There’s so much that goes into a business plan that sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s really necessary. Last week, I talked about what sections you really need to have in your business plan. Today, it’s all about additional pieces that can enhance your business plan. So, let’s get to it, yes?
1: Dream Customer Avatar
Your dream customer avatar is basically a detailed description of your dream customer. This avatar is, in essence, your target market boiled down into one fictional person. The way a lot of people, especially small businesses and bloggers, like to do it is they give this person a name, a handful of characteristics pulled straight from their target market demographics, and several sentences/statements that describe this person’s life.
While most people advocate for having only one dream customer avatar, for others that’s just not a reality. I personally have two for WD, one for my author blog, and I will potentially be putting together a few more once I nail down the other various aspects of this crazy, multifaceted company I’m trying to start.
For example, one of my dream customer avatars might look something like this:
Amanda is a 19-year-old college student who has ridden horses for many years at a local barn, taking serious lessons while on the IHSA team at college, and is pursuing her degree in equine science. She needs further assistance in finding a job that will support both her and her horse, but really wants advice on how to become a professional trainer. Her hobbies include getting lost in the Instagram scroll and liking anything with a horse in the frame; shopping for color-coordinating outfits for her and her horse; drinking crappy cafeteria coffee because, hey, it’s free; and trying not to think about the student loan debt she’s incurred by going to college. She’s classy, hard-working, determined, and won’t stop at anything to live a life revolving around horses, no matter how tight her budget.
Another might read a bit like this:
Michelle is a 45-year-old trainer and barn owner based in Louisiana, has her BHS certification, breeds Cleveland Bays, and occasionally enters the odd 3-day eventing competition. She needs assistance in marketing her barn and her services effectively so she can draw in more clients, teach more, and fully support her struggling business financially. Her hobbies include spending her evenings drinking cheap wine and drawing in her adult coloring book; posting pictures of her aging Cleveland Bay eventing mare on Facebook; reading Denny Emerson’s posts; and trying not to think about her existence on the brink of having to close the doors on her business permanently. She’s classy, hard-working, determined, and won’t stop at anything to live a life revolving around horses—especially her mare—no matter how tight her budget.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, Regina over at byregina.com has a great (and moderately lengthy) blog post and accompanying workbook on how to put together a dream customer avatar.
This is something I included in my overall company business plan, but didn’t initially include in my plan for Writing Dressage. In it, I listed my objectives for the next 6-12 months (I have a total of 7), my road map--aka the steps I’ll take to achieve each of my objectives--and my plans to take over the world, which are my 5+ year goals (of which I have 9).
For these, you can be as concise or as detailed as you’d like. Below, I’ve listed a couple objectives, the coordinating steps on my road map, and a couple items on my plans to take over the world.
- Branch out onto Instagram
- Launch Barn Rats clothing line
- Get a smartphone…
- Fill 2 sketchbooks with concept art, practice sketches, doodles, etc. and post my best work to social media. Also work toward learning about graphic design in Adobe Illustrator or a complementary system. Using the feedback on my posts as a guide, choose my most popular designs, doodles, or sketches and turn them into products for Barn Rats.
Plans to take over the world:
- Make a steady enough income off of my blog, clothing line, digital magazine, etc. that I can both afford to travel and make healthy donations to charity.
- Do some stunt riding!
As you can see, it’s all totally professional. (Mostly.) What you put in this section is totally up to you, but I suggest you keep it as relative to your business’s vision and mission as you can.
3: Specific marketing strategies
In my business plan for Writing Dressage, I list out a few specific marketing strategies that I plan on tackling throughout the year. I talk specifically about my social media and email list strategy, but I also list ideas for general marketing ideas, too.
What you choose to do here is also up to you. Since I’m the only one seeing my business plans, I use these sections as a sort of catchall for big ideas. (I end up fleshing them out in greater detail separately though.)
4: Business Guidelines
This can be an adjoining part of your business plan or a separate addition. I have an abbreviated section in my business plan, then a detailed word document that I keep separately and add to it as I need to.
Basically, this section is all about your business guidelines. It talks about what you will do, what you won’t do, how you do certain things, when you do them, etc. I like to think of this part as the ugly details nobody really wants to talk about but that we all need to write down otherwise we’re going to forget them.
5: Core values
This section goes along with your business guidelines, but touches more on the abstract than the literal. These are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action in your company. Whereas business guidelines would touch more on “wear this, not that”, core values focus on “behave this way, not that way”.
Examples of core values may include:
- Using renewable energy to manufacture products or using recycled materials in products
- Committing to innovation and excellence (i.e. Apple’s “Think Different” motto)
- Being reliable, consistent, and committed in your business dealings
If you want some more examples, Fortune pulled together 7 creative and inspiring vision statements (my personal favorite is Build-A-Bear’s statement!).
6: Elevator pitch
I have a strong love-hate relationship with these. When done well, an elevator pitch can open a million doors. Done poorly, the only door it’s opening is to the basement level. (Was that too punny?)
In essence, an elevator pitch is a short, 30-ish second business description written in pitch format to “sell” your business to someone else. It’s got to be short enough to be delivered in full before the listener tunes out, concise enough to answer all the basic questions someone might have about your business, and interesting enough to at least keep the listener’s attention, if not pique it and make them want to know more.
7: Executive team & staff
Short, sweet, and to the point, this section lists your executive team—aka the people involved in running the business—and your staff—aka the people you pay to work for you, whether they’re employees, freelancers, contractors, etc. List their names, contact information, job duties, pay, and payment information if necessary here.
8: Business ID
This is a section I don’t have in my business plan for WD, but definitely include in my overall company business plan. It includes the basic details for your business, things like addresses, PO boxes, phone numbers, email addresses, etc., and would go near the beginning of your business plan.
9: Vision Statement (or Dream Statement)
A lot of business plan advice you read will probably list this as a totally necessary part of your business plan, and if it’s going to be seen by investors, it absolutely is, but not everybody knows what their vision for the future of their business is. I know I sure didn’t when I first started WD. Sometimes, you need to get the awkward first year (or in my case two) out of the way so that you can figure out what direction your business is going in. (Y’know, provided you have that option.)
This section answers the question, “What will you build?” It focuses on your plans for the future and how those plans will impact you, your business, your target market, and in some cases, your industry.
The reason I left this step for last is that it should be the last thing you think about. Doing this step before you put your business plan together can be discouraging since many people may not have a clear vision at the beginning. Saving this step for last, however—after you’ve gotten your product/service plans listed, your financial details nailed down, your target market defined, your competitive analysis completed, and your goals laid out—will give you the chance to clarify your vision as you work, and it may offer insight into what your vision is that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
While not completely necessary, the addition of any number of these elements to your business plan can serve to enrich your business and serve you better in the long run. And remember: Business plans are fluid creatures. They’re meant to shift and adapt with you as your business shifts and adapts. What works today may not work tomorrow, so don’t be thinking that once you write it down, you can’t change what goes into your business plan.
Additionally, I suggest reviewing your business plan at least once a year, preferably around the turn of the year so you’ll be looking at your business with fresh eyes and (hopefully) a renewed vigor.
Next week is the final installment of this series, and we’ll discuss various aspects of keeping your business legal. If there’s one installment of this series you read, it needs to be that one.
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Read the rest of the posts in the series:
- Building Your Business Plan: Vision Boards
- Building Your Business Plan: Business Models
- Building Your Business Plan: Business Plan Must-Haves
- Building Your Business Plan: Business Plan Additions (that's this one!)
- Building Your Business Plan: Keeping It Legal