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The Ultimate Guide To Business Plans - P3

BY: Nguyen-Ngoan  |   Aug. 8, 2018
Business Plan
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The Marketing Plan

“Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.” ― Seth Godin

Customer Segmentation

Now it’s time to slice and dice your market into segments and identify your target customer. You’re going to want to describe a number of both general and specific demographic characteristics that apply. Some of the questions you’ll want to answer are:

  • Where do they live?
  • What’s their age range?
  • What’s their level of education?
  • How many of them are there?
  • What are some common behaviour patterns?
  • What do they spend their free time on?
  • Where do they work?
  • What technology do they use?
  • What ethnicity are they?
  • How much do they earn?
  • Where are they commonly employed?
  • What are their values, beliefs, or opinions?

The details and the questions you’ll answer will vary greatly based on what it is you’re selling, but you should get a gist. Essentially, you want to paint as detailed a picture as possible with both the qualitative and quantitative information you can gather.

Another way to frame your customers which can be useful to paint another layer onto what you already know is the Product Diffusion Curve, in other words how quickly your customers are likely to adopt a new technology. There are five major categories this breaks down into, they are:

  • Innovators - These are the folks who’ve done their research on the latest product launches, follow all the hype, and will wait for any amount of time in a line to get their hands on the latest gizmo.
  • Early adopters - Based on the feedback and response from innovators, early adopters then decide whether to jump on the bandwagon or not.
  • Early majority - Once a products been tested and proved by a larger pool, these customers listen closely to the recommendations of the groups listed above when deciding whether to purchase something or not.
  • Late majority - These individuals don’t trust anything until it becomes commonplace and popular
  • Laggards - They only change their consumption habits when what they’re used to no longer exists and becomes obsolete. Only when that occurs do they start looking for alternatives

There are certainly no shortage of ways to break down your customer segments, but you’ll want to do it in a way that’s most meaningful for what you’re trying to market. Speaking of marketing, you’re going to have to provide a detailed plan for how you’re actually going to go from generating awareness to ultimately getting what you’re selling into the hands of your target customers.

Marketing Your Products

Here’s something to keep in mind before you start jotting down a detailed plan, this is referred to as the Buyer’s Five-Step Adoption Process. This model highlights the sequence of steps a buyer goes through before making the final purchase decision.

  • Awareness - Customers are aware you exist, but don’t know what it is you do or sell
  • Interest - Customers have now heard of you and because of what they see, they want to learn more
  • Evaluation - Customers are now decided whether to give you a shot or not
  • Trial - Customers are willing to make an initial purchase to take your products and services for a spin
  • Adoption - Customers now love what you have to sell and will regularly purchase from you.

The first half of that adoption process gets covered through your advertising and promotions plan, while the later half requires a solid sales and distribution plan. Some of the questions that you’ll want to answer for each are outlined below.

Advertising and Promotion Plan

  • Will you have a dedicated presence across many of the popular online channels (ex. website, social media, relevant marketplaces…etc.) used today to gain brand awareness?
  • Will your marketing plan be primarily inbound focused (ex. SEO, social media, blogging…etc...), outbound focused (ex. PPC, affiliate marketing, sales teams…etc.), traditional focused (ex direct mail, brochures, and print advertising) or a mix of all three?
  • What are other low-cost yet effective marketing mediums that you’ll leverage to get attention?
  • What is your PR strategy? Why would the press be interested in your story?

Sales and Distribution Plan

  • What channels will you use to get your product out there? Will you sell via your website, a retailer, wholesaler, or a different channel all together?
  • How will customers be able to pay for your product?
  • What will your return policy look like? Will you offer any guarantees? If so, what will they look like?
  • What happens after a customer makes a purchase? What type of customer support will you provide?

Once you get all these details down, the next chapter will walk you through putting together an operations plan. This will give your business plan reader a boost in trust that you’ll be able to deliver on your vision highlighting how you’ll get from manufacturing to shipping.

The Operations Plan

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.” ― Lee Iacocca

By now your reader will have learned about everything relating to your core offering, who your customer is, what the market opportunity is, and who some of the other big players in the industry are. However, they’re probably wondering just how you plan on running the company day-in and day-out. As in where are you in terms of execution of the plan and how will you go about creating and delivering your product or service.

The Supply Chain

Let’s start with the workflow that you’ll have to deal with to make your ideas a reality. Some of the things you’ll want to touch on are:

  • Suppliers - Who will be providing you with all the materials that you won’t be manufacturing yourself?
  • Facilities - Where will you house your inventory (if any) or which office will you be working out of?
  • Personnel - How many staff will you require your daily operations? What will their duties look like?
  • Equipment - What tools and technology do you require to be up and running or to take your company to the next level? (This could include everything from computers to office desks and everything in between)
  • Shipping and Fulfilment - Here you’ll have to outline whether you’ll be handling all the deliveries on your orders or if you’ll be using a third-party fulfillment partner.
  • Inventory - Here you’ll highlight how much you’ll keep on hand, where it’ll be stored, and how you’ll have it shipped to third-partners if applicable. Also, an important detail to note is how you’ll keep track of everything going in and out.
  • Customer Support - How will support requests, refunds, and customer complaints be considered and integrated in your business workflow?

The Production Process

You’ll also want to get more specific into your entire production process, and that means covering:

  • How long it will take you to produce a single unit or a predefined number of units?
  • What measures have been put in place to integrate customer feedback into your product or service? As in, have you allotted time to create and test prototypes, pricing, or delivery mechanisms?
  • How will you deal with major influxes in demand, as in what procedures or steps will you have in place when you offer a sale and orders come flying in?

This section should signal to the reader of your business plan that you’ve got a good handle of running your business and the contingency plan you have in place to account for uncertainty in the marketplace. Next comes the fun part, your financial plan. Get ready to have fun with nothing more than a spreadsheet, some paper and maybe a calculator.

The Financial Plan

"Money is to my social existence what health is to my body." ― Mason Cooley

One thing we all have to come to terms with is that no matter how great a business idea might be, a business lives and dies based on its financial feasibility and most importantly its profitability. Regardless of how hard you work, how much of your own time and money you’ve put in, at the end of the day people want to support something that has the ability to return their investments and then some.

So what exactly do you have to include in this section? You’ll need to include three statements:

  • Income Statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash-Flow Statement

Sounds exciting right? We’ll let’s get started then and break each of those down into digestible components. Hopefully by the end of it, you’ll have something to chew on.

Income Statement

This beautiful composition of numbers is what tells someone reading it exactly what your sources of revenue are and which expenses you spent your money on to arrive at, you guessed it, the bottom line. Essentially, for a given time period, the income statement states the profit or loss (revenue-expenses) that you made.

  • Income Statement Template
Sales ___________
Direct Cost of Sales ___________
Other Production Expenses ___________
Total Cost of Sales ___________
Gross Margin ___________
Gross Margin % ___________
Expenses ___________
Payroll ___________
Marketing & Other Expenses ___________
Depreciation ___________
Leased Equipment ___________
Utilities ___________
Insurance ___________
Rent ___________
Payroll Taxes ___________
Other ___________
Total Operating Expenses ___________
Profit Before Interest & Taxes ___________
EBITDA ___________
Interest Expense ___________
Taxes Incurred ___________
Net Profit ___________
Net Profit/Sales ___________

Balance Sheet

The key word here is “balance,” but you’re probably wondering what exactly needs to be weighed? On one side you should list all your assets (what you own) and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe), thereby giving a snapshot of your net worth (assets - liabilities = equity).

  • Balance Sheet Template
Assets ___________
Current Assets ___________
Cash ___________
Inventory ___________
Other Current Assets ___________
Total Current Assets ___________
Long-term Assets ___________
Long-term Assets ___________
Accumulated Depreciation ___________
Total Long-term Assets ___________
Total Assets ___________
Liabilities and Capital ___________
Current Liabilities ___________
Accounts Payable ___________
Current Borrowing ___________
Other Current Liabilities ___________
Subtotal Current Liabilities ___________
Long-term Liabilities ___________
Total Liabilities ___________
Paid-in Capital ___________
Retained Earnings ___________
Earnings ___________
Total Capital ___________
Total Liabilities and Capital ___________
Net Worth ___________

Cash Flow Statement

This statement is similar to your income statement with one important difference, it takes into account just when revenues are actually collected and when expenses are paid. When the cash you have coming in (collected revenue) is greater than the cash you have going out (disbursements), your cash flow is said to be positive. And when the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is, well negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will allow you to recognize where cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and how to be on top of your game when operating in an uncertain environment.

  • Cash Flow Statement Template
Cash Received ___________
Cash from Operations ___________
Cash Sales ___________
Subtotal Cash from Operations ___________
Additional Cash Received ___________
Sales Tax, VAT, HST/GST Received ___________
New Current Borrowing ___________
New Other Liabilities (interest-free) ___________
New Long-term Liabilities ___________
Sales of Other Current Assets ___________
Sales of Long-term Assets ___________
New Investment Received ___________
Subtotal Cash Received ___________
Expenditures ___________
Expenditures from Operations ___________
Cash Spending ___________
Bill Payments ___________
Subtotal Spent on Operations ___________
Additional Cash Spent ___________
Sales Tax, VAT, HST/GST Paid Out ___________
Principal Repayment of Current Borrowing ___________
Other Liabilities Principal Repayment ___________
Long-term Liabilities Principal Repayment ___________
Purchase Other Current Assets ___________
Purchase Long-term Assets ___________
Dividends ___________
Subtotal Cash Spent ___________
Net Cash Flow ___________
Cash Balance ___________


Writing a business plan for your online store is no easy task but I hope after going through the guide you can see that it's well worth the effort. Not only does it better prepare you to deal with some of the shortfalls any new business owner will experience but it gives you a leg up on your competition through better research and insights gained from the process.

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