Tag Archives: Business Plan Writer

Marketing is More than Advertising

I find it interesting when I speak with new acquaintances and they ask me what I do. I’ll typically respond with “I’m a marketer” or “I’m part of a marketing team.” Nine times out of ten, the response I’ll get back is “Oh, you do advertising.” I used to be surprised with this response, given that advertising is really just a small part of the marketing discipline. Now, I have come to expect it.

Of course, advertising is a part of the marketing mix. It comes in many forms, as shown in this recent media share chart.

advertising_spend_by_catetory_2013

Average allocation of advertising budget for marketers in 2013. Source: BIA Kelsey.

Each of these categories represent are part of the advertising spend, with each component offering unique advantages and opportunities, depending upon what you are selling and where your audience resides.

But, the role of a marketer is far more than planning a media spend and allocating budget to various communications channels. Marketing is really about understanding customers. Who are they? Where to they shop? What leads to a purchase decision? And, with this knowledge, what can be done to influence and accelerate the process? These are the questions a marketer must understand. With this knowledge, advertising spends can then be established and executed, with hopefully an understanding of what results will emerge.

Working in high tech for the past couple of decades, my advertising spend is highly focused trying to reach a specific audience. I have never worked in a role of advertising to the masses. I do marketing campaigns tied to some sort of “asset” that yields inquires for helping prospects to solve business problems. As you likely can tell by now, I work in what marketers call a “b2b” or business-to-business environment. Traditional advertising spent for this type of marketing is typically more brand or image based, so done only by the largest companies interested in building awareness of their name or presence within a particular market.

The Age of Experience

Today, marketing might be better described as “managing to create and sustain the best customer experience,” which is rewarded by new and existing customers purchasing your goods or services. There are many ways the purchase experience is impacted – from what other customers are saying, to what is published on news sites, to what is involved in the purchase process. (See “Is Customer Satisfaction” article link)

The role of a marketer is to ensure that each of these “parts” of the experience lifecycle all come together to tell a consistent story with a logical conclusion: purchase this product or service, and you will be better off, will solve your problem, or will feel good about yourself for doing so. If any part of the prospective customer experience lifecycle fails to consistently deliver this story, you have a problem. And, this problem isn’t something that just the marketing department needs to worry about … it impacts your entire business.

Let me give you an example. I recently had an experience where I was undergoing a purchase of a product that required some level of knowledge of what options to consider as well as what choices would be appropriate. The owner of this business didn’t think it necessary to train their new sales staff. As a result, I was stuck with someone who had no business being in a sales role – he didn’t know anything about the products, the competition, or how to even proceed forward with the purchase process. This lack of training led to a terrible customer experience, one that scarred the entire process (and one that will lead me to never do business with this company every again.)

Marketing Plan as part of a Business Plan

When preparing a business plan or speaking with a business plan writer, it is important to understand what role marketing will play as part of your plan. Marketing professionals are tasked with a critical role – helping the sales process be effective. This is way more than just running ads in a local newspaper, magazine or a billboard.

Today’s marketers have much more responsibility to look at the entire purchase process – from how a product or service is introduced to a prospective user, to what the purchase process is like. Without a clear focus on the entire process, a company’s financial future is limited, to say the least.

Those companies that are too small to justify hiring a marketing person or staff must rely upon themselves to review their own customer purchase experience, and to then address any shortcomings that might be identified. Unfortunately, this can often be a difficult exercise when there are likely other pressing needs involved with running the business. Ironically, it is in these situations where the greatest price is paid and the greatest opportunity for improvement is available.

Perhaps the first step to raising awareness of this opportunity is to get the stereotype of “Marketing is advertising” out of our heads.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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5 Reasons to Choose a Niche When Starting a New Business

Select a business niche when writing a new business planThe Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article on Artificial Intelligence (AI), written by Christopher Mims (see article). The article describes two new businesses that are making great strides in how AI can be used to help make our lives easier.

What struck me as most interesting, however, was the incredibly narrow focus these businesses have with regards to what they hope to accomplish, and the value proposition they offer. As Mims points out, this is actually a very smart approach – one that is in complete alignment with my own perspective. If you seek to launch a new business (and write a new business plan as part of the process), then you too can benefit from this strategy.

In the WSJ article, one of the new businesses described is X.ai, which seeks to help simplify the task of making calendar appointments with others. We have all experienced this challenge. It can be an annoying and time consuming. The investment community agreed. The company was recently funded with $2.1 million to develop their virtual assistant called Amy (see announcement). Considering all the tasks an administrative assistant could do, it is notable that the company will just address the task of making appointments.

Here are 5 reasons why this is a good strategy:

  1. Once the development work has been completed and it is time to start generating awareness or “buzz” for the company, the message of simplifying the task of calendar appointment setting is crisp, easy to understand, and will resonate very well with nearly everyone that hears it. Another term for this strategy is KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid.
  2. The focus on just one task means that the “use cases” or examples of problems that can be solved will be equally focused. Employees will quickly become experts at the challenges tied to setting appointments when you can’t see each other’s calendars. Training time, effort and cost will be minimized, as will time spent on the phone doing customer support.
  3. Sales cycles should be accelerated, or at least simplified. This will likely also lead to streamlined support and future sales leads, helping the company to grow at this critical point of its life.
  4. Market awareness programs will be better understood to yield better results. Given the overload of information that potential customers hear every day, the chance to quickly address a common challenge will resonate well, resulting in greater retention and brand recognition.
  5. Future expansion decisions will be simplified, and cost less. For example, if the company sought to ease appointment setting, time card completion and file storage, then you will have new complexity when deciding the best direction for future growth. Where do you invest next? Time card tracking, appointment setting or file storage? Having initially invested in all three services, you will likely continue that strategy, and it will cost you more resources and investment. Alternatively, going with a very narrow focus to a specific audience offers a more cost effective approach to expansion. Getting just appointment setting right, for example, could then be applied to several different types of user profiles, ranging from corporate business workers to small business owners to “soccer” moms. This type of expansion will be much easier and cost effective to execute, so will have a greater chance for success.

 

So why don’t more business startups pursue such a narrow focus and strategy, including how they write their business plan? Experience has taught me that when working for a small startup it is very difficult to say “no” to a new sales opportunity. The sales and/ or management team is afraid to see a possible sales opportunity walk out the door. When you are at a startup, things are tight, so every possible sales angle takes on greater attention. But those with the strength and discipline to do just one thing, and do it well, will be rewarded with less risk and, hopefully, a better chance of survival.

 

Gordon Benzieis a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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5 Ways to Tell a Great Story with a Business Plan

Top_5_ways_to_tell_story_with_a_business_planIn my last post, I presented the concept that a business plan really needs to tell a story – if it does, then you are much more likely to achieve your objectives for actually writing the plan, such as to get funded, to get a new loan, to attract new employees, or whatever else your objective is for writing the plan.

Having many years of experience within the field of Public Relations, I can offer a unique perspective on how to accomplish this goal. Below are five strategies or approaches you can pursue to help best tell your story within a business plan:

  1. Start with a Great Title – every reporter that wants their story to actually be read knows the importance of having a catchy title. Newspapers, magazines and websites all know this and how important the title is … that is why they don’t delegate this task to reporters, and instead keep that responsibility with the Editor. Think like you are an Editor working for the NY Times … what are you going to include in the article of your business plan to get it read in the first place?
  2. Include an Executive summary – everyone is too busy to read every document and story we see that passes in front of us or in our inbox. We are simply inundated with things to see, read or participate in. If you have a great title and got my attention to make it to page 1, you best get me excited REAL quick, or else you might lose me forever. The executive summary should be hard hitting. The first paragraph or two should point out something new to me – some amazing fact, or stunning growth estimate that gets me engaged. Now I am primed to learn more about this market need and how your new business will address it, and do so with all deliberate speed.
  3. Provide Third Party Proof Points – at this point, once I have read your executive summary and I am now interested to learn more, you need to sell me that your story is legitimate. In other words, are you just making this sh@* up, or, have you done the diligence necessary to really validate that this need exists? Here your story can go into a bit more detail, as you have earned that privilege based on a great intro. Now is the need to document the market size and the challenge that now exists.
  4. Comparable Products or Services Don’t Work – here is where the story needs to explain that not only does a market need exist, but, no one else has figured out what you now know – the solution. Or, that you possess the unique skills and knowledge to address this market shortfall better than anyone else. The story needs to be why you are a “no brainer” choice, if your reader agrees that the market need does exist and that others haven’t yet addressed this need.
  5. Financial Model Supports the Story – here is where the “rubber” hits the road. You have gotten my attention as a reader, you have pointed out a market need and why you are the person best suited to address this need. Now, can you actually make money delivering upon this need? What do the numbers say? Here is where the financial model must provide the proof that an investor is seeking to see if your story really holds together. Based on the assumptions and market position strategies highlighted in the plan, does the financial model reinforce this story? If it does, then you have put all the “stars” into alignment and have best optimized your chances for success.

 

There you have it. Of course, they are no guarantees. You could have the best business plan writer with the best business plan, but it still may not get funded. But, if you have a great story to tell, can find suitable investors or other target audience members that are open to hearing your idea, and you keep at it, then your chances for success will go up dramatically! And, once you have heard all the “no’s” you will get to a “yes” in the end. Here is where the perseverance comes through and the “doing what it takes” mentality is needed to actually get your plan funded.

At that point, all the work will be worth it. Good luck!

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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What Story Does your Business Plan Tell?

what_is_story_of_your_business_planMost people have a pretty good idea of what a business plan is, and what should be included in it. If asked, I would suspect that many people could also tell you that a business plan should include an overview of the business, what the product or service is, the markets being pursued, the competition, as well as some sort of financial model.

In the same way, if someone asked me how an airplane worked, I could tell you that lift was involved, and that the shape of the wings creates a vacuum, which that then helps the plane to get airborne. But, I don’t think you would want me actually building an airplane …

In some ways, this analogy applies to business plans. There are subtleties involved as well as a good deal of work, which might preclude your ever getting the plan completed. In the end, if your being funded is dependent upon having a plan, it might be worth reaching out to someone who has actually written one before.

As a business plan writer who has written over 25 different plans, I understand that each one serves many needs and provides content for different audiences. For example, one of the sometimes overlooked attributes of a business plan is that it must tell a story – about you, your idea and your vision – and how new funding will make your story come true. If your reader can’t quickly get the story, it is unlikely they will agree to fund your plan.

The Vision

Business plans sell a “vision” or a “dream” of what you see that a new business could be, could operate as and could deliver value to your target audience. Your initial audience are investors, potential partners and initial employees you will need to launch your vision.

In this way, a business plan is really a marketing document that is written to pitch your idea to this group and get them excited about the prospect of “getting in” on the ground floor. This sense of urgency of what a fantastic opportunity that awaits must be communicated. You need to tell a story of how your business can provide a greater good, or how it can help address a common challenge. And, if it is done right, your business could then earn everyone a nice profit at the same time.

If this sounds like what is driving you to prepare a business plan, then you should recognize you have a story to tell. Just like a great Public Relations campaign, you have a story to get into your prospects (i.e. investor’s) head. So, it is time to think like a PR professional, at least with regards to the structure and content you decide to put into your business plan.

In my next post, I’ll offer five ways to turn your business plan into a great story.

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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5 Reasons to Write a Business Plan

new-years-resolutionThe tradition of stating a New Year’s resolution is interesting. As the clock nears 12 midnight on December 31st, a popular topic is “what will you accomplish in the new year?” It makes sense … when a significant milestone event occurs, it is natural to reflect on what we have already accomplished, and what the future might hold.

I suspect, however, few New Year’s resolutions actually come true. There are many reasons for my belief, ranging from the alcohol consumed at the time (I said what?) to the motivating factor behind the pronouncement (showing off on a first date?) to simply how much thought was put into the statement. Most importantly, however, is the fact that these resolutions are seldom documented in writing.

Research suggests that the simple act of writing down a goal has a profound impact on actually achieving it. According to a study presented in an article published by the Chronicle, the student-run newspaper of Duke University, it was concluded that:

  • 80 percent of Americans say they don’t have goals
  • 16 percent do have goals, but they don’t write them down
  • Less than 4 percent actually write down their goals
  • Less than 1 percent review them regularly – but – this small percentage of Americans that do end up earning 9X more over the course of their lifetime

These figures are breathtaking. This research suggests 99 percent of Americans are missing out on significant earnings potential, based on the simple fact that they are not writing down their goals and reviewing them. Why might this be the case?

The Importance of Documenting a Plan

My theory is that the act of writing down, and ideally sharing a goal with others, makes you accountable. And, it makes it harder to forget or “de-prioritize” those goals, which you initially set out to accomplish.

Pictures are another helpful technique to be more committed to accomplishing your goals. Do you want to purchase a home? Find a picture of your dream home as your wallpaper on your laptop or PC. Then every time you use your computer you will be reminded of that goal. The logic and psychological effect is the same if you write down your goals.

A Written Business Plan as a Documented Goal

Those interested in starting their own business face a huge challenge, one that can be quite difficult to accomplish. Any help you can do to make this goal become a reality is probably worth investing in, which brings me to this list of 5 reasons why you should write down a business plan if you are serious about starting a new business or expanding an existing one:

  1. Writing a business plan makes you more committed – writing down your plan, and following through with it all the way through funding will keep your momentum moving forward; the act of writing it down forces you to take your plan more serious and puts the odds of success more in your favor
  2. Documenting your plan and sharing it with others holds you more accountable – you simply can’t hide when you go public with these types of statements, which will be a great motivating factor to completing your vision and sticking it out
  3. Better articulation of your vision for a new business creating a detailed plan that is in writing forces you to think in a more comprehensive manner, to better evaluate if your idea could actually work; there is a big difference between talking about an idea and documenting it in writing
  4. Developing a cash flow statement tied to your business idea helps you to better understand how to monetize your idea, adding further testing and review to evaluate if your plan could really work, and you can indeed launch your business
  5. Devoting the time to either hiring a business plan writer or writing it yourself demonstrates commitment to your audience – as you present your idea to potential business partners, investors or potential employees; the presentation of a written plan shows your audience that you have invested time, effort and resources into your plan, so it will be viewed more seriously

Hiring a business plan writer as a third party to challenge your thoughts and evaluate if your plan could really work is a great way to test your vision and lay out all your cards on the table. Getting a third party involved lets investors know how serious and committed you are, just as writing down goals improves the likelihood that you will accomplish your goals.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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In Pursuit of a Social Media Persona

social-media-marketingIn a prior post I made a few observations on the incredible proliferation of social media, and what a great thing this social transformation has been for marketers. Never before has it been so easy to reach out to a group of prospective customers (or clients, which are different according to Mr. Godin’s recent post) that all share a common attribute, interest or buying behavior. This exercise is a given for anyone writing a business plan or hiring a business plan writer today.

The next question is “what do I do next?” How do I take advantage of this built in community?

The first step is to identify a couple of top profiles or “personas” you are most interested in getting to know. Your objective is to identify what type of person is most likely to gain the greatest value from your product or service, and hence could become a future brand advocate. Ideally, this person will become so passionate about your offering that they become an influential reference to secure new business not only for themselves, but for others in their community – your target audience.

It might be helpful to consider where some of your best customers or clients came from in the past. Were these people that bought your service or product for themselves, or were they buying on behalf of someone else or the company they worked for? Was there a life event that triggered the purchase? Or, was their purchase tied to an entertainment choice? In all likelihood, you will identify several of these personas that make up 80 percent of your buyers, based on the 80/20 rule.

Once you have identified the first profile, the next step is to figure out where this persona “hangs out” in social networks. If they don’t, then social media may not be of much value for you. Assuming they do, your next task to join that community. Here is where a line must be drawn – don’t try to fool others that you are a potential buyer – full disclosure is necessary to build trust into your relationship. Deception might get you one sale, but it won’t build you a following.

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When is the Right Time for a Business Plan?

Choosing a time to write a business plan is challengingOne of the questions I hear frequently is that of timing … when is the right time to devote the time and effort to prepare a more formal business plan? It is an important question, and one that must be considered carefully. If you write too soon, your idea may be completely different than what you ultimately go to market with. If you wait too late, much of the benefits will be foregone. How far along in lifecycle in your future business does it make most sense to more formally document your vision?

To start, there is no one “right” answer. Some will argue that there is no point in writing a plan at all, at least in the beginning, as so many factors are subject change. I am reading an interesting book right now by Clayton Christensen titled “How Will You Measure Your Life?” In it, the author talks about the need for two business strategies – a deliberate and an emergent one. I found this analogy quite good. In order to begin a new venture (or adventure), it is necessary to have an initial direction to follow. The author coins this initial decision as being a “deliberate” strategy. He gives the example of Honda entering the U.S. market with a large bike that will directly compete against Harley Davidson’s products. Soon, however, it became apparent that this strategy wasn’t working, as evidenced by a lack of sales. Meanwhile, a group of employees began using Honda’s smaller bikes off-road, and were having a great time doing so. This “unplanned” activity and market segment became an “emergent” strategy, which ultimately gave Honda a foothold into the lucrative US market for motorcycles.

Using this author’s methodology, a formerly written business plan can be a great tool to validate an initial or deliberate strategy. This effort can give you a way to rationally defend your initial decision to pursue a new product or market expansion. As part of this process, you will either gain a greater comfort level with what you are doing, or not. Regardless, valuable conclusions will result (do I “stay” or do I “go”?)

An emergent strategy, however, might be best viewed as opportunistic, and one that might need further validation prior to making the investment in preparing a full, formal business plan. This approach then lets you be open to new “emergent” opportunities while at the same time realizing that you did pick your deliberate strategy for a reason – you need to give it a fair review and effort to validate that it either works, or that it doesn’t. Writing a business plan on the initial deliberate strategy is a great approach to help validate if this initial idea is indeed worthy of the effort.

Christensen states that about 93% of all startups change their strategic direction at least once before getting it right. So, flexibility and preservation of initial capital are clearly critical for survival. But, an initial direction is still needed before you can begin engagement in your idea.

Two Reasons to Write a Business Plan

The role of writing a business plan is really two-fold. The first is to better clarify the strategic direction you want to purse with your business endeavor. If, for nothing else, the act of writing down your objectives, strategic direction and competitive differentiation forces you to really think about these critical thoughts. You can’t go to market unless you are really comfortable in telling your story. Writing it down in a business plan forces you to review all the points, including those you might be inclined to gloss over for lack of interest.

The second role of writing a business plan is to get funding. An outside bank, business partner or venture capitalist will want to have some sort of documentation explaining in detail what it is you plan to accomplish. After all, it is their money that you will be investing. At this point, a more formal business plan starts to make sense. Note that while an angel investor might prefer to hear your “elevator pitch” and in a few minutes, and then decide whether or not they will fund you, it still is very helpful if you have gone through the exercise of more formally reviewing your target market, competition, product positioning and pricing strategy to better understand how to turn a profit.

Alternatively, if by flushing through your new business idea in greater detail, you discover that there is an inherent flaw in your plan, it is better to have found out earlier versus investing considerable effort, resources and money into an idea that really couldn’t work.

The Right Time

Getting back to the question of timing, as you come up with an initial idea for a new business or product line extension, it probably doesn’t make sense to prepare a business plan. First, you need to do some “gut” checks to see what sort of viability your idea might have. That review process might include talking to industry experts, potential business partners, friends and family. If your business involves the manufacturing of a new product, then it might also make sense to get an idea of what costs are involved and what possible patents might be required in order to avoid potential infringement issues.

Once your initial review is accomplished and you feel comfortable your idea definitely has merit, now is probably a good time to consider writing a plan that captures the salient competitive and marketing requirements to get your idea off the ground. Through that process, you will soon realize whether or not your idea could work, at which time it is highly likely you will need to consider the use of outside funding. As your plan will be virtually complete by that time, having the plan already written will let you continue forward without delay.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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Business Plan Writing vs. Advising

business_plan_advisor_or_writerOver the years I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few people eager to start a new business with ambitions to conquer a market, introduce a new product or to just start something new. Once the idea is born, the challenge is to pick the best path through to fruition. There are many decisions to make with regards to how to spend your time, where to focus your budget dollars as well as reviewing ideas with close friends and family. As part of this decision process, the source of capital for launching or expanding the business will inevitably come up. Can I fund this idea myself and retain 100% of control, or, do I need help via a capital investment?

Those that make it through these hurdles with the conclusion that outside funding is required must then face the task of best explaining their new idea in such a way that it can generate excitement without necessarily giving away all of the “secret sauce” of the venture. It is at this point that the topic of writing a business plan will emerge – do I need one now, or, can it wait?

Given the capital markets, it is likely you will need to make a bit of a time investment to achieve success … you will need to speak with many individuals before finally finding the right match of your opportunity with the investment profile of an angel or Series 1 investor. In the interest of efficiency, it is typical to arrive at the conclusion that another “venue” for telling your story is needed. In fact, you probably need a few different formats to best tell your story.

To start, a 30 second elevator pitch is critical. If you can’t tell your idea quickly with enthusiasm, then you venture will likely die. Add to this challenge the fact that everyone is totally overloaded today, being impacted by literally thousands of messages, images and other distractions all the time. Your communication must be crisp, unique and stand out from the crowd.

Those that you “hook” with this elevator pitch will then ask for more information. This is a good thing – you have their attention. So, the next step is what do you do? If you can arrange a future meeting in person, great. A presentation will be needed, at a minimum, to continue your conversation. I would propose that in addition, now would be an excellent time to have a business plan already prepared to send prior to your meeting. Access to a written plan can be well worth the time and investment to prepare, provided it demonstrates your commitment to the project and achieving success with your venture.

The challenge is that you can’t really wait for the next “chance” encounter to then sit down and write the plan. These documents need time and effort to be invested so they sound good, are well thought out and exciting to read. This type of writing doesn’t happen overnight, nor can you really put something together in just a few hours. You want to show that you have thought through this business opportunity quite carefully, and are ready to go once finding the right partner, employees, or other resources necessary to get started.

It is at this decision point when you must ask yourself: “Do I just need a writer to capture my thoughts, which I am completely confident are all correct?” Or, is it more accurate to consider that you have “pretty much” the idea for the plan in your head, but, there are definitely some of the details, competitive pressures and product / service differentiation that could do with some refinement? If the latter is the case, realize you need more than just a business plan writer. You need an advisor, a person who can help you with not only the writing to ensure it is understandable, but that it can withstand the scrutiny of an investor that is putting some of their own money into the venture. This type of reader will have very specific questions that must be answered before they consider proceeding further.

If you come to this point in your new business process, challenge yourself to really assess if you need a person who is skilled with what business models can actually be executed, or, do you want to hire a writer that will simply replicate what you tell him or her. If it is an advisor or modeler you seek, then look to see what marketing experience in planning and execution that they have. After all, the entire discipline of marketing is focused on planning, strategizing and executing the best way to achieve business plan objectives. Once the plan has been carefully thought out, it then becomes the responsibility of sales to actually execute upon it. Of course, this may be one and the same person for a smaller organization, but, the concept still holds true.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business model adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

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What is the Right Length for a Business Plan?

Anyone who has contemplated writing a business plan must decide upon an appropriate length. If you are a frequent reader of business plans, then you probably complain that they are too long. Alternatively, if you are passionate about your new innovation, technology or process, then you might feel that more detail is needed, to help explain why the investment opportunity is so special. This divergence of opinion often results in ambiguity when determining what the right length should be.

Before I proceed to articulate my opinion on this topic, let’s first consider the following: Most readers of your business plan will never read it in its entirety, regardless the number pages, how well it is written or what neat images are included. If you can embrace and accept this concept, then it will force you to think differently about what length is best … worse case, your choice will only impact a small percentage of total readers!

Following in this theme, I am sure you can now realize that it is absolutely critical your business plan includes an Executive summary.

Regardless of how busy your reader is, most will spend the time to read a single page for a glimpse of the business opportunity. It is for this reason that your Executive summary is the most important page of your entire plan.

Here is where Pareto’s law comes into effect – only 10 to 20% of your plan (the Executive summary) will likely be read by 80-90% of your readers. How well you write that section will determine, to some extent, how much (or if) the rest of the plan will ever be read.

Next, if you follow my logic, the rest of your business plan may only be read by 10-20% of your readers. These folks are now engaged and interested. Your topic has appealed to them in some way, so now you have them “hooked.” They are now willing to make a time investment to learn more. It is this group, therefore, that we must seek greater understanding, to then best determine an appropriate length to satisfy their needs.

My logic follows this path:

  • 2-3 pages on the industry and market challenges
  • 1 page to describe the company and its mission
  • 1-2 pages to describe your product or service
  • 2-3 pages to describe your competition and how you will compete
  • 1-2 pages for a marketing plan
  • 1-2 pages to describe the management team
  • 1-2 pages for the financial projections, in summary; detailed monthly proformas can be included as an appendix

If you add an Executive summary to the above pages, you will have a plan that is anywhere from 10 to 16 pages, plus appendix.

Practice has taught me that the extra effort to add more pages is seldom worth it, nor will it really help you to better sell your idea to an investor. Of course, if your product is highly technical and requires a more thorough product description to really get it, then your plan might need to be longer. That is fine, and may well be the right answer. But, if that is the case, you might simply want to take a different path, and offer a technical guide as a supplement instead. After all, not all of your readers will be highly technical – they will likely get lost with greater technical descriptions. This extra content won’t really help you with your objective to secure funding, or better describe your idea to start building your company or new product.

What do you think? Have you experienced different results? I would be interested to hear from you.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

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Creativity is Critical to a Marketing and Business Strategy

I am sure each of you has had at least one conversation about what led to a successful business … or why a particular business failed. What makes some startups work and others fail? Obviously, the answer is multi-faceted, with no single reason. I would propose that of all the contributing factors as to why a business survives, there is no more important skill that the management team’s creativity in defining and modifying their business plan, and how they use creativity to execute upon it.

A sound business plan strategy is to choose to excel at either being the low cost, high service or best product provider. But, once a direction has been chosen, it all then depends upon execution of the plan. And, as we all know, unexpected surprises will occur, sometimes even requiring a new strategic direction, product or market. It is the creativity on how these decisions are evaluated and pursued that separates those companies that survive and thrive versus those that don’t.

Creativity is a difficult characteristic to measure or evaluate. The question of whether or not one is creative is often known but seldom fully understood. Willingness to think “outside of the box” is a reasonable description, pointing to an ability to consider new paths previously not considered.

Creativity actually takes a far larger role in our life’s direction, often without our even really realizing it. For example, two identical individuals may both face the same challenge. The creative person may see a different solution that in actuality leads to a positive outcome. The other person may simply not have the vision to see the better solution, so instead takes a different path that is harmful to their personal or family’s future. The irony is that the person in the latter scenario may never learn of the missed opportunity.

How do you rank in creativity? How do you know what you might not know? Perhaps you should try to test your creativity, to see which person you are most like … the one that say the opportunity, or the one that missed it. Next time you are faced with a challenge or “life decision” that doesn’t seem to be all that great, take a perspective that there is a positive outcome – you may simply not see it yet … keep looking to challenge your creativity to see a new perspective that could actually lead to greater success.

Creativity will help you articulate a business plan better, to then have greater success in getting your plan funded. Those with greater creativity will have better success running their business or pursuing their careers. Without creativity, even the best product, service or pricing can only take you so far.

The good news is that, with practice, creativity is a skill that can be expanded upon. But, it takes effort, it may be uncomfortable, and it may take a little more time. But, the sweet taste of success will make it all worthwhile.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

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Filed under Business Plan, Business Plan Writer, Business Strategy