24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

sample small business plan

Free Business Plan Template

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You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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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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Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

sample small business plan

Small Business Trends

How to create a business plan: examples & free template.

This is the ultimate guide to creating a comprehensive and effective plan to start a business . In today’s dynamic business landscape, having a well-crafted business plan is an important first step to securing funding, attracting partners, and navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

This guide has been designed to help you create a winning plan that stands out in the ever-evolving marketplace. U sing real-world examples and a free downloadable template, it will walk you through each step of the process.

Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or launching your very first startup, the guide will give you the insights, tools, and confidence you need to create a solid foundation for your business.

Table of Contents

How to Write a Business Plan

Embarking on the journey of creating a successful business requires a solid foundation, and a well-crafted business plan is the cornerstone. Here is the process of writing a comprehensive business plan and the main parts of a winning business plan . From setting objectives to conducting market research, this guide will have everything you need.

Executive Summary

business plan

The Executive Summary serves as the gateway to your business plan, offering a snapshot of your venture’s core aspects. This section should captivate and inform, succinctly summarizing the essence of your plan.

It’s crucial to include a clear mission statement, a brief description of your primary products or services, an overview of your target market, and key financial projections or achievements.

Think of it as an elevator pitch in written form: it should be compelling enough to engage potential investors or stakeholders and provide them with a clear understanding of what your business is about, its goals, and why it’s a promising investment.

Example: EcoTech is a technology company specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable products designed to reduce energy consumption and minimize waste. Our mission is to create innovative solutions that contribute to a cleaner, greener environment.

Our target market includes environmentally conscious consumers and businesses seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. We project a 200% increase in revenue within the first three years of operation.

Overview and Business Objectives

business plan

In the Overview and Business Objectives section, outline your business’s core goals and the strategic approaches you plan to use to achieve them. This section should set forth clear, specific objectives that are attainable and time-bound, providing a roadmap for your business’s growth and success.

It’s important to detail how these objectives align with your company’s overall mission and vision. Discuss the milestones you aim to achieve and the timeframe you’ve set for these accomplishments.

This part of the plan demonstrates to investors and stakeholders your vision for growth and the practical steps you’ll take to get there.

Example: EcoTech’s primary objective is to become a market leader in sustainable technology products within the next five years. Our key objectives include:

  • Introducing three new products within the first two years of operation.
  • Achieving annual revenue growth of 30%.
  • Expanding our customer base to over 10,000 clients by the end of the third year.

Company Description

business plan

The Company Description section is your opportunity to delve into the details of your business. Provide a comprehensive overview that includes your company’s history, its mission statement, and its vision for the future.

Highlight your unique selling proposition (USP) – what makes your business stand out in the market. Explain the problems your company solves and how it benefits your customers.

Include information about the company’s founders, their expertise, and why they are suited to lead the business to success. This section should paint a vivid picture of your business, its values, and its place in the industry.

Example: EcoTech is committed to developing cutting-edge sustainable technology products that benefit both the environment and our customers. Our unique combination of innovative solutions and eco-friendly design sets us apart from the competition. We envision a future where technology and sustainability go hand in hand, leading to a greener planet.

Define Your Target Market

business plan

Defining Your Target Market is critical for tailoring your business strategy effectively. This section should describe your ideal customer base in detail, including demographic information (such as age, gender, income level, and location) and psychographic data (like interests, values, and lifestyle).

Elucidate on the specific needs or pain points of your target audience and how your product or service addresses these. This information will help you know your target market and develop targeted marketing strategies.

Example: Our target market comprises environmentally conscious consumers and businesses looking for innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Our ideal customers are those who prioritize sustainability and are willing to invest in eco-friendly products.

Market Analysis

business plan

The Market Analysis section requires thorough research and a keen understanding of the industry. It involves examining the current trends within your industry, understanding the needs and preferences of your customers, and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

This analysis will enable you to spot market opportunities and anticipate potential challenges. Include data and statistics to back up your claims, and use graphs or charts to illustrate market trends.

This section should demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of the market in which you operate and that your business is well-positioned to capitalize on its opportunities.

Example: The market for eco-friendly technology products has experienced significant growth in recent years, with an estimated annual growth rate of 10%. As consumers become increasingly aware of environmental issues, the demand for sustainable solutions continues to rise.

Our research indicates a gap in the market for high-quality, innovative eco-friendly technology products that cater to both individual and business clients.

SWOT Analysis

business plan

A SWOT analysis in your business plan offers a comprehensive examination of your company’s internal and external factors. By assessing Strengths, you showcase what your business does best and where your capabilities lie.

Weaknesses involve an honest introspection of areas where your business may be lacking or could improve. Opportunities can be external factors that your business could capitalize on, such as market gaps or emerging trends.

Threats include external challenges your business may face, like competition or market changes. This analysis is crucial for strategic planning, as it helps in recognizing and leveraging your strengths, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and preparing for potential threats.

Including a SWOT analysis demonstrates to stakeholders that you have a balanced and realistic understanding of your business in its operational context.

  • Innovative and eco-friendly product offerings.
  • Strong commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
  • Skilled and experienced team with expertise in technology and sustainability.

Weaknesses:

  • Limited brand recognition compared to established competitors.
  • Reliance on third-party manufacturers for product development.

Opportunities:

  • Growing consumer interest in sustainable products.
  • Partnerships with environmentally-focused organizations and influencers.
  • Expansion into international markets.
  • Intense competition from established technology companies.
  • Regulatory changes could impact the sustainable technology market.

Competitive Analysis

business plan

In this section, you’ll analyze your competitors in-depth, examining their products, services, market positioning, and pricing strategies. Understanding your competition allows you to identify gaps in the market and tailor your offerings to outperform them.

By conducting a thorough competitive analysis, you can gain insights into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to develop strategies to differentiate your business and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Example: Key competitors include:

GreenTech: A well-known brand offering eco-friendly technology products, but with a narrower focus on energy-saving devices.

EarthSolutions: A direct competitor specializing in sustainable technology, but with a limited product range and higher prices.

By offering a diverse product portfolio, competitive pricing, and continuous innovation, we believe we can capture a significant share of the growing sustainable technology market.

Organization and Management Team

business plan

Provide an overview of your company’s organizational structure, including key roles and responsibilities. Introduce your management team, highlighting their expertise and experience to demonstrate that your team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.

Showcasing your team’s background, skills, and accomplishments instills confidence in investors and other stakeholders, proving that your business has the leadership and talent necessary to achieve its objectives and manage growth effectively.

Example: EcoTech’s organizational structure comprises the following key roles: CEO, CTO, CFO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, and R&D Manager. Our management team has extensive experience in technology, sustainability, and business development, ensuring that we are well-equipped to execute our business plan successfully.

Products and Services Offered

business plan

Describe the products or services your business offers, focusing on their unique features and benefits. Explain how your offerings solve customer pain points and why they will choose your products or services over the competition.

This section should emphasize the value you provide to customers, demonstrating that your business has a deep understanding of customer needs and is well-positioned to deliver innovative solutions that address those needs and set your company apart from competitors.

Example: EcoTech offers a range of eco-friendly technology products, including energy-efficient lighting solutions, solar chargers, and smart home devices that optimize energy usage. Our products are designed to help customers reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

business plan

In this section, articulate your comprehensive strategy for reaching your target market and driving sales. Detail the specific marketing channels you plan to use, such as social media, email marketing, SEO, or traditional advertising.

Describe the nature of your advertising campaigns and promotional activities, explaining how they will capture the attention of your target audience and convey the value of your products or services. Outline your sales strategy, including your sales process, team structure, and sales targets.

Discuss how these marketing and sales efforts will work together to attract and retain customers, generate leads, and ultimately contribute to achieving your business’s revenue goals.

This section is critical to convey to investors and stakeholders that you have a well-thought-out approach to market your business effectively and drive sales growth.

Example: Our marketing strategy includes digital advertising, content marketing, social media promotion, and influencer partnerships. We will also attend trade shows and conferences to showcase our products and connect with potential clients. Our sales strategy involves both direct sales and partnerships with retail stores, as well as online sales through our website and e-commerce platforms.

Logistics and Operations Plan

business plan

The Logistics and Operations Plan is a critical component that outlines the inner workings of your business. It encompasses the management of your supply chain, detailing how you acquire raw materials and manage vendor relationships.

Inventory control is another crucial aspect, where you explain strategies for inventory management to ensure efficiency and reduce wastage. The section should also describe your production processes, emphasizing scalability and adaptability to meet changing market demands.

Quality control measures are essential to maintain product standards and customer satisfaction. This plan assures investors and stakeholders of your operational competency and readiness to meet business demands.

Highlighting your commitment to operational efficiency and customer satisfaction underlines your business’s capability to maintain smooth, effective operations even as it scales.

Example: EcoTech partners with reliable third-party manufacturers to produce our eco-friendly technology products. Our operations involve maintaining strong relationships with suppliers, ensuring quality control, and managing inventory.

We also prioritize efficient distribution through various channels, including online platforms and retail partners, to deliver products to our customers in a timely manner.

Financial Projections Plan

business plan

In the Financial Projections Plan, lay out a clear and realistic financial future for your business. This should include detailed projections for revenue, costs, and profitability over the next three to five years.

Ground these projections in solid assumptions based on your market analysis, industry benchmarks, and realistic growth scenarios. Break down revenue streams and include an analysis of the cost of goods sold, operating expenses, and potential investments.

This section should also discuss your break-even analysis, cash flow projections, and any assumptions about external funding requirements.

By presenting a thorough and data-backed financial forecast, you instill confidence in potential investors and lenders, showcasing your business’s potential for profitability and financial stability.

This forward-looking financial plan is crucial for demonstrating that you have a firm grasp of the financial nuances of your business and are prepared to manage its financial health effectively.

Example: Over the next three years, we expect to see significant growth in revenue, driven by new product launches and market expansion. Our financial projections include:

  • Year 1: $1.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $200,000.
  • Year 2: $3 million in revenue, with a net profit of $500,000.
  • Year 3: $4.5 million in revenue, with a net profit of $1 million.

These projections are based on realistic market analysis, growth rates, and product pricing.

Income Statement

business plan

The income statement , also known as the profit and loss statement, provides a summary of your company’s revenues and expenses over a specified period. It helps you track your business’s financial performance and identify trends, ensuring you stay on track to achieve your financial goals.

Regularly reviewing and analyzing your income statement allows you to monitor the health of your business, evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies, and make data-driven decisions to optimize profitability and growth.

Example: The income statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

  • Revenue: $1,500,000
  • Cost of Goods Sold: $800,000
  • Gross Profit: $700,000
  • Operating Expenses: $450,000
  • Net Income: $250,000

This statement highlights our company’s profitability and overall financial health during the first year of operation.

Cash Flow Statement

business plan

A cash flow statement is a crucial part of a financial business plan that shows the inflows and outflows of cash within your business. It helps you monitor your company’s liquidity, ensuring you have enough cash on hand to cover operating expenses, pay debts, and invest in growth opportunities.

By including a cash flow statement in your business plan, you demonstrate your ability to manage your company’s finances effectively.

Example:  The cash flow statement for EcoTech’s first year of operation is as follows:

Operating Activities:

  • Depreciation: $10,000
  • Changes in Working Capital: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Operating Activities: $210,000

Investing Activities:

  •  Capital Expenditures: -$100,000
  • Net Cash from Investing Activities: -$100,000

Financing Activities:

  • Proceeds from Loans: $150,000
  • Loan Repayments: -$50,000
  • Net Cash from Financing Activities: $100,000
  • Net Increase in Cash: $210,000

This statement demonstrates EcoTech’s ability to generate positive cash flow from operations, maintain sufficient liquidity, and invest in growth opportunities.

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

business plan

1. Be clear and concise: Keep your language simple and straightforward. Avoid jargon and overly technical terms. A clear and concise business plan is easier for investors and stakeholders to understand and demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively.

2. Conduct thorough research: Before writing your business plan, gather as much information as possible about your industry, competitors, and target market. Use reliable sources and industry reports to inform your analysis and make data-driven decisions.

3. Set realistic goals: Your business plan should outline achievable objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Setting realistic goals demonstrates your understanding of the market and increases the likelihood of success.

4. Focus on your unique selling proposition (USP): Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition. Emphasize your USP throughout your business plan to showcase your company’s value and potential for success.

5. Be flexible and adaptable: A business plan is a living document that should evolve as your business grows and changes. Be prepared to update and revise your plan as you gather new information and learn from your experiences.

6. Use visuals to enhance understanding: Include charts, graphs, and other visuals to help convey complex data and ideas. Visuals can make your business plan more engaging and easier to digest, especially for those who prefer visual learning.

7. Seek feedback from trusted sources: Share your business plan with mentors, industry experts, or colleagues and ask for their feedback. Their insights can help you identify areas for improvement and strengthen your plan before presenting it to potential investors or partners.

FREE Business Plan Template

To help you get started on your business plan, we have created a template that includes all the essential components discussed in the “How to Write a Business Plan” section. This easy-to-use template will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

The template is divided into the following sections:

  • Mission statement
  • Business Overview
  • Key products or services
  • Target market
  • Financial highlights
  • Company goals
  • Strategies to achieve goals
  • Measurable, time-bound objectives
  • Company History
  • Mission and vision
  • Unique selling proposition
  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Pain points
  • Industry trends
  • Customer needs
  • Competitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Competitor products and services
  • Market positioning
  • Pricing strategies
  • Organizational structure
  • Key roles and responsibilities
  • Management team backgrounds
  • Product or service features
  • Competitive advantages
  • Marketing channels
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Promotional activities
  • Sales strategies
  • Supply chain management
  • Inventory control
  • Production processes
  • Quality control measures
  • Projected revenue
  • Assumptions
  • Cash inflows
  • Cash outflows
  • Net cash flow

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a strategic document that outlines an organization’s goals, objectives, and the steps required to achieve them. It serves as a roadmap as you start a business , guiding the company’s direction and growth while identifying potential obstacles and opportunities.

Typically, a business plan covers areas such as market analysis, financial projections, marketing strategies, and organizational structure. It not only helps in securing funding from investors and lenders but also provides clarity and focus to the management team.

A well-crafted business plan is a very important part of your business startup checklist because it fosters informed decision-making and long-term success.

business plan

Why You Should Write a Business Plan

Understanding the importance of a business plan in today’s competitive environment is crucial for entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are five compelling reasons to write a business plan:

  • Attract Investors and Secure Funding : A well-written business plan demonstrates your venture’s potential and profitability, making it easier to attract investors and secure the necessary funding for growth and development. It provides a detailed overview of your business model, target market, financial projections, and growth strategies, instilling confidence in potential investors and lenders that your company is a worthy investment.
  • Clarify Business Objectives and Strategies : Crafting a business plan forces you to think critically about your goals and the strategies you’ll employ to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for success. This process helps you refine your vision and prioritize the most critical objectives, ensuring that your efforts are focused on achieving the desired results.
  • Identify Potential Risks and Opportunities : Analyzing the market, competition, and industry trends within your business plan helps identify potential risks and uncover untapped opportunities for growth and expansion. This insight enables you to develop proactive strategies to mitigate risks and capitalize on opportunities, positioning your business for long-term success.
  • Improve Decision-Making : A business plan serves as a reference point so you can make informed decisions that align with your company’s overall objectives and long-term vision. By consistently referring to your plan and adjusting it as needed, you can ensure that your business remains on track and adapts to changes in the market, industry, or internal operations.
  • Foster Team Alignment and Communication : A shared business plan helps ensure that all team members are on the same page, promoting clear communication, collaboration, and a unified approach to achieving the company’s goals. By involving your team in the planning process and regularly reviewing the plan together, you can foster a sense of ownership, commitment, and accountability that drives success.

What are the Different Types of Business Plans?

In today’s fast-paced business world, having a well-structured roadmap is more important than ever. A traditional business plan provides a comprehensive overview of your company’s goals and strategies, helping you make informed decisions and achieve long-term success. There are various types of business plans, each designed to suit different needs and purposes. Let’s explore the main types:

  • Startup Business Plan: Tailored for new ventures, a startup business plan outlines the company’s mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections. It helps entrepreneurs clarify their vision, secure funding from investors, and create a roadmap for their business’s future. Additionally, this plan identifies potential challenges and opportunities, which are crucial for making informed decisions and adapting to changing market conditions.
  • Internal Business Plan: This type of plan is intended for internal use, focusing on strategies, milestones, deadlines, and resource allocation. It serves as a management tool for guiding the company’s growth, evaluating its progress, and ensuring that all departments are aligned with the overall vision. The internal business plan also helps identify areas of improvement, fosters collaboration among team members, and provides a reference point for measuring performance.
  • Strategic Business Plan: A strategic business plan outlines long-term goals and the steps to achieve them, providing a clear roadmap for the company’s direction. It typically includes a SWOT analysis, market research, and competitive analysis. This plan allows businesses to align their resources with their objectives, anticipate changes in the market, and develop contingency plans. By focusing on the big picture, a strategic business plan fosters long-term success and stability.
  • Feasibility Business Plan: This plan is designed to assess the viability of a business idea, examining factors such as market demand, competition, and financial projections. It is often used to decide whether or not to pursue a particular venture. By conducting a thorough feasibility analysis, entrepreneurs can avoid investing time and resources into an unviable business concept. This plan also helps refine the business idea, identify potential obstacles, and determine the necessary resources for success.
  • Growth Business Plan: Also known as an expansion plan, a growth business plan focuses on strategies for scaling up an existing business. It includes market analysis, new product or service offerings, and financial projections to support expansion plans. This type of plan is essential for businesses looking to enter new markets, increase their customer base, or launch new products or services. By outlining clear growth strategies, the plan helps ensure that expansion efforts are well-coordinated and sustainable.
  • Operational Business Plan: This type of plan outlines the company’s day-to-day operations, detailing the processes, procedures, and organizational structure. It is an essential tool for managing resources, streamlining workflows, and ensuring smooth operations. The operational business plan also helps identify inefficiencies, implement best practices, and establish a strong foundation for future growth. By providing a clear understanding of daily operations, this plan enables businesses to optimize their resources and enhance productivity.
  • Lean Business Plan: A lean business plan is a simplified, agile version of a traditional plan, focusing on key elements such as value proposition, customer segments, revenue streams, and cost structure. It is perfect for startups looking for a flexible, adaptable planning approach. The lean business plan allows for rapid iteration and continuous improvement, enabling businesses to pivot and adapt to changing market conditions. This streamlined approach is particularly beneficial for businesses in fast-paced or uncertain industries.
  • One-Page Business Plan: As the name suggests, a one-page business plan is a concise summary of your company’s key objectives, strategies, and milestones. It serves as a quick reference guide and is ideal for pitching to potential investors or partners. This plan helps keep teams focused on essential goals and priorities, fosters clear communication, and provides a snapshot of the company’s progress. While not as comprehensive as other plans, a one-page business plan is an effective tool for maintaining clarity and direction.
  • Nonprofit Business Plan: Specifically designed for nonprofit organizations, this plan outlines the mission, goals, target audience, fundraising strategies, and budget allocation. It helps secure grants and donations while ensuring the organization stays on track with its objectives. The nonprofit business plan also helps attract volunteers, board members, and community support. By demonstrating the organization’s impact and plans for the future, this plan is essential for maintaining transparency, accountability, and long-term sustainability within the nonprofit sector.
  • Franchise Business Plan: For entrepreneurs seeking to open a franchise, this type of plan focuses on the franchisor’s requirements, as well as the franchisee’s goals, strategies, and financial projections. It is crucial for securing a franchise agreement and ensuring the business’s success within the franchise system. This plan outlines the franchisee’s commitment to brand standards, marketing efforts, and operational procedures, while also addressing local market conditions and opportunities. By creating a solid franchise business plan, entrepreneurs can demonstrate their ability to effectively manage and grow their franchise, increasing the likelihood of a successful partnership with the franchisor.

Using Business Plan Software

business plan

Creating a comprehensive business plan can be intimidating, but business plan software can streamline the process and help you produce a professional document. These tools offer a number of benefits, including guided step-by-step instructions, financial projections, and industry-specific templates. Here are the top 5 business plan software options available to help you craft a great business plan.

1. LivePlan

LivePlan is a popular choice for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive features. It offers over 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, and the ability to track your progress against key performance indicators. With LivePlan, you can create visually appealing, professional business plans that will impress investors and stakeholders.

2. Upmetrics

Upmetrics provides a simple and intuitive platform for creating a well-structured business plan. It features customizable templates, financial forecasting tools, and collaboration capabilities, allowing you to work with team members and advisors. Upmetrics also offers a library of resources to guide you through the business planning process.

Bizplan is designed to simplify the business planning process with a drag-and-drop builder and modular sections. It offers financial forecasting tools, progress tracking, and a visually appealing interface. With Bizplan, you can create a business plan that is both easy to understand and visually engaging.

Enloop is a robust business plan software that automatically generates a tailored plan based on your inputs. It provides industry-specific templates, financial forecasting, and a unique performance score that updates as you make changes to your plan. Enloop also offers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget.

5. Tarkenton GoSmallBiz

Developed by NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, GoSmallBiz is tailored for small businesses and startups. It features a guided business plan builder, customizable templates, and financial projection tools. GoSmallBiz also offers additional resources, such as CRM tools and legal document templates, to support your business beyond the planning stage.

Business Plan FAQs

What is a good business plan.

A good business plan is a well-researched, clear, and concise document that outlines a company’s goals, strategies, target market, competitive advantages, and financial projections. It should be adaptable to change and provide a roadmap for achieving success.

What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan?

The three main purposes of a business plan are to guide the company’s strategy, attract investment, and evaluate performance against objectives. Here’s a closer look at each of these:

  • It outlines the company’s purpose and core values to ensure that all activities align with its mission and vision.
  • It provides an in-depth analysis of the market, including trends, customer needs, and competition, helping the company tailor its products and services to meet market demands.
  • It defines the company’s marketing and sales strategies, guiding how the company will attract and retain customers.
  • It describes the company’s organizational structure and management team, outlining roles and responsibilities to ensure effective operation and leadership.
  • It sets measurable, time-bound objectives, allowing the company to plan its activities effectively and make strategic decisions to achieve these goals.
  • It provides a comprehensive overview of the company and its business model, demonstrating its uniqueness and potential for success.
  • It presents the company’s financial projections, showing its potential for profitability and return on investment.
  • It demonstrates the company’s understanding of the market, including its target customers and competition, convincing investors that the company is capable of gaining a significant market share.
  • It showcases the management team’s expertise and experience, instilling confidence in investors that the team is capable of executing the business plan successfully.
  • It establishes clear, measurable objectives that serve as performance benchmarks.
  • It provides a basis for regular performance reviews, allowing the company to monitor its progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • It enables the company to assess the effectiveness of its strategies and make adjustments as needed to achieve its objectives.
  • It helps the company identify potential risks and challenges, enabling it to develop contingency plans and manage risks effectively.
  • It provides a mechanism for evaluating the company’s financial performance, including revenue, expenses, profitability, and cash flow.

Can I write a business plan by myself?

Yes, you can write a business plan by yourself, but it can be helpful to consult with mentors, colleagues, or industry experts to gather feedback and insights. There are also many creative business plan templates and business plan examples available online, including those above.

We also have examples for specific industries, including a using food truck business plan , salon business plan , farm business plan , daycare business plan , and restaurant business plan .

Is it possible to create a one-page business plan?

Yes, a one-page business plan is a condensed version that highlights the most essential elements, including the company’s mission, target market, unique selling proposition, and financial goals.

How long should a business plan be?

A typical business plan ranges from 20 to 50 pages, but the length may vary depending on the complexity and needs of the business.

What is a business plan outline?

A business plan outline is a structured framework that organizes the content of a business plan into sections, such as the executive summary, company description, market analysis, and financial projections.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

The five most common business plan mistakes include inadequate research, unrealistic financial projections, lack of focus on the unique selling proposition, poor organization and structure, and failure to update the plan as circumstances change.

What questions should be asked in a business plan?

A business plan should address questions such as: What problem does the business solve? Who is the specific target market ? What is the unique selling proposition? What are the company’s objectives? How will it achieve those objectives?

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan focuses on the overall vision, goals, and tactics of a company, while a strategic plan outlines the specific strategies, action steps, and performance measures necessary to achieve the company’s objectives.

How is business planning for a nonprofit different?

Nonprofit business planning focuses on the organization’s mission, social impact, and resource management, rather than profit generation. The financial section typically includes funding sources, expenses, and projected budgets for programs and operations.

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550+ Business Plan Samples To Inspire Your Plan

Inspire your own plan with 550+ business plan samples

Use real business plan examples to jump-start your own plan!

Business planning shouldn't be complicated

Don’t start from scratch — get a headstart with 550 real business plan examples

How do you know what elements to include in your business plan, if you’ve never written one before? Looking at real business plan samples can help you visualize what a successful plan looks like, so you know what you’re aiming for before you get started. With LivePlan you’ll have access to over 550 free example business plans to use as a starting point.

Access our full library and browse real sample content for a broad range of businesses. You’ll see how others have written effective executive summaries, planned marketing activities, created financial forecasts , and more. Plus we’ll be right there to walk you through it .

Whether you run a dentist office or dog walking service, you’ll find examples of a business plan for every type of business.

Whether you’re a small- or mid-sized business, freelancer, nonprofit, or still figuring that out, we’ve got you covered.

LivePlan’s library of business plan samples has real business plans from 150 industries and growing. You can see the complete list here .

It’s OK if you can’t find an exact match to your business. You don’t need an exact match for a sample plan to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that’s closely related to the type of business you’re starting. For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse will still be a great match.

While the specifics of your actual business will differ, the elements you’ll want to include in your restaurant’s business plan are similar—and they’re all included in LivePlan .

business plan examples

Real business plan examples to save you time

Read through as many sample business plans as you like to see how it’s done and get inspired. And if you really want to, you can even copy and paste sections to use in your own plan.

We’ve collected sample plans over more than 20 years, most through generous donations from happy customers who used our software and wanted to share their successful business plan samples with others.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real–world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry–best business plan samples, and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet–free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources to work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it’s not just a classroom project. It’s your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students.

Built-in examples and step-by-step help so you won’t get stuck

In addition to complete sample plans, LivePlan includes specific examples for each part of your business plan. Browse through a few examples to get an idea of how other businesses have worded their executive summary, for instance, or other key sections of the business plan. Find an example that works for you and personalize it to fit your business.

You’ll be confident that your numbers are right

In addition to sample business plans, LivePlan includes current industry benchmarks so you can see what the numbers look like for businesses just like yours. Knowing your industry standards helps ensure that your plan is both competitive and realistic.

Download a free sample business plan

Download a free business plan today. You can use it as a template for your own business plan and to see an example of what you’ll find in LivePlan. Download my free business plan .

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

sample small business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Written by Jesse Sumrak | May 14, 2023

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Business plans might seem like an old-school stiff-collared practice, but they deserve a place in the startup realm, too. It’s probably not going to be the frame-worthy document you hang in the office—yet, it may one day be deserving of the privilege.

Whether you’re looking to win the heart of an angel investor or convince a bank to lend you money, you’ll need a business plan. And not just any ol’ notes and scribble on the back of a pizza box or napkin—you’ll need a professional, standardized report.

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

However, just like bookkeeping, loan applications, and 404 redirects, business plans are an essential step in cementing your business foundation.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to write a business plan without boring you to tears. We’ve jam-packed this article with all the business plan examples, templates, and tips you need to take your non-existent proposal from concept to completion.

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan why do you desperately need one.

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

  • Who your business is, what it does, and who it serves
  • Where your business is now
  • Where you want it to go
  • How you’re going to make it happen
  • What might stop you from taking your business from Point A to Point B
  • How you’ll overcome the predicted obstacles

While it’s not required when starting a business, having a business plan is helpful for a few reasons:

  • Secure a Bank Loan: Before approving you for a business loan, banks will want to see that your business is legitimate and can repay the loan. They want to know how you’re going to use the loan and how you’ll make monthly payments on your debt. Lenders want to see a sound business strategy that doesn’t end in loan default.
  • Win Over Investors: Like lenders, investors want to know they’re going to make a return on their investment. They need to see your business plan to have the confidence to hand you money.
  • Stay Focused: It’s easy to get lost chasing the next big thing. Your business plan keeps you on track and focused on the big picture. Your business plan can prevent you from wasting time and resources on something that isn’t aligned with your business goals.

Beyond the reasoning, let’s look at what the data says:

  • Simply writing a business plan can boost your average annual growth by 30%
  • Entrepreneurs who create a formal business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t
  • A study looking at 65 fast-growth companies found that 71% had small business plans
  • The process and output of creating a business plan have shown to improve business performance

Convinced yet? If those numbers and reasons don’t have you scrambling for pen and paper, who knows what will.

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

Before we get into the nitty-gritty steps of how to write a business plan, let’s look at some high-level tips to get you started in the right direction:

Be Professional and Legit

You might be tempted to get cutesy or revolutionary with your business plan—resist the urge. While you should let your brand and creativity shine with everything you produce, business plans fall more into the realm of professional documents.

Think of your business plan the same way as your terms and conditions, employee contracts, or financial statements. You want your plan to be as uniform as possible so investors, lenders, partners, and prospective employees can find the information they need to make important decisions.

If you want to create a fun summary business plan for internal consumption, then, by all means, go right ahead. However, for the purpose of writing this external-facing document, keep it legit.

Know Your Audience

Your official business plan document is for lenders, investors, partners, and big-time prospective employees. Keep these names and faces in your mind as you draft your plan.

Think about what they might be interested in seeing, what questions they’ll ask, and what might convince (or scare) them. Cut the jargon and tailor your language so these individuals can understand.

Remember, these are busy people. They’re likely looking at hundreds of applicants and startup investments every month. Keep your business plan succinct and to the point. Include the most pertinent information and omit the sections that won’t impact their decision-making.

Invest Time Researching

You might not have answers to all the sections you should include in your business plan. Don’t skip over these!

Your audience will want:

  • Detailed information about your customers
  • Numbers and solid math to back up your financial claims and estimates
  • Deep insights about your competitors and potential threats
  • Data to support market opportunities and strategy

Your answers can’t be hypothetical or opinionated. You need research to back up your claims. If you don’t have that data yet, then invest time and money in collecting it. That information isn’t just critical for your business plan—it’s essential for owning, operating, and growing your company.

Stay Realistic

Your business may be ambitious, but reign in the enthusiasm just a teeny-tiny bit. The last thing you want to do is have an angel investor call BS and say “I’m out” before even giving you a chance.

The folks looking at your business and evaluating your plan have been around the block—they know a thing or two about fact and fiction. Your plan should be a blueprint for success. It should be the step-by-step roadmap for how you’re going from Point A to Point B.

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

Not every business plan looks the same, but most share a few common elements. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Products and Services
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Strategy

Below, we’ll break down each of these sections in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it’s the section you’ll write last. That’s because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager.

Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what’s inside the business plan.

Your executive summary highlights key points of your plan. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to put all your juiciest strengths and opportunities strategically in this section.

2. Business Overview

In this section, you can dive deeper into the elements of your business, including answering:

  • What’s your business structure? Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.
  • Where is it located?
  • Who owns the business? Does it have employees?
  • What problem does it solve, and how?
  • What’s your mission statement? Your mission statement briefly describes why you are in business. To write a proper mission statement, brainstorm your business’s core values and who you serve.

Don’t overlook your mission statement. This powerful sentence or paragraph could be the inspiration that drives an investor to take an interest in your business. Here are a few examples of powerful mission statements that just might give you the goosebumps:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • InvisionApp : Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.
  • TED : Spread ideas.
  • Warby Parker : To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

3. Products and Services

As the owner, you know your business and the industry inside and out. However, whoever’s reading your document might not. You’re going to need to break down your products and services in minute detail.

For example, if you own a SaaS business, you’re going to need to explain how this business model works and what you’re selling.

You’ll need to include:

  • What services you sell: Describe the services you provide and how these will help your target audience.
  • What products you sell: Describe your products (and types if applicable) and how they will solve a need for your target and provide value.
  • How much you charge: If you’re selling services, will you charge hourly, per project, retainer, or a mixture of all of these? If you’re selling products, what are the price ranges?

4. Market Analysis

Your market analysis essentially explains how your products and services address customer concerns and pain points. This section will include research and data on the state and direction of your industry and target market.

This research should reveal lucrative opportunities and how your business is uniquely positioned to seize the advantage. You’ll also want to touch on your marketing strategy and how it will (or does) work for your audience.

Include a detailed analysis of your target customers. This describes the people you serve and sell your product to. Be careful not to go too broad here—you don’t want to fall into the common entrepreneurial trap of trying to sell to everyone and thereby not differentiating yourself enough to survive the competition.

The market analysis section will include your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors. This is your key to success.

If you don’t have a UVP, you don’t have a way to take on competitors who are already in this space. Here’s an example of an ecommerce internet business plan outlining their competitive edge:

FireStarters’ competitive advantage is offering product lines that make a statement but won’t leave you broke. The major brands are expensive and not distinctive enough to satisfy the changing taste of our target customers. FireStarters offers products that are just ahead of the curve and so affordable that our customers will return to the website often to check out what’s new.

5. Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis examines the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses in your market or industry. This will include direct and indirect competitors. It can also include threats and opportunities, like economic concerns or legal restraints.

The best way to sum up this section is with a classic SWOT analysis. This will explain your company’s position in relation to your competitors.

6. Financial Strategy

Your financial strategy will sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. It’ll explain how you make money, where your cash flow goes, and how you’ll become profitable or stay profitable.

This is one of the most important sections for lenders and investors. Have you ever watched Shark Tank? They always ask about the company’s financial situation. How has it performed in the past? What’s the ongoing outlook moving forward? How does the business plan to make it happen?

Answer all of these questions in your financial strategy so that your audience doesn’t have to ask. Go ahead and include forecasts and graphs in your plan, too:

  • Balance sheet: This includes your assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Profit & Loss (P&L) statement: This details your income and expenses over a given period.
  • Cash flow statement: Similar to the P&L, this one will show all cash flowing into and out of the business each month.

It takes cash to change the world—lenders and investors get it. If you’re short on funding, explain how much money you’ll need and how you’ll use the capital. Where are you looking for financing? Are you looking to take out a business loan, or would you rather trade equity for capital instead?

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

Ready to write your own business plan? Copy/paste the startup business plan template below and fill in the blanks.

Executive Summary Remember, do this last. Summarize who you are and your business plan in one page.

Business Overview Describe your business. What’s it do? Who owns it? How’s it structured? What’s the mission statement?

Products and Services Detail the products and services you offer. How do they work? What do you charge?

Market Analysis Write about the state of the market and opportunities. Use date. Describe your customers. Include your UVP.

Competitive Analysis Outline the competitors in your market and industry. Include threats and opportunities. Add a SWOT analysis of your business.

Financial Strategy Sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. If you’re applying for a loan, include how you’ll use the funding to progress the business.

What’s the Best Business Plan to Succeed as a Consultant?

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

Want to explore other templates and examples? We got you covered. Check out these 5 business plan examples you can use as inspiration when writing your plan:

  • SBA Wooden Grain Toy Company
  • SBA We Can Do It Consulting
  • OrcaSmart Business Plan Sample
  • Plum Business Plan Template
  • PandaDoc Free Business Plan Templates

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

If you find you’re getting stuck on perfecting your document, opt for a simple one-page business plan —and then get to work. You can always polish up your official plan later as you learn more about your business and the industry.

Remember, business plans are not a requirement for starting a business—they’re only truly essential if a bank or investor is asking for it.

Ask others to review your business plan. Get feedback from other startups and successful business owners. They’ll likely be able to see holes in your planning or undetected opportunities—just make sure these individuals aren’t your competitors (or potential competitors).

Your business plan isn’t a one-and-done report—it’s a living, breathing document. You’ll make changes to it as you grow and evolve. When the market or your customers change, your plan will need to change to adapt.

That means when you’re finished with this exercise, it’s not time to print your plan out and stuff it in a file cabinet somewhere. No, it should sit on your desk as a day-to-day reference. Use it (and update it) as you make decisions about your product, customers, and financial plan.

Review your business plan frequently, update it routinely, and follow the path you’ve developed to the future you’re building.

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

Be as detailed as you can without assuming too much. For example, include your expected revenue, expenses, profit, and growth for the future.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan?

The most common mistake is turning your business plan into a textbook. A business plan is an internal guide and an external pitching tool. Cut the fat and only include the most relevant information to start and run your business.

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

Co-founders, investors, or a board of advisors. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted mentor, your local chamber of commerce, or someone you know that runs a business.

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

Don’t let creating a business plan hold you back from starting your business. Writing documents might not be your thing—that doesn’t mean your business is a bad idea.

Let us help you get started.

Join our free training to learn how to start an online side hustle in 30 days or less. We’ll provide you with a proven roadmap for how to find, validate, and pursue a profitable business idea (even if you have zero entrepreneurial experience).

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About Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a writing zealot focused on creating killer content. He’s spent almost a decade writing about startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped business. A writer by day and a peak bagger by night (and early early morning), you can usually find Jesse preparing for the apocalypse on a precipitous peak somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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300+ Business Plan Examples

Below you can choose from over 300 free business plan examples within numerous industries. You’ll also learn the answers to key sample business plan questions and find tips on how to write your business plan. Finally, you’ll see a full-length business plan sample. Rest assured that you’re in good hands; over the past 20+ years, Growthink has helped over 1 million companies develop simple business plans to start and grow their businesses.  

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here

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Answers to Key Sample Business Plan Questions

Shoutmouth business plan example, business plan examples by business category, clothing & fashion business plan templates & samples.

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1. Why is utilizing an example business plan a good idea?

Sample business plans can help you quickly and easily write a business plan for your own business. Business plans are an important tool for any business, but they can be challenging to create. Sample business plan will help you understand business plan format , how to utilize the best business plan template , and more.

Business plan examples may even help you with the different sections of a plan, including market analysis, company description, cash flow statements/business financial statements, and more. Business plans can also show you how a quality plan in your exact business plan category is organized and shows you the appropriate business communications style to use when writing your business plan.

2. Who would benefit from using an example business plan?

Any entrepreneur or business owner who has never written a business plan before can benefit from an example or sample plan. New business owners often start with business plan templates , which are helpful but are sometimes more useful after reviewing other full business plans.

A good sample plan can be a step-by-step guide as you work on your business planning and business idea. Once you have a sense for the flow, specs, and details, etc. that business plans have, utilizing a business plan template will help you pull everything together, helping you create a plan investors and other stakeholders will value. A solid plan will also help you if you need a bank loan, which may require a startup business plan.

3. How do you get started with a sample business plan and maximize its benefit?

First you should read the business plan thoroughly. Study both the type of information provided in key sections like the executive summary, target market analysis, summary, etc., as well as the format and style of the plan. As you read, you may find yourself thinking through things such as improving or evaluating your business planning process, your business idea, or reconsidering who you want to write your business plan for. This is OK and part of the process. In fact, when you start writing a business plan for the first time, it will be much easier because you’ve gone through this process.

After this initial read, outline your business plan and copy in from the sample plan sections that apply to your business. For instance, if the sample plan included public relations in their marketing strategy and sales plan, and you will also use this tactic, you can copy it into your plan and edit it as appropriate. Finally, answer the other questions answered in the sample plan in ways that reflect your unique business and potential customers.

Writing a business plan can seem daunting. Starting your business plan writing process by reviewing a plan that’s already been created can remove a lot of mental and emotional barriers while helping you craft the best plan you can.

4. When should you not use a sample business plan?

If your business is unlike any other, using a sample business plan will not be as effective. In this situation, writing a business plan from scratch utilizing a business plan template is probably your best path forward.

As an example, Facebook’s early business plan was unlike others since it was paving a new path and way of doing business. But, groundbreaking new businesses like Facebook are not the norm, and the vast majority of companies will benefit from utilizing sample business plans.

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The business plan example below is for Shoutmouth, a company that enjoyed much success in the early 2000’s and which was able to raise funding. While the plan’s premise (social networking) is not as unique now as it was then, the format and structure of this business plan still holds.

I. Executive Summary

Business Overview

Launched in late February 2007, Shoutmouth.com is the most comprehensive music news website on the Internet .

Music is one of the most searched and accessed interests on the Internet. Top music artists like Akon receive over 3 million searches each month. In addition, over 500 music artists each receive over 25,000 searches a month.

However, music fans are largely unsatisfied when it comes to the news and information they seek on the artists they love. This is because most music websites (e.g., RollingStone.com, MTV.com, Billboard.com, etc.) cover only the top eight to ten music stories each day – the stories with mass appeal. This type of generic coverage does not satisfy the needs of serious music fans. Music fans generally listen to many different artists and genres of music. By publishing over 100 music stories each day, Shoutmouth enables these fans to read news on all their favorite artists.

In addition to publishing comprehensive music news on over 1200 music artists, Shoutmouth is a social network that allows fans to meet and communicate with other fans about music, and allows them to:

  • Create personal profiles
  • Interact with other members
  • Provide comments on news stories and music videos
  • Submit news stories and videos
  • Recommend new music artists to add to the community
  • Receive customized news and email alerts on their favorite artists

Success Factors

Shoutmouth is uniquely qualified to succeed due to the following reasons:

  • Entrepreneurial track record : Shoutmouth’s CEO and team have helped launch numerous successful ventures.
  • Affiliate marketing track record : Online affiliate marketing expertise has been cited as one of MySpace’s key success factors. Over the past two years, Shoutmouth’s founders have run one of the most successful online affiliate marketing programs, having sold products to over 500,000 music customers online.
  • Key milestones completed : Shoutmouth’s founders have invested $500,000 to-date to staff the company (we currently have an 11-person full-time team), build the core technology, and launch the site. We have succeeded in gaining initial customer traction with 50,000 unique visitors in March, 100,000 unique visitors in April, and 200,000 unique visitors in May 2007.

Unique Investment Metrics

The Shoutmouth investment opportunity is very exciting due to the metrics of the business.

To begin, over the past two years, over twenty social networks have been acquired. The value in these networks is their relationships with large numbers of customers, which allow acquirers to effectively sell to this audience.

The sales price of these social networks has ranged from $25 to $137 per member. Shoutmouth has the ability to enroll members at less than $1 each, thus providing an extraordinary return on marketing expenditures. In fact, during an April 2007 test, we were able to sign-up 2,000 members to artist-specific Shoutmouth newsletters at a cost of only 43 cents per member.

While we are building Shoutmouth to last, potential acquirers include many types of companies that seek relationships with music fans such as music media/publishing (e.g., MTV, Rolling Stone), ticketing (e.g., Ticketmaster, LiveNation) and digital music sales firms (e.g., iTunes, The Orchard).

Financial Strategy, Needs and Exit Strategy

While Shoutmouth’s technological, marketing and operational infrastructure has been developed, we currently require $3 million to execute on our marketing and technology plan over the next 24 months until we hit profitability.

Shoutmouth will primarily generate revenues from selling advertising space. As technologies evolve that allow us to seamlessly integrate music sampling and purchasing on our site, sales of downloadable music are also expected to become a significant revenue source. To a lesser extent, we may sell other music-related items such as ringtones, concert tickets, and apparel.

Topline projections over the next three years are as follows:

II. Shoutmouth Overview

What is Shoutmouth?

Shoutmouth is an operating company of The Kisco Group Inc. (TKG). Since 2003, TKG has capitalized on web-based marketing opportunities via launching targeted websites and generating web-based leads. TKG revenues in 2005 exceeded $1.3 million and grew to $3.5 million in 2006. Shoutmouth is currently the sole focus of TKG; all other TKG business units have been divested.

Development of Shoutmouth began in August 2006 and the site officially launched on February 21, 2007. Shoutmouth (located at www.shoutmouth.com) is the most comprehensive music news community on the Internet. The website covers 1,200 popular bands and music artists and offers more than 100 new music articles each day. In addition to providing news, Shoutmouth is a web community. That is, Shoutmouth members can actively participate on the site, by doing things such as commenting on news stories and submitting their own stories.

The Market Size and Need for Shoutmouth

The music market is clearly vast. According to IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, global music sales were $33.5 billion in 2005, with the U.S. accounting for $12.3 billion of that amount. Importantly, digitally music sales are seeing substantial growth, with IFPI reporting sales of $400 million in 2004, $1.1 billion in 2005 and $2 billion in 2006.

Online, music is the one of the most frequently searched and accessed interests. For example, according to Wordtracker, the music artist Eminem received over 1.7 million web searches in December 2006, while band Green Day received 534,000 searches.

To put these figures in perspective, top celebrities in other entertainment fields receive but a fraction of this search volume. For example, December 2006 search volumes for select sports stars and actors were as follows: Kobe Bryant, 122K; Tiger Woods, 88K; Cameron Diaz, 332K; and Tom Cruise, 82K.

Conversely, 225 music artists received over 100,000 searches in December 2006, and over 500 music artists received over 25,000 searches.

This data is corroborated by Nielsen BuzzMetrics which plots the most popular topics bloggers are posting about. The chart to the right plots September 25, 2006 to March 25, 2007 and shows how music dominates other entertainment sectors online.

When searching for music artists online, fans, which are primarily between the ages of 13 and 35, are looking for news, pictures, lyrics, videos and audio files. In addition, fans enjoy publicly voicing their opinions about music and interacting with other fans.

There is currently no website besides Shoutmouth that provides comprehensive music news. Currently, to get the latest news on their favorite artists, fans must visit the official websites or fan websites of each of the artists they like . Even then, it is unlikely that the fan will get all the news that has occurred. To solve this problem, Shoutmouth scours the web and uncovers news from thousands of web sites.

What Shoutmouth Does and Will Offer

As of May 2007, the site covers the 1,200 most popular music artists (popularity primarily based on the number of web searches over the past 12 months for each artist).

Shoutmouth currently offers members the ability to:

  • Read over 500 new music articles each week
  • Read special features such as album reviews, interviews, new album release dates, top quotes of the week and other special reports
  • Watch and rate music videos
  • Listen to select music audio clips
  • Comment on news stories and music videos
  • Submit news stories that they see/hear of elsewhere
  • Suggest new music artists to add to the site
  • View articles by music artist or by genre (current genres include Rock, Pop, Rap, R&B, Country, and Electronic)
  • Create a user profile that includes their favorite music artists, Shoutmouth friends, news stories submitted to Shoutmouth, and comments made. Members have the ability to find other members based on their favorite artists and via our search functions.
  • Receive customized news and email alerts. Members can customize their “My News” page to include only artists they specify. Likewise, they can choose to receive email alerts whenever there is a new story on one of their favorite artists.

While establishing itself as the premier music news community, Shoutmouth will embark on the more aggressive goal of becoming the premier music community online . To accomplish this, Shoutmouth will begin to offer additional content (more videos, audio, pictures, lyrics, etc.) and additional functionality (music compatibility testing (e.g., if you like this, you’ll like this), voting capabilities, member-to-member messaging, etc.). We have already begun mapping out our content and technology growths plans to achieve this goal upon financing.

Importantly, Shoutmouth expects to be able to add massive amounts of relevant content (e.g., lyrics, reviews, pictures, video files, audio files, etc.) via member submissions and moderation. This is the same way that YouTube has been able to quickly add millions of videos and Wikipedia has been able to add millions of articles. Importantly, since established music websites (e.g., MTV, RollingStone.com, Billboard.com, etc.) are not community based, they would have to hire thousands of staff members to rival the content that Shoutmouth will have.

How We Get and Publish Our News

Currently, news stories that appear on Shoutmouth are gathered from numerous online sources. Shoutmouth’s staff writers find these stories by using RSS and News feeds that cover thousands of websites. In addition, Shoutmouth community members have the ability to submit stories they find elsewhere.

Typical stories include factual information plus the insight of the author. Shoutmouth editors ensure that all stories are properly classified by artist and genre, and that duplicate articles are filtered out.

Over the past three months, Shoutmouth has developed a solid infrastructure, which we consider a core competitive advantage, that that allows us to provide comprehensive music news . This infrastructure includes:

  • Setting up hundreds of RSS feeds based on comprehensive research regarding sites from which to receive feeds
  • Training our editorial team regarding identifying a story and weeding out duplicates
  • Assigning music artists among our five-person editorial team to better manage work flow and avoid duplicate articles

We are working on a system to ensure that member-submitted articles are automatically routed to the appropriate member of Shoutmouth’s editorial team to improve our efficiencies further.

Shoutmouth’s Goal to Break News First

The majority (approximately 90%) of Shoutmouth’s articles are currently developed by our in-house editorial team, while the balance is submitted by members. In addition, virtually all of our articles are based on information gleaned from other websites. As such, we are generally not the first to publish news; however we are the first and only site to publish all the news in one easily-accessible place. The one current exception is news which is published on bands’ official MySpace pages; Shoutmouth generally publishes articles on this news 24 to 48 hours before it is reported by other news or music sites (due to our efficiencies in finding news).

Shoutmouth realizes that it will gain a key competitive advantage, and will generate significant market buzz, if it is able to report on music news stories before other media sources . To accomplish this, we have begun contacting publicity departments at record labels to gain direct access to music news. We expect these contacts to enable us to gain immediate and sometimes exclusive access to news which will help further establish Shoutmouth as the canonical source for music news. We also plan to more aggressively solicit member submissions of new, buzzworthy news events and will consider offering rewards for unique substantiated news (much the way paparazzi are compensated).

III. Competition in the Online Music Market

This section of the business plan provides a competitive analysis, which is an overview of the competitive landscape, discusses both indirect and direct competitors and then details Shoutmouth’s competitive advantages.

Because consumer demand for music on the Internet is so great, there are a vast number of music websites. In summary, we consider most sectors of the online music market (which are discussed below) to be indirect competitors and potentially partners, rather than direct competitors, because none of them focus on music news.

The reason we believe that no one focuses on music news is that it is very difficult to do. Because news is very important to music fans, most music websites offer news. However, they primarily get their news from organizations such as CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press and BBC. These large organizations only write about the music stories that have mass appeal, which traditionally amounts to 8-10 music news stories per day. However, since music fans are often zealots when it comes to their favorite artists, they are not merely interested in cover stories. For instance, a U2 fan cares about any U2 news, particularly news that a non-U2 fan might consider insignificant.

In fact, because Shoutmouth is the sole one-stop shop for getting comprehensive music news, there might be an opportunity to license our content to other music websites.

Sectors of the Online Music Market

Shoutmouth specifically comPs in the community-based music news market. While players in this market represent direct competitors, Shoutmouth faces indirect competitors in the following markets:

  • Community-Based Sites
  • Community-Based News Sites
  • Community-Based Music Sites
  • Traditional Music Websites
  • Official Artist and Fan Sites

Each of these markets is described below.

A. Community-Based Sites

Community-based sites, also known as social networking sites, are websites in which members can create profiles, leave comments throughout the site, and communicate with other members among other features.

A June 2006 report by Piper Jaffray entitled “Silk Road: Social Networking is Here to Stay” effectively sums up the power and longevity of social networking:

“We believe social networking sites have become a permanent part of the fabric of web applications and are rapidly becoming one of the most popular activities online, potentially impacting how other popular services such as email, IM, and maybe even search are accessed.

As a clear indication of the growth rate and scale of social networking, consider this: MySpace monthly page views have now surpassed MSN or AOL in the U.S. and are nearly 75% of the size of Yahoo!. Social networking has filled a gap that was left by all the existing portals and web services and it is fulfilling a very important and basic function for millions of users: allowing them to express themselves and connect with their friends, with the two functions tightly integrated.

The leading sites such as MySpace (News Corp), Facebook, and others are amassing significant power in the new landscape of the Internet and the existing Internet companies are likely to have to work with these newcomers as they may yield material control on the flow of traffic to other applications.”

Social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook.com, Tagged.com, and TagWorld.com have educated consumers regarding the value of these sites and how to use them. Their success has spurred genre-specific social networks such as community-based/social networking news sites and music sites, which are discussed below.

Shoutmouth doesn’t view established social networking sites as competitors since these sites have a general focus. That is, members talk about all aspects of life, from dating to music to movies, etc. Conversely, Shoutmouth is solely focused on music.

B. Community-Based News Sites

Community-based news sites are sites in which members decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not. For instance, on Digg.com, the most prominent community-based news site, members “Digg” stories that they feel are most newsworthy. The stories that the community feels are most important rise to Digg’s homepage, while less important stories get little attention.

Digg’s one million members can submit stories, “digg” stories, and comment on stories. Digg focuses on general news with a slant towards technology, gaming and unique/sensational news. While Digg does have a Music area within its Entertainment section, this receives little focus. In fact, at the time of the writing of this plan, Digg’s music home page only includes one article submitted within the past 48 hours. Furthermore, Digg doesn’t pare down the music category into sub-categories such as Rock and individual music artists. Conversely, these sub-categories are the entire focus of Shoutmouth.

Other sites that are similar to Digg include Newsvine.com, Spotback.com and Gabbr.com. Of most relevance is the Digg-like site for music, Noisetap.com, which was launched by Ticketmaster in January 2007.

Like Digg, Noisetap.com allows members to submit and vote for music stories. Noisetap.com is organized by music genre and not by music artist. This most likely will not satisfy the needs of many music fans since they don’t have the ability to find news on the specific artists they care most about. Likewise, without a full-time staff actively researching and publishing news stories at the artist-level, Noisetap.com will never be able to offer the comprehensive news that Shoutmouth does.

While Shoutmouth is currently similar to community-based news sites in that members can submit stories and comment on the news they find most interesting, no established player in the market provides a comprehensive focus on music. In addition, Shoutmouth sees these sites as marketing partners as we have and will continue to submit our stories on them to increase our readership.

C. Community-Based Music Sites

There are many community-based music websites, although none focuses on music news such as Shoutmouth. Conversely, these sites generally give members the ability to create and listen to song play lists. The community acts to help individual members find new music and new friends based on similarities in their music tastes. Prominent sites in this genre include Last.fm, Finetune, Pandora, RadioBlogClub, MyStrands, iLike[1] and iJigg.

Last.fm is the most prominent community-based music site and is a good model with which to compare Shoutmouth. Likewise, we will benchmark our performance against Last.fm as we reach of goal of becoming the premier music news community and focus on becoming the premier music community.

According to Alexa, Last.fm is the 359th most visited site on the Internet. While Last.fm focuses on allowing members to create customized Internet stations based on their music tastes, the site has much additional content and social networking features. For instance, for each artist, Last.fm includes pictures, a bio, concert dates, discography, fans on Last.fm, and similar artists. Fans are also able to create journals and communicate with other fans. Key features that Last.fm doesn’t currently focus on include news and video.

D. Traditional Music Websites

Traditional music websites such as MTV.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard.com, NME.com, AOL Music, and Yahoo! Music tend to have many features such as news, reviews, pictures, videos and audio. While these sites are generally very well done and extremely popular, they are under-serving visitors in two core areas: music news and community .

These sites’ lack of music news stems from the difficulty in creating this news, specifically that it requires filtering through thousands of articles and websites to find relevant stories. Likewise, as discussed, these firms might wish to license our news content in the future.

Regarding community , none of the top music sites are thriving communities. Rather, either these sites offer no community features or they recently began offering select features (e.g., submitting reviews or commenting on articles). Even when available, the community features on these sites are afterthoughts and are not engrained within the core fabric of the sites.

While they haven’t been able to transform their current sites into communities, top music websites clearly understand the power of online music communities and have an appetite for them. For example, in January 2007, MTV invested in social networking website TagWorld. MTV also acquired RateMyProfessors.com and Quizilla.com (teen social network) in January 2007 and October 2006 respectively.

As mentioned previously, our vision is to build and incorporate additional technologies, and use our “army” of members to publish vast amounts of music content on Shoutmouth, in order to fully satisfy music fans and leapfrog traditional music sites in terms of their music content.

E. Official Artist and Fan Sites

Shoutmouth com’s with official music artist websites and fan websites. These sites often include news about the specific artist as well as pictures, videos and other relevant information.

On one hand, official music artist and fan websites are direct competitors to Shoutmouth. This is because some of these sites offer comprehensive news on the specific artist they cover. In addition, many offer forums, discussion boards or other ways to communicate with other fans.

However, two factors separate Shoutmouth from these types of sites: 1) breadth and 2) sophistication.

  • Breadth : Most music fans love more than one artist. As such, in order to get the news they want, they would have to visit/join multiple fan or artist websites rather than getting all of their news from Shoutmouth.
  • Sophistication : While some official music artist websites are technologically sophisticated, offering forums, networking and other worthwhile features, the majority of artist and fan websites have limited usability, functionality and networking ability. In fact, this deficiency has lead to the success of MusicToday, which provides front and back-end technology to power artist websites.

Specifically, MusicToday offers web design and hosting, develops sophisticated online stores, builds online fan clubs and offers web ticketing among other services to select top music artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Christina Aguilera, Kenny Chesney, Britney Spears and Usher. While offering sophisticated tools for select music artist websites, MusicToday offers little to no music news nor advanced social networking functions. For instance, the official Dave Matthews Band website offers less than one news story per month.

F. Direct Competitors: Community-Based Music News Sites

Shoutmouth’s direct competitors are other music news websites that have social or community features that allow users to join the site, submit articles, comment on articles, create public profiles and/or communicate with other members. Shoutmouth has identified one significant player who offers this service, AbsolutePunk.net.

AbsolutePunk.net has done a good job of building a user base (the site claims 125,000+ registered members and nearly 500,000 un-registered members). In addition, the user base is very active — the average story on their site receives approximately 20 comments. AbsolutePunk.net offers music news, reviews, pictures and interviews among other features.

On the negative side, AbsolutePunk.net’s articles are generally posted by one staff writer (as opposed to Shoutmouth’s five writers), most articles are simply one sentence posts rather than full articles, and no attempt seems to have been made to cover all news stories. In addition, the site only covers the punk music genre. Although “punk” is broadly defined on the site, the site doesn’t cater to genres such as R&B, rap and country among others, failing to satisfy the broader market.

AbsolutePunk.net is owned by Indieclick, a Los Angeles-based media company. According to the AbsolutePunk.net website, the site:

  • Has developed a loyal (72% return rate) reader base
  • 5,182,147 Posts
  • 163,535 Threads
  • 126,448 Members
  • 1,711 Artist Profiles
  • 20,774 Multimedia Files
  • Approx 76,000 visits per day.
  • Approx 276,000 pageviews per day.

Shoutmouth’s Competitive Advantage

In addition to being the first to fill the untapped market void for comprehensive music news, Shoutmouth’s competitive advantage in the market primarily includes the following:

Online Marketing Sophistication

Content Development Experience and Expertise

Shoutmouth’s team, primarily team members DL and PF, has operated an affiliate marketing business focusing on music for the past four years. Affiliate marketing is defined as a system of revenue sharing between one site (the affiliate) which features an ad or content designed to drive traffic to another site (the merchant). The affiliate receives a fee based on traffic to the merchant which converts to sales.

Our affiliate business has focused on connecting music fans, primarily aged 13 to 30, with music offers such as iPods and ringtones. Over the past two years, we have successful sold affiliated offers to over 500,000 customers. We have become a significant online advertiser, receiving Google’s “over 1 million leads” award, and are recognized as a major player among the top affiliate networks.

It is important to note that affiliate marketing success has been credited with part of MySpace’s success. This is because effective affiliate marketers understand how to drive and convert on Internet traffic.

Shoutmouth will employ its affiliate marketing techniques to drive traffic to Shoutmouth.com and enroll members. We will utilize technologies and proprietary techniques that allow us to monitor multiple metrics such as the cost per visitor, cost per member sign-up, etc., so that we can set and maintain profitable metrics.

Another venture that Shoutmouth team members, primarily PK and DL, launched was the development of over 3,000 niche websites. To create the content for these websites, we employed a virtual work force of over 90 researchers in India and 30 writers and editors in the US.

This experience taught us how to manage a large workforce, train writers to improve content quality and motivate a large group of people. These skill sets will be critical in allowing Shoutmouth to grow the content of the site, as developed by both staff and members, while maintaining quality standards.

IV. Marketing Plan

Shoutmouth’s marketing plan includes the following:

Online Advertising : Shoutmouth will initiate pay-per-click advertising campaigns on Google and Yahoo! in order to inexpensively drive traffic to the site. Specifically, Shoutmouth believes it can drive qualified traffic to the site for 20 cents per visitor and achieve a 20% member conversion rate, thus generating members at a cost of $1.00 per member.

Keys to Shoutmouth’s success in achieving this metric include:

  • Conducting thorough keyword research and advertising on appropriate keywords and keyword groups
  • Creating advertising text that maximizes click through rates
  • Creating landing pages that maximize conversions while maintaining the highest Google AdWords quality score possible
  • Closely monitoring conversions to quickly stop and/or modify unprofitable campaigns
  • Getting individuals to enter their email address to join the newsletter is much easier than getting them to join a site where they have to create a username, select a password, etc. As such, step one will be to get visitors to sign up for artist-specific newsletters.
  • Once on the newsletter distribution list, members will constantly receive messages (embedded in their daily newsletter) regarding the benefits of participating more on Shoutmouth.
  • Active Shoutmouth Membership: the constant reminders regarding Shoutmouth’s value proposition in the daily newsletters will influence members to participate more actively on the site (e.g., customize their profile, visit the site more often, etc.).

Invite-A-Friend : Shoutmouth is in the process of creating an aggressive invite-a-friend/member referral program. In doing so, we are following the lead of social movie community, Flixster, which grew to 5 million members within 10 months. It did this by encouraging members, during their initial registration process, to upload and send an invitation to multiple contacts in their email address books. The technology to develop this process is fairly complex and we expect to be completed with and to rollout this program in June 2007.

Direct Email Marketing : Shoutmouth will directly contact bloggers and prominent music fans we find online to tell them about Shoutmouth, encourage them to join, and encourage them to write about Shoutmouth on their blogs and online journals .

Creating/Distributing Buzzworthy/Viral Content : Shoutmouth plans to have several buzzworthy/viral articles (i.e., content that people would want to email to their friends since it is funny, interesting, etc.) on the site each day. With a single click, visitors will be able to send these articles to social bookmarking sites such as Digg.com or Fark.com, where these articles could receive widespread attention. In addition to our traditional news stories, Shoutmouth will also periodically create special reports/features in order to satisfy our members and visitors and to try to get widespread exposure.

An example of the power of such buzzworthy content, Shoutmouth has already succeeded in having two stories accepted by Fark and Digg, which have brought in over 50,000 unique visitors.

Super Fans/Street Team Development : Shoutmouth also plans to recruit “super fans.” Super fans are individuals who are passionate about a certain music artist/band and actively contribute articles and/or comments on Shoutmouth. We will recruit these fans, reward them with status (e.g., adding a gold Shoutmouth headphones image to their profile page) and encourage them to more aggressively promote the site by:

  • Submitting more news to Shoutmouth
  • Commenting on more articles on Shoutmouth
  • Growing the Shoutmouth community around their favorite artist(s) by actively recruiting new members to join the site (such as actively posting Shoutmouth-related comments on their MySpace pages, on other music forums, etc.)

Public Relations : Upon financing, Shoutmouth will hire a public relations firm to help us get mentions in media sources ranging from magazines, newspapers, radio, television and blogs. To date, we have developed and issued press releases via Billboard Publicity Wire which have been syndicated throughout the web. An effective PR firm will enable Shoutmouth to quickly reach a wide audience.

Widgets : Shoutmouth will create artist-specific and genre-specific music news widgets. For example, our U2 widget (see example on right) would include all of the recent U2 articles published on Shoutmouth. The widget can easily be placed on MySpace pages, blogs, etc. Each story title in the widget links to the full article on Shoutmouth.

Shoutmouth has great expectations for our widget. To begin, no such widget currently exists as there is no one place to get comprehensive news for specific music artists. Secondly, each time someone places a Shoutmouth widget on their blog or social networking page, it will effectively market Shoutmouth to a wide audience at zero cost to us.

V. Technology/Site Development Plan

This section provides a brief roadmap of the initial and future functionality of Shoutmouth.

Initial Site Functionality

The initial Shoutmouth website will include the following features:

  • Ability to submit and comment on news stories
  • Ability to suggest new music artists to add to the site
  • Ability to create user profiles
  • Ability to receive customized news and email alerts
  • Articles categorized by artist and core genre (e.g., Rock, Rap, Pop, etc.)
  • Music artist sections which includes News, Bio and Fans

Future Site Functionality

Shoutmouth will use news and basic functionality as the platform though which we will build a thriving music community. After initial launch, the Shoutmouth technology team will work on incorporating additional features such as:

  • Ability to message other members via the site (e.g., members will have an Inbox on the site)
  • Event calendars: members will receive online calendars. With the click of a button, the member will be able to add tour dates of their favorite artists/bands to their calendar.
  • Articles also categorized by sub-genre (e.g., Alternative Rock, West Coast Rap, etc.)
  • Music artist sections to also include videos, audio files, photo galleries, reviews and event calendars to which members can upload files and vote on top content.
  • Forums and member blogs
  • Music compatibility testing (suggestions on song/artists members might like)
  • Trivia quizzes
  • Music playlists

VI. Financial Plan

Revenue Model

During the first six months, Shoutmouth will not generate any revenues as it will not sell advertising space nor offer products for sale. This decision has been made to spur the growth of the Shoutmouth community. By initially positioning Shoutmouth more as a non-profit, for-the-people-by-the-people venture, members will be more prone to promote the site and invite their friends than if the site looks too commercial.

Starting in September 2007, Shoutmouth will primarily generate revenues from selling advertising space. As technologies (such as the Snocap music widget) evolve that allow us to seamlessly integrate music sampling and purchasing on our site, sales of downloadable music are also expected to be a significant revenue source. To a lesser extent, we may sell other music-related items such as ringtones, concert tickets, and apparel.

Funding To Date

To date, Shoutmouth’s founders have invested $500,000 in Shoutmouth, with which we have accomplished the following:

  • Built the site’s core technology
  • Hired and trained our core staff (we currently maintain an 11-person full-time team)
  • Populated the website with content (over 10,000 articles and 1,200 artist bios)
  • Generated brand awareness among music fans, including driving 50,000 unique visitors in March, 100,000 unique visitors in April, and 200,000 unique visitors in May 2007.

Funding Requirements/Use of Funds

Shoutmouth is currently seeking $3 million to provide funding for the next 24 months. At this point, the site will be profitable and can grow organically, or additional capital may be sought to more aggressively expand our member base.

The capital will be used as follows:

  • Execution of Marketing plan : in order for Shoutmouth to grow its visitor and member base, we need to invest dollars in online advertising and public relations. With regards to online advertising, we are confident that we can enroll members at a cost of $1 per member, which is a fraction of the value of the members to an acquirer (minimum $25 per member), thus providing a significant return on our marketing investments.
  • Execution of Technology plan : in order to build a thriving community, Shoutmouth needs to offer its visitors a “stickier” website and enhanced features. We currently maintain a vast “wish list” of features, such as members uploading and rating pictures and videos, trivia quizzes, and member-to-member messaging, that will significantly improve the site’s functionality and value proposition.
  • Staffing : In order to reach our goals, we will have to hire additional technical and operations personnel.

Financial Projections

Below is an overview of Shoutmouth’s Financial Projections for the next three years. Please see the Appendix for the full financial projections and key assumptions.

Exit Strategy / Valuation Metric

Shoutmouth’s most likely exit strategy is to be acquired by a traditional music website or property (e.g., Viacom/MTV, Ticketmaster, Rolling Stone), an entertainment/media conglomerate (e.g., Yahoo!, IAC/InterActiveCorp, NBC), or a large social networking site (e.g., News Corp/MySpace).

This strategy is supported by the significant M&A activity in the social networking market, which includes the following transactions over the past 24 months:

Regarding valuation, below are the estimated valuations of social networking companies on a per member basis upon exit:

  • Del.icio.us: $50 – $100 per member
  • MySpace: $25 per member
  • Xing (business social network): $137 per member at IPO in 10/06
  • Flickr: $56 – $130 per member
  • Grouper: $130 per member

Based on this data, not only are social networking sites a promising investment, but sites that can acquire members for less than $25 each (a conservative valuation estimate based on the figures above), should earn a solid return on investment. As discussed above, Shoutmouth’s goal is to acquire members for no more than $1 each.

In addition, per the membership projections above, Shoutmouth’s valuation at the end of 2009, at a $25 valuation per member, is expected to be $239 million. A more conservative, using a 24.4 time EBITDA multiple (the average multiple of tech M&A deals in 2006 according to The M&A Advisor), yields a $121 million valuation in 2009.

Shoutmouth’s founding team includes entrepreneurs and managers with a track record of success and a history of successfully working together.

Management Team

DL, Co-Founder and CEO

D has a history of successfully launching and growing businesses of all sizes. As president and co-founder of an entrepreneurial services firm., D has personally assisted in the launch and development of over 100 ventures.

Over the past three years, D founded and has managed The Kisco Group which includes an affiliate marketing division (2006 revenues exceeded $3 million), a search engine optimization business which includes a network of 3,000 websites (2006 revenues exceeded $500,000) and an e-commerce business (which includes TopPayingKeywords.com and ShowerHeadsEtc.com).

D earned his Bachelors degree from the University of South Carolina.

PK, Co-Founder and Vice President of Operations

For the past two years, P has managed The Kisco Group’s search engine optimization business where he hired, trained and managed nearly 100 employees and a dozen outside firms. During this time, P has honed his management skills with regards to content development, marketing and operations.

P has had a passion for music since childhood and has been a semi-professional drummer for the past 15 years.

P earned his Bachelors of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Clemson University.

PF, Co-Founder and Vice President of Technology

For the past year, P has managed The Kisco Group’s affiliate marketing business. In addition to setting up and managing widespread marketing campaigns, P has developed sophisticated analytic techniques to precisely analyze web traffic in order to optimize profitability.

Since August 2006, P has shifted his efforts and leveraged his technology skills in developing the Shoutmouth website. P has been instrumental in selecting the Content Management Platform upon which Shoutmouth is built, and finding and managing the technology team.

P earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College.

AB, Marketing Manager

A’s background in music includes being a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer. He has also worked on the marketing side of music, having marketed Veritas Records through the development and distribution of promotional materials.

A’s career also includes psychological research and administration, having served as a Research Assistant with the Interpersonal Perception And Communication Laboratory in Cambridge, MA.

A earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Ohio State University.

M, Lead Technology Developer

M is an experienced web programmer with expertise in web design, application development and database development among others.

M’s work experience includes serving as a Senior Developer at Spheres. M has also engaged in multiple, long term freelance projects including serving as a Database Developer Consultant with The Penn Group and a Web Developer Consultant with Volution Media Group and Allied Online Consulting Group.

M earned his Bachelors degree in Computer Science with a minor in Cognitive Science from Rutgers University.

Content Development Team

Shoutmouth’s writing team, managed by PK, includes the following members:

  • JS, Editorial Manager: former content manager and copywriter for Scholastic Inc. and Promotions.com.
  • TZ: former music intern (Virgin Records and WRRV) and author of the blog, The Tom Z Show .
  • ML: former assistant editor for Adventure Publishing; author of the blog Certified Gangsta ; and former editor-in-chief of Fordham University’s newspaper The Paper .
  • SB: former staff writer for Paste Magazine , The Clarion Ledger , and Nightclub and Bar Magazine among others.
  • CSJ: former editorial intern for Rolling Stone and Editorial Assistant for Psychology Today .

Outsourced Technology Team

Shoutmouth works very closely with 2skies, a technology firm based in Australia with staff in Australia and the United States. 2skies is run by JDN, one of the co-founding developers of XE, the platform upon which Shoutmouth is built.

XE is an extensible, Open Source web application framework written in PHP and licensed under the GNU General Public License. XE delivers the requisite infrastructure and tools to create custom web applications that include fully dynamic multi-platform Content Management Solutions (CMS).

VIII. Appendix: Shoutmouth Financial Projections   3-Year Income Statement

3-Year Balance Sheet

As of December 31

3-Year Cash Flow Statement

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Consultants or  business plan writers  definitely can write a business plan but not better than you.

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Manufacturing Business Plan PDF Example

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  • May 7, 2024
  • Business Plan

the business plan template for a manufacturing business

Creating a comprehensive business plan is crucial for launching and running a successful manufacturing business. This plan serves as your roadmap, detailing your vision, operational strategies, and financial plan. It helps establish your manufacturing business’s identity, navigate the competitive market, and secure funding for growth.

This article not only breaks down the critical components of a manufacturing business plan, but also provides an example of a business plan to help you craft your own.

Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or new to the manufacturing industry, this guide, complete with a business plan example, lays the groundwork for turning your manufacturing business concept into reality. Let’s dive in!

Our manufacturing business plan covers all essential aspects necessary for a comprehensive strategy. It details operations, marketing strategy , market environment, competitors, management team, and financial forecasts.

  • Executive Summary : Provides an overview of the manufacturing company’s business concept, market analysis , management, and financial strategy.
  • Facilities & Equipment: Describes the facility’s capabilities, machinery, and technological advancements.
  • Operations & Supply: Outlines the production processes, supply chain logistics, and inventory management.
  • Key Stats: Offers data on industry size , growth trends, and market positioning.
  • Key Trends: Highlights significant trends impacting the industry, such as automation and localization.
  • Key Competitors : Analyzes primary competitors and differentiates the company from these rivals.
  • SWOT: Analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Marketing Plan : Outlines tactics for attracting new contracts and maintaining client relationships.
  • Timeline : Sets out key milestones from inception through the first year of operations.
  • Management: Information on the management team and their roles within the company.
  • Financial Plan: Projects the company’s financial performance over the next five years, detailing revenue, profits, and anticipated expenses.

the business plan template for a manufacturing business

Manufacturing Business Plan

sample small business plan

Fully editable 30+ slides Powerpoint presentation business plan template.

Download an expert-built 30+ slides Powerpoint business plan template

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary introduces your manufacturing business plan, offering a concise overview of your manufacturing facility and its products. It should detail your market positioning, the range of products manufactured, the production process, its location, size, and an outline of day-to-day operations.

This section should also explore how your manufacturing business will integrate into the local and broader markets, including the number of direct competitors within the area, identifying who they are, along with your business’s unique selling points that differentiate it from these competitors.

Furthermore, you should include information about the management and co-founding team, detailing their roles and contributions to the business’s success. Additionally, a summary of your financial projections, including revenue and profits over the next five years, should be presented here to provide a clear picture of your business’s financial plan.

Make sure to cover here _ Business Overview _ Market Overview _ Management Team _ Financial Plan

Manufacturing Business Plan exec summary1

Dive deeper into Executive Summary

Business Overview

Facilities & equipment.

Describe your manufacturing facility. Highlight its design, capacity, and technology. Mention the location, emphasizing accessibility to transport routes. Discuss advantages for efficiency and cost management. Detail essential equipment and its capabilities.

Operations & Supply Chain

Detail product range. Outline your operations strategy for efficiency and scalability. Discuss supply chain management. Highlight sourcing of materials, inventory control, and logistics. Emphasize strong partnerships with suppliers and distributors.

Make sure to cover here _ Facilities & Equipment _ Operations & Supplies

sample small business plan

Market Overview

Industry size & growth.

Start by examining the size of the manufacturing industry relevant to your products and its growth potential. This analysis is crucial for understanding the market’s scope and identifying expansion opportunities.

Key Market Trends

Proceed to discuss recent market trends , such as the increasing demand for sustainable manufacturing processes, automation, and advanced materials. For example, highlight the demand for products that utilize eco-friendly materials or energy-efficient production techniques, alongside the rising popularity of smart manufacturing.

Key Competitors

Then, consider the competitive landscape, which includes a range of manufacturers from large-scale enterprises to niche firms. For example, emphasize what makes your business distinctive, whether it’s through advanced technology, superior product quality, or specialization in certain manufacturing niches. This section will help articulate the demand for your products, the competitive environment, and how your business is positioned to thrive within this dynamic market.

Make sure to cover here _ Industry size & growth _ Key competitors _ Key market trends

sample small business plan

Dive deeper into Key competitors

First, conduct a SWOT analysis for your manufacturing business. Highlight Strengths such as advanced production technology and a skilled workforce. Address Weaknesses, including potential supply chain vulnerabilities or high production costs. Identify Opportunities like emerging markets for your products or potential for innovation in production processes. Consider Threats such as global competition or economic downturns that may impact demand for your products.

Marketing Plan

Next, develop a marketing strategy that outlines how to attract and retain customers through targeted advertising, trade shows, digital marketing, and strategic partnerships. Emphasize the importance of showcasing product quality and technological advantages to differentiate your business in the market.

Finally, create a detailed timeline that outlines critical milestones for your manufacturing business’s launch, marketing initiatives, customer acquisition, and expansion goals. Ensure the business progresses with clear direction and purpose, setting specific dates for achieving key operational and sales targets.

Make sure to cover here _ SWOT _ Marketing Plan _ Timeline

Manufacturing Business Plan strategy

Dive deeper into SWOT

Dive deeper into Marketing Plan

The Management section focuses on the manufacturing business’s management and their direct roles in daily operations and strategic direction. This part is crucial for understanding who is responsible for making key decisions and driving the manufacturing business toward its financial and operational goals.

For your manufacturing business plan, list the core team members, their specific responsibilities, and how their expertise supports the business.

Manufacturing Business Plan management

Financial Plan

The Financial Plan section is a comprehensive analysis of your financial projections for revenue, expenses, and profitability. It lays out your manufacturing business’s approach to securing funding, managing cash flow, and achieving breakeven.

This section typically includes detailed forecasts for the first 5 years of operation, highlighting expected revenue, operating costs and capital expenditures.

For your manufacturing business plan, provide a snapshot of your financial statement (profit and loss, balance sheet, cash flow statement), as well as your key assumptions (e.g. number of customers and prices, expenses, etc.).

Make sure to cover here _ Profit and Loss _ Cash Flow Statement _ Balance Sheet _ Use of Funds

Manufacturing Business Plan financial plan

Privacy Overview

Free Marketing Plan Examples: Real-World Samples & Templates

By Joe Weller | April 27, 2024

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A  marketing plan  is a comprehensive document that outlines a company’s marketing strategy and tactics, and ensures that its marketing goals align with its overall objectives. Effective marketing plans include detailed analysis of the market along with roadmaps for upcoming campaigns. Inside this article, you’ll find the  elements of a marketing plan , 10 real-world examples of marketing plans with commentary from experienced marketing professionals, free marketing plan templates and samples , and a  chart to help you determine which template suits your needs .

Marketing Plan Elements

Typical marketing plans begin with an executive summary and include audience demographics, company objectives, situational analysis of the business, and marketing strategies and tactics. Market research and analysis provide campaign direction, and the budget and timeline offer practical parameters. A marketing plan can provide an overview of all strategies and campaigns to be executed in a certain time frame, or it can focus on a specific product, channel, or strategy. The level of detail and the sections included might vary, depending on the organization’s needs. The nine main elements of a marketing plan are:  

Executive Summary and Mission Statement:  A concise, high-level summary conveys the purpose of your marketing plan, introduces key strategies and research insights, and highlights the most important takeaways for stakeholders. For example, an executive summary might outline your brand’s identity, its place within the competitive landscape, and the major opportunities that upcoming marketing campaigns will target. Longer plans might include a separate mission statement or vision statement to align marketing efforts with your company’s larger goals. Discover more  examples of executive summaries with templates to help you write one effectively.  

Single Slide Executive Summary Example Template

Situational Analysis:  One of the most crucial elements of your marketing plan, a situational analysis is an assessment of the internal and external factors affecting a business’s performance. It should include research-based insights into market trends and dynamics, customer demographics and pain points, and internal resources.  A strong situational analysis often includes a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, which provides a foundation for an effective marketing strategy. Learn more about  how to perform a SWOT analysis .  

Competitive Analysis:  Understanding the competition is key to developing a compelling marketing plan. This analysis should consider recent marketing campaigns from similar brands to identify successful ways to reach a shared target audience. Being aware of the competitive landscape can also help your business develop a unique selling proposition and stand out in the market. The competitive analysis might be included in the larger situational analysis, or it might be a stand-alone section. For example, a marketing plan could include data on how competitors rank on keywords, or it could evaluate the performance of competitors’ recent social media campaigns. One common framework for understanding market dynamics is a Porter’s five forces analysis, which identifies the forces that contribute to industry rivals. Learn how to evaluate the competitive landscape with  free industry analysis templates .  

Porter’s Five Forces Model Example Template

Target Audience: In order to implement marketing strategies that engage consumers and drive conversions, businesses need to know who their audience is, what they want, and how they behave. A marketing plan should define a specific, segmented target audience with demographic, geographical, psychographic, and behavioral data.  This section often includes customer profiles or buyer personas — fictionalized representations of ideal customers or audience segments — which help marketers typify consumer behaviors. These profiles should include media habits and most-used platforms to ensure that your marketing plan selects the right channels for each campaign. Learn how to analyze your target market with  free customer profile templates .  

Simple Customer Profile Presentation Template

Goals and Objectives:  Marketing plans typically include both long-term goals, which provide broad direction for the company’s marketing strategy, and short-term objectives, which focus on more immediate tactics and campaigns. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) and include corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs).  The goals and objectives in a marketing plan often focus on conversions, market share, brand awareness, or engagement. Clearly defined goals ensure strategically aligned marketing initiatives with measurable results. Take a look at  real-world examples of SMART goals for more insights.  

SMART Goals Worksheet Template with Sample Text

Marketing Strategy:  This section of a marketing plan details the business’s unique value proposition and the channels that will communicate it. A robust marketing strategy addresses the touchpoints in a consumer’s buying cycle and breaks down the 4 Ps (product, price, place, promotion) of the marketing mix. Channels might include digital marketing, advertisements, social media, and influencer partnerships. To develop an overarching marketing strategy, consider using a  marketing strategy template . To learn more about the 4 Ps, read this  product marketing guide .  

Marketing Strategy Example Template

Tactics and Action Plan:  A marketing plan is not an abstract strategy document, but a concrete roadmap for executing specific campaigns with specific tactics. Your plan should detail the messaging for each campaign and the corresponding methods for communication — such as email newsletters, social content, targeted ads, and public relations.  This section provides KPIs and actionable steps such as resource allocation, deliverables, and distribution plans. It might also include the expected outcome for each campaign. To plan individual campaigns, consider using a  marketing project plan template .  

Marketing Project Plan Template

Budget:  Marketing expenses might include the cost of advertising, content creation, website maintenance, or promotional materials; no marketing plan is complete without a budget that breaks down the costs of such initiatives. A clear, comprehensive budget ensures that marketing efforts are financially feasible and resources can be allocated for maximum impact. The budget also enables the marketing team to track the return on investment (ROI) of each campaign. To create a comprehensive budget, try our  free marketing budget templates .    

Marketing Budget Plan Template

Timeline:  Finally, a marketing plan includes a clear schedule for implementing its initiatives and tactics. This timeline details the start and end dates of each campaign, deadlines for deliverables, and key events or milestones. It keeps the marketing team aligned and initiatives on track, ensuring that marketing objectives can be achieved within the set time frame. Organize dates and deadlines with the help of a  marketing timeline template .  

Marketing Timeline Template

Marketing Plan Examples

Real-world marketing plans show how businesses utilize effective planning documents. These 10 examples from various industries exhibit unique strengths and weaknesses. With insightful commentary from marketing experts, these plans offer practical takeaways any marketer can use.  

Delmarva and the Ground for Change This  in-depth marketing plan for a documentary produced by the USDA Northeast Climate Hub includes audience profiles, competitive analysis, and a distribution plan. Along with a detailed breakdown of its digital marketing strategy, it considers how different tactics will affect the viewer’s content journey.   

Delmarva Marketing Plan

John Dinsmore , a marketing consultant and professor at Wright State University, praises this plan for its attractive design and thoughtful, thorough content: “They do a nice job of extrapolating on who the target market is and tying their tactics to achieving specific goals.”  He appreciates the inclusion of a SWOT analysis, but feels it could be done more effectively. “‘Opportunities’ is not a place for business ideas. It’s a place to identify external, positive trends that can help your initiative. In this context, an opportunity could be ‘Rising concern for and awareness of climate issues.’ Similarly, ‘threats’ is not a place to list things that are difficult. It’s for negative external trends such as ‘Increased skepticism over ability to combat climate change.’” 

Dekker Fraser

Dekker Fraser , former Global Marketing Manager at Sony PlayStation, adds that this plan includes a strong focus on collaborations with media and influencers: “Many marketing plans place too much emphasis on target customers and not enough on target collaborators.”  

Minnesota Tourism This  marketing plan by Explore Minnesota , the state’s Department of Tourism, showcases Minnesota’s beauty with vivid imagery. It uses a variety of demographic information to identify priority audience segments and includes well-designed infographics that analyze audience and competition. As a result, the campaigns are clearly targeted at specific audiences and objectives. 

John Rarrick

John Rarrick , Head of Marketing at Movius Corp., admires the strength of the message behind the strategy. “This plan has a very well-developed ‘why,’” he says. “You’ll see that often when the plan is to repair or save something that has undergone a time of great loss — such as a loss of revenue or reputation. The audience personas, goals, tactics, and budget are all detailed and measurable.” 

Minnesota Marketing Plan

Gold Coast Transit District  

Gold Coast Marketing Plan

A  short, high-level marketing plan for Gold Coast Transit highlights key campaigns and includes the most important details, such as timelines, budgets, and tactics. It begins with a bulleted overview of the most important takeaways and takes into account general marketing efforts that don’t fit under a specific campaign umbrella. Fraser notes that this plan includes year-round marketing initiatives, with an effective “emphasis on strong offers, such as youth-free fares.” However, he points out that its brand awareness goals could be more specific. “Instead, use context-specific awareness goals such as ‘When commuting to work, residents first think of Gold Coast Transit’ or ‘When coming home from the library at night, I think of taking the bus,’” he says. “In other words, peg awareness to specific category-entry points.”  

University of Arizona College of Engineering This  marketing, branding, and communications plan for the University of Arizona College of Engineering sets out a long-term vision, high-level goals, and strategies for achieving these goals. It has a section for methodology — including promotional videos and email newsletters — and segments its audience to align with its strategies. This plan “demonstrates a clearly defined audience,” according to Rarrick. That said, not every section of the plan includes the same level of specificity. “The KPIs are vague,” he adds. “I would expect to see something more measurable, rather than ‘increase’ or ‘improve.’” 

Arizona Marketing Plan

Timberland Regional Library This  library's two-year marketing plan sets initiatives in motion with a clear schedule for action. It includes both promotional and production calendars for effective planning, which is especially important for campaigns pegged to external events.  Dinsmore cites this plan’s “professional and elegant graphic design” as a strength. It also offers a roadmap for tackling several marketing campaigns on different timelines. However, he suggests that the plan needs more measurable goals and defined strategies. “There’s no overarching strategy that ties all of these tactics and initiatives together,” he says. “It’s just a laundry list of dates and actions.” 

Library Marketing Plan

Safe Haven Family Shelter Nonprofit organizations need creative marketing strategies to reach their targets and use funds efficiently. With specific objectives and actionable steps, this  marketing plan for Safe Haven Family Shelter delineates high-level goals and details the path to achieving them. It identifies the roles and responsibilities of individual team members to ensure alignment. Rarrick commends this plan for its “clearly defined audience and very clearly defined goals.” The plan showcases the differences between strategic business goals and measurable marketing objectives.  

Safe Haven Marketing Plan

Visit Myrtle Beach This  destination marketing plan by the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce  incorporates detailed information about target markets, audience personas, and key behaviors. It includes an infographic that illuminates the touchpoints in a traveler’s journey and shows the marketing team how each tactic contributes to conversions.  Overall, Dinsmore praises this plan as a “very smart and thoughtful presentation.” It outlines a distinct media mix for each target audience, defines its objectives clearly, and ties these objectives to success metrics. He continues, “I want to thank the Myrtle Beach folks for planning to measure their efforts. Measurement is often anathema to marketing people, but if you’re not measuring, you don’t know how to improve.”  With so much information to cover, the plan would benefit from an executive summary to introduce key takeaways. “The bigger the scope, the harder it is to make everything feel connected, and that’s a bit of an issue with this plan,” Dinsmore adds.  

Myrtle Beach Marketing Plan

Tropical Avocados This  example of a no-frills plan was commissioned by the nonprofit Improving Economies for Stronger Communities (IESC) to help brand and launch tropical avocados in the U.S. market. It shows the importance of making branding decisions backed by market and consumer research. A detailed SWOT analysis and competitive analysis provide essential insights that enable the company to determine the best unique selling proposition.  A key strength of this plan is its detailed research into its audience. Fraser cites its “excellent identification of consumer objections — e.g., concern over how natural the avocado size is — and consumer behavior.” As a result, the brand can adopt effective messaging in its marketing campaigns. As with USDA Northeast Climate Hub’s Delmarva and the Ground for Change documentary, “target collaborators — e.g., food writers, organizations, and chefs — are included in the target audience. Collaborators are often more critical to the marketing plan than the consumers themselves,” Fraser adds.  

Avocados Marketing Plan

Rochelle Community Hospital This  case study of Rochelle Community Hospital in Rochelle, Illinois, shows how a targeted marketing plan can be used to achieve significant results. The report by Legato Healthcare Marketing showcases the importance of reevaluating an existing marketing strategy — in this case, shifting the emphasis from print to digital. External marketing agencies often have more tools at their disposal, particularly if the business has not had a strong digital presence. With targeted ads and website updates, the agency employed tactics with direct metrics in order to track its impact.   

Rochelle Hospital Marketing Plan

Visit Concord This  example from the Concord Tourism Improvement District marketing plan is concise and includes streamlined insights on the audience and market. It details each marketing channel with specific tactics and measurable KPIs.  The overall strategy, according to Fraser, offers “an excellent emphasis on social proof and word-of-mouth marketing,” as well as a “good balance of awareness and activation marketing.” In order to improve, he suggests, “the plan should factor in the following critical quantitative factors to help drive the media strategy: reach, frequency, and the total-addressable market.” 

Concord Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan Templates

Using a template takes the guesswork out of organizing a marketing plan document. These customizable templates include essential elements and options for specific industries or marketing channels, and they range from one-page plans to comprehensive, presentation-ready reports.

Microsoft Word Simple Marketing Plan Template

Simple Marketing Plan Sample

Download the Simple Marketing Plan Example Template for Microsoft Word Download the Blank Simple Marketing Plan Template for Microsoft Word

This example of a simple, customizable plan focuses on key strategies and prioritizes readability. This one-page marketing plan template includes space to summarize marketing strategy and overarching business objectives, along with an action plan to highlight responsibilities and deadlines.

Microsoft Word Annual Marketing Plan Template

Annual Marketing Plan Example

Download the Annual Marketing Plan Example Template for Microsoft Word Download the Blank Annual Marketing Plan Template for Microsoft Word  

This comprehensive marketing plan template includes a number of key sections — such as goals, target market, marketing channels, and performance standards — that can be customized to suit a variety of businesses. In the situational analysis, you can find space for both a 5C (company, collaborators, customers, competitors, climate) analysis and a SWOT analysis. The blank template begins with a table of contents, a business summary, and a mission statement to allow for easy readability. The sample focuses on marketing strategies for one fiscal year, but you can modify this plan for any time period. 

Microsoft Word Small Business Marketing Plan Template

Small Business Marketing Plan Example

Download the Small Business Marketing Plan Example Template for Microsoft Word Download the Blank Small Business Marketing Plan Template for Microsoft Word

A strong marketing plan is essential for small businesses looking to stand out from larger competitors. This small business marketing plan template provides an outline for a detailed marketing strategy, including a unique selling proposition, the 4Ps marketing mix, and marketing channels. It builds its strategy on situational analysis and identification of the business’s core capabilities. Find  more marketing plan templates  for different industries.

Microsoft Word Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template

NonProfit Marketing Plan Example

Download the Nonprofit Marketing Plan Example Template for Microsoft Word Download the Blank Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template for Microsoft Word

This example marketing plan for a nonprofit incorporates information on the funding climate into its situational analysis, as well as a detailed organizational summary. With sections for short- and long-term goals, marketing strategies and channels, and stakeholder profiles, the template is comprehensive and customizable. Find  more nonprofit marketing plan templates here .

Excel Product Marketing Plan Template

Product Marketing Plan Example

Download the Product Marketing Plan Example Template for Excel Download the Blank Product Marketing Plan Template for Excel

When integrating a new product into existing marketing strategies, it’s important to take into account all the elements of the marketing mix. This product marketing plan template is organized by product, price, place, promotion, process, people, and physical evidence. In these sections, you can find space to consider market research, consumer behaviors, and marketing channels.

Excel Social Media Marketing Plan Template

Social Media Marketing Action Plan Example

Download the Social Media Marketing Plan Example Template for Excel Download the Blank Social Media Marketing Plan Template for Excel

For planning specific campaigns, this social media marketing action plan template begins with the campaign goal, highlights important promo dates, and separates actions by platform. It’s useful for executing targeted social media campaigns within a larger marketing strategy. Find  more marketing action plan templates here .

Excel Digital Marketing Plan Template

Digital Marketing Plan Example

Download the Digital Marketing Plan Example Template for Excel Download the Blank Digital Marketing Plan Template for Excel

Focusing on digital marketing channels is an effective way to organize strategies into a streamlined and actionable plan. This strategic digital marketing template highlights important audience behaviors and access channels to ensure messaging reaches consumers. Customizable for a variety of digital marketing projects, the template includes space for keywords, goals, and tasks. Find  more digital marketing plan templates here .

Which Marketing Plan Format Is Right for You?

To choose the right marketing plan format for your needs, consider the plan’s role in your marketing strategy. Do you need a comprehensive plan to provide an overview of tactics that will take place over a long period of time? Or are you looking for a plan to focus on specific channels, campaigns, or product launches? 

Each template in this article offers space to detail market research, strategies, and access channels. The longer plans include more sections for in-depth situational analysis and audience demographics, while the shorter plans focus on the marketing mix and action plan. This chart highlights the key elements of each marketing plan:  

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8 Business Plan Templates You Can Get for Free

Author: Kody Wirth

8 min. read

Updated April 10, 2024

A business plan template can be an excellent tool to simplify the creation of your business plan. 

The pre-set structure helps you organize ideas, covers all critical business information, and saves you time and effort on formatting.

The only issue? There are SO many free business plan templates out there. 

So, which ones are actually worth using? 

To help remove the guesswork, I’ve rounded up some of the best business plan templates you can access right now. 

These are listed in no particular order, and each has its benefits and drawbacks.

What to look for in a business plan template

Not all business plan templates are created equal. As you weigh your options and decide which template(s) you’ll use, be sure to review them with the following criteria in mind:

  • Easy to edit: A template should save you time. That won’t be the case if you have to fuss around figuring out how to edit the document, or even worse, it doesn’t allow you to edit at all.
  • Contains the right sections: A good template should cover all essential sections of a business plan , including the executive summary, product/service description, market/competitive analysis, marketing and sales plan, operations, milestones, and financial projections. 
  • Provides guidance: You should be able to trust that the information in a template is accurate. That means the organization or person who created the template is highly credible, known for producing useful resources, and ideally has some entrepreneurial experience.
  • Software compatibility: Lastly, you want any template to be compatible with the software platforms you use. More than likely, this means it’s available in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or PDF format at a minimum. 

1. Bplans — A plan with expert guidance

Preview of Bplans' free business plan template download asset.

Since you’re already on Bplans, I have to first mention the templates that we have available. 

Our traditional and one-page templates were created by entrepreneurs and business owners with over 80 years of collective planning experience. We revisit and update them annually to ensure they are approachable, thorough, and aligned with our team’s evolving best practices.  

The templates, available in Word, PDF, or Google Doc formats, include in-depth guidance on what to include in each section, expert tips, and links to additional resources. 

Plus, we have over 550 real-world sample business plans you can use for guidance when filling out your template.

Download: Traditional lender-ready business plan template or a simple one-page plan template .

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2. SBA — Introduction to business plans

sample small business plan

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two different business plan templates along with a short planning guide. 

While not incredibly in-depth, it’s enough to help you understand how traditional and lean plans are structured and what information needs to be covered. The templates themselves are more like examples, providing you with a finished product to reference as you write your plan.

The key benefit of using these templates is that they were created by the SBA. While they may provide less guidance, you can be assured that the information and structure meet their expectations.

Explore: The SBA’s planning guide and free templates

3. SCORE — Planning workbook

sample small business plan

SCORE’s template is more like a workbook. It includes exercises after each section to help you get your ideas down and turn them into a structured plan.

The market research worksheets are especially useful. They provide a clear framework for identifying your target market and analyzing competitors from multiple angles. Plus, they give you an easy way to document all the information you’re collecting.

You will likely have to remove the exercises in this template to make it investor-ready. But it can be worth it if you’re struggling to get past a blank page and want a more interactive planning method.

Download: SCORE’s business plan template

4. PandaDoc — A template with fillable forms

sample small business plan

PandaDoc’s library offers a variety of industry-specific business plan templates that feature a modern design flair and concise instructions. 

These templates are designed for sharing. They include fillable fields and sections for non-disclosure agreements, which may be necessary when sending a plan to investors.  

But the real benefit is their compatibility with PandaDoc’s platform. Yes, they are free, but if you’re a PandaDoc subscriber, you’ll have far more customization options. 

Out of all their templates, the standard business plan template is the most in-depth. The rest, while still useful, go a bit lighter on guidance in favor of tailoring the plan to a specific industry.

Explore: PandaDoc’s business plan template library  

5. Canva — Pitch with your plan

A sample of the 696 free business plan templates available from Canva. The templates represented here are for a restaurant and two options designed around a minimalist beige aesthetic.

Canva is a great option for building a visually stunning business plan that can be used as a pitch tool. It offers a diverse array of templates built by their in-house team and the larger creative community, meaning the number of options constantly grows.

You will need to verify that the information in the template you choose matches the standard structure of a traditional business plan. 

You should do this with any template, but it’s especially important with any tool that accepts community submissions. While they are likely reviewed and approved, there may still be errors.

Remember, you can only edit these templates within Canva. Luckily, you only need a free subscription, and you may just miss out on some of the visual assets being used. 

To get the most value, it may be best to create a more traditional planning document and transfer that information into Canva. 

Explore: Canva’s business plan gallery

6. ClickUp — The collaborative template

Preview of ClickUp's business plan template within the project management platform. It includes a number of fillable cells to help guide the creation process.

Out of all the project management tools that offer free business plan templates, ClickUp’s is the most approachable.

Rather than throwing you into all the features and expecting you to figure it out—ClickUp provides a thorough startup guide with resource links, images, and videos explaining how to write a plan using the tool. 

There’s also a completed sample plan (structured like an expanded one-page plan) for you to reference and see how the more traditional document can connect to the product management features. You can set goals, target dates, leave comments, and even assign tasks to someone else on your team. 

These features are limited to the ClickUp platform and will not be useful for everyone. They will likely get in the way of writing a plan you can easily share with lenders or investors. 

But this is a great option if you’re looking for a template that makes internal collaboration more fluid and keeps all your information in one place.

Sign Up: Get a free trial of ClickUp and explore their template library

7. Smartsheet — A wide variety of templates

A preview of the Smartsheet business plan template. It provides a preview of the cover page, directory, and small views of the remaining template pages.

I’m including Smartsheet’s library of templates on this list because of the sheer number of options they provide. 

They have a simple business plan template, a one-page plan, a fill-in-the-blank template, a plan outline, a plan grading rubric, and even an Excel-built project plan. All are perfectly usable and vary in visual style, depth of instructions, and the available format.

Honestly, the only drawback (which is also the core benefit) is that the amount of templates can be overwhelming. If you’re already uncertain which plan option is right for you, the lengthy list they provide may not provide much clarity.

At the same time, it can be a great resource if you want a one-stop shop to view multiple plan types.

Explore: Smartsheet’s business plan template library  

8. ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan

Preview of the ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan template. It just represents the cover page of the full template.

I’m adding ReferralRock’s template to this list due to its specificity. 

It’s not your standard business plan template. The plan is tailored with specific sections and guidance around launching an affiliate marketing business. 

Most of the template is dedicated to defining how to choose affiliates, set commissions, create legal agreements, and track performance.

So, if you plan on starting an affiliate marketing business or program, this template will provide more specific guidance. Just know that you will likely need to reference additional resources when writing the non-industry sections of your plan.

Download: ReferralRock affiliate marketing business plan template

Does it matter what business plan template you use?

The short answer is no. As long as the structure is correct, it saves you time, and it helps you write your business plan , then any template will work. 

What it ultimately comes down to, is what sort of value you hope to get from the template. 

  • Do you need more guidance? 
  • A simple way to structure your plan? 
  • An option that works with a specific tool?
  • A way to make your plan more visually interesting?

Hopefully, this list has helped you hone in on an option that meets one (or several) of these needs. Still, it may be worth downloading a few of these templates to determine the right fit. 

And really, what matters most is that you spend time writing a business plan . It will help you avoid early mistakes, determine if you have a viable business, and fully consider what it will take to get up and running. 

If you need additional guidance, check out our library of planning resources . We cover everything from plan formats , to how to write a business plan, and even how to use it as a management tool . 

If you don’t want to waste time researching other templates, you can download our one-page or traditional business plan template and jump right into the planning process.

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.

Start stronger by writing a quick business plan. Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

  • Qualities of a good template
  • ReferralRock
  • Does the template matter?

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sample small business plan

How To Create Marketing Plans for Small Businesses

sample small business plan

Big businesses make big plans. They also create elaborate marketing schemes to put those plans into action.

It’s easy for SMB (small and medium business) owners and their teams to feel that a full-fledged marketing plan is out of their reach. While they may lack the resources to go toe to toe with larger competitors in the market, though, that makes the strategic planning and guidance of small business marketing efforts that much more valuable.

Let’s go over what it means to create marketing plans for small businesses, why having a small business marketing strategy is so important for success, and how your business can create its own master marketing plan.

What are Marketing Plans for Small Businesses?

A marketing plan, at its most fundamental level, is a series of steps that you can take to promote your brand and its products and services to consumers. In other words, a marketing plan isn’t your actual marketing activity. It’s the strategy or guidelines that you create to set those initiatives in motion. 

In the context of marketing plans for small businesses, this could include anything from creating a website to crafting an email drip campaign, drafting a social media marketing campaign, building credibility through digital PR , and more. A small business marketing plan takes the limited resources of a small business and considers how that entity can effectively reach its target audience with its marketing.

Why are Marketing Plans for Small Businesses Important?

Grasping the goal of a marketing plan is the easy part. For a small business team with finite time and resources, justifying the investment in a marketing plan is where things can bog down.  

It’s tempting to redirect your team’s efforts toward activities with more immediate or tangible results, such as sales or product development. When you take the time to invest in a genuine growth-oriented marketing plan , though, you can provide a long-term blueprint for growth that you simply can’t recreate through other areas of business activity.

The goal of a marketing plan is to create basic parameters, such as a schedule and marketing budget, that help you optimize your promotional resources. Developing the plan itself may require some extra investment, but the benefits are well worth it.  

By planning ahead of time, you give yourself the opportunity to consider all of your marketing options. It also allows you to either establish or revisit key factors, such as your target audience, primary selling points, and your competition. From there, you can decide which marketing activities are the most cost-effective and beneficial for your brand, as well as the order in which you need to execute them.  

For example, a marketing plan might reveal that paying for ongoing PPC (pay-per-click) ads is exorbitant and expensive over the long term. It also may reveal that the money saved from slashing your PPC ads in half allows you to invest in a content marketing strategy. From there, you can plot out the steps required to generate, optimize, and promote that content (see the next section) as an effective way to put your marketing in motion. 

Small business marketing plans also allow you to gauge the ROI of your marketing investments over time. This gives you the ability to make adjustments and maximize results as you go along. It also frees you up to be more creative in your long-term approach to marketing by building on past successes that you otherwise might not have known about.

What Should You Include in Marketing Plans for Small Businesses?

If you’re sold on the concept of developing a marketing plan for your small business but aren’t quite sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. In the following section, we’ll break

down a step-by-step analysis of how you can turn your marketing ambitions into a solid plan of action that can guide you.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

It’s easy to skip this step, but trust us, you don’t want to do that. Most small business owners think they know their marketing goals — and in a certain sense, that’s true. As an involved executive of a smaller enterprise, you probably have your finger on the pulse of your organization more than most leaders. 

But that proximity to daily operations and activities can also make it easy to cloud out the big-picture stuff at times. Before you establish your marketing plan, take a minute to step back. 

What are you trying to accomplish with your marketing in the next year? What about the next five years? Do you want to generate revenue? Build brand awareness? Increase online visibility? Spark long-term growth? 

Each goal is related to your marketing, but the differences are important. Get each specific marketing goal in place before you flesh out your plan.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience

Your target audience should be the central focal point of your entire operation. When you develop products, you should consider whom they serve. When you bring them to market, you want to consider how to communicate to a select group of consumers that they’re available to solve their problems.

Make sure you have a buyer persona in place that reflects precisely whom you’re trying to market to and what their pain points are. If you’ve already considered what your customer base looks like, use this step to review that data and ensure that it’s informed by up-to-date market research.

Step 3: Consider Resources and Competition

As a final step to set the stage for your planning, review what resources you have available. As a small business, do you have a marketing team, or does that responsibility overlap with other employees (or yourself)? How much time do you have to invest in marketing? What is your marketing budget? What assets do you already have, such as a CRM or social media marketing tools?

Also, consider conducting a fresh round of competitive analysis. You likely did this when you were pulling together your business plan. Go back and observe how your competitors are marketing themselves to your target audience. Note the pros and cons of their efforts.

Step 4: Identify the Marketing Tactics You Can Use

Now comes the marketing magic. Once you’ve considered your goals, target audience, resources, and competition, it’s time to bring it all together. 

Consider the marketing tactics you have available and which ones best meet your current marketing needs. Then, weave these marketing ideas into a plan that considers resources and timelines. A few common marketing tactics that work well for small businesses include:

  • Creating a strong website : This becomes your central online presence and a place to host your blogs, user-generated content, landing pages, and other content marketing.
  • Optimizing your website : SEO is important. Optimizing your site with long-tail keyword phrases, links, and technical SEO (think metadata, mobile-friendly, etc.) is a powerful way to maximize your content creation efforts.
  • Build up off-site marketing : Create a social media presence using platforms your target audience prefers. Nurture email marketing, as well, including drip campaigns, newsletters, and targeted announcements.
  • Organize leads in a CRM : As a small business owner, you want to stay organized. When your marketing begins to gain momentum, have a customer relationship management (CRM) platform ready to keep things organized and under control.

Remember, you’re a small business with limited marketing resources. Consider which tactic is particularly relevant to your brand at the moment, and invest in those areas first.

Step 5: Establish Success Metrics and Feedback Loops

Finally, consider how you’ll track your marketing over time. Use tools like Google Analytics 4 to keep tabs on important marketing metrics, such as ranking for brand keywords, measuring organic traffic, and tracking conversions.

Also, request feedback from customers and team members and then use that information to hone your marketing activities moving forward. If you’re unsure how to adapt your plan (or create one in the first place), consider working with a growth marketing agency that can bring a cost-effective degree of experience and knowledge to bear on your brand’s marketing initiatives.

Building Master Marketing Plans for Small Businesses

As a small business, you may have limited time, money, and tools to work with. However, that doesn’t mean investing in a marketing plan isn’t worth it.

On the contrary, creating an effective marketing strategy helps you ensure that every ounce of resources you pour into promoting your business has a purpose. This gives you the best chance of sparking genuine, measurable growth, which can enable you to build larger marketing budgets, plans, and strategies in the future.

IMAGES

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  23. The ultimate guide to small business marketing in 2024

    April 29, 2024 Estimated reading time: 14 minutes. The latest survey from VistaPrint, in partnership with Wix, captured insights from 1,000 U.S. small business owners and consumers in March 2024 and spotlights the resilience and creativity of small businesses.Despite inflation and uncertainty, 78% of business owners are boosting their budgets this year, and almost half are ready to dive into ...

  24. How To Create Marketing Plans for Small Businesses

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