When starting a business, plenty of people dive straight into the branding and marketing side of things, as you might expect. What you business looks like, and how you are going to show it off to the world, is a pretty important part of any new venture, and it is also an exciting thing to work on. Designing the perfect logo and coming up with your mottos and key messages is genuinely inspiring stuff, so it is no surprise that this is where new businesses often start.
Starting with branding and marketing is not always the best idea, and is usually jumping the gun a bit. While it might be the most interesting aspect of your new project, you also need to have a concrete strategy about how you are going to turn your brilliant idea into reality, and for that, you need a solid, realistic business plan.
Your business plan informs everything you do in setting up your new business, INCLUDING your branding, design and marketing. You need to know who your competitors are, what your target audience is and how you intend to speak to them before you get started on creating the marketing materials, and all this should be part of a good business plan.
Take a look below at the best model for putting together a killer business plan, as well as some thoughts and advice based on my experiences setting up my own business as well as working on other people’s concepts.
How to grow your idea into something bigger?
When you start to build your business plan, the first step is to note down what it is you actually do. This helps keep you laser-focused on your primary goals and objectives, and helps you design around a central pillar and fill out the other building blocks of your plan.
With your main aim and purpose set out, you can build on your goals, and gradually work out how it can be achieved by adding details about your activities, your resources, and your strengths and opportunities.
Start with a blank canvas, and gradually add notes with keywords to each building block of the plan. As a process, I find sticky notes work really well for this, as you can brainstorm, then move ideas around your plan as you fill out each section. I also found colour-coding elements relating to a specific client segment immensely helpful, as it allowed me to keep things separated, clear and on track.
It is vital, however, not to fall in love with your first idea. You should always be questioning your ideas and decisions, and looking to sketch out alternative business models for the same product, service, or technology. This allows you to take a comprehensive, holistic view of how your new business is going to work, and decide what the best way forward is for you. You could even practice and learn new ways of doing things by mapping out new/innovative business models that you admire or come across.
Who will help you?
Identify your key partners and suppliers. Work out what they can bring to the table, what you can offer them, and how you intend to work together. What are the most important motivations for the partnerships? How can you make these partnerships work most effectively?
How do you do it?
Here you need to look at what key activities are required to make your value proposition a reality, and achieve the goals you have set out. Look at your distribution channels, customer relationships and revenue streams, and explore and analyse what activities are going to be most important for making these work.
What do you do?
Identify your value proposition. Be specific, and state what core value you deliver to your audience. Which needs are you satisfying? What is your USP? Why do your audience choose you over your competitors?
How do you interact?
Explore the relationship that your target audience expects you to establish. You’ll want a range of audiences here, from customers to stakeholders to opinion formers, segmented properly, and you’ll want to explore each relationship in a slightly different way. You’ll also need to work out how to integrate these activities into your work in terms of cost and format.
Who do you help?
Identify your target audiences, and which groups you are creating value for. Who is your most important audience? Why? What are you offering them?
What do you need?
Your business will need certain things to get started and then sustain itself in the short, medium and long term. What key resources does your value proposition require? What resources do you need to carry out your activities, and achieve your objectives?
How do you reach them?
Through which channel does your audience want to be reached? Which channels work best? How much do they cost? How can they be integrated into your and your audience’s daily routines?
What will it cost?
What are the most important costs in your work? Which key resources/ activities are most expensive?
How much will you make?
For what value are your audiences willing to pay? What and how do they recently pay? How would they prefer to pay? How much does every revenue stream contribute to the overall revenues?
A business plan does not guarantee success. Your idea still needs to be viable, and you’ll still need to work hard to promote and deliver your services. But while having a business plan might not guarantee success, NOT having one guarantees failure. Putting together a great business plan does take time and effort, but having something rock-solid and convincing to fall back on is the first step to creating a viable and inspirational business. Ultimately, while you might use your business plan most to guide your initial steps and then show to investors and partners, the most important thing is that it convinces you that your idea makes sense. A great business plan is the finishing touch on an inspirational idea, and the process for beginning to make it a reality.