December is National Write a Business Plan Month — so if you’ve been wondering how to get your startup business off the ground, now is a great time to observe the occasion by initiating a thorough business plan.
Creating a business plan may seem like a complicated task, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a beneficial process that begins with answering multiple detailed questions on basic startup issues. The nine main topic categories should include: Business Concept, Personal Resources and Objectives, Product or Service, Market Description, Sales and Marketing, Operation Organization and Costs, Business Development, Budgets and Financing.
Preparing a market analysis will provide valuable industry insights and creating sales and marketing objectives will help you contrive ways to achieve your goals — but first, you must validate your business idea. Spend some time speaking to potential customers to understand their needs before you focus on building your product or service.
Experienced and successful entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa suggests the following ways to validate your idea preceding your business plan preparation:
- Write down your thoughts on the product you want to build and the needs you want to solve. You’ll be detailing your hypotheses.
- Validate these hypotheses with as many potential customers as you can. Ask them if they will buy your product or service if you build it. Learn about what features they need and what they will pay for, ask them for more ideas, and be sure that there is a large enough market.
- Build a prototype of your product or offer a test run of your service and again ask potential customers what they think about it. You’ll find that customers usually provide much better input when they can actually try out a product.
Next you can define your business model by answering the following series of questions:
- How are you going to find customers or have them find you? Advertise, cold-call, or rely on word of mouth?
- How will you differentiate your product or service to set yourself apart from the competition?
- What can you charge for your product or service that’s profitable for you and provides value to the customer?
- How are you going to persuade potential customers to buy from you?
- How will you deliver your products or services cost-effectively to your customers? Direct sales force, sell through distributors, or over the Internet?
- How are you going to support your customers if your product breaks? Will you provide a telephone hotline, on-site support, or answer emails?
- How are you going to ensure customer satisfaction and turn customers into loyal fans?
Before you can begin building your small business from the ground up and start raising the necessary funds,
determine its estimated costs and your degree of readiness to manage all aspects of running a small business. When you prepare your estimated budget, one thing you should include are the costs for merchant services that enable you to accept credit cards.
Offering your customers multiple payment options is imperative to giving your business its best opportunity to succeed. Contact TransFirst® for answers to your questions about setup costs, monthly fees and transaction fees — but don’t wait for the start of a new year. Get a jump start on New Year’s resolutions and resolve to begin the business plan development that will help you to create the roadmap to achieving your goals.