Write a business development plan

Now that you’re in the growth stage of your business, set things in motion with a business development plan.

A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves.

How to write a business development plan

Your business development plan is your roadmap to growth, so make it clear, specific and realistic.

What to include in a business development plan

  • Opportunities for growth: Identify where growth will come from – whether it’s in creating new products, adding more services, breaking into new markets, or a combination of these.
  • Funding plan: Determine how you’ll fund your business growth. How much capital do you already have? How much more do you need and how will you get it? Check out our guide on financing your business.
  • Financial goals: Work out what revenue, costs and profits you’ll have if things stay the same. Use those numbers as a basis for setting new, more ambitious financial goals.
  • Operational needs: Identify what things about your business will need to change in order to achieve growth. Will you need extra people, more equipment, or new suppliers?
  • Sales and marketing activities: Figure out what sales and marketing efforts will effectively promote growth and how these efforts will change as the business gets bigger and better. Make sure your sales and marketing plan is sturdy enough to support your growing business.
  • Team needs: You may need people to take on some of the tasks you’ve been doing. Think about what parts of running the business you enjoy most – and you’re good at – and what parts you might want to delegate to others. And give some thought to the culture you want to develop in your business as it grows. Check out our guide on hiring employees.

A sample business development plan

Avoid these common business development mistakes.

  • Thinking short-term instead of long-term
  • Underestimating how much money it will take to grow
  • Not budgeting enough money to cover the costs of growth
  • Focusing on too many growth opportunities: think quality, not quantity

Micro-planning can keep you focused

You may want to create some micro-plans for specific growth projects so their details don’t get overlooked. And you can build in some KPIs to measure your progress and successes. As your business grows, take note of your progress and make periodic adjustments to your business development plan to make sure it’s still relevant.

Support is out there

Remember you’re not the first to go through this. Seek out mentors, advisors or other business owners who can help you with your planning. Your accountant or bookkeeper may also be able to help or point you in the direction of the right people.

Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

Growing your business

Are you ready to drop the hammer and take your business to the next level? Let’s look at how to grow.

Before you leap into growth, reflect on where you’ve come from. Find out the stage of business growth you’re at.

Understanding your business performance will help you grow. Check out common examples of small business KPIs.

Increasing sales revenue is one obvious way to help grow your business. But how do you sell more?

You can grow your business by selling more things to more people, or fewer things to fewer people. Let’s look at how.

You’re all set to grow your business. But there’s so much to keep track of. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to growing your business

Learn how to grow a business, from planning to expansion. Fill out the form to receive this guide as a PDF.

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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 Amazon.com, 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.

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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 Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

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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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Business development plan: A step-by-step approach

Lucia Piseddu

  • This is some text inside of a div block.

A good business development plan can set you up for success. Learn how to create your own from scratch with zero experience!

If you’re just starting with business development , chances are that you’re a little confused about how you should do it. I got lost many times during my entrepreneurial journey. One of those moments was when I had to write a business development plan for the first time.

Now, the main problem was that I didn’t have a clue about what a business development plan was to start with. And of course, when I started digging, I got even more confused. I found a lot of information online, but nothing that would tell me how to do it step-by-step.

So after some years of trying and failing, I finally found my way to deal with it and build my own business development plan.

Below I’ll explain how to write a business development plan and what information you should include in practical terms. But first, let’s define what a business development plan is.

What is a business development plan?

A business development plan is a document that helps you implement your business development strategy in a step-by-step method. It involves a lot of research on the market and customers. But also, other aspects such as your competitors and buyer persona.

So, a business development plan is a detailed summary of important steps you’re going to take to grow your business. One key aspect to remember is that a business development plan is a LIVING document. This means that you have to update your plan continuously based on new information about your ecosystem.

This helps you strategize better but also ensures that it’s a document of quality insights.

A business development plan is divided into two main parts:

  • Research: in the research phase, you learn more about your market, customers, and competitors.
  • Action: you use your research and put it into action. Specifically, this translates into creating a value proposition, and content, and experimenting with ideas.

You can download our template for free at this link .

the business development school - the business development plan template

Step 1: Organize your business development plan

I’m a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis.

It doesn’t have to contain every piece of information. Keep it simple by including only essential and key facts that will help you build an effective business development machine. Your business development plan needs to be easily accessible and quick to consult.

In this sense, you don’t need to get fancy and start looking for the latest software that promises you great time savings. Stick to something basic yet powerful. Google Sheets is your best ally when it comes to your business development plan.

So, the main goal of a business development plan is to keep information structured so that you can spot growth opportunities easier.

You can download our template for free at this link and start your business development plan.

Step 2: Market research

Market research is a stepping stone in a business development plan. It’s an activity to gather more information about customers’ preferences and needs. Many companies overlook this step thinking that their intuition will guide them through their challenges. Intuition can be helpful, but it’s still essential to know your customers better using research and data.

After all, most ideas start off from intuition. However, basing an entire plan on assumptions is never a smart strategy to use in business development. So, do your homework and make sure you always take educated guesses before starting to work on your business development plan.

Market research takes into account 3 variables . These will tell you the realistic size of the market you’re trying to target.

1 – Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market (TAM)

The TAM takes into account the entire market you’re operating in and basically tells you how much annual revenue there is available for your product or service.

Now, finding this information can be the first bummer. To me at least, it sounded quite impossible to find out. Later, I figured that there are many people out there that dedicate their life only to market research.

You can use Google to find out this information. But of course, you first need to know what you’re looking for. The information you need, in this case, is basically knowing how many companies or people would benefit from your product or service.

You also want to know how many companies operate in your exact space both in terms of services and geography. To get relevant market news, try Googling “your industry market trends”, “your market report”, or “your industry report”.

Many big consultancy groups and governmental institutions dedicate a lot of time to this type of research. It’s a good and reliable starting point.

PRO TIP: Choose your sources very carefully. You’ll find a lot of random information, learn to filter out what you’re reading.

2 – Total Served Market (TSM)

Once you know how big your market is, you need to check how much of it is already served by your competitors.

In this case, the information you’re looking for is all about your competition. You should ask yourself first how many of them you have.

Then you need to find out how well they’re doing and start hunting for as much intelligence as possible.

The info you need to look for is how many clients your competitors claim to have, what revenue they generate, and where they are present.

First, Google keywords to identify your competitors. Right after that, you can start digging deeper into their websites and find detailed info.

Bigger competitors will most likely have good press coverage. Read these articles to gather more insight.

Last, don’t overlook the importance of customer review websites. Customers can uncover many relevant details that your competitors don’t want to reveal. And of course, make use of technology to make the most out of your research.

3 – Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)

The last step in your market research is to quantify how much you can realistically obtain with your business development effort.

Your SOM is your share in the market. So, to put it simply, it’s not possible to have an entire market buy only your products and services. There is a specific customer base that will buy from your company . So, your SOM refers to your market share and the people that can become your customers if they see a benefit from your products or services.

SOM takes into account your brand awareness, market insights, but also competition. It helps you forecast potential earnings and also gain customers. Based on the research, you become aware of what your competitors are offering to the market. Moreover, you will be able to tailor your products and services to meet the needs and preferences of your customers.

the business development school - business development plan market research

Step 3: Competitor analysis

The third step to do when creating your business development plan is to do a competitor analysis . So far, I discussed market research and how it helps you get to know the preferences of your target audience better. But, to grow your business sustainably and profitably, it’s vital that you analyze your competitors as well.

First, figure out who your direct and indirect competitors are. So, in a Google search, we try to identify or find the ID of each company that competes in your market. This can be found in the website’s ‘About us’ section. Then, the aim is to find key personalities such as managers and executives, and so on.

Once you have this information, you can move on to products and services. You can find this on your competitor’s website as well. This specific section defines what the company specializes in. You can use this information to compare your products to those of your competitors and try to find ways to improve them.

Continue by checking their clients, and the pricing they offer for their products and services.

PRO TIP: Read the customer reviews of your competitors to spot their strengths and weaknesses. Use the insights to improve your offer.

the business development school - business development plan competitor research

Step 4: Customer research

After identifying your market share, you can start thinking of what kind of customers within this segment, you are trying to sell your products and services to.

The best way to tackle this is by running proper customer research that will provide you with your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona.

This is the part I like the most because it really helps you understand who you’re talking to. But how do you do it? First, if you already have some customers, start analyzing them. You want to gather more information on who they are, what they do, and their habitual traits.

For example:

  • What job titles do these people have?
  • How old are they?
  • What communication tools do they use?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • What are their personalities like?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What do they do in their daily lives?

You can find all this info by simply checking social media profiles. Really, just by observing their social media platforms, you can get to know them in-depth! Take some time to check a few ones (at least 10) and you’re going to start seeing patterns.

Then, check some job descriptions about the people you’re targeting. This will highlight what are their professional responsibilities and how your product or service can help them. Last, it’s always advisable to run a survey.

Step 5: Build your Buyer Persona

Right after having run your customer research, you can now create your buyer persona.

The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research,

In your buyer persona, you need to include all the relevant information you found through your customer research. It should look like something below:

the business development school - buyer persona template

Step 6: Value Propositions

The customer research concludes the research part of your business development plan. Now it’s time to put your insights into action and start building your business development strategy .

The first valuable asset you need to build is a value proposition.

A value proposition is the value your customers get should they choose to buy your products and services

The value proposition helps you communicate your value as a company and you can use it on your website, sales calls, social media posts, etc. Having a clear value proposition will help you attract the right audience and persuade potential customers to work with you.

Of course, a good value proposition is based on that, and if you followed all the steps, you should have all the insights you need.

To build a value proposition we will use the Job-To-Be-Done framework. This helps you identify what are the responsibilities of your buyer persona when they’re doing their job.

For example, a typical responsibility for a recruiter is to find the right talent .

the business development school - job-to-be-done framework

Second, consider the pains and gains of your customers. Customers’ emotions are usually the reason behind their buying decisions. They influence their preferences, frequency of buying, and also which companies they buy from.

Especially the challenges are a crucial element in your value proposition because you can immediately link your solution to a concrete pain that your customers are facing.

For example, let’s go back to the example of the recruiter. We know that one main responsibility of a recruiter is to find talent. One major challenge for recruiters is to have enough time to process all the CVs they receive daily.

Now, let’s assume you work for a company that provides recruitment software that can automate CV screening.

A good value proposition, in this case, would sound like this:

Save 70% of your CV screening time using our recruitment software

the business development school - value proposition design template

Step 7: Content plan

Once you have your value proposition, the next step is to share it with your target audience. That’s when having a content plan becomes a must.

A content plan helps you strategize the type of information you want to feed your audience. It also helps you select the channels on which you should build your presence.

For content to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience when you write posts/emails, or articles. So, always consult your buyer persona before creating content.

Just like the value propositions, effective content revolves around the pain point you identified earlier. Use them to get the attention of your audience and provide valuable information that helps them alleviate these pains.

This will help you establish yourself as a valuable resource and when they will want to solve their issues, you’ll be the first to pop into their minds.

Step 8: Experiments

The last step in your business development plan is all about creativity and finding opportunities. This is the moment in which we create experiments to validate some of our business assumptions. Your experiment should be ideas that you think will bring sustainable growth to your company.

Once you identify some ideas, define some goals and set up the methodology you will follow to run this experiment. For example, if you heard of a new social media and you think your audience might be on it, build an experiment to validate if this is true and if it can bring you results.

Attach a goal to this idea, for example, generating 10 qualified leads on this new channel.

Then decide for how long you will run the experiment – ideally a couple of weeks. Once the experiment is over analyze what happened. If the experiment was successful, you need to scale this activity. If not, take the learnings for further improvements.

Read this article with 10 business development examples to have some ideas on how to implement your strategy.

The business development plan is a key document that helps you map your ecosystem and strategize your business development efforts .

It consists of a research part and an action part. In the first part, you analyze your market, competitors, and customers. In the second, you use your insights to build value propositions, content plans, and experiments.

The business development plan is a live document, so you have to update it every time you have new insights. Of course, you have to use it in your daily operations to make sure you’re on the right track.

The business development plan is one of the assets you will build during our training. Would you like to shake up your business development career and work in a more structured way? Then join our next cohort .

Last, if you are a company wanting to train your business development team, our custom training solutions are the best way to take your team to the next level.

business development plan introduction

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Vivienne Chen

Vivienne Chen

Vivienne is a Product Marketer at Bubble. She is a storyteller and is passionate about meaningful ways technology can help foster social solidarity.

More posts by Vivienne Chen.

Building a successful company without a business plan is possible, but we wouldn't recommend it. The same could be said about business development.

A business development plan outlines objectives and strategies that will help you grow your business. Like a more general business plan, your business development plan helps keep you on the path to success in a variety of ways. It outlines steps to keep everyone focused on the health or expansion of the business, identifies challenges before they become surprises, and shows potential investors that you've thought about your plan.

Business Development Strategies

Business development (BD) is a broad practice of identifying and converting new clients or customers to drive growth. The strategies in your business development plan might include sales, marketing, and several other types of initiatives. Your BD plan could include any of the following common strategies:

1 – Networking

For many founders, business development through networking is a great place to start. You already have a head start if any of your personal connections fall within your target audience or if you have a good reputation in your field. Another benefit of networking as a BD strategy is that you can often do it for free, especially on digital platforms like LinkedIn. Once you have the time, you can start reaching out to your network whenever you're ready.

2 – Outbound Sales

People often talk about sales and business development interchangeably, but the sales function has a slightly narrower focus: converting leads into new clients. Modern sales teams typically use email, phone, LinkedIn, and occasionally traditional mail to reach their prospects. You have to close the deal at some point, so sales connects to many other BD strategies. For example, leads from content marketing might go to the sales team for outreach.

3 – Referrals

Referrals are closely related to both sales and networking. Your personal network might refer prospects to you, and the sales team might engage with those referrals. Delighting your current clients and then asking them for referrals is the best way to win new business with this strategy. Still, it often takes time to build a strong enough reputation that you get many referrals.

4 – Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular choice for businesses with small marketing budgets. That said, there is still some cost associated with creating quality content. If nothing else, you have to put your own time into it. Creating and publishing content can establish thought leadership, increase your visibility in the marketplace, and attract inbound traffic through SEO.

5 – Advertising

If you have the budget for it, advertising is an option. Targeted digital ads are generally the best bet for rapid growth, but there are other opportunities. In traditional media, you might place an ad or a sponsored article in a niche magazine for people in your field. Alternatively, you might pay to sponsor an industry event that will get you in front of your target audience.

6 – Strategic Partnerships

Strategic business opportunities such as partnerships and marketing alliances can connect a company to new clients. That is, another company might help you grow if you can make it mutually beneficial. A strategic partnership might entail a partner selling your product for you on the condition that they get to implement and administer the product. After a large round of funding, there might be an opportunity to enter new markets through acquisitions.

Business Development Tactics

After considering your business development strategy options, you’re ready to develop a written plan. Online resources like this guide from HubSpot offer templates to help you organize your thoughts. As you commit your business development plan to writing, it’s time to get into the tactical details of how you’ll execute your strategies. Tactics like the following are where the rubber meets the road:

  • Consultations, Product Demos, and Assessments – Simply put, show people what your product is all about. You might provide consultations or demos to your network, to new referrals, or as part of the sales process.
  • Webinars – You might not get the personal touch of one-to-one consultation in a webinar, but the reach is much broader. Webinar recordings also make helpful pieces of content to re-share, and you can even use Bubble to create a no-code app for hosting your webinars .
  • PR, Earned Media, and Speaking Engagements – Connections with relevant journalists and event organizers can help you gain exposure and solidify yourself as a thought leader. You're more likely to get some spotlight if you have original research or innovative ideas.
  • Sales Sequences and Nurture Campaigns – Great sales materials can help your team close deals. Provide your sellers and community managers with strong assets to ensure their messaging is effective and on brand .
  • SEO – You can get organic traffic by creating great digital content on an easy-to-build no-code website and social media platforms and by working on the technical side of search engine optimization .
  • Industry Events – Attending relevant events is a great way to build your network and connect with your target audience.
  • Social Media – Building an online following can be cost-effective if you have the time and the know-how. Per HubSpot , most marketers post on social media four to six times a week in an effort to boost engagement.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads – This advertising model is popular on social media and search engines. Meta, Google, and other companies have extensive marketing data to help you target the right prospects, which is why 65% of SMBs run PPC campaigns .

This list is not exhaustive. Because business development is so broad, you might use any number of tactics to advance your strategies.

Choosing a Course of Action for Your Business Development Plan

Ultimately, the best BD strategies and tactics are the ones that match your business. Selling a niche cybersecurity product for financial organizations differs from promoting an iPhone app for the general public. Revisiting the vision and mission of your business might help you identify business development opportunities.

Audience research is crucial, too, because you have to meet your audience where they are. Additional analysis of your competitors can help you find your unique selling points and position your product. Finally, define which metrics you'll use to measure success. This information will tell you if your BD plan is working or if you need to reconsider your strategies and tactics.

Above all, and once you've written your business development plan, build a great product . Once you do that, business development gets much easier.

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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.

Advertising

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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Business Plan Development Guide

(6 reviews)

business development plan introduction

Lee Swanson, University of Saskatchewan

Copyright Year: 2017

Publisher: OPENPRESS.USASK.CA

Language: English

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Reviewed by Kevin Heupel, Affiliate Faculty, Metropolitan State University of Denver on 3/4/20

The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

The text does a good job of providing a general outline about writing and developing a written business plan. All of the important steps and components are included. However, the text is light on details, examples, and rationale for each element of the business plan. Some examples from actual business plans would be helpful.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

For the most part, the content is accurate. The content covers all important aspects of drafting a business plan. I thought the industry analysis could use more information about collecting primary and secondary sources; instead, this information was referenced in the marketing plan section.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Most of the content relies on cites as far back as 2006; however, when it comes to developing and writing a business plan nothing has changed. Thus, the content is current and there is no concern about it becoming obsolete in the near future.

Clarity rating: 4

The text is clear. There are no difficult terms used and the writing is simple. The text uses a lot of bullet points though, which gets tedious to read for a few pages.

Consistency rating: 5

The text does a good job of maintaining consistency in terms of framework and terminology. The text is organized where it's easy to find the information you want in a quick manner.

Modularity rating: 3

The text has a lot of bullet points and the paragraphs are dense. However, the use of subheading is excellent.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The book is organized as if you're writing a business plan from start to finish, which is helpful as a practical guide.

Interface rating: 5

There are no navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, or any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text is free of grammatical errors. The sentence structure is simple with many bullet points, which helps to avoid any grammatical issues.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

This book was written by a Canadian professor and provides references to Canadian sources. However, the information in this text can be used for U.S. schools.

This book is very short and provides a good, general overview about the process of creating and writing a business plan. It won't help a reader if he/she is confused about a certain part of the business plan. The reader will have to find another source, such as "Preparing Effective Business Plans" by Bruce Barringer, Ph.D. The book provides links to good resources and a finished business plan that the reader can reference. I would recommend the book for undergraduate courses.

business development plan introduction

Reviewed by Kenneth Lacho, Professor of Management, The University of New Orleans on 6/19/18

1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or... read more

1. Text is relevant to Canada. Not the United States 2. Needs to cover resources available to entrepreneur, e.g., federal government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies. 3. Discuss local economy or economic area relevant to this proposed business. 4. Business model ok as a guide. 5. Suggested mission statement to cover: product/business, target customer, geographical area covered. 6. Need detailed promotion plan, e.g., personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, networking publicity, and social media. 7. How do you find the target market? 8. Chapter 6 too much detail on debt and equity financing. 9. Discuss how to find sources of financing, e.g., angels. 10. Expand coverage of bootstring, crowdfunding. 11. Chapter 4 – good checklist. 12. Chapter 3 - overlaps. 13. Chapter 7 – 3 pages of executive summary – double or single spaced typing. Number all tables, graphs. 14. Some references out-of-date, mostly academic. Bring in trade magazines such as Entrepreneur.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

In my opinion, the content is accurate and error free.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

The material is relevant to writing a business plan. I wonder if the Porter, SWOT VRIO, etc. material is too high level for students who may not be seniors or have non-business degrees (e.g., liberal arts). Porter has been around for a while and does have longevity. The author has to be more alert to changes in promotion, e.g., social media and sources of financing, e.g., crowdfunding.

Clarity rating: 3

As noted in No. 9, the tone of the writing is too academic, thus making the material difficult to understand. Paragraphs are too long. Need to define: Porter, TOWS Matrix, VRIO, PESTEL. A student less from a senior or a non-business major would not be familiar with these terms.

Consistency rating: 4

The text is internally consistent. The model approach helps keep the process consistent.

Modularity rating: 4

The process of developing a business plan is divided into blocks which are parts of the business plan. Paragraphs tend to be too long in some spots.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The topics are presented in a logical step-wise flow. The language style is too academic in parts, paragraphs too long. Leaves out the citations. Provides excellent check lists.

There are no display features which confuse the reader.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

The text has no grammatical errors. On the other hand, I found the writing to be too academic in nature. Some paragraphs are too long. The material is more like an academic conference paper or journal submission. Academic citations references are not needed. The material is not exciting to read.

The text is culturally neutral. There are no examples which are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

This book best for a graduate class.

Reviewed by Louis Bruneau, Part Time Faculty, Portland Community College on 6/19/18

The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

The text provides appropriate discussion and illustration of all major concepts and useful references to source and resource materials.

Contents of the book were accurate, although it could have benefited from editing/proofreading; there was no evidence of bias. As to editing/proofreading, a couple of examples: A. “Figure 1 – Business Plan… “ is shown at the top of the page following the diagram vs. the bottom of the page the diagram is on. (There are other problems with what is placed on each page.) B. First paragraph under heading “Essential Initial Research” there is reference to pages 21 to 30 though page numbering is missing from the book. (Page numbers are used in the Table of Contents.)

The book is current in that business planning has been stable for sometime. The references and resources will age in time, but are limited and look easy to update.

Clarity rating: 5

The book is written in a straightforward way, technical terms that needed explanations got them, jargon was avoided and generally it was an easy read.

The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

Modularity rating: 5

The book lends itself to a multi-week course. A chapter could be presented and students could work on that stage of Plan development. It could also be pre-meeting reading for a workshop presentation. Reorganizing the book would be inappropriate.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.

Generally, the book is free of interface problems. The financial tables in the Sample Plan were turned 90° to maintain legibility. One potential problem was with Figure 6 – Business Model Canvas. The print within the cells was too small to read; the author mitigated the problem by presenting the information, following Figure 6, in the type font of the text.

I found no grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

I require a business plan in a course I teach; for most of the students the assignment is a course project that they do not intend to pursue in real life. I shared the book with five students that intended to develop an actual start-up business; three of them found it helpful while the other two decided not to do that much work on their plans. If I were planning a start-up, I would use/follow the book.

Reviewed by Todd Johnson, Faculty of Business, North Hennepin Community College on 5/21/18

The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

The text is a thorough overview of all elements of a business plan.

The content is accurate and seems to lack bias.

Content seems relevant and useful . It does not help an entrepreneur generate ideas, and is very light on crowdfunding and other novel funding source content. It is more traditional. This can be easily updated in future versions, however. "Social Media" appears once in the book, as does "Crowd Funding".

The book is comprehensive, but perhaps not written in the most lucid, accessible prose. I am not sure any college student could pick this up and just read and learn. It would be best used as a "teach along guide" for students to process with an instructor.

The text seems consistent. The author does a nice job of consistently staying on task and using bullets and brevity.

Here I am not so certain. The table of contents is not a good guide for this book. It does make the book look nicely laid out, but there is a lot of complexity within these sections. I read it uncertain that it was well organized. Yes there are many good bits of information, however it is not as if I could spend time on one swathe of text at a time. I would need to go back and forth throughout the text.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 2

Similar to the above. I did not like the flow and organization of this. An editor would help things be in a more logical order.

Interface rating: 2

The interface is just OK. It is not an attractice interface, as it presents text in a very dense manner. The images and charts are hard to follow.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

I a not certain of the origins of Saskatchewan, but I do feel this is a different read. It is more formal and dense than it has to be. This would be a difficult read for my students. I do not feel it is insensitive in any way, or offensive in any way.

I would not adopt this book if given the chance. It is too dense, and not organized very well, even though the information is very good. The density and lack of modularity are barriers to understanding what is obviously very good information.

Reviewed by Mariana Mitova, Lecturer, Bowling Green State University on 2/1/18

Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to... read more

Though this textbook has a prescriptive nature, it is quite comprehensive. The author strikes a good balance between presenting concepts in a concise way and providing enough information to explain them. Many every-day examples and live links to other resources add to the completeness of the textbook.

Content seems accurate.

Since the content is somewhat conceptual, the text will not become obsolete quickly. In addition, the author seems to be updating and editing content often hence the relevance to current developments is on target.

The text is very clear, written in clear and straight-to-the point language.

The organization of content is consistent throughout the entire text.

The textbook is organized by chapters, beginning with overview of the model used and followed by chapters for each concept within the model. Nicely done.

The flow is clear, logical and easy to follow.

Overall, images, links, and text are well organized. Some headlines were misaligned but still easy to follow.

No concerns for grammar.

No concerns for cultural irrelevance.

Reviewed by Darlene Weibye, Cosmetology Instructor, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on 2/1/18

The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning. read more

The text is comprehensive and covers the information needed to develop a business plan. The book provides all the means necessary in business planning.

The text was accurate, and error-free. I did not find the book to be biased.

The content is up-to-date. I am reviewing the book in 2017, the same year the book was published.

The content was very clear. A business plan sample included operation timelines, start up costs, and all relevant material in starting a business.

The book is very consistent and is well organized.

The book has a table of contents and is broken down into specific chapters. The chapters are not divided into sub topics. I do not feel it is necessary for sub topics because the chapters are brief and to the point.

There is a great flow from chapter to chapter. One topic clearly leads into the next without repeating.

The table of contents has direct links to each chapter. The appearance of the chapters are easy to read and the charts are very beneficial.

Does not appear to have any grammatical errors.

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive.

I am incorporating some of the text into the salon business course. Very well written book.

Table of Contents

Introduction

  • Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan
  • Chapter 2 – Essential Initial Research
  • Chapter 3 – Business Models
  • Chapter 4 – Initial Business Plan Draft
  • Chapter 5 – Making the Business Plan Realistic
  • Chapter 6 – Making the Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur
  • Chapter 7 – Finishing the Business Plan
  • Chapter 8 – Business Plan Pitches

References Appendix A – Business Plan Development Checklist and Project Planner Appendix B – Fashion Importers Inc. Business Plan Business Plan Excel Template

Ancillary Material

About the book.

This textbook and its accompanying spreadsheet templates were designed with and for students wanting a practical and easy-to-follow guide for developing a business plan. It follows a unique format that both explains what to do and demonstrates how to do it.

About the Contributors

Dr. Lee Swanson is an Associate Professor of Management and Marketing at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. His research focuses on entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, Aboriginal entrepreneurship, community capacity-building through entrepreneurship, and institutional-stakeholder engagement. Dr. Swanson’s current research is funded through a Social Sciences Humanities Research Council grant and focuses on social and economic capacity building in Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Scandinavia. He is also actively studying Aboriginal community partnerships with resource based companies, entrepreneurship centres at universities, community-based entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions. He teaches upper-year and MBA entrepreneurship classes and conducts seminars on business planning and business development.

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1.1: Chapter 1 – Developing a Business Plan

  • Last updated
  • Save as PDF
  • Page ID 21274

  • Lee A. Swanson
  • University of Saskatchewan

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Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Describe the purposes for business planning
  • Describe common business planning principles
  • Explain common business plan development guidelines and tools
  • List and explain the elements of the business plan development process
  • Explain the purposes of each element of the business plan development process
  • Explain how applying the business plan development process can aid in developing a business plan that will meet entrepreneurs’ goals

This chapter describes the purposes, principles, and the general concepts and tools for business planning, and the process for developing a business plan.

Purposes for Developing Business Plans

Business plans are developed for both internal and external purposes. Internally, entrepreneurs develop business plans to help put the pieces of their business together. Externally, the most common purpose is to raise capital.

Internal Purposes

As the road map for a business’s development, the business plan

  • Defines the vision for the company
  • Establishes the company’s strategy
  • Describes how the strategy will be implemented
  • Provides a framework for analysis of key issues
  • Provides a plan for the development of the business
  • Helps the entrepreneur develop and measure critical success factors
  • Helps the entrepreneur to be realistic and test theories

External Purposes

The business plan provides the most complete source of information for valuation of the business. Thus, it is often the main method of describing a company to external audiences such as potential sources for financing and key personnel being recruited. It should assist outside parties to understand the current status of the company, its opportunities, and its needs for resources such as capital and personnel.

Business Plan Development Principles

Hindle and Mainprize (2006) suggested that business plan writers must strive to effectively communicate their expectations about the nature of an uncertain future and to project credibility. The liabilities of newness make communicating the expected future of new ventures much more difficult than for existing businesses. Consequently, business plan writers should adhere to five specific communication principles .

First, business plans must be written to meet the expectations of targeted readers in terms of what they need to know to support the proposed business. They should also lay out the milestones that investors or other targeted readers need to know. Finally, writers must clearly outline the opportunity , the context within the proposed venture will operate (internal and external environment), and the business model (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

There are also five business plan credibility principles that writers should consider. Business plan writers should build and establish their credibility by highlighting important and relevant information about the venture team . Writers need to elaborate on the plans they outline in their document so that targeted readers have the information they need to assess the plan’s credibility. To build and establish credibility, they must integrate scenarios to show that the entrepreneur has made realistic assumptions and has effectively anticipated what the future holds for their proposed venture. Writers need to provide comprehensive and realistic financial links between all relevant components of the plan. Finally, they must outline the deal , or the value that targeted readers should expect to derive from their involvement with the venture (Hindle & Mainprize, 2006).

General Guidelines for Developing Business Plans

Many businesses must have a business plan to achieve their goals. Using a standard format helps the reader understand that the you have thought everything through, and that the returns justify the risk. The following are some basic guidelines for business plan development.

As You Write Your Business Plan

1. If appropriate, include nice, catchy, professional graphics on your title page to make it appealing to targeted readers, but don’t go overboard.

2. Bind your document so readers can go through it easily without it falling apart. You might use a three-ring binder, coil binding, or a similar method. Make sure the binding method you use does not obscure the information next to where it is bound.

3. Make certain all of your pages are ordered and numbered correctly.

4. The usual business plan convention is to number all major sections and subsections within your plan using the format as follows:

1. First main heading

1.1 First subheading under the first main heading

1.1.1. First sub-subheading under the first subheading

2. Second main heading

2.1 First subheading under the second main heading

Use the styles and references features in Word to automatically number and format your section titles and to generate your table of contents. Be sure that the last thing you do before printing your document is update your automatic numbering and automatically generated tables. If you fail to do this, your numbering may be incorrect.

5. Prior to submitting your plan, be 100% certain each of the following requirements are met:

  • Everything must be completely integrated. The written part must say exactly the same thing as the financial part.
  • All financial statements must be completely linked and valid. Make sure all of your balance sheets balance.
  • Everything must be correct. There should be NO spelling, grammar, sentence structure, referencing, or calculation errors.
  • Your document must be well organized and formatted. The layout you choose should make the document easy to read and comprehend. All of your diagrams, charts, statements, and other additions should be easy to find and be located in the parts of the plan best suited to them.
  • In some cases it can strengthen your business plan to show some information in both text and table or figure formats. You should avoid unnecessary repetition , however, as it is usually unnecessary—and even damaging—to state the same thing more than once.
  • You should include all the information necessary for readers to understand everything in your document.
  • The terms you use in your plan should be clear and consistent. For example, the following statement in a business plan would leave a reader completely confused: “There is a shortage of 100,000 units with competitors currently producing 25,000. We can help fill this huge gap in demand with our capacity to produce 5,000 units.”
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Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

business development plan introduction

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Understanding Business Plans

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

How to Write a Business Plan

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

Common Elements of a Business Plan

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How Often Should a Business Plan Be Updated?

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

The Bottom Line

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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How to Create the Right Business Development Plan

Daniel Brown

Key Highlights

  • A business development plan is a strategic roadmap that outlines the steps and strategies needed to achieve specific business goals, such as identifying new opportunities, expanding into new markets, forging partnerships, and improving overall performance.
  • A well-crafted business development plan provides clear direction, allocates resources efficiently, aligns teams, and allows for tracking progress and measuring success.
  • Key components of a business development plan include setting goals, understanding target audiences, analyzing the competition, creating marketing and sales strategies, and implementing action plans.
  • Startups should focus on high-impact growth opportunities, maximize their marketing budget, build strategic partnerships, and prioritize teamwork. Large organizations should invest in long-term strategic initiatives, diversify their business development efforts, leverage their resources and expertise, and establish talent development programs.

Whether steering a fresh-faced startup or commanding a massive corporate ship, mastering the art of crafting a robust business development plan is your secret weapon for success.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process and strategies of creating a robust business development plan. Whether it’s leveraging market research to identify new opportunities or utilizing the power of partnerships to accelerate growth, these strategies will equip you with the tools to navigate the dynamic business landscape confidently.

  • What is a Business Development Plan?

A business development plan is a strategic roadmap that helps a company grow and succeed. It outlines the steps and strategies needed to achieve specific business goals. These goals may include identifying new opportunities, expanding into new markets, forging partnerships, and improving overall performance.

Now, you might be wondering why you need a business development plan. First, it provides a clear direction for your company’s growth, ensuring your efforts are focused and targeted. For example, if your goal is to enter a new market, the plan will outline the necessary research , partnerships, and marketing efforts required to achieve that goal.

But that’s not all. A well-crafted business development plan also helps you allocate resources more efficiently , preventing wasted time and money. By outlining priorities and setting realistic timelines, you can ensure that every aspect of your business gets the attention it deserves.

Moreover, a business development plan can be one of the most powerful tools for team alignment . When everyone on your team understands the company’s objectives and strategies, they are more likely to work together seamlessly, improving overall productivity and efficiency.

A solid plan also allows you to track progress and measure success. By setting specific targets and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs), you can quickly identify areas that need improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly.

In short, a business development plan is your company’s GPS, guiding you toward growth and success. By creating a comprehensive and actionable plan, you can ensure that your business is always moving forward, ready to seize new opportunities and overcome challenges along the way.

  • Key Components of a Business Development Plan

A comprehensive business development plan should include several key components to guide your organization’s growth efforts. These components provide a structured framework for identifying, evaluating, and pursuing growth opportunities. 

Close up on business plan documents

Here’s a detailed look at each element:

  • Goals : Clearly defined objectives and measurable targets guide your business development efforts. These goals should align with your overall business objectives and include short-term and long-term targets. When setting goals, consider using the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to ensure they are clear and actionable.
  • Target audience : A thorough understanding of your ideal customers contributes to crafting a more effective business development plan. This includes identifying their needs, preferences, and behaviors. In addition, understanding your target audience can tailor your marketing and sales strategies to reach and engage them more effectively. To identify your target audience, consider conducting market research through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, analyzing demographic data, and studying your competitors’ customer base.
  • Competition analysis : A detailed examination of your competitors is necessary to identify their strengths and weaknesses and potential opportunities for differentiation. This analysis should include data on market share, product offerings, pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and customer experience. By understanding your competition, you can develop a unique value proposition that sets your organization apart and attracts your target audience.
  • Marketing and sales strategies : A well-integrated strategy to engage your target audience, advertise your products or services, and produce leads significantly contributes to effective business development. Your marketing and sales strategies should be tailored to your target audience’s preferences and behaviors, using the most effective channels and tactics for reaching them. This may include content marketing, social media advertising, email campaigns, events, and other promotional activities.
  • Action plans : A clear, step-by-step guide that lists the tasks, duties, and deadlines needed to reach your business development objectives is valuable for maintaining focus on your progress. This action plan should include short-term tasks, such as launching marketing campaigns or attending networking events, and long-term initiatives, like developing new products or entering new markets. Regularly reviewing and updating your action plan will ensure that your business development efforts remain focused and aligned with your objectives.
  • Business Development Process

The business development process is a series of steps to identify, evaluate, and pursue growth opportunities. While the exact process may vary between organizations, it typically includes the following stages:

  • Market research and analysis: In this stage, you’ll gather information about your target market, including customer demographics, preferences, and pain points. This research will help you identify potential opportunities and understand the competitive landscape better. Techniques for market research include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and analysis of existing data sources. For example, a software company looking to expand its product offerings might conduct surveys to determine which features are most desired by potential customers, helping them tailor their new product to meet market gaps.
  • Identifying potential opportunities: Based on your market research, you’ll identify growth opportunities that align with your organization’s strengths and capabilities. This may include entering new markets, developing new products or services, targeting new customer segments, or forging strategic partnerships. For instance, a small e-commerce business might realize that its products appeal to a specific age group and decide to target this demographic more aggressively with marketing campaigns.
  • Evaluating the feasibility of each opportunity : Once you’ve identified potential growth opportunities, assess their practicality. This involves analyzing the potential benefits, risks, and resources required for each option. You’ll want to consider factors such as market size, competition, barriers to entry, and the potential return on investment (ROI) . For example, a manufacturing company considering expanding its production capacity might delve into specifics such as the costs of acquiring new machinery, hiring and training additional staff, potential supply chain complexities, and the projected increase in revenue from enhanced production capacity.
  • Developing a business development strategy : After evaluating the feasibility of each opportunity, you’ll create a strategic plan to pursue the most promising ones. This plan should outline your objectives, target markets, value proposition, and the specific tactics you’ll use to reach your goals. Your strategy may also include a timeline for implementation and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. For example, a health and wellness company might enter a new market by launching a line of supplements. Its strategy could involve targeted marketing campaigns, influencer partnerships, and social media marketing.
  • Implementing the strategy and measuring results: In this final stage, you’ll implement your business development plan. This involves executing the tactics outlined in your strategy, such as launching marketing campaigns, developing new products, or establishing partnerships. Throughout the implementation process, ensure you monitor your results using the KPIs established earlier. Regularly measuring your progress will help you identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments to your strategy. For instance, a B2B service provider might track the number of new clients acquired, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction scores to gauge the effectiveness of their business development efforts and make data-driven decisions to optimize their approach.
  • Creating a Business Development Plan

Let’s consider a hypothetical example of a software company aiming to expand into the healthcare industry to demonstrate how a business development plan can be created.

Overhead view of business development plan meeting

  • Step 1: Set Clear Goals and Objectives

The company sets a specific goal: “Increase our market share in the healthcare industry by 15% within the next two years.” This goal is SMART, as it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

  • Step 2: Conduct Market Research and Identify Your Target Audience

The company conducts market research to understand the healthcare industry’s needs, preferences, and pain points. They gather information through surveys, interviews, and focus groups with healthcare professionals and analyze existing data sources such as industry reports, whitepapers, and case studies.

  • Step 3: Analyze Your Competition

The software company identifies its key competitors in the healthcare market, analyzing its product offerings, market share, pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and customer experience to understand its strengths and weaknesses and find potential areas for differentiation.

Step 4: Develop Marketing and Sales Strategies Based on market research and competitor analysis insights, the company tailors its marketing and sales strategies to the healthcare industry. They develop targeted content marketing campaigns, engage healthcare influencers, attend industry events, and create healthcare-specific case studies to showcase their software solutions’ value.

  • Step 5: Create an Action Plan

The company outlines specific steps, responsibilities, and deadlines to expand into the healthcare market. They assign tasks to team members, establish clear communication channels for progress tracking, and ensure everyone is working towards the same objective.

  • Step 6: Monitor and Measure Results

The company tracks the performance of its business development activities using key performance indicators (KPIs), such as the number of healthcare leads generated, conversion rates, and revenue growth in the healthcare sector. They regularly review these results to make informed decisions about adjusting strategies and allocating resources more effectively.

  • How to Customize a Plan for Startups vs. Large Organizations

The development of a business, whether a startup or a large organization, requires a thorough understanding of its unique needs and opportunities. Nonetheless, creating a business development plan might vary between startups and large organizations. Startups often have limited resources and focus on immediate growth opportunities. 

In contrast, large organizations may allocate more resources to long-term strategic initiatives. Regardless of your organization’s size, tailoring your business development plan to meet your unique needs and goals is valuable.

  • For Startups
  • Identify high-impact growth opportunities : When creating an action plan for business development, startups might consider focusing on options that offer quick wins. For example, a startup could target a niche market segment with unmet needs or provide a unique solution to an existing problem. Airbnb, a startup in its early days, tapped into the unmet demand for affordable accommodations by allowing homeowners to rent out their spaces to travelers.
  • Maximize your startup marketing budget : Startups frequently work with restricted budgets, making it necessary to utilize economical business development and marketing channels that deliver the most significant ROI. For instance, content marketing, social media, and email marketing can be powerful tools for startups to build brand awareness and engage with their target audience without breaking the bank. In addition, consider prioritizing essential expenses, seeking strategic partnerships, and exploring innovative ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency throughout your business operations.
  • Build a strong network of strategic partners : Partnerships can help startups access new customers, resources, and expertise. For example, a startup could partner with complementary businesses to offer bundled services, co-host events, or cross-promote products. Dropbox, for instance, partnered with Samsung to provide pre-installed Dropbox storage on Samsung devices , significantly increasing their user base. To connect with larger companies for potential partnerships, attend industry events, conferences, and trade shows, and leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn to identify and engage with key decision-makers. Establishing relationships with industry leaders can open doors for collaboration.
  • Prioritize teamwork and collaboration : Startups often feature smaller teams, so establishing a teamwork-driven atmosphere that bolsters productivity and capitalizes on resource allocation proves beneficial. Encourage open communication, delegate responsibilities, and set clear expectations to ensure your team works efficiently and effectively towards your business development goals.
  • For Large Organizations
  • Invest in long-term strategic initiatives : Large organizations can benefit from focusing on strategic business development initiatives that capitalize on their established market presence and resources. For example, large businesses can diversify their business development activities to mitigate risks and capitalize on growth opportunities. This may involve exploring new customer segments, entering different industries, or adopting new technologies. Google’s diversified portfolio, including investments in artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, and renewable energy, demonstrates this approach.
  • Diversify your business development efforts : Large organizations can explore opportunities in new markets and industries to drive innovation and growth beyond their core business. This can include investing in research and development (R&D) to create innovative products or forming strategic partnerships with companies from other sectors. Amazon’s continuous expansion into new industries, such as healthcare and grocery, exemplifies this approach. By broadening their scope, large organizations can capitalize on emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition.
  • Leverage your organization’s resources and expertise : Large organizations have a wealth of resources and expertise at their disposal. They can develop innovative solutions and strategies to drive business growth by tapping into this knowledge. Take IBM, for example. This tech giant leverages its profound technological know-how and data analysis expertise to develop ground-breaking solutions, like their AI platform, Watson. Watson has revolutionized industries ranging from healthcare, where it aids in diagnosing diseases and suggesting treatments, to finance, where it helps banks in risk assessment and fraud detection. The key here is leveraging what you have to create solutions that drive growth and add value for your clients’ businesses. 
  • Establish robust talent development programs : One unique strength of large organizations is their capacity to develop and nurture talent within their ranks. These businesses can continuously enhance their workforce skills by investing in comprehensive training and development programs, fueling innovation and growth. This approach also helps to retain top performers, reducing turnover and promoting a high-performance culture. For instance, consider the case of General Electric. GE’s renowned leadership development programs have been instrumental in grooming a cadre of leaders who have gone on to hold top positions within GE and other major corporations. Large organizations can foster a culture of excellence, innovation, and continuous improvement by focusing on talent development.
  • Strategies for Generating Creative Business Development Ideas

Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and explore alternative business development models that deliver value to your customers. Innovation contributes to business growth and helps maintain a  competitive edge.

Group collaboration meeting

Here are some tips and examples to help you develop innovative business development ideas:

  • Encourage a culture of innovation : Foster an environment where employees feel empowered to share their ideas, experiment, and take risks. Promote open communication and collaboration and recognize and reward innovative thinking. Google’s “20% time” policy, which allows employees to dedicate 20% of their working hours to passion projects, has resulted in successful products like Gmail and Google Maps.
  • Monitor industry trends and technological advancements : Stay informed about the latest developments in your industry and related technology sectors. This can help you identify new opportunities for growth and stay ahead of the competition. For instance, consider the rapidly advancing field of AI in healthcare. Companies like Zebra Medical Vision leverage AI for early disease detection , using sophisticated algorithms to analyze medical imaging data and detect anomalies that could indicate conditions like cancer, liver disease, or cardiovascular issues. This use of AI improves diagnostic accuracy and significantly accelerates the process, potentially saving lives by enabling earlier intervention.
  • Leverage internal expertise and resources : Tap into your organization’s wealth of knowledge and resources to identify innovative solutions to business challenges. For example, Google’s Project Aristotle analyzed data from hundreds of teams within the company to identify the key factors that made teams effective. By leveraging its internal expertise in data analysis and organizational behavior, Google was able to implement new strategies and foster a more collaborative work environment, ultimately driving innovation and growth.
  • Explore strategic partnerships and collaborations : Collaborate with external partners, such as complementary businesses, suppliers, or research institutions, to access new ideas, resources, and expertise. Take the case of the collaboration between Starbucks and Spotify, for instance. This innovative alliance allowed Starbucks employees to influence the music played in stores via Spotify playlists, enhancing the in-store experience for customers. Simultaneously, Spotify users could access these playlists, driving user engagement on their platform. This symbiotic relationship amplified brand exposure for both parties, demonstrating the power of strategic partnerships.
  • Experiment with new business models : Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and explore alternative ways of delivering value to your customers. Innovative business models can often lead to significant growth opportunities. For instance, the subscription-based model adopted by companies like Dollar Shave Club and Spotify disrupted traditional sales models in their respective industries.
  • Embrace a problem-solving mindset : Encourage your team to approach business challenges with a problem-solving mindset , focusing on finding creative solutions that deliver value to customers. This mindset can help drive innovation and uncover new business development opportunities. Tesla’s mission to combat climate change led to the development of its innovative electric vehicles and solar energy products.
  • Role of Business Development in Sales

Integrating business development and sales strategies drive growth and revenue generation. Business development activities, such as lead generation , market research, and partnership development, support sales efforts. By identifying and nurturing leads, conducting market research to understand customer needs, and fostering strategic partnerships, business development teams can help sales teams close deals more effectively.

Conversely, insights from sales interactions can inform business development efforts and help refine marketing and sales strategies, contributing to the organization’s longevity.

In addition, when a company continually learns from its sales interactions and applies those insights to improve its offerings, messaging, and customer engagement tactics, it is better positioned to adapt to changing market conditions and customer preferences.

This adaptability ultimately leads to stronger customer relationships, increased customer loyalty, and sustained business growth, all contributing to the organization’s longevity.

Sales associate checking CRM software

Examples of successful sales development plans often include a strong focus on collaboration between business development and sales teams and the use of data-driven insights to optimize lead generation and conversion efforts. For instance, a software company wants to expand its market share in a new industry vertical.

To achieve this, the business development team conducts thorough market research to identify key players, customer pain points, and potential partnerships within the new industry. This information is then shared with the sales team, who uses the insights to tailor their pitches and address clients’ specific needs in the new market.

Simultaneously, the sales team shares feedback from client interactions, allowing the business development team to fine-tune their research and partnership strategies. This continuous learning and adaptation process leads to higher conversion rates and increased revenue and strengthens the company’s ability to thrive in the long term.

  • Case Studies

Examining case studies of successful companies can provide valuable insights into how business development and sales strategies can be effectively integrated to drive growth and achieve long-term success.

  • Amazon: Embracing Customer Obsession

Amazon’s relentless focus on customer satisfaction has driven its innovative business development and sales strategies. By leveraging data analytics and customer feedback, Amazon continually refines its offerings and sales approach to cater to customers’ evolving preferences. This customer-centric mindset has led to innovations such as Prime membership, one-click ordering, and Alexa voice assistant, which have enhanced the customer experience and fueled Amazon’s growth.

  • Salesforce: Revolutionizing CRM through Collaboration

Salesforce, a pioneer in cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, has successfully integrated business development and sales by fostering a collaborative culture . They encourage cross-functional teams to work together to identify new markets and develop innovative solutions. This collaborative approach has enabled Salesforce to remain at the forefront of the CRM market, continuously delivering cutting-edge products and services that meet customer needs.

  • Slack: Transforming Workplace Communication

Slack, a widespread team collaboration platform, demonstrates the power of effectively integrating business development and sales strategies. By conducting extensive market research and user feedback, Slack identified a gap in the market for a user-friendly, intuitive communication tool. This insight led to the development of a platform that streamlined workplace communication, transforming how teams collaborate . Slack’s sales team leverages this value proposition to drive adoption, resulting in rapid growth and widespread industry acclaim.

Creating the right business development plan can significantly benefit any organization seeking growth and success. To maximize your chances of success, focus on understanding your organization’s unique needs, setting clear goals, conducting market research, and developing effective marketing and sales strategies. In addition, emphasize innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement to stay ahead in the competitive business landscape.

As you develop your plan, create actionable steps and regularly monitor progress to ensure continuous growth and identify areas for improvement. By embracing a culture of innovation, teamwork, and continuous learning, your organization will be well-equipped to navigate business development challenges and achieve long-term growth and success.

Financial Advisor Daniel Brown is an experienced and knowledgeable financial advisor at spoolah.com. He has been in this industry since 2008 and has a strong understanding of economic trends, all types of financial planning, ways of creating plans for meeting short-term and long-term financial goals, etc.

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What is Business Development? Main Concepts and Best Practices

What is Business Development

What is Business Development? How to, Best Practices, Main Concepts

What is business development introduction.

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of commerce, businesses strive not just for survival but for expansion and prosperity. At the heart of this pursuit lies a strategic process known as business development. This multifaceted approach empowers companies to identify new opportunities, foster valuable relationships, and carve a path towards sustainable growth. In this article, we will explore the fundamentals of business development, effective methodologies, best practices, and the tools that can elevate businesses to new heights.

What is Business Development?

Business development is a proactive and strategic process that aims to unlock a company’s growth potential and enhance its overall value. It involves a meticulous study of markets, customers, and industry trends to identify unexplored territories and lucrative prospects. Rather than focusing on day-to-day operations, business development centers on long-term vision and strategic planning, aligning the organization with its long-term goals.

How to Do Business Development

While business development may vary depending on the industry and company size, certain core principles can guide organizations towards success:

Market Research

Market research is the foundation of effective business development. It involves thorough data collection and analysis to gain insights into potential markets, consumer preferences, and industry trends. By understanding the needs and desires of target customers, businesses can identify gaps in the market and opportunities for growth.

In-depth market research includes competitor analysis to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning. It also involves studying macroeconomic factors, technological advancements, and regulatory changes that could impact the business landscape. Armed with this knowledge, companies can make informed decisions on market entry, product development, and strategic partnerships.

Networking and Relationship Building

Building strong relationships is a crucial aspect of business development. Effective networking allows businesses to connect with potential clients, partners, and stakeholders who can contribute to their growth. Networking can take place through industry events, conferences, trade shows, and online platforms.

The key to successful relationship building is to approach interactions with a genuine interest in understanding the other party’s needs and objectives. By actively listening and offering value, businesses can establish trust and credibility, laying the foundation for potential collaborations or partnerships that benefit all parties involved.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

To achieve successful business development, alignment between the sales and marketing teams is paramount. Marketing teams should provide sales teams with insights from market research and customer data, helping them understand the target audience and positioning the products or services effectively.

In return, sales teams must communicate customer feedback and real-world observations back to marketing, allowing for adjustments in strategies. This synergy ensures that business development efforts are supported by well-coordinated sales and marketing campaigns, driving lead generation and conversion.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the roadmap that guides business development initiatives. It involves setting clear objectives, defining measurable goals, and charting the steps to achieve them. The process includes assessing the company’s current strengths and weaknesses, analyzing potential opportunities and threats, and formulating strategies to capitalize on the strengths and opportunities.

A well-crafted strategic plan outlines the specific actions required at each stage, allocates resources effectively, and sets timelines for achieving milestones. It also incorporates contingency plans to address unforeseen challenges, ensuring adaptability in a dynamic business environment.

Embracing Innovation

Innovation plays a pivotal role in business development, driving differentiation and competitive advantage. Encouraging a culture of innovation within the organization fosters creativity and empowers employees to explore novel ideas.

Businesses can engage in innovation by conducting research and development activities, exploring new technologies, and seeking feedback from customers and industry experts. They should be open to testing and iterating new concepts, products, or services, embracing the idea that failure can lead to valuable lessons and improvements.

Risk Management

Business development involves venturing into new territories, and with it comes inherent risks. Effective risk management is essential for safeguarding the company’s interests and resources.

To mitigate risks, businesses must conduct thorough risk assessments, identifying potential obstacles and challenges. They can then develop risk response plans to address these issues proactively. By being prepared for various scenarios, businesses can navigate uncertainties with greater confidence, ensuring that their growth trajectory remains on track.

Best Practices in Business Development

Implementing best practices can significantly enhance the effectiveness of business development efforts:

Customer-Centric Approach

Putting the customer at the center of business development efforts is essential for long-term success. This approach involves understanding the target audience’s needs, pain points, and preferences. Through customer surveys, feedback sessions, and data analysis, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior and expectations.

Once armed with this information, companies can tailor their products, services, and marketing messages to address specific customer needs effectively. By focusing on providing value and solving customer problems, businesses can build strong brand loyalty, foster repeat business, and gain a competitive edge in the market.

Continuous Learning

In the dynamic and rapidly evolving business landscape, staying updated with the latest industry trends, technological advancements, and customer preferences is crucial. Continuous learning involves monitoring industry publications, attending conferences, webinars, and networking events, and engaging with thought leaders.

Through continuous learning, businesses can anticipate market changes, spot emerging opportunities, and proactively adjust their strategies. Embracing a culture of learning within the organization encourages employees to stay curious, innovative, and adaptable, fostering a culture of growth and improvement.

Agility and Adaptability

Business development should not be rigid but agile, ready to pivot and adapt to changing circumstances. An agile approach allows businesses to respond quickly to market shifts, emerging trends, and competitive pressures.

Businesses can embrace agility by promoting open communication channels and flattening hierarchies, enabling faster decision-making. Regularly reviewing and reassessing strategies based on performance metrics and market feedback ensures that the business remains on track and can seize new opportunities swiftly.

Long-Term Relationship Building

Business development is not solely about short-term gains; it involves nurturing long-lasting relationships with clients, partners, and stakeholders. Beyond mere transactions, businesses should focus on building trust, reliability, and mutual benefit.

To achieve this, businesses should prioritize exceptional customer service, actively seek feedback, and address any concerns promptly. Demonstrating commitment to long-term partnerships encourages collaborative problem-solving, customer retention, and advocacy, all of which contribute to sustainable growth.

Measure and Analyze

Data-driven decision-making is essential for effective business development. Implementing key performance indicators ( KPIs ) and regularly analyzing relevant data provides valuable insights into the success of various initiatives.

Businesses can use analytics to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, sales conversions, customer acquisition costs, and overall revenue growth. This data enables them to identify successful strategies, replicate them, and fine-tune underperforming aspects, ensuring continuous improvement.

Business Development Tools and Methods

Crm (customer relationship management) software.

CRM software is a powerful tool that streamlines and enhances business development efforts. It enables businesses to centralize and manage customer data, interactions, and communication in one integrated platform. CRM systems track every touchpoint with prospects and customers, including emails, calls, meetings, and purchases.

Beyond basic contact management, modern CRM software provides advanced features like lead scoring, sales pipeline tracking, and automated workflows. These features help sales and business development teams prioritize leads, identify potential upselling or cross-selling opportunities, and deliver personalized experiences to customers.

Business Intelligence (BI) Tools

Business intelligence tools provide businesses with a wealth of data-driven insights critical for effective business development. BI platforms collect and analyze data from various sources, transforming it into actionable information.

Through data visualization, dashboards, and interactive reports, BI tools help identify market trends, consumer behavior patterns, and emerging opportunities. Armed with this knowledge, businesses can make informed decisions, optimize their strategies, and stay ahead of the competition.

Social Media and Networking Platforms

Social media and networking platforms have become instrumental in modern business development. These platforms offer access to a vast pool of potential clients, partners, and industry influencers.

By engaging with their target audience through social media , businesses can build brand awareness, share valuable content, and foster a community around their products or services. Networking platforms like LinkedIn facilitate direct communication with key decision-makers, enabling businesses to form meaningful connections and explore collaboration opportunities.

Strategic Partnerships and Alliances

Collaborating with other organizations through strategic partnerships and alliances can significantly amplify business development efforts. By leveraging each other’s strengths, businesses can access new markets, share resources, and benefit from complementary expertise.

Strategic partnerships can take various forms, such as joint ventures, licensing agreements, or distribution partnerships. These collaborations open doors to new customer segments and enhance the company’s overall competitiveness in the market.

Main Tasks of Business Development Manager

The main tasks of a Business Development Manager (BDM) are diverse and encompass a range of responsibilities focused on driving growth and creating new business opportunities for the organization. Depending on the industry and the specific company’s needs, the tasks of a BDM may vary. However, some common main tasks of a Business Development Manager include:

  • Market research: Conducting comprehensive market research to identify potential business opportunities, analyzing industry trends, competitor activities, and customer needs. This research forms the foundation for strategic decision-making and market entry.
  • Lead generation and prospecting: Identifying and pursuing potential clients, customers, or partners through various channels, such as cold calling, email campaigns, networking events, and referrals. The BDM actively seeks out new business opportunities and creates a pipeline of potential clients.
  • Client relationship management: Building and maintaining strong relationships with existing clients, ensuring their satisfaction, addressing any concerns, and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling additional products or services.
  • Sales and negotiation: Collaborating with the sales team to convert leads into clients or customers. The BDM may participate in sales meetings, presentations, and negotiations to secure new contracts and close deals.
  • Partnerships and alliances: Identifying potential strategic partnerships or alliances with other organizations that can mutually benefit both parties. The BDM works to build strong collaborative relationships to expand the company’s reach and capabilities.
  • Developing business strategies: Working with senior management to formulate long-term business strategies and action plans that align with the organization’s growth objectives.
  • Market expansion: Assessing the feasibility of entering new markets or expanding the company’s presence in existing markets. This involves analyzing market potential, regulatory requirements, and competition.
  • Innovation and product development: Collaborating with the product development team to identify new product or service opportunities, ensuring that the company stays competitive and relevant in the market.
  • Marketing and promotional activities: Developing and implementing marketing strategies and campaigns to promote the company’s products or services, enhance brand visibility, and attract potential customers.
  • Data analysis and reporting: Utilizing data analytics to measure the effectiveness of business development strategies, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), and preparing reports to assess progress and make data-driven decisions.
  • Budgeting and resource allocation: Managing budgets allocated for business development initiatives and ensuring optimal utilization of resources to maximize the return on investment.
  • Attending industry events: Participating in conferences, trade shows, and industry events to network, identify trends, and stay updated on industry developments.

Overall, the business development manager plays a pivotal role in driving the company’s growth agenda, fostering strategic relationships, and exploring new opportunities to expand the business. They act as a bridge between various departments within the organization, contributing to the overall success and long-term sustainability of the company.

What is Business Development? Summary

Business development is a pivotal process that empowers companies to unlock their growth potential, explore new markets, and foster valuable partnerships. Through market research, strategic planning, and customer-centricity, businesses can navigate the ever-changing landscape of commerce with confidence. By embracing best practices and leveraging effective tools, organizations can adapt, innovate, and thrive in an increasingly competitive world, ultimately paving the way for sustained success and prosperity.

The Ultimate Guide to Business Development and How It Can Help Your Company Grow

Discover the importance of business development and how the process can help your business grow better.

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Updated: 08/19/22

Published: 08/17/21

Imagine working for a company without any employees dedicated to growing and developing the business.

Nobody to challenge you to improve or tell you about new business opportunities, changes in the market, what your competition is up to, or how you can attract your target audience more effectively.

This would make it pretty hard to succeed, don’t you think?

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Business Development

Business Development Reps

BDR Responsibilities

Business Development Ideas

Business development process, business development plan.

Business development is the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your organization to promote growth and boost revenue.

It involves pursuing opportunities to help your business grow, identifying new prospects, and converting more leads into customers. Business development is closely tied to sales — business development teams and representatives are almost always a part of the greater sales org.

Although business development is closely related to sales, it’s important to note what makes them different.

business development plan introduction

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Business Development vs. Sales

As mentioned, business development lives on the greater sales team yet it serves a different function than typical sales work and responsibilities.

Business development is a process that helps your company establish and maintain relationships with prospects, learn about your buyer’s personas, increase brand awareness, and seek new opportunities to promote growth.

In contrast, sales teams sell your product or service to customers and work to convert leads into customers. Business development-related work simplifies the work of a salesperson or sales manager.

Let’s take a closer look at what business development representatives — the people responsible for carrying out the various business development tasks — do next.

Business Development Representative

Business development representatives (BDRs) seek out and establish new strategies, tactics, targets, employees, and prospects for your business. The goal of all BDRs is to find ways to grow and provide long-term value for the business.

Possessing the necessary business development skills and experience will help your BDRs achieve all of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

Business Development Representative Responsibilities

Although some BDR responsibilities may change over time and as your business grows, the following list will provide you with a solid understanding of typical BDR tasks.

1. Qualify leads.

BDRs must qualify leads and pinpoint ideal prospects to determine who they'll sell to. Typically, leads are qualified through calls, emails, web forms, and social media.

The key to qualifying leads (leads who are assigned to the BDRs as well as leads BDRs identify themselves) is to consider their needs and then determine whether or not your product or software could be a solution for them.

2. Identify and communicate with prospects.

By qualifying leads and searching for people who fit your buyer personas, BDRs will identify ideal prospects. They can communicate with those prospects directly to learn more about their needs and pain points.

This way, BDRs can determine whether or not the prospect will really benefit from your product or service by becoming a customer. This is important because it increases the potential of improved customer loyalty and retention.

Once the BDRs have identified ideal prospects, those prospects can be passed along to a sales rep on the team (or sales manager, if necessary) who can nurture them into making a deal.

3. Proactively seek new business opportunities.

Proactively seeking new opportunities — whether that’s in terms of the product line, markets, prospects, or brand awareness — is an important part of your business’s success. BDRs work to find new business opportunities through networking, researching your competition, and talking to prospects and current customers.

If a new business opportunity is identified, BDRs should schedule marketing assessments and discovery meetings with the sales reps on the team so they can all assess whether or not there’s potential for a deal.

4. Stay up-to-date on competition and new market trends.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your competition’s strategies, products, and target audience as well as any new market and industry trends.

This will allow you to more effectively identify ideal prospects. It also helps your business prepare for any shifts in the market that could lead to the need for a new approach to qualifying leads and attracting your target audience.

5. Report to salespeople and development managers.

As we reviewed, at most companies, BDRs report to sales reps and sales managers. BDRS must communicate with these higher-ups for multiple reasons such as discussing lead qualification strategies and how to get prospects in touch with sales reps to nurture them into customers.

BDRs also have to report their findings (such as business opportunities and market trends) to sales reps and managers. Relaying this information and collaborating with sales reps and managers to develop and/or update appropriate strategies for your business and audience is critical to your success as an organization.

6. Promote satisfaction and loyalty.

A BDR's interaction with a prospect might be the very first interaction that prospect ever has with your business. So, creating a great first impression right off the bat is crucial to promote interest early on.

Whether a BDR is working to qualify the lead, learn more about the prospect and their needs, or find the right sales rep to work on a deal with them, their interactions with all of your prospects matter.

Once a BDR researches the prospect or begins interacting with them, ensure they tailor all communication towards the prospect. Customizing all content sent their way shows them they’re being listened to and cared for. These actions are professional and leave a strong impression.

In addition to understanding how BDRs help you grow, business development ideas are another powerful way to engage prospects and identify new business opportunities. Let’s take a look.

  • Innovate the way you network.
  • Offer consultations.
  • Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.
  • Nurture prospects.
  • Provide prospects with several types of content.
  • Communicate with marketing.
  • Invest in your website.
  • Push your employees to expand and refine their skills.

Business development ideas are tactics you can implement to positively impact your company in a multitude of different ways. They can help you identify ideal prospects, network more effectively, improve brand awareness, and uncover new opportunities.

The following tactics are here to get you started — every business and team is different, meaning these ideas may or may not be suited for your specific situation. (So, feel free to modify the list!)

1. Innovate the way you network.

It’s no secret cold calls are less effective than they once were. Instead, innovate the way you network by establishing strong relationships with your prospects. You can do this by meeting with them in person at conferences, trade shows, or events related to your industry.

Browse your online networks including LinkedIn and other social sites for potential customers, too. Reach out to the people who sign up for your email subscription or complete other forms on your site.

2. Offer consultations.

Offer consultations and assessments for prospects. Talking about the ways your product or service applies to their needs will help prospects decide whether or not they’ll convert.

In contrast, consultations and assessments may also bring to light the ways a prospect is not an ideal fit for your product (which is equally as valuable since it prevents you from wasting any time nurturing them or having to deal with an unsatisfied customer down the road).

3. Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.

Provide your prospects and leads with sales demos so they can see how your product or service works in action. Ensure these demos are customized to show a prospect or lead how your product solves their challenge. You can share these demos in person, over email, on your website, or via video chat.

4. Nurture prospects.

Remember to nurture your prospects, whether it’s by phone call, email, meeting, or another mode of communication. The point of lead nurturing is to provide any information needed about your product or service so your prospects can decide whether or not they want to make a purchase.

By nurturing your leads , you’ll be able to tailor the content regarding your brand and product so your leads can better understand how your product will solve their specific pain points. You’ll also be able to show your support for the prospect and ensure they feel heard and understood by your company.

5. Provide prospects with several types of content.

Provide your prospects with different content types such as blogs, videos, and social media posts so they can learn more about your brand and product or service.

It’s best to meet your prospects where they are and provide the content they prefer to read or watch. Ensure all of this content is downloadable and/or shareable so prospects can send it to their team members to show them why your solution is their best option.

6. Communicate with marketing.

Although business development lives in the sales department, that doesn’t mean internal business development work only involves other members of the sales team. Host regular meetings and maintain open lines of communication with the departments at your company that impact your ability to succeed such as marketing and product development.

Think about it this way: Marketing creates content and campaigns for your target audience about how your product or service resolves their challenges. So, why wouldn’t you want to talk to them about the blogs, campaigns, social media posts, and website content they’re creating for the people you’re selling to?

Your reps and BDRs can share any content the marketing team creates directly with prospects to help them convert, as well as inform the marketing team of any content they feel is missing for prospects. If there are projects or campaigns out of your scope, you can opt to hire a marketing agency to help fill the void. But, like your marketing team, they'll need to understand your product and how to connect with your target audience.

7. Invest in your website.

You never get a second chance at a first impression, and in many cases, your website is exactly that — your prospects' first impression of your brand. So, it serves you to make it as accessible, navigable, visible, and helpful as possible.

Taking strides like making your site visually engaging, connecting your social media profiles, optimizing your site for search engines, linking to collateral like sales content , and maintaining an active blog can go a long way when conducting business development.

8. Push your employees to expand and refine their skills and knowledge.

Business development is never stagnant. Strategy, technology, and market conditions are all constantly evolving — so you're best off having your employees stay abreast of these trends.

Anyone involved in your business development should be liable to develop new skills as needed. If your organization adopts any sort of new technology, thoroughly train anyone the change touches on how to use it.

Encourage your employees to learn more about both the nuances of their field and the industries they serve. Is artificial intelligence starting to shift the dynamics of a specific industry? If so, make the BDRs who serve that market learn all they can about how it might change the nature of the companies they interact with.

A business development process is the combination of steps your business takes to grow effectively, boost revenue, improve relationships with leads, and more. These steps are what your business development team will work on every day. It includes everything related to delighting customers along each part of the buyer's journey.

By working through your business development process, your team will have a strong understanding of your organization-wide goals, sales targets, current business situation, who your target audience members are, and more.

How to Do Business Development

  • Conduct extensive market research.
  • Raise visibility and awareness.
  • Promote thought leadership.
  • Conduct outreach.
  • Qualify leads to pass off to sales.
  • Provide exemplary customer service.
  • Develop sales content from success stories.

1. Conduct extensive market research.

Successful business development rests, in large part, on you understanding your market and target personas. If you have no idea who you're trying to sell to and the state of the market they comprise, you can't successfully implement any other point on this list.

Study and survey your current customers to see who tends to buy from you. Look into your competition to get a feel for where you fit into your broader market. And take any other strides to get a better feel for the "who" behind your successful sales — without that intel, you'll never be able to shape the "how" side of your business development.

business development plan introduction

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2. Raise visibility and awareness.

Business development, as a broader practice, extends beyond your sales org — your marketing department can also play a central role in the process. You can't source a base of potential customers if no one knows who you are.

Actions like constructing an effective website, investing in paid advertising, leveraging social profiles, participating in co-marketing partnerships with industry peers, and maintaining an active blog can all go a long way in supporting successful business development.

3. Promote thought leadership.

This point is sort of an extension of the one above. Establishing credibility is one of the more important steps you can take when doing business development. You can't just stop with prospects knowing who you are — they need to trust you if you're ever going to earn their business.

Publishing in-depth, industry-specific blog content is one way to get there — if you can show that you have a firm grasp on every aspect of your field, you can frame yourself as a reliable, knowledgeable resource for your customers. That kind of trust often translates to sales, down the line. Other media like webinars, white papers, and video content can also help your case.

4. Conduct outreach.

Actively reaching out to prospects is one of the most crucial, traditional elements of business development. You need to touch base with prospects if you're going to vet them and ultimately convert them to qualified leads.

This step is typically supported by extensive research on individual prospects, paired with contacting warm and cold leads proactively but not aggressively. BDRs typically shoulder this responsibility — and for many people, it's the aspect of the process most closely associated with the term "business development."

5. Qualify leads.

Once your BDRs have connected with leads, they need to qualify them to determine their viability and understand whether they're worth the sales org's time and effort. That generally entails having conversations with leads and asking the right qualifying questions to reveal their fit for your product or service.

This is one of the most pivotal moments in the business development process — in some respects, it could be considered its last step. Successfully executing this point typically means the process, as a whole, has worked.

6. Provide exemplary customer service.

Business development is an ongoing process that involves virtually every side of your business in some capacity — and customer service is no exception. Your service org needs to keep current customers happy to generate positive word of mouth and bolster your company's reputation. That kind of effort offers you credibility and can generate referrals, making business development more straightforward and effective.

7. Develop sales content from success stories.

Another part of business development is translating customer satisfaction into actionable, promotable sales content — pointed, product-specific content that's used to generate sales. While marketing content is used for thought leadership and garnering general interest, sales content is used to appeal to potential buyers, looking into your company specifically.

Sales content can come in a variety of forms, including case studies and testimonials — two mediums that lean heavily on your current customer base. When you use customers' experiences to generate interest in your business, your business development efforts essentially come full circle.

Visual of the 7 business development process/strategy stages

By compiling these elements of business development and sharing them among your team, you create an actionable business development strategy or plan that encourages and promotes success and growth. Let's review the different steps involved in creating your business development plan next.

A business development plan is a strategy your team can refer to while working to achieve growth-related goals. Sales managers typically create the business development plan for BDRs to work on.

The purpose of a business development plan (or strategy) is to set realistic goals and targets that allow your reps to grow the business, close more deals, identify prospects, align members of the sales team (and other teams, company-wide), and convert more leads.

1. Craft an elevator pitch.

You can simplify any initial communication with prospects by having an elevator pitch ready to go. This elevator pitch should explain your company’s mission and how your product or service can solve the needs of your target audience. Your elevator pitch should grab the attention of prospects and leads — and get them excited to learn more about what you offer.

Additionally, you can help your team determine which elevator pitches used by both BDRs and reps are most successful in converting leads and then document it in your greater strategy so everyone has access to it.

2. Set SMART goals.

Set SMART goals for your strategy — meaning, make sure your targets are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. By creating SMART goals for your business development plan, you’ll be able to ensure these goals are aligned with those of your entire company.

For example, if one of your goals is to increase your number of identified qualified leads this quarter by 5% , make the goal specific by determining the type of prospects you’ll focus on and how you’ll identify them.

Then, decide how you’ll measure your success — perhaps by measuring the number of these prospects who then go on to talk with a sales rep to learn more about the product or service.

You determine this goal is attainable due to the fact you increased your number of qualified leads last quarter by 3%. 5% isn’t too much of a leap.

Your goal is relevant because you know it’ll help your business grow — it pushes you to make a greater impact on your team by contributing to the sales team’s ability to close more deals and boost revenue. Lastly, it’s timely because you’ve set this goal for the quarter.

business development plan introduction

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3. Conduct a SWOT analysis.

As mentioned above, part of any role in business development is to stay up-to-date on market and industry trends and understand your competition. This is where SWOT analysis comes in handy — SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats . The key to using SWOT analysis correctly is to have a clear goal in mind first.

For example, if your goal is to determine the best way to handle outreach with prospects , you can begin talking to your BDRs, sales reps, sales managers, and current customers about what works best for them.

Next, think about your strengths — what does your business do well? Maybe you have a large support team that provides helpful onboarding for new customers. Or you have several remote reps who can meet face-to-face with prospects in their desired location.

(You might have multiple strengths that make you stand out, so don’t be afraid to list them all and which ones have the greatest impact on your customers.)

Now, think about your weaknesses . Are your product’s limited offerings requiring some leads to consider your competition’s product in addition to yours? Is the need for your product growing faster than your production, or faster than you’re able to establish a large customer support team to assist your customers?

Onto your business opportunities . Think about where you’re going as a business and what you know you can accomplish. For example, maybe your business has recently partnered with another company that can help you boost brand awareness and attract a much broader base of leads and customers.

Lastly, who are your threats ? Think about your current competition — who’s producing a product or service like yours and is attracting a similar target audience? Who could become your competition in the future — is there a market gap that another company (new or established) could identify the need for and begin selling?

SWOT analysis allows you to identify the ways your company can create opportunities to grow and expand. It also helps how you establish new processes to address any weaknesses or threats such as identifying more qualified leads, efficiently converting prospects into customers, and shortening the sales cycle.

4. Determine how you’ll measure success.

Depending on the SMART goals you created and the SWOT analysis you performed, you’ll also need to decide how you’re going to measure your business development success.

Here are some examples of common business development KPIs that can help you analyze your efforts:

  • Company growth
  • Changes in revenue
  • Lead conversion rate
  • Leads generated per month/ quarter/ predetermined time
  • Prospect and customer satisfaction
  • Pipeline value

5. Set a budget.

Depending on the type of business development goals you set for the team, you may determine you need to set a budget. Consider your resources, the cost of any previous business development strategies you’ve developed, and other important operational line items (what you need, who’s involved, etc.).

Collaborate with the greater team to determine the amount you’re willing to, and need to, spend on business development to get the process started at your company.

6. Always keep your target audience in mind.

Whatever it is you’re working towards, keep your target audience and ideal prospects in mind. Assess their needs and understand exactly how your business and product or service will meet their pain points.

After all, this audience is the group who is most likely to buy your product. Make sure your plan addresses them and their needs so your team can convert more of them and grow your business.

7. Choose an outreach strategy.

As we’ve reviewed above, a major component of business development is finding new prospects and potential customers. To find new prospects, you’ll need to decide how you’ll perform outreach, or connect with these potential customers. Here are some ideas:

  • Use referrals
  • Upsell and cross-sell
  • Sponsorship and advertisement

Also, review any expectations or guardrails related to outreach reps are held to so your business has only professional and on-brand interactions with prospects.

Congrats! You’ve just completed your business development plan — with your strategy and ideas, your business will be growing in no time.

Business Development Resources

1. hubspot sales hub.

Business Development Resources Hubspot

Best for Businesses Interested in a Wide-Reaching, One-Stop Solution

HubSpot Sales Hub includes a suite of resources that enable more focused, effective business development. Features like email templates and email tracking lend themselves to well-targeted, productive prospecting.

Its conversational intelligence capabilities can provide invaluable insight into the "why" behind your BDRs' overall performance — letting you pinpoint the strengths and flaws in key business development elements like your messaging and pain point assessments.

Sales Hub is a dynamic solution that covers a lot of bases for your sales org — including several beyond business development. But that wide range of applications doesn't undermine its utility for BDRs and their managers. If you're looking for a solution that addresses almost every component of successful business development, consider investing in HubSpot Sales Hub.

2. Bloobirds

image_Playbook_Builder

Best for Businesses Interested in Keeping BDRs and Top-of-Funnel Activities on Track

Bloobirds is a sales engagement and playbook platform that guides SDRs and closing reps to convert more prospects into customers. It partners with your existing CRM — sitting on top of it to make it more functional for the sales team.

It eliminates admin tasks, makes selling more intuitive, and makes sure reps follow best plays with the in-app playbook's help. Bloobirds helps sales teams flow through their pipeline — it also collects crucial data and creates competitive insights.

3. Leadfeeder

Business Development Resources leadfeeder

Best for Businesses Struggling to Generate High-Potential Leads

Leadfeeder is a powerful resource for enhancing a central element of any business development efforts — lead generation The platform helps you identify high-potential leads by automatically analyzing your website traffic.

The software removes ISP traffic to pin down visitors' companies and gauge interest. It also lets you create behavioral and demographic filters for better-informed, more productive lead segmentation.

Successful business development often leans, in large part, on your ability to generate high-quality leads — so if you're interested in effectively sourcing those contacts, you'll need to invest in some sort of lead generation software. Leadfeeder is as good a place as any to start.

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4. LinkedIn

Business Development Resources LinkedIn

Best for Businesses Looking for a Free Way to Source Leads

LinkedIn is one of the most prominent, practical, effective resources for certain key elements of the business development process — namely, prospecting. The value behind leveraging social media for top-of-funnel sales activities isn't exactly some well-kept secret.

Plenty of business development professionals already use channels like LinkedIn to source, screen, and connect with potential leads. Strides like scrolling through skill endorsements, using alumni searches, and engaging with users who have looked at your posts are all excellent ways to find interested prospects and enhance your business development efforts.

Business Development Helps You Grow Better

Business development is a crucial part of any successful company. It’s how you determine the best ways to boost revenue, identify your ideal prospects, generate more leads, and close more deals.

Think about how you can make a strong business development plan and ensure you have the right group of business development reps so you can begin growing your business today.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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An Introduction to Business Plans Why is a business plan so vital to the health of your business? Read the first section of our tutorial on How to Build a Business Plan to find out.

A business plan is a written description of your business's future. That's all there is to it--a document that desribes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you've written a plan, or at least the germ of a plan.

Business plans can help perform a number of tasks for those who write and read them. They're used by investment-seeking entrepreneurs to convey their vision to potential investors. They may also be used by firms that are trying to attract key employees, prospect for new business, deal with suppliers or simply to understand how to manage their companies better.

So what's included in a business plan, and how do you put one together? Simply stated, a business plan conveys your business goals, the strategies you'll use to meet them, potential problems that may confront your business and ways to solve them, the organizational structure of your business (including titles and responsibilities), and finally, the amount of capital required to finance your venture and keep it going until it breaks even.

Sound impressive? It can be, if put together properly. A good business plan follows generally accepted guidelines for both form and content. There are three primary parts to a business plan:

  • The first is the business concept , where you discuss the industry, your business structure, your particular product or service, and how you plan to make your business a success.
  • The second is the marketplace section , in which you describe and analyze potential customers: who and where they are, what makes them buy and so on. Here, you also describe the competition and how you'll position yourself to beat it.
  • Finally, the financial section contains your income and cash flow statement, balance sheet and other financial ratios, such as break-even analyses. This part may require help from your accountant and a good spreadsheet software program.

Breaking these three major sections down even further, a business plan consists of seven key components:

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Market strategies
  • Competitive analysis
  • Design and development plan
  • Operations and management plan
  • Financial factors

In addition to these sections, a business plan should also have a cover, title page and table of contents.

How Long Should Your Business Plan Be? Depending on what you're using it for, a useful business plan can be any length, from a scrawl on the back of an envelope to, in the case of an especially detailed plan describing a complex enterprise, more than 100 pages. A typical business plan runs 15 to 20 pages, but there's room for wide variation from that norm. Much will depend on the nature of your business. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you're proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across.

The purpose of your plan also determines its length. If you want to use your plan to seek millions of dollars in seed capital to start a risky venture, you may have to do a lot of explaining and convincing. If you're just going to use your plan for internal purposes to manage an ongoing business, a much more abbreviated version should be fine.

Who Needs a Business Plan?

About the only person who doesn't need a business plan is one who's not going into business. You don't need a plan to start a hobby or to moonlight from your regular job. But anybody beginning or extending a venture that will consume significant resources of money, energy or time, and that is expected to return a profit, should take the time to draft some kind of plan.

Startups. The classic business plan writer is an entrepreneur seeking funds to help start a new venture. Many, many great companies had their starts on paper, in the form of a plan that was used to convince investors to put up the capital necessary to get them under way.

Most books on business planning seem to be aimed at these startup business owners. There's one good reason for that: As the least experienced of the potential plan writers, they're probably most appreciative of the guidance. However, it's a mistake to think that only cash-starved startups need business plans. Business owners find plans useful at all stages of their companies' existence, whether they're seeking financing or trying to figure out how to invest a surplus.

Established firms seeking help. Not all business plans are written by starry-eyed entrepreneurs. Many are written by and for companies that are long past the startup stage. WalkerGroup/Designs, for instance, was already well-established as a designer of stores for major retailers when founder Ken Walker got the idea of trademarking and licensing to apparel makers and others the symbols 01-01-00 as a sort of numeric shorthand for the approaching millennium. Before beginning the arduous and costly task of trademarking it worldwide, Walker used a business plan complete with sales forecasts to convince big retailers it would be a good idea to promise to carry the 01-01-00 goods. It helped make the new venture a winner long before the big day arrived. "As a result of the retail support up front," Walker says, "we had over 45 licensees running the gamut of product lines almost from the beginning."

These middle-stage enterprises may draft plans to help them find funding for growth just as the startups do, although the amounts they seek may be larger and the investors more willing. They may feel the need for a written plan to help manage an already rapidly growing business. Or a plan may be seen as a valuable tool to be used to convey the mission and prospects of the business to customers, suppliers or others.

Plan an Updating Checklist Here are seven reasons to think about updating your business plan. If even just one applies to you, it's time for an update.

  • A new financial period is about to begin. You may update your plan annually, quarterly or even monthly if your industry is a fast-changing one.
  • You need financing , or additional financing. Lenders and other financiers need an updated plan to help them make financing decisions.
  • There's been a significant market change . Shifting client tastes, consolidation trends among customers and altered regulatory climates can trigger a need for plan updates.
  • Your firm develops or is about to develop a new product , technology , service or skill. If your business has changed a lot since you wrote your plan the first time around, it's time for an update.
  • You have had a change in management . New managers should get fresh information about your business and your goals.
  • Your company has crossed a threshold, such as moving out of your home office, crossing the $1 million sales mark or employing your 100th employee .
  • Your old plan doesn't seem to reflect reality any more. Maybe you did a poor job last time; maybe things have just changed faster than you expected. But if your plan seems irrelevant, redo it.

Finding the Right Plan for You

Business plans tend to have a lot of elements in common, like cash flow projections and marketing plans. And many of them share certain objectives as well, such as raising money or persuading a partner to join the firm. But business plans are not all the same any more than all businesses are.

Depending on your business and what you intend to use your plan for, you may need a very different type of business plan from another entrepreneur. Plans differ widely in their length, their appearance, the detail of their contents, and the varying emphases they place on different aspects of the business.

The reason that plan selection is so important is that it has a powerful effect on the overall impact of your plan. You want your plan to present you and your business in the best, most accurate light. That's true no matter what you intend to use your plan for, whether it's destined for presentation at a venture capital conference, or will never leave your own office or be seen outside internal strategy sessions.

When you select clothing for an important occasion, odds are you try to pick items that will play up your best features. Think about your plan the same way. You want to reveal any positives that your business may have and make sure they receive due consideration.

Types of Plans Business plans can be divided roughly into four separate types. There are very short plans, or miniplans. There are working plans, presentation plans and even electronic plans. They require very different amounts of labor and not always with proportionately different results. That is to say, a more elaborate plan is not guaranteed to be superior to an abbreviated one, depending on what you want to use it for.

  • The Miniplan. A miniplan may consist of one to 10 pages and should include at least cursory attention to such key matters as business concept, financing needs, marketing plan and financial statements, especially cash flow, income projection and balance sheet. It's a great way to quickly test a business concept or measure the interest of a potential partner or minor investor. It can also serve as a valuable prelude to a full-length plan later on.

Be careful about misusing a miniplan. It's not intended to substitute for a full-length plan. If you send a miniplan to an investor who's looking for a comprehensive one, you're only going to look foolish.

  • The Working Plan. A working plan is a tool to be used to operate your business. It has to be long on detail but may be short on presentation. As with a miniplan, you can probably afford a somewhat higher degree of candor and informality when preparing a working plan.

A plan intended strictly for internal use may also omit some elements that would be important in one aimed at someone outside the firm. You probably don't need to include an appendix with resumes of key executives, for example. Nor would a working plan especially benefit from, say, product photos.

Fit and finish are liable to be quite different in a working plan. It's not essential that a working plan be printed on high-quality paper and enclosed in a fancy binder. An old three-ring binder with "Plan" scrawled across it with a felt-tip marker will serve quite well.

Internal consistency of facts and figures is just as crucial with a working plan as with one aimed at outsiders. You don't have to be as careful, however, about such things as typos in the text, perfectly conforming to business style, being consistent with date formats and so on. This document is like an old pair of khakis you wear into the office on Saturdays or that one ancient delivery truck that never seems to break down. It's there to be used, not admired.

  • The Presentation Plan. If you take a working plan, with its low stress on cosmetics and impression, and twist the knob to boost the amount of attention paid to its looks, you'll wind up with a presentation plan. This plan is suitable for showing to bankers, investors and others outside the company.

Almost all the information in a presentation plan is going to be the same as your working plan, although it may be styled somewhat differently. For instance, you should use standard business vocabulary, omitting the informal jargon, slang and shorthand that's so useful in the workplace and is appropriate in a working plan. Remember, these readers won't be familiar with your operation. Unlike the working plan, this plan isn't being used as a reminder but as an introduction.

You'll also have to include some added elements. Among investors' requirements for due diligence is information on all competitive threats and risks. Even if you consider some of only peripheral significance, you need to address these concerns by providing the information.

The big difference between the presentation and working plans is in the details of appearance and polish. A working plan may be run off on the office printer and stapled together at one corner. A presentation plan should be printed by a high-quality printer, probably using color. It must be bound expertly into a booklet that is durable and easy to read. It should include graphics such as charts, graphs, tables and illustrations.

It's essential that a presentation plan be accurate and internally consistent. A mistake here could be construed as a misrepresentation by an unsympathetic outsider. At best, it will make you look less than careful. If the plan's summary describes a need for $40,000 in financing, but the cash flow projection shows $50,000 in financing coming in during the first year, you might think, "Oops! Forgot to update that summary to show the new numbers." The investor you're asking to pony up the cash, however, is unlikely to be so charitable.

  • The Electronic Plan. The majority of business plans are composed on a computer of some kind, then printed out and presented in hard copy. But more and more business information that once was transferred between parties only on paper is now sent electronically. So you may find it appropriate to have an electronic version of your plan available. An electronic plan can be handy for presentations to a group using a computer-driven overhead projector, for example, or for satisfying the demands of a discriminating investor who wants to be able to delve deeply into the underpinnings of complex spreadsheets.

Source: The Small Business Encyclopedia , Business Plans Made Easy , Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine .

Continue on to the next section of our Business Plan How-To >> Plan Your Plan

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  • A Game-Changing Business Development Strategy to Achieve Consistent Growth

Joe Pope

Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.

Business Development Defined

Business development (BD) is the process used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.

The scope of business development can vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model professional services organizations use to get new business shown in Figure 1.

business development plan introduction

Figure 1. The three stages of the business development funnel

The first two stages of the model, Attract Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turn Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In its traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.

But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. We know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.

Business Development vs. Marketing

Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and its offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.

Download the Business Development Guide

Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.  

Business Development vs. Sales

Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.  

Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids the stigma sometimes associated with sales.

Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms. Also, the many aspects of the traditional business development role (finding new distribution channels, for instance) don’t translate easily to the professional services environment.

Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-Doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-Doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.

As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.

The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.

It is on this expanded role — in which business development encompasses the full range of lead-generation, nurturing and sales tasks — that we will concentrate on in this post.

See also: Heller Consulting Case Story

Business Development Examples

To clarify what the professional services business development role entails, let’s consider this business development example:

Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved in any aspect of delivering client projects. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—whether new or existing clients. 

For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of any materials she needs to sell to new accounts.

When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also plays a major role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. She also maintains a relationship with clients’ key stakeholders. If an opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component of the potential deal.

In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Her colleague, Greg, is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s primary focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—is also an important part of his professional life. Greg often attends industry conferences with Bethany, where he is a speaker and subject matter expert and she is the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany, and it should permeate the whole organization.

In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential that business development be delivered strategically. Let’s talk about what that means.

Strategic Business Development

Not every business development activity has the same impact. In fact, many are opportunistic and tactical in nature. This is especially true for many Seller-Doers. 

Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need to bring in new business, they cast about for something quick and easy—maybe a small piece of business at a low price point—that will produce short term results. Of course, this is no real strategy at all.

Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients—the kind that are highly profitable and aren’t overly demanding—for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.

Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ can be a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A poorly conceived strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.

Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, that innovation killer, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section, we’ll explain how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first let’s explore some of the strategies that might go into that plan.

Top Business Development Strategies

Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up agains what today’s buyers are looking for .

Networking is probably the most universally used business development technique. It’s built on the ideas that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.

It certainly is true that many relationships are established in that way. And if you are networking with members of your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers, however, are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.

Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.

A close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.

Without question, referrals are common, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.

The problem is, referral sources often don’t know the full scope of your services or the range of ways you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One  study puts that number at over 50%.

Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.

Learn More: Referral Marketing Course

Sponsorships and Advertising

Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.

Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.

The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.

Outbound Telephone and Mail

Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.

There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.

The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.

Thought Leadership and Content Marketing

Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.

Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.

But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.

But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.

Combined Strategies

It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.

But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.

Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.

It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.

Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.

Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics

The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.

From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.

On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.

10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics

Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at 824 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.

These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.

The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:

  • Outbound sales calls from internal teams
  • Providing assessments and/or consultations
  • Business development materials
  • Speaking at targeted conferences or events
  • Networking at targeted conferences or events
  • Conducting and publishing original research
  • Live product/service demonstrations
  • Presenting in educational webinars
  • Marketing partnerships with other organizations
  • Case studies

There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number four on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.

The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.

Business Development Skills

Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.

When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms that grow faster have a skills advantage within their marketing and business development teams.

In Figure 2 below, we see which business development skills are the most important for the high growth firms:

business development plan introduction

Figure 2. Skill ratings by marketing function (High Growth vs. No Growth firms)

Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list. 

The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Sound project management practices also allow the business development team to product stronger proposals more quickly without sacrificing quality.

The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are able to communicate your firm’s service offerings and capabilities in a ways that prospects can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or presenting overly complicated charts creates unnecessary confusion and friction. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.

The third most important business development skill is data analytics. Firms that make a habit of regularly monitoring key metrics have a real advantage. They can see what marketing techniques are working and which are having problems. The allows them to make course corrections in near real time. Firms that rarely or never look at data are running blind, relying instead on potentially misleading anecdotal evidence.

Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop.  Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.

How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan

A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.

Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.

Define your target audience

Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.

Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors

The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?

Identify your competitive advantage

What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative? Or the industry’s leading expert? However you position your firm, your claims need to be true, provable and relevant to your target audience. It is very useful to document this positioning as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.

Choose your overall business development strategy

Pick the broad strategy or strategies you will use to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.

Click to play video

Choose your business development tactics

A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what creates a connection with your audience.

Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term need to nurture prospects over time. You need to cover the full funnel.

Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.

business development plan introduction

When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.

Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact

Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious effect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.

If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.

business development plan introduction

Free Resource

The Business Development Guide

Lee

How Hinge Can Help

Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be  implemented.  In fact, our groundbreaking  Visible Firm ®  program  combines strategy, implementation, training and more.

Additional Resources

  • Keep pace with the marketplace, generate leads and build your reputation all at once:  Marketing Planning Guide.
  • Find out how to turn your firm into a high-visibility, high-growth business. Download our free executive guide,  The Visible Firm® , in which we layout a detailed roadmap of this research-based program.
  • For more insights, check out our blog post, How to Develop a Winning Go-to-Market Strategy for Your Firm  

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business development plan introduction

10 Key Business Development Strategies (with Examples)

In today’s world, if you want your business to grow and succeed, you need a good plan for making it happen.

There are many different ways to help your business grow, and in this article, we’ll discuss some of the best business development strategies and techniques available.

There’s a lot you can do, from finding more customers for what you already sell to coming up with new products to sell or even teaming up with other businesses.

We’ll also examine how using the Internet and technology can benefit your business and why it’s important to consider how your business affects the world and people’s lives.

What is a Business Development Strategy?

A business development strategy is a plan that a company follows to grow and get better.

Imagine it like a map that helps a business decide where to go next to make more money, find more customers, or introduce new products.

It involves figuring out what the business is good at, what customers want, and how to reach more people or sell more things.

The goal of a business development strategy is not just to grow sales, but also to build a sustainable business model that can adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on new opportunities.

A well-crafted business development strategy ensures that a company remains competitive and continues to thrive in its industry.

Business Development Strategies

10 Key Business Development Strategies - an infographic

Download the above infographic in PDF

1. Market Penetration Strategy

When we talk about business development strategies, a market penetration strategy is like the bread and butter for companies aiming to grow. It’s all about making your existing products or services a bigger hit in the markets you’re already playing in. Imagine trying to sell more ice cream in a town that loves your flavors — that’s market penetration.

Why it’s important: It’s less about reinventing the wheel and more about pushing the pedal on what already works. You can cut prices to outdo the competition, ramp up your marketing to make sure everyone knows your name, or offer deals that customers can’t resist.

Examples: Let’s say you run a coffee shop in a bustling neighborhood. To increase your market share, you might introduce a loyalty card that gives customers a free drink after they buy ten. This not only encourages repeat business but can also bring in more foot traffic as word spreads.

Why it’s a smart move: By focusing on market penetration , you’re building on your existing successes. It’s a tried and true method among business development techniques that can lead to increased sales without the costs and risks associated with targeting entirely new markets or developing new products from scratch.

In essence, beefing up your presence in current markets with strategies that have proven their worth can be a game-changer for your business. It’s about maximizing what you already do best and making sure as many people as possible know about it.

2. Market Development Strategy

Market development strategy - an infographic

Diving deeper into our exploration of business development strategies, let’s chat about the market development strategy. It’s like being an explorer, charting unknown territories, except instead of new lands, you’re venturing into new markets or customer segments with your tried-and-true products or services.

Why it’s exciting: Market development is thrilling because it opens up a world of possibilities. You could take your existing product and introduce it to a different city, country, or even a completely new demographic. It’s about finding new playgrounds where your product can shine.

Examples: Imagine you’ve been selling an innovative bike lock in urban areas where biking is a popular mode of transportation. A market development strategy might involve launching this product in suburban areas where there’s a growing interest in biking, thanks to new bike-friendly infrastructure.

How it works: This approach requires research and understanding of the new market. You’ll need to know what these new customers want, how they shop, and what kind of messaging speaks to them. It’s a classic technique in business development strategies that can pay off by expanding your customer base and opening new revenue streams.

Why it’s a brilliant tactic: By leveraging market development, you’re not just sticking to the safe confines of your existing market. Instead, you’re taking a calculated risk to grow your business. It’s a powerful way to utilize your existing successes and replicate them in a new context, making it a cornerstone among business development techniques.

In conclusion, market development is about seizing new opportunities and taking your successful product or service to new frontiers. It’s an adventurous and strategic move that requires understanding and adapting to new markets, but with the right approach, it can significantly amplify your business’s growth.

3. Product Development Strategy

The product development strategy stands out as a beacon for innovation. This strategy is about bringing new products or services to the table in your existing market. It’s akin to a chef creating a new, exquisite dish to wow patrons who already love the menu.

Why it sparkles with potential:  Product development is exhilarating because it taps into your creative resources to meet evolving customer needs or fill gaps in the market. It’s your chance to say, “Look what we can do!” and strengthen your position in the market with fresh offerings.

Examples:  Consider a tech company known for its consumer electronics. They might leverage a product development strategy by introducing smart home devices to their lineup, catering to their tech-savvy customer base’s desire for a more connected living experience.

The practical part:  Successful product development hinges on understanding your customers’ needs and staying ahead of industry trends. It requires a blend of market research, product innovation, and sometimes, a dash of daring. Among business development techniques, this one is particularly challenging because it involves creating something new, yet it’s also immensely rewarding.

Why it wins:  Embarking on product development can reinvigorate your brand and encourage customer loyalty. By continuously evolving your product offerings, you’re showing customers that you’re committed to innovation and addressing their changing needs. It’s a way to keep your audience engaged and interested in what you’ll do next.

In essence, a product development strategy is about breathing new life into your business with innovative offerings that captivate your existing market. It’s a vibrant testament to your commitment to growth and adaptation, positioning you as a forward-thinking leader in your industry.

4. Diversification Strategy

What is Diversification Strategy - an infographic

Diversification strategy is all about spreading your wings and flying into new territories with new products or services. It’s like opening a new chapter in your business’s story, venturing into uncharted waters to uncover new opportunities and revenue streams.

What makes it intriguing: Diversification is exciting because it pushes your business beyond its comfort zone. You’re not just expanding; you’re transforming. This could mean developing new products that complement your existing offerings or stepping into a completely different market with something innovative.

Examples: Consider a company that manufactures high-end cameras. They decide to diversify by entering the smartphone market with a device that boasts superior photography features. This move not only taps into the lucrative smartphone market but also leverages the company’s expertise in imaging technology.

How to implement it: Successful diversification requires thorough market research , innovation, and sometimes, a bit of courage. It’s important to assess how your new product or service fits with your brand and whether it addresses a genuine need in the market.

Why it’s a game-changer: Diversification is among the more ambitious business development techniques because it can significantly reduce risk by not putting all your eggs in one basket. Plus, it can rejuvenate your brand, making it relevant to a broader audience.

In summary , a diversification strategy is about boldly expanding your business into new areas with new offerings. It’s a move that requires careful strategic planning and a deep understanding of both your capabilities and the needs of the market. When done right, diversification can be a transformative growth strategy, setting your business on a path to new heights and successes.

5. Strategic Partnerships and Alliances

Business Partnership Concept

This strategy is about joining forces with other businesses to achieve common goals, leveraging each other’s strengths to unlock new opportunities.

Why it’s compelling: Strategic partnerships are like having a buddy system in the business world. They allow you to share resources, knowledge, and markets with another organization, making it easier to tackle ambitious projects or enter new markets. It’s about creating a win-win situation where both parties can grow and succeed.

Examples: Imagine a software company offering custom software development services and specializing in educational technology. By forming an alliance with a content creation firm that produces high-quality educational material, they can offer a more comprehensive learning platform. This partnership not only enhances their product offering but also opens up new customer segments.

How it works: Forming a strategic partnership or alliance involves identifying potential partners who share your vision and complementary strengths. The key is to clearly define the terms of the partnership, including roles, responsibilities, and how success will be measured.

Why it’s effective: This approach is one of the more synergistic business development techniques, as it enables companies to combine their efforts for greater impact. Partnerships can help businesses achieve objectives that would be difficult or impossible to achieve alone, such as expanding into new geographical markets or combining technologies to create innovative solutions.

In essence, strategic partnerships and alliances are about collaboration and mutual growth. By carefully selecting the right partners and aligning your goals, businesses can unlock new potentials and navigate the path to success more efficiently.

6. Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) represent a powerful avenue among business development strategies, where companies either merge with or acquire another company to boost growth, access new markets , or enhance capabilities. Think of it as joining forces with others to conquer territories or pooling resources to build an empire. It’s a fast track to expansion that can otherwise take years to achieve organically.

Why it’s impactful: M&A can dramatically change the scale of your business, providing instant access to new customers, technologies, and resources. It’s a strategy that can lead to significant market power and competitive advantages almost overnight.

Examples: A classic example would be a large tech company acquiring a smaller startup that offers innovative technology or services that complement the larger company’s product offerings. This not only eliminates a potential competitor but also integrates new technologies into the company’s portfolio, driving further innovation and growth.

Executing the strategy: Success in M&A requires diligent due diligence, strategic alignment, and effective integration planning. It’s crucial to ensure that the companies’ cultures, values, and business models align to avoid integration challenges post-acquisition.

Why it’s a savvy move: From a business development perspective, mergers and acquisitions can offer a shortcut to growth that organic methods can’t match. It allows companies to diversify their offerings, enter new markets rapidly, and acquire strategic assets or skills they lack.

In essence, M&A is about making bold moves to accelerate your company’s growth trajectory. While it comes with its set of challenges and risks, including cultural integration and financial investment, the potential rewards in terms of market expansion, enhanced capabilities, and increased competitiveness make it a crucial tactic in the arsenal of business development strategies.

7. Customer Retention Strategies

Customer Retention Strategies - an infographic

Venturing further into our journey through business development strategies, let’s zero in on customer retention strategies. Unlike the exploratory nature of entering new markets or launching new products, customer retention is all about deepening relationships with the customers you already have.

Why it matters: Retaining customers is often more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Loyal customers not only continue to buy from you but are also more likely to recommend your products or services to others, acting as brand ambassadors.

Examples: An online streaming service introduces a tiered membership program, offering exclusive content and early access to new releases for premium members. This not only incentivizes longer subscription commitments but also enhances the perceived value of the service.

Key techniques: Effective customer retention strategies can include loyalty programs, exceptional customer service, feedback loops for continual improvement, and personalized marketing efforts. These techniques recognize and reward customer loyalty, creating a more personalized and satisfying experience.

Why it’s a cornerstone strategy: Focusing on customer retention is a crucial component of business development strategies because it builds a stable revenue base and fosters a community of loyal customers. This, in turn, can lead to more predictable sales and a stronger brand.

In essence, customer retention strategies are about showing appreciation for your current customers, ensuring they feel valued and understood. This not only secures their continued business but also transforms them into vocal supporters of your brand, contributing to a virtuous cycle of growth and loyalty.

8. Networking and Relationship Building

Business Network Illustration

Let’s talk about networking and relationship building. Unlike direct sales tactics or digital marketing efforts, networking is about cultivating long-term relationships that can lead to opportunities, referrals, and partnerships down the line.

Why it matters: In the realm of business development, who you know can be just as important as what you know. Building a strong network can open doors to new clients, insights into industry trends, potential partners, and even investors. It’s about creating a web of connections where value is exchanged mutually over time.

Example: Imagine attending industry conferences, not with the primary goal of immediate sales, but with the intention of meeting other professionals in your field, sharing knowledge, and learning about their needs and challenges. Over time, these connections can lead to collaborative projects, referrals, or simply valuable advice.

How to approach it: Effective networking is rooted in genuine interest in others and a willingness to offer help and resources without the immediate expectation of getting something in return. It’s about building trust and rapport by being reliable, knowledgeable, and generous.

Why it’s a strategic move: Networking and relationship building are fundamental business development techniques because they leverage the power of human connections. Relationships built on trust and mutual respect can be the most durable and valuable assets in your business development arsenal.

N etworking and relationship building aim to cultivate meaningful relationships that can evolve into powerful catalysts for business growth.

9. Digital Transformation and Innovation

As we dive deeper into the world of business development strategies, it’s impossible to overlook the immense impact of digital transformation and innovation. This strategy is about leveraging the latest digital technologies to fundamentally change how your business operates and delivers value to customers. Think of it as the process of turning your traditional analog business into a smart, tech-savvy enterprise ready to face the modern digital world head-on.

Why it’s crucial: In today’s fast-paced business environment, technology can be a major differentiator. Digital transformation not only streamlines operations but also enhances customer experiences, opens up new channels for engagement, and fosters innovation. It’s about staying relevant and competitive in a digital-first world.

Examples: Consider a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer that adopts an omnichannel approach, integrating their in-store experience with a seamless online shopping platform. This might include a mobile app that customers can use to scan products in-store, read reviews, check out online, and even receive personalized recommendations based on their shopping history.

How to implement it: Embracing digital transformation requires a clear vision, strong leadership, and a willingness to invest in new technologies. It often involves adopting cloud computing, leveraging big data analytics, automating processes with AI, and enhancing customer interactions through digital channels.

Why it’s a game-changer: Digital transformation and innovation can revolutionize the way you do business, making you more agile, efficient, and customer-centric. It’s a powerful business development technique that not only drives growth but also builds resilience against disruptions in the market.

The journey towards digital transformation and innovation is about reimagining your business for the digital age. It offers a unique opportunity to innovate, differentiate, and deliver exceptional value to your customers.

10. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

CSR is about businesses taking responsibility for their impact on society and the environment. It’s a strategy that aligns a company’s operations with social values and environmental sustainability practices. Think of it as doing well by doing good; when companies invest in CSR, they not only contribute positively to the world but also build trust and loyalty among customers and employees.

Why it’s important: Today’s consumers and workers are increasingly conscious of the ethical practices of the companies they buy from and work for. Implementing CSR initiatives can enhance your brand’s reputation, attract and retain top talent, and open up new business opportunities with like-minded partners and customers.

Examples: Imagine a clothing manufacturer that decides to source materials exclusively from suppliers that adhere to fair labor practices and environmental standards. Additionally, they might launch a recycling program, encouraging customers to return used items for recycling in exchange for a discount on their next purchase.

How to engage in CSR: Effective CSR goes beyond one-time charitable donations; it involves integrating sustainable and ethical practices into everyday business operations. This might include reducing carbon footprints, enhancing employee welfare programs, engaging in community development projects, or supporting social causes through partnerships with non-profits.

Why it’s a strategic move: CSR is among the most impactful business development techniques because it builds a strong emotional connection with stakeholders. Companies that are seen as socially responsible can differentiate themselves in crowded markets, foster loyalty among customers, and create a positive corporate image that attracts investment and partnership opportunities.

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just a moral obligation; it’s a strategic business development approach that can drive long-term success. By prioritizing CSR, companies not only contribute to a better world but also build a strong, sustainable brand that resonates with today’s ethically minded consumers and employees. It’s a testament to the power of combining profit with purpose to achieve growth and impact.

FAQs on Business Development Strategies

Frequently Asked Questions Concept

1. What is the purpose of a business development strategy? The primary purpose of a business development strategy is to identify and implement opportunities for growth within and outside a company. This can include increasing revenue, expanding into new markets, developing new products or services, enhancing customer relationships, and forming strategic partnerships or alliances.

2. How do I choose the right business development strategy for my company? Choosing the right business development strategy involves understanding your business’s current position, goals, and the specific challenges and opportunities in your industry. Analyze your target market, competition, internal capabilities, and resources. It’s also essential to align the strategy with your company’s overall vision and mission.

3. Can you give examples of effective business development techniques? Effective business development techniques include networking and relationship building, leveraging social media and digital marketing, attending industry events and trade shows, conducting market research to identify new opportunities, and employing customer feedback to improve products and services.

4. How does market penetration differ from market development? Market penetration focuses on increasing the market share of an existing product within its current market, often through competitive pricing, marketing initiatives, and sales promotions. Market development, on the other hand, aims to enter new markets or target new customer segments with existing products, requiring adaptations to marketing strategies and possibly the product itself to meet different customer needs.

5. What role does innovation play in business development strategies? Innovation is crucial for sustaining growth and staying competitive. It involves developing new or improved products, services, processes, or business models that meet emerging customer needs or create new markets. Innovation can differentiate a company from competitors and drive long-term success.

6. How important are strategic partnerships and alliances in business development? Strategic partnerships and alliances are vital for leveraging complementary strengths, resources, and markets to achieve mutual growth objectives that might be difficult to accomplish independently. These collaborations can provide access to new markets, technologies, expertise, and customer bases.

7. What are some common mistakes in implementing business development strategies? Common mistakes include failing to conduct thorough market research, not aligning the strategy with the company’s core competencies and goals, underestimating the resources required, neglecting existing customers in pursuit of new ones, and not adapting to market feedback or changing conditions.

8. How can a company measure the success of its business development strategies? Success can be measured through various metrics, including revenue growth, market share expansion, customer acquisition and retention rates, profitability improvements, and achievement of strategic goals. Regularly reviewing these metrics and adjusting strategies as necessary is key to sustained growth.

9. Why is customer retention considered a business development strategy? Customer retention is crucial because acquiring new customers can be significantly more expensive than keeping existing ones. Retained customers often make repeat purchases and can become brand advocates. Effective retention strategies can lead to sustained revenue growth and profitability.

10. How does CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) enhance business development? CSR enhances business development by building a positive brand image, fostering customer loyalty, attracting and retaining talent, and potentially opening up new markets or customer segments. Companies that are viewed as socially responsible can differentiate themselves from competitors and achieve sustainable growth.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of today’s business landscape requires a strategic approach to development that encompasses a broad range of tactics and methodologies.

From diving into the depths of market penetration and development strategies to exploring the innovative horizons of digital transformation, businesses have at their disposal a plethora of paths to achieve growth and sustainability.

The key takeaways from our exploration into business development strategies and techniques underscore the importance of a multifaceted approach tailored to your company’s unique goals and market conditions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Strategic Alignment: Ensure that your business development strategies are in harmony with your company’s overall vision, mission, and capabilities. Tailoring strategies to fit your unique strengths and market position can lead to more effective and sustainable growth.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: Whether it’s through retention strategies, innovation, or CSR initiatives, keeping the customer at the heart of your business development efforts is crucial. Understanding and addressing their needs can drive loyalty and long-term success.
  • Adaptability and Innovation: In a rapidly changing business environment, staying adaptable and open to innovation can set you apart from competitors. Embrace digital transformation and continually seek new ways to improve your offerings and processes.
  • The Power of Relationships: Building and maintaining strong relationships through networking, strategic partnerships, and alliances can open up new opportunities and resources critical for growth.
  • Measure and Adjust: Regularly measuring the success of your business development strategies with clear metrics is essential. Be prepared to adjust your approach based on performance data and shifting market dynamics.
  • Sustainability and Responsibility: Incorporating CSR into your business development strategies not only contributes positively to society but also enhances your brand’s reputation and appeal to modern consumers and employees.

By embracing these key insights, businesses can develop a robust framework for growth that leverages the best practices in business development strategies and techniques.

Remember, the path to success involves not just the pursuit of growth for its own sake but doing so in a manner that is sustainable, responsible, and aligned with your core values.

Here’s to your business’s continued growth and success in navigating the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

About The Author

business development plan introduction

Silvia Valcheva

Silvia Valcheva is a digital marketer with over a decade of experience creating content for the tech industry. She has a strong passion for writing about emerging software and technologies such as big data, AI (Artificial Intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things), process automation, etc.

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An Introduction to Business Development

Feature image

Business development is a vital part of building revenue, strengthening customer relationships, and recognizing the customers or enterprises that can benefit most from what you have to offer. But ask a hundred people “what is business development?” and you’re likely to get 99 answers.

Business development is especially crucial to B2B brands, but even large and sophisticated organizations don’t always have a biz dev process  per se . Instead, leaders “know it when they see it,” relating it in different degrees to sales, marketing, or account management.

It’s true that business development has relationships with all those things and more, but it can also be greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s take a closer look at the principles that drive successful biz dev divisions and what they really mean for a company.

1: Value Generators

Most of the time, it’s not hard to identify value: It’s reflected in the bottom line. But there are many other types of value that can drive sales, revenue, and profit. They include things like prestige, access to decision-makers, or anything else that drives results. Business development pros should look for ways to generate value for the enterprise, customers, and partners, too.

business development

2: Long-Term Orientation

When generating value, some parts of the business have the option of going for the quick win, even if it’s not their only tool. Business development is different: It is most effective when it creates innovative concepts that expand – literally, “develop” – the core reasons that enterprises or customers partner with you. That usually means big ideas with incremental execution.

3: Relationships

To succeed in business development, a leader needs to be looking for ways to align the business with customers’ needs in a cost-effective way. That means staying connected with decision-makers and being attentive to emerging trends. The best biz dev leaders are so attuned to key relationships that they can anticipate needs before they are fully articulated.

business development strategy

No Matter Your Angle, Business Development is Crucial

Business development is unique: With its cross-disciplinary outlook, it can be an important partner to sales, marketing, product development, and the senior leadership team. Through a hands-on approach, it generates customer and market insights with wide applications and shows – even helps forge – the path to sustainable ROI.

A business development team can start with sales, marketing, or product development experts. The more it’s allowed to grow into its own, however, the more value it will ultimately create. When all is said and done, the best thing that business development does for a company is this: Connecting innovation, existing strengths, and customer needs into a win-win package.

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business development plan introduction

Lateral Partner Integration Requires Business Development Plan

Brian Carrozza

When a lateral is hired into a new firm, following the tone set during the recruiting process is essential. The firm needs to ensure the lateral is set up for success on day one. Openness, honesty, and transparency are key.

A 12-month marketing and business development plan should be created as a roadmap for integrating new lateral hires and partnering them with a business development liaison. The assigned liaison should host regular check-in calls and serve as the lateral’s initial point of contact for all client development activities.

Setting the Stage

An introductory call between the lateral and their assigned BD liaison should take place prior to their start date or within the first two weeks. This should be the first in a series of integration meetings that take place during the lateral’s first year.

The goal of the meeting is to help the lateral understand the resources of the firm, services the marketing and BD department provides (i.e., requests for proposals, pitches, collateral, conference/speaking engagement prep, awards & rankings, bio updates, etc.) and to answer firm questions that may not have been addressed during the recruiting process.

The lateral and liaison should discuss any immediate client needs/opportunities, expectations, what support the lateral needs, and alert clients about the move.

The lateral should walk away from the meeting feeling confident, comfortable, and with a clear path forward.

Read more: Lateral Partner Recruiting Must Focus on Honesty and Clear Data

Introduction and Implementation

The BD liaison must also obtain a fulsome knowledge of the lateral’s practice, portable book of business, client targets, preferred marketing styles. They should ascertain the partner’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as business goals and objectives.

The liaison needs to know why the lateral was hired—their niche expertise, specific client needs, and regional presence—to help identify cross-sell opportunities, make appropriate introductions to targeted attorneys within the firm, and plug the lateral into pre-existing client and industry teams. Prioritization should be placed on client-facing activities and the lawyer’s strengths.

The new partner’s BD liaison should have the same information as the legal recruiting team, which includes the lateral’s resume, partner questionnaire, offer letter, and revenue goals. Armed with these resources, the business development liaison is positioned as a part of the firm’s long time revenue strategy for the lateral partner, versus as a document producer.

Positioning the BD liaison as a key to the lateral’s success at the onset will encourage the partner to engage them in a meaningful way with strategy, innovation, and revenue generating activities for a sustaining practice. This allows the partner to focus on delivering quality legal services, while the BD liaison can focus on collaboratively growing their book of business.

Having a thoughtful, written integration plan is imperative. A written process ensures not only accountability, but gives each lateral the same onboarding experience regardless of which practice group or industry team they sit in.

During each meeting, the liaison should probe the lateral on topics such as satisfaction with the firm, sense of being valued, client growth opportunities, bandwidth and utilization, and cross-selling successes or frustrations. Regular status updates should be provided to firm leadership and other stakeholders. If the lateral flags an issue or perceived roadblock, the liaison should dig deeper to understand the root cause, and work with leadership to course correct.

It’s critical that firms not overpromise and underdeliver. For example, a lateral may have been hired to inherit a portfolio that fell through, or perhaps market fluctuations prohibited the opening of a new office that the lateral was intended to join. It’s important to keep the lateral’s business development liaison informed of these developments so they can monitor follow-though, manage expectations, and help pivot if necessary.

The firm should be clear about their commitments. Conversely, expectations for new partners’ client development and relationship building activities, for example, should also be addressed directly.

The most successful laterals are engaged and actively participate in regular integration calls. Holding 90-day reviews that include members of the recruiting team and practice group or department leaders can provide an opportunity for the partner to be heard as well as to receive direct feedback.

Integration Process

Avoid letting new lateral partners fall between the cracks, especially if they’re rainmakers or inexperienced business developers, by having a continuity plan that includes the written integration process. The BD liaisons shouldn’t work in silos.

Find a collaboration tool that works for the team’s communication style and commit to using it. Keep detailed records and have a plan of continued support should the assigned BD liaison leave the firm, or if there is significant recent or impending change happening within the firm, such as a merger or acquisition.

Recruiting and integration don’t cease when a merger is on the horizon, and the potential for new laterals to get lost in transition during a major change increases. Firms must adapt their recruiting and integration strategies not only to speak to the newly merged firm’s emerging cultural differentiators but also to how laterals will be supported in a fluid environment.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Brian J. Carrozza is director of client development at Goulston & Storrs.

Courtney C. Hudson is business development manager at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

Megan K. Senese is co-founder and principal at stage, a women-owned business development and legal marketing firm.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jada Chin at [email protected] ; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at [email protected]

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  8. Business Plan Introduction Example

    Use this example introduction of a business plan as a template to create your own. Includes questions to answer that make writing yours easier. Your business plan introduction provides a general overview, the "bird's eye view," of your plan. It is written at a high level without going into details. (That's what the rest of the plan ...

  9. How to Write a Business Development Plan (2022)

    It outlines steps to keep everyone focused on the health or expansion of the business, identifies challenges before they become surprises, and shows potential investors that you've thought about your plan. Business Development Strategies. 1 - Networking. 2 - Outbound Sales. 3 - Referrals.

  10. 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.

  11. Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills

    To effectively create and implement a business development plan, the team needs to set clear objectives and goals—ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

  12. Business Plan Development Guide

    Introduction. Chapter 1 - Developing a Business Plan. Chapter 2 - Essential Initial Research. Chapter 3 - Business Models. Chapter 4 - Initial Business Plan Draft. Chapter 5 - Making the Business Plan Realistic. Chapter 6 - Making the Plan Appeal to Stakeholders and Desirable to the Entrepreneur. Chapter 7 - Finishing the Business ...

  13. 1.1: Chapter 1

    As the road map for a business's development, the business plan. Defines the vision for the company. Establishes the company's strategy. Describes how the strategy will be implemented. Provides a framework for analysis of key issues. Provides a plan for the development of the business. Helps the entrepreneur develop and measure critical ...

  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. Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One

    Business Plan: A business plan is a written document that describes in detail how a business, usually a new one, is going to achieve its goals. A business plan lays out a written plan from a ...

  16. How to Create the Right Business Development Plan

    Step 5: Create an Action Plan. The company outlines specific steps, responsibilities, and deadlines to expand into the healthcare market. They assign tasks to team members, establish clear communication channels for progress tracking, and ensure everyone is working towards the same objective.

  17. What is Business Development? Main Concepts and Best Practices

    Summary. Business development is a pivotal process that empowers companies to unlock their growth potential, explore new markets, and foster valuable partnerships. Through market research, strategic planning, and customer-centricity, businesses can navigate the ever-changing landscape of commerce with confidence.

  18. The Ultimate Guide to Business Development and How It Can Help Your

    The purpose of a business development plan (or strategy) is to set realistic goals and targets that allow your reps to grow the business, close more deals, identify prospects, align members of the sales team (and other teams, company-wide), and convert more leads. 1. Craft an elevator pitch.

  19. An Introduction to Business Plans

    By Sherin Shibu. A business plan is a written description of your business's future. That's all there is to it--a document that desribes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot ...

  20. PDF HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN

    Start with a cogent and concise one sentence statement of the business idea. A sentence that is so clear and appealing that the reader can immediately visualise or 'see' the business. You can then go on to describe: The market at which you are aiming. The specific benefits offered by your product or service.

  21. A Game-Changing Business Development Strategy to Achieve Consistent

    A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms. Here are the key steps to develop and ...

  22. 10 Key Business Development Strategies (with Examples)

    In essence, a product development strategy is about breathing new life into your business with innovative offerings that captivate your existing market. It's a vibrant testament to your commitment to growth and adaptation, positioning you as a forward-thinking leader in your industry. 4. Diversification Strategy.

  23. An Introduction to Business Development

    3: Relationships. To succeed in business development, a leader needs to be looking for ways to align the business with customers' needs in a cost-effective way. That means staying connected with decision-makers and being attentive to emerging trends. The best biz dev leaders are so attuned to key relationships that they can anticipate needs ...

  24. Lateral Partner Integration Requires Business Development Plan

    A 12-month marketing and business development plan should be created as a roadmap for integrating new lateral hires and partnering them with a business development liaison. The assigned liaison should host regular check-in calls and serve as the lateral's initial point of contact for all client development activities. ... Introduction and ...