You know you have the ideas, skills, and resources to start a successful business. But things are all over the place and you’re not sure how to get started. A business plan based on quality research will help organize your thoughts and ensure your business succeeds for years.
That’s why we’ve put together this free business plan template to help you create yours in no time. Click the button below to download it!
If you want more tips to help you create your business plan, check out the detailed guide below. With our tips and free business plan template, you’ll be set to construct your business plan.
Why you need a business plan
Check out these top benefits if you’re unsure why you need to create a business plan.
Provides a roadmap: A short and long-term roadmap gives you direction to build a successful business. It can also help attract the right investors. Nowadays, even customers want to know about your roadmap. If you check out most AppSumo products, you will find a link to a roadmap in the comments. Here’s an example from Derek of Nozzle.
Gives you an idea about the finances required: Funding is essential for starting a business, especially in the early stages when it doesn’t generate any income. A business plan will help you determine how much money you need before your business is profitable or at least able to break even.
Helps you create a better marketing strategy: Marketing and sales are a crucial part of your startup. A business plan with a roadmap, customer and competitor details, and a financial plan will help you create a powerful marketing strategy.
Helps you stay organized: When you’re running a startup, you have 101 things to do—with little cash and help from a team. It’s easy to lose track and work on low-value tasks that don’t move the needle. A business plan will ensure that you focus on high-value tasks and help grow your business quickly.
Helps measure your success accurately: As mentioned in our post on business metrics, the most successful businesses track essential metrics. You, too, should track the right metrics to ensure your business is on the path to success. The best way to figure out what metrics to track is by creating a business plan.
Business plan checklist: 10 key elements to include
Your business plan should include these key sections.
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is the most important part of your business plan and should appear at the beginning. It needs to be one to two pages long and easy to read with short sentences and paragraphs. Investors and executives are busy people who might only read this section. The executive summary summarizes your business and serves as an overview of the entire plan.
Although the executive summary appears at the top, we recommend writing it last—after you’ve written the rest of the business plan as you’ll be summarizing the contents here.
2. Company description
The company descriptions shouldn’t be just about the company and products you want to create, but also about you. Show people the brand you want to project and the culture you want to build.
You also need to share other details. This includes the company type (sole trader, LLC, partnership, etc.), the team you already have or want to build, and your business objectives for the next five years at least.
3. Industry analysis
In the industry analysis, you show people the industry’s current situation and how this will suit the growth of your business. You also need to write about the industry’s future and how this will affect your business in the long run.
While writing this section, make sure you include data from authoritative sources in your industry. You can also use information from research websites like Pew Research.
4. Customer analysis
The customer analysis can be a subsection of the industry analysis or a section of its own. Here you can include all the information you unearthed while conducting your audience research. Add information about your target demographics, their pain points, and how much they are willing to pay to solve them.
Not sure how to perform customer analysis? You can gather data through surveys, interviews, website analytics, and reports from authoritative sources.
5. Competition analysis
Having successful competitors is one of the things investors look for as it shows that there is a market for your products or services. These could be direct competitors with products similar to yours or indirect competitors targeting the same audience.
So, include a detailed competition analysis on your competitors, their products, their success, and how you plan to beat them.
6. Products and services
If you’ve done product validation research before starting your business, include it here.
Write about the products you are creating or will create. Include details on who will buy them and why. Investors will pay close attention to this part to determine the success of your company. They’ll check if there’s a market for your products and if you’ll get repeat customers who will ensure the sustainability of your company.
If you still haven’t validated your products, you can list your products on AppSumo. It’s a great place to get valuable feedback and generate some buzz.
7. Marketing plan
As mentioned earlier, marketing will make up most of your activities after you create your product. Pay close attention to this section and be as detailed as possible. Write about the different methods you will use to attract customers and how much of your profits will go into marketing.
You might also want to add your sales process here and write about how it intertwines with your marketing.
Before you write this section, check out AppSumo’s Mint Marketing Plan that details how Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo, helped grow Mint to 1 million users in 6 months.
8. Operations plan
If you constantly dream about the everyday running of your business, you will love writing this section of the business plan.
Write about your company structure and how it will run. How do you plan to oversee things and what are the immediate and long-term staff requirements? Will you require any important supplies or equipment? Include that in this section.
Finally, don’t forget to address how you will change the operational structure as your business grows.
9. Management plan
The quality of the management team can determine the success of a company and serious investors will pay attention to this part. You can add this as a subsection of the operations plan or keep it separate.
If you don’t have a management team yet, share how you will attract them and what budget you require to offer lucrative salaries.
If you already have a management team, write about their experience, skills, and the steps you’ll take to upgrade their management techniques.
10. Financial plan
A financial plan is a critical requirement, particularly if you require outside funding. This will help investors and lenders predict the success of your company.
Include the amount of cash and other assets your company possesses, forecasted revenue and expenses, and cash flow projections.
Go into detail and write about how long it will take you to break even and finally be profitable.
How to write a good business plan
Here are some tips for getting your business plan right the first time.
Do your research
One of the biggest mistakes most amateur entrepreneurs make is not doing enough research. We tend to assume that we know our business better than anyone else and think that research isn’t necessary.
But there is often so much we don’t know. This is why it is crucial to spend a week or two researching the market, competition, and customers. Start by looking at the information already available through reports done by organizations and competitors.
After that, you can unearth unique information on your own through surveys, interviews, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. You can also use empathy maps and personas to understand your customers better.
Keep it simple
Successful investors, entrepreneurs, mentors, and lenders get pitched all the time. Everybody wants them to read their business plan and either invest in their business or offer some guidance. If you want them to read your business plan, make it easy to read.
Avoid unnecessarily sophisticated words and keep sentences and paragraphs short. You also need to avoid grammatical errors. You can hire an editor to help with this or use tools like Hemingway and Grammarly.
Another thing you might want to do is optimize your business plan for skimmers, as not everyone will read it completely. You can do this by organizing your business plan with several subheadings, making important lines bold, using bulleted lists, and differentiating text with fonts.
Ask for advice
Many entrepreneurs have been in your place and understand the difficulties of creating a business plan. Most of them will be open to helping you write the business plan. Reach out to them before you begin writing. You can find many experienced entrepreneurs on LinkedIn.
Some will do it for free, while some might charge. Even if they ask for a payment, it’s definitely worth the investment as their experience will help you get your business plan right the first time.
Keep the reader in mind
Who are you writing this for? Is it for your employees, investors, partners, or all of them? Keep this audience in mind while writing your business plan. This will help you achieve your end goal, whether that’s attracting investors or employees, or something else.
If you want to create a business plan for multiple audiences, it might be better to write different business plans for different audiences.
Reading a sea of text can annoy and bore readers. You can make your business plan enjoyable by adding graphs and photos. They will give readers a break from reading all that text. Another way to make your business plan attractive is by adding a beautiful cover.
Also, consider adding a table of contents after your cover. It can make it easy to find the different sections of your business plan. Tools like Canva can help you create the graphs and cover image, as well as design the rest of your business plan with ease.
Before you send the complete business plan to your readers, ask for feedback from people you know. These could be employees, partners, and people you reached out to for advice. Get them to critique your business plan.
You can improve both the writing and design and then share the final version with your audience.
Download your free business plan template
Writing a business plan, especially one that attracts investors, is not an easy task. It takes weeks of research and writing. So, give yourself plenty of time to create instead of rushing it.
Want to cut short some of this time? Download our free business plan template by clicking the button below.
If you’re looking for tools to help you create a business plan and speed up other tasks required to run your business, check out the AppSumo store. We have deals on many top software that simplify and automate time-consuming tasks for business owners.