Discover why business plans are essential for building your business and the five things you need to include to make sure you smash your goals.
Business plans! When I mention these two words, how do you feel?
I know these two words can send cold shivers down some spines and make others want to jump for joy.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em business plans are an essential.
Have you heard that saying, failing to plan is planning to fail? Well, there’s some truth in that.
A business plan defines what you stand for, who you serve and bring clarity to what you do and don’t do.
It can even provide some motivation when times get tough.
The planning process doesn’t have to be dry either.
I know for creatives this process can seem especially icky.
You want to make, you want to make sales, you want some consistent income, what else is there?
Turns out that having a business plan offers a great deal of clarity. From the start, you have identified your goals and the steps you need to take to make your business a success.
Your plan can provide insights into the buyer market, allow you to get crystal clear on what our competitors are doing and know who your target audience is and how you’re going to reach them.
In a way, it offers a sense of direction and purpose to the things you’re making.
Knowing how you’re going to market and monetise your product is the difference between building a business or having a (sometimes very expensive) hobby.
I’m talking from experience here.
After almost a year in business, Elliot and I finally sat down and created a business plan.
Up until this point, we were doers. We would spend hours upon hours working on our business, but without any clear strategy.
Now, getting Elliot into the office for an entire planning session was tough but in the end, even he enjoyed the process.
We knew without a shadow of a doubt what our business stood for, who we are serving, why we’re special and what products you need to grow.
Having a business plan meant no more time wasted trying “whatever” and no stress around how we were going to build an income.
We were able to breathe a little easier and I want the same thing for you.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business 5 years or 5 minutes, a business plan can really propel you forward.
Now I have you convinced that a business plan is a must-have, I’m going to share the top five things you need to include.
1. Define your business
So you make candles, is that your business? Or are you a candle making, business crushing, solopreneur who may also be a personal brand.
Put that in your plan!
The first thing you should include in your business plan is an overview of your business. This is the part where you get really top level, detailing the “Why” behind your business.
You also want to include a description of your company and who it serves plus the goals you’re trying to achieve through your products or services.
For Maker Academy, our overview is:
Maker Academy teaches Etsy Sellers, Makers and Online Store owners marketing strategies that skyrocket their business and sales.
We offer courses that are simple, actionable and effective. We share teach what has grown our business and we know will work for our users.
Our customers can implement our strategies quickly and effectively. We do this through paid and unpaid resources with the goal of helping over 500,000 makers live life on their own terms.
It’s ambitious and clear. Exactly what yours should be.
2. Analyse your market
How do you run a successful business? You need to make things people want.
How do you know they want it? Research!
Spend around 1 - 2 hours researching your competitors. See if you can dig up how many products are listed under your categories, how it’s trending over time, what product lines or expansion your competitors have in place.
This doesn’t have to be too overwhelming or exhaustive, but you want to have a firm understanding of who is making what, and what’s working or isn’t working in your niche.
If you go ahead and research your item and find that there are loads of other folks making something similar, don’t be discouraged.
There is honestly enough to go around and your products will be serving a particular niche. There will be buyers who dig what you do more than anyone else.
In fact, having competition is a great sign. It shows there’s interest in your niche and that folks are willing to buy what you’re offering.
This is exactly what happened for us.
We sell an Instagram marketing course that helps creatives tap into the power of Instagram to attract real and genuine followers and fuel sales without spending money on advertising.
The fact is there are other Instagram courses out there but we’re not bummed. We know that there are none that are like ours. And none of our competitors that are dedicated to serving Etsy sellers, makers and creative entrepreneurs the way we are.
So, rather than being disheartened, we’re excited that we can serve our community with the very best Instagram course out there and our competitors can help their communities.
In this section, you also want to document your niche and target audience. Remember, you do have a niche and that doesn’t include ‘everyone.’I
If you’re stuck on this, check out this post on Buyer Personas and why your business needs them to get things rolling.
3. Outline Your Strategies
Now you know what your business is about and who you’re trying to target, it’s time to dive into the how with some strategies.
Strategies are the marketing and advertising techniques you’re going to use to grow, reach, and build your audience and sales.
This is the time for specifics.
You want to get into the nitty gritty here and really outline how you’re finding new business, what platforms you’re using, the posts you’re creating and any advertising budget you’re going to implement.
They should also include long-term and short-term strategies with timelines attached to them.
With Maker Academy, to reach our goal of helping over 500,000 creative entrepreneurs we decided this was a long-term goal.
Our strategy for doing this is to produce content regularly on Instagram that helps creatives and do these episodes of Made It.
Podcasting and developing extremely helpful content is one of our major strategies for marketing our business and achieving this goal.
Obviously, our business plan goes into way more nitty gritty but you get the idea. Everything we’re posting on Instagram and every podcast episode we release is to help us reach our goal.
4. Think to the Future with Projections
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
This doesn’t have to be hard and fast rule, but you want to look to the future and understand the way you business may grow and change.
Thinking to the future and planning for it is called a projection.
These projections will help you understand the long term goals of your business or industry and you can plan for where you’re going.
And it makes sense to do this.
A few years ago, you would never imagine buying a course from a subject expert.
Consulting was all the rage and now you can get courses from people who really know there stuff and get the specialist help you need without spending hours or thousands working with a consultant.
There’s a place for both for sure, but you want to use this space to think creatively about where your business can do in the future.
5. Outline Your Finances
Ah money. This can be tricky to face what your current and future financial situation looks like but it’s also really essential.
You should include a current and projected financial statement in your business plan.
If you’re not making much right now, write down your financial goal and then break it down into how many units of your product you would need to sell to reach it.
That’s exactly what we did when we were planning and hadn’t even made a sale yet.
Another aspect to explore is your budget.
How much are you going to spend on marketing to meet your goals? Or on self-education, so you can build your business without trying to pull together a million different strategies from a host of blogs.
And that's it!
Let the business planning process be a fun, real look at where you are now and where you’re headed.
For us, it brought clarity and motivation.
Knowing where we’re going and who we want to help makes writing blog posts like this after days spent in the office absolutely worth it.
I’d love to hear some of your goals! Head to the Maker Academy Support Circle and let me know what came up for you in your planning!