will not be implemented in the current version of the system. That is, they have decided it will be postponed till the next round of developments e.g. The HR system “won’t” support remote access but may do so in the next release. 

You'll notice that the HR system features have been discussed in a decreasing order of priority - from what we must have, to what we should have, could have and won't have in that order.

Practical Application

This technique is best used when the BA has gathered all existing solution requirements.

  • Assemble all stakeholders – Each stakeholder, with help from the BA, is responsible for assigning priorities to the requirements that fall under their purview
  • All Requirements may be listed on a flip chart and prioritised by assigning categories to each (M, S, C or W).
  • If there are multiple stakeholders with different opinions on what category to assign to a requirement, voting can be used to reach consensus.
  • Present categorized requirements in a readable format - See template here
  • The requirements should be reviewed throughout the project as stakeholder needs may evolve with time.

The BABOK Guide provides 8 criteria to be used for assigning priorities to requirements. They are:

  • Business Value: Which requirement provides the most business value? The more business value a requirement will deliver, the greater the priority stakeholders may choose to assign to it.
  • Business or Technical Risk: Some requirements pose a significant risk of project failure if not implemented successfully. The analyst may assign a high priority to this category of requirements so that if the project does fail, the least amount of effort would have been spent. 
  • Implementation Difficulty: Which requirements are the easiest to implement? Straightforward requirements may lead to quick-wins and provide an opportunity for the project team to familiarize themselves with other elements of the project before taking on more complex requirements for implementation. 
  • Likelihood of Success: Which requirements can provide quick-wins and increase the probability of project acceptance? If the objective of the project is to demonstrate value as quickly as possible and quell negative chatter, requirements that have a higher probability of success would be given high priority.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Which requirements are necessary for policy and regulation adherence? These requirements are non-negotiable and usually have to be implemented within a set period of time, causing them to take precedence over stakeholder requirements in some cases.
  • Relationship to other requirements: Which requirements support other high-value business requirements? Such requirements may be assigned a high priority because of their link to important requirements.
  • Urgency: Which requirements have a high degree of urgency? Most stakeholders tend to place a high priority on requirements needed like yesterday
  • Stakeholder Agreement: Requirements on which stakeholders disagree should be postponed or assigned a low priority until consensus can be reached on their usefulness.

The above criteria can be used for prioritizing requirements by assigning weights to each requirement using a decision table. Requirements with the highest scores receive greater priority than those with lower scores. Other useful techniques for requirements prioritization are  time-boxing  and  voting.

MoSCoW technique was introduced by Dai Clegg of Oracle UK in 1994.

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Product Prioritization Frameworks

What is prioritization in product management.

Prioritization in product management is the disciplined process of evaluating the relative importance of work, ideas, and requests to eliminate wasteful practices and deliver customer value in the quickest possible way, given a variety of constraints.

The reality of building products is that you can never get everything done — priorities shift, resources are reallocated, funding is scarce. As product managers, it’s our job to make sure we’re working on the most important things first. We need to ruthlessly prioritize features before we run out of resources.

“Opportunity cost is when you never get the chance to do something important because you chose to work on something else instead.” — Product Roadmaps Relaunched by C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, Michael Connors

An effective product prioritization process garners support from stakeholders, inspires a vision in your team, and minimizes the risk of working on something that nobody wants.

What are product prioritization frameworks?

In a 2016 survey conducted by Mind the Product, 47 product managers named the most significant challenge they face at work. While this data sample is too small to make this a statistically significant report, the results will sound painfully familiar to you if you are a product manager.

The biggest challenge for product managers is: Prioritizing the roadmap without market research.

product prioritization

A staggering 49% of respondents indicated that they don’t know how to prioritize new features and products without valuable customer feedback. In other words, product managers are not sure if they’re working on the right thing .

Due to the lack of customer data, we often fall into the pitfall of prioritizing based on gut reactions, feature popularity, support requests or even worse—going into an uphill feature parity battle with our competitors.

Luckily for us, there is a more scientific way to prioritize our work. 

Product prioritization frameworks are a set of principles; a strategy to help us decide what to work on next. 

The right prioritization framework will help you answer questions such as:

  • Are we working on the highest business value item?
  • Are we delivering the necessary value to customers?
  • Does our work contribute to the broader business objectives?
  • Can we get this product to the market?

In this post, we’re going to introduce you to seven of the most popular prioritization frameworks. 

Value vs. Complexity Quadrant 

The Kano Model

Weighted scoring prioritization, the rice framework, ice scoring model, the moscow method.

Opportunity Scoring

Value vs. Complexity Quadrant

A value vs. Complexity Quadrant is a prioritization instrument in the form of a matrix. It is a simple 2 x 2 grid with “Value” plotted against “Complexity.”

To make this framework work, the team has to quantify the value and complexity of each feature, update, fix, or another product initiative.

  • Value is the benefit your customers and your business get out of the feature. Is the feature going to alleviate any customers’ pains, improve their day-to-day workflow, and help them achieve the desired outcome? Also, is the feature going to have a positive impact on the bottom line of your business? 
  • Complexity (or Effort) is what it takes for your organization to deliver this feature. It’s not enough that we create a feature that our customers love. The feature or product must also work for our business. Can you afford the cost of building and provisioning the feature? Operational costs, development time, skills, training, technology, and infrastructure costs are just some of the categories that you have to think about when estimating complexity.

If you can get more value with fewer efforts, that’s a feature you should prioritize.

Value/Complexity = Priority 

When aligned together, the criteria makes up several groups (or quadrants) that objectively show which set of features to build first, which to do next, and which to not do at all.

Prioritization framework

The quadrants created by this matrix are: 

  • Quick Wins (upper-left). Due to their high value and low complexity, these features are the low-hanging-fruit opportunities in our business that we must execute with top priority.
  • Major Projects, Big Bets, or Potential Features (upper-right). The initiatives that fall into this block are the big project releases that we know are valuable but are too risky to take on because of the resources and costs involved with them.
  • Fill-Ins or Maybes (lower-left). In this quadrant are usually positioned the “nice to have” features. Things like small improvements to the interface and one day, maybe ideas.
  • Time Sink Features (lower-right). Time sinks are the initiatives that we never want our team to be working on.

The Value vs. Complexity Quadrant is an excellent framework to use for teams working on new products. Due to its simplicity, this framework is helpful if you need to make objective decisions fast. Also, if your team lacks resources, the Value vs. Complexity Quadrant is an easy way to identify low-hanging-fruit opportunities.

The drawback of the Value vs. Complexity diagram is that it can get quite busy if you’re working on a super mature product with a long list of features.

In Productboard, the Prioritization matrix is an interactive visualization that helps you prioritize features within an objective by visualizing each feature’s value and effort. Just drag and drop features vertically to indicate their value to an objective, and horizontally to indicate estimated effort.

product management prioritization matrix

Developed by Japanese professor Noriako Kano and his team in 1984, the Kano model is a set of guidelines and techniques used to categorize and prioritize customer needs, guide product development and improve customer satisfaction.

The idea behind the Kano model is that Customer Satisfaction depends on the level of Functionality that a feature provides (how well a feature is implemented).

The model contains two dimensions:

Satisfaction, also seen as Delight or Excitement (Y-axis) that goes from Total Satisfaction ( Delighted or Excited ) to Total Dissatisfaction ( Frustrated or Disgusted ).

product prioritization framework kano model

Functionality, also seen as Achievement , Investment , Sophistication or Implementation (X-axis) that shows how well we’ve executed a given feature. It goes from Didn’t Do It at All ( None or Done Poorly ) to Did It Very Well .

product prioritization framework kano functionality

Kano classifies features into four broad categories depending on the customer’s expectations (or needs):

  • Expected (Must-Be or Basic) . Some product features are simply expected. For example, being able to import your contacts into a CRM system. You must include these in your product requirements.
  • Normal (or Performance) . The more of these features we build, the more satisfied customers we get. Choose the right set of performance features to create an attractive product.
  • Exciting (or Attractive) . Some unspoken features, when presented, could create a delightful customer experience. Pick a few of these from your customer feedback and implement them for competitive differentiation.
  • Indifferent . The presence or absence of some features doesn’t impact the customer value in any way.

product prioritization framework kano model

Let’s take a restaurant business, for example:

  • An Expected (or Basic) need is that the restaurant is clean and delivers the food on time. Without this, customers would be dissatisfied.
  • A Normal (or Performance) requirement is that the food in the restaurant is tasty.
  • An Exciting (or Attractive) requirement is that the restaurant offers an extra free meal with your order.
  • An Indifferent need is that the restaurant is using a proprietary POS terminal.

The Kano model is useful when you’re prioritizing product features based on the customer’s perception of value:

Perception is the key word here. If the customer lives in an arid climate, rain-sensing wipers may seem unimportant to them, and there will be no delight. Using the Kano model (or any other model incorporating customer value) requires you to know your customer well. — Product Roadmaps Relaunched by C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, Michael Connors

To determine what’s your customers’ perception of your product, you must ask them a set of questions for each of the features they use:

  • If you had (feature), how do you feel?
  • If you didn’t have (feature), how do you feel?

Users are asked to answer with one of five options:

  • I expect it
  • I’m neutral
  • I can tolerate it
  • I dislike it

An example Kano questionnaire:

Kano Questionnaire

Then, we collect the functional and dysfunctional answers in what is called an evaluation table. 

product prioritization framework kano table

To learn more about categorizing features in the evaluation table, you can check Daniel Zacarias’ post on the topic.

Weighted Scoring Prioritization is another framework that helps you decide what to put on your product roadmap.

The prioritization score is a weighted aggregation of drivers that are used to quantify the importance of a feature. It is calculated using a weighted average of each feature’s score across all drivers, which can serve to represent any prioritization criteria you’d like.

The weight given to each driver (out of a total of 100%) determines the driver’s relative contribution to the final score.

You can use a simple spreadsheet to create a scorecard or a robust product management system like Productboard  to visualize and automate the scoring process.

Here’s how to use the Weighted Scoring Prioritization framework:

  • Start with a clear strategic overview of your next product release.
  • Compile a list of product features that are related to that release. You don’t want to score every single feature in your backlog. Identify and group only the most relevant features for that release theme.
  • Define the scoring criteria and assign weights to each driver. Come up with a list of drivers (or parameters) and decide their importance by giving each driver a specific weight from 0% (smallest contribution to the overall score) to 100% (biggest contribution to the score). Make sure all of the stakeholders agree on each criterion.
  • Go through each feature and assign a score from 1 to 100 for each driver. The higher the score, the higher the impact that that feature has on that driver.

Here’s an example scorecard:

Prioritization tools Prioritize Scorecard

Each feature’s score is multiplied by the driver’s weight, then added to the total Priority score. For example: 90*20% + 90*10% + 50*30% + 20*40% = 50 Total Priority.

productboard makes the weighted scoring process intuitive by providing you with a visual interface to define the drivers’ weights. You can also filter features based on their prioritization score.

Prioritization tools in productboard

Weighting drivers in Productboard

Scoring features in Productboard

The RICE framework is a straightforward scoring system developed by the brilliant product management team at Intercom.

RICE stands for the four factors that Intercom uses to evaluate product ideas.

  • Confidence 

How many people will be affected by that feature in a given time? For example, “users per month” or “conversions per quarter.”

Example: 1000 of our user base open this page every month, and from that, 20% of people select this feature. The total Reach is going to be 200 people.

Intercom scores the impact of a specific feature on an individual person level on a scale from 0.5 to 3.

  • 3 – massive impact
  • 2 – high 
  • 1 – medium
  • 0.5 – low impact

As we previously mentioned in this guide, the number one problem for product managers is prioritizing features without customer feedback. The Confidence score in the RICE method takes into account this problem and allows you to score features based on your research data (or lack of it).

Confidence is a percentage value:

  • 100% – high confidence in your data
  • 80% – medium confidence in your data
  • 50% – low confidence in your data or lack of data

Example: “I have data to support the reach and effort, but I’m unsure about the impact. This project gets an 80% confidence score.”

Effort is the total amount of time a feature will require from all team members. Effort is a negative factor, and it is measured in “person-months.”

Example: This feature will take 1 week of planning, 4 weeks of design, 3 weeks of front-end development, and 4 weeks of back-end development. This feature gets an effort score of 3 person-months.

Once you have all of the four factors scored, you use the following formula to calculate the RICE score for each feature:

Feature prioritization RICE Formula

Intercom has made our life easier by providing a spreadsheet that we can use to calculate the RICE score automatically. You want to work on the features with the highest RICE score first!

If you’re looking for a speedy prioritization framework, look no further because the ICE Scoring Model is even more straightforward than the RICE framework.

In the words of Anuj Adhiya, author of “Growth Hacking for Dummies”: think of the ICE scoring model as a minimum viable prioritization framework. 

It’s an excellent starting point if you’re just getting into the habit of prioritizing product initiatives, but it lacks the data-informed objectivity of the rest of the frameworks in this guide.

The model was popularized by Sean Ellis, the person credited for coining the term “growth hacking.” It was initially used to score and prioritize growth experiments but later became popular among the product management community.

ICE is an acronym for:

  • Impact – how impactful do we expect this initiative to be?
  • Confidence – how confident we are that this initiative will prove our hypothesis and deliver the desired results? 
  • Ease – how easy is this initiative to build and implement? What are the costs of the resources that are going to be needed?

Each of these factors is scored from 1–10, and the total average number is the ICE score.

You can use this simple spreadsheet built by a member of the Growth Hackers community to calculate your ICE scores.

One of the issues with that model is that different people could score the same feature differently based on their own perceptions of impact, confidence, and ease. The reality is that the goal of the ICE model is to provide you with a system for relative prioritization, not a rigorous data-informed calculator.

“The point is that the “good enough” characteristic of the ICE score works well BECAUSE it is paired with the discipline of a growth process.” —Anuj Adhiya, The Practical Advantage Of The ICE Score As A Test Prioritization Framework

To minimize inconsistent product assessments, make sure to define what the ICE rankings mean. What does Impact 5, Confidence 7, Ease 3, and so on, mean for you and your team.

The MoSCoW prioritization framework was developed by Dai Clegg while working at Oracle in 1994 and first used in the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)—an agile project delivery framework.

The MoSCoW method helps you prioritize product features into four unambiguous buckets typically in conjunction with fixed timeframes.

This quirky acronym stands for:

  • Must have (Mo)
  • Should have (S)
  • Could have (Co)
  • Won’t have (W)

Features are prioritized to deliver the most immediate business value early. Product teams are focused on implementing the “Must Have” initiatives before the rest of them. “Should Have” and “Could Have” features are important, but they’re the first to be dropped if resources or deadline pressures occur.

roduct prioritization methods Moscow Prioritization

“ Must Have ” features are non-negotiable requirements to launch the product. An easy way to identify a “Must Have” feature is to ask the question, “What happens if this requirement is not met?” If the answer is “cancel the project,” then this needs to be labeled as a “Must Have” feature. Otherwise, move the feature to the “Should Have” or “Could Have” boxes. Think of these features as minimum-to-ship features.

“ Should Have ” features are not vital to launch but are essential for the overall success of the product. “Should Have” initiatives might be as crucial as “Must Haves” but are often not as time-critical.

“ Could Have ” features are desirable, but not as critical as “Should Have” features. They should only be implemented if spare time and budget allow for it. You can separate them from the “Could Have” features by the degree of discomfort that leaving them out would cause to the customer.

“ Won’t Have ” features are items considered “out of scope” and not planned for release into the schedule of the next product delivery. In this box, we classify the least-critical features or tasks with the smallest return on investment and value for the customer.

When you start prioritizing features using the MoSCoW method, classify them as “Won’t Haves” and then justify why they need a higher rank.

People often find pleasure in working on pet ideas that they find fun instead of initiatives with higher impact. The MoSCoW method is a great way to establish strict release criteria and prevent teams from falling into that trap.

The roots of Opportunity Scoring, also known as a gap analysis or opportunity analysis , trace back to the 1990s and the concept of Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI), popularized by the researcher Anthony Ulwik.

Opportunity scoring is a prioritization framework that evaluates the feature importance and satisfaction for customers. This method allows us to identify features that customers consider essential but are dissatisfied with. 

To use the Opportunity Scoring method, you must conduct a brief survey asking customers to rank each feature from 1 to 10 according to two questions:

  • How important is this feature or outcome to you?
  • How satisfied are you with the existing solution today?

Then, you use your aggregated numbers in the following formula:

Importance + (Importance – Satisfaction) = Opportunity

The features with the highest importance score and lowest satisfaction will represent your biggest opportunities.

“If 81% of surgeons, for example, rate an outcome very or extremely important, yet only 30% percent rate it very or extremely satisfied, that outcome would be considered underserved. In contrast, if only 30% of those surveyed rate an outcome very or extremely important, and 81% rate it very or extremely satisfied, that outcome would be considered over-served.” —Eric Eskey, Quantify Your Customer’s Unmet Needs

Product management prioritization opportunity scoring

Once you know your most viable opportunities, determine what it takes to connect these gaps. You need to take into consideration any resources required to deliver the improved feature. 

The opportunity scoring formula is an effective way to discover new ways to innovate your product and low-hanging-fruit opportunities to improve satisfaction metrics such as a Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Prioritization frameworks — putting it all together

Here is a relative overview of each framework and how you can decide which one to use that best suits your needs:.

  • Choose when : Working on a new product, building an MVP or when development resources are scarce
  • Pros: Great for identifying quick wins and low-hanging-fruit opportunities
  • Cons: Hard to navigate when there’s an extensive list of features
  • Choose when: You need to make better decisions for product improvements and add-ons
  • Pros: Prioritizing features based on the customers’ perception of value 
  • Cons: It doesn’t take into account complexity or effort; customer surveys can be time-consuming

Weighted Scoring

  • Choose when: Weighting a long list of feature drivers and product initiatives
  • Pros: Quantifies feature importance and ROI
  • Cons: Drivers’ weights can be manipulated to favor political decisions; requires full team alignment on the different drivers and features involved in the scoring process
  • Choose when: You need an objective scoring system that has been proved instead of developing one from scratch
  • Pros: Quantifies total impact per time worked
  • Cons: Its predefined scoring factors don’t allow for customization. May not be the perfect fit for your organization
  • Choose when: You’re just starting or need to exercise the discipline of prioritization in your team
  • Pros: A simple scoring model that is “good enough” for relative prioritization
  • Cons: Subjective; lacks data viability
  • Choose when: You need to communicate what needs to be included (or excluded) in a feature release
  • Pros: Identities product launch criteria
  • Cons: Doesn’t set prioritization between features grouped in the same bucket
  • Choose when: Finding innovative ways to improve existing solutions
  • Pros: Great for finding gaps in your value delivery; identify features that customers consider important but are dissatisfied with. 
  • Cons: Does not work for new products or features due to the lack of customer data and market research

.     .     .

Productboard is a product management system that enables teams to get the right products to market faster. Built on top of the Product Excellence framework, Productboard serves as the dedicated system of record for product managers and aligns everyone on the right features to build next. Access a free trial of Productboard today .

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    Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It's also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. After completing your plan, you can ...

  3. How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner's Guide (& Templates)

    Step #3: Conduct Your Market Analysis. Step #4: Research Your Competition. Step #5: Outline Your Products or Services. Step #6: Summarize Your Financial Plan. Step #7: Determine Your Marketing Strategy. Step #8: Showcase Your Organizational Chart. 14 Business Plan Templates to Help You Get Started.

  4. 5 Best Business Plan Software in 2022

    Six-month plan: $18 per month, billed every six months. Pay-as-you-go plan: $20 per month, billed once every month. 2. GoSmallBiz. Best for multiple business management tools in one platform. Next ...

  5. Business Plan: What it Is, How to Write One

    Learn about the best business plan software. 1. Write an executive summary. This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your ...

  6. How to Create a Business Plan: Examples & Free Template

    Here are the top 5 business plan software options available to help you craft a great business plan. 1. LivePlan. LivePlan is a popular choice for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features. It offers over 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, and the ability to track your progress against key performance indicators. With ...

  7. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    Write the Executive Summary. This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what's in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. Add a Company Overview. Document the larger company mission and vision.

  8. How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

    1. Create Your Executive Summary. The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans. Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

  9. 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools 2023

    5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business. Entrepreneurs who write formal business plans are 16% more likely to achieve success than entrepreneurs who don't. 1 This software can help. Data as of 3/13/23. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

  10. Business Plans For Dummies Cheat Sheet

    Here are the four most important financial statements you need to understand to plan and run your business: Income statement: Your bottom line ― subtracting costs from revenue to come up with net profit. Balance sheet: A financial snapshot that shows what you own, what you owe, and what your company is worth. Cash flow statement: A cash ...

  11. How To Write a Business Plan

    Step 2: Do your market research homework. The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research. This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to ...

  12. Business plans for beginners: a step-by-step guide

    And if you're specifically looking to start an online business, try Starting an Online Business for Dummies. Your business plan: the hard work will pay off. Creating a business plan can feel overwhelming at first if you've never made one before. And we won't lie; it does take a little bit of elbow grease to put one together.

  13. Simple Business Plan Template (2024)

    This section of your simple business plan template explores how to structure and operate your business. Details include the type of business organization your startup will take, roles and ...

  14. Write your business plan

    Common items to include are credit histories, resumes, product pictures, letters of reference, licenses, permits, patents, legal documents, and other contracts. Example traditional business plans. Before you write your business plan, read the following example business plans written by fictional business owners.

  15. How to write a business plan in 10 easy steps

    Prepare a smart cover page that includes your company name, a high-resolution image of your logo, your name and contact information. Once you've completed your business plan, you can insert a contents page in between the cover page and executive summary to list key sections and page numbers. 2. Executive summary.

  16. Top 10 Business Plan Software to Help with Your Business 2023

    5. PlanBuildr. PlanBuildr is an excellent business planning software for entrepreneurs and small business owners that helps create comprehensive business plans. It comes with a user-friendly interface through which users can create professional-grade business plans without any prior experience in the same field.

  17. Business Plans For Dummies, 3rd Edition

    Plan to succeed as an entrepreneurwe show you how Business Plans For Dummies can guide you, as a new or aspiring business owner, through the process of creating a comprehensive, accurate, and useful business plan. In fact, it is just as appropriate for an already up-and running firm that realizes its now time for a full-bore check-up, to ensure the business is in tip-top shape to meet the ...

  18. Agile Project Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

    Agile Project Management For Dummies. Agile project management is becoming agile product development. Products are considered long-term, value-creating assets requiring permanent teams who interactively elaborate, design, develop, test, integrate, document, and even support products until business outcomes are achieved. Agile product ...

  19. How To Start A Business In 11 Steps (2024 Guide)

    The best way to accomplish any business or personal goal is to write out every possible step it takes to achieve the goal. Then, order those steps by what needs to happen first. Some steps may ...

  20. MoSCoW : Requirements Prioritization Technique

    The MoSCoW technique is used by analysts and stakeholders for prioritizing requirements in a collaborative fashion. Using a Human Resources System as an example, here's an explanation of the MoSCoW Technique: MUST (M) Defines a requirement that has to be satisfied for the final solution to be acceptable e.g. The HR system "must" store ...

  21. Product Prioritization Frameworks

    In the words of Anuj Adhiya, author of "Growth Hacking for Dummies": think of the ICE scoring model as a minimum viable prioritization framework. It's an excellent starting point if you're just getting into the habit of prioritizing product initiatives, but it lacks the data-informed objectivity of the rest of the frameworks in this guide.

  22. What is a MoSCoW Analysis? Definition, Use Guide, and Analysis

    A Moscow analysis, also known as Moscow prioritization, is defined as an organizational framework that helps clarify and prioritize features or requirements for a given project. By creating boundaries for the priorities, teams are able to narrow their focus and create direct and achievable goals. Moscow is an acronym that stands for the four ...