Perhaps you’re kicking around the idea of starting up a new business, or maybe you’re already in the start-up phase. Let me ask you this: do you have a business plan?

If not, you’re not alone. A lot of new business owners assume you only need a plan if you’re going to ask for venture capitalist funding. But the truth is, every business owner should have a business plan – otherwise, your business is going to drift around aimlessly like a ship without a rudder.

So if you haven’t created your business plan yet, then set time aside right away (as in, today) to use the following business planner…

"Planning Your Business the Smart Way"

Planning Your Business

The key to planning your business is to look at it from all angles. Answer the following questions to get a good feel for how to start and grow your business. Take note that you may need to do research to answer some of these questions.

Who is your primary market?

What niche or niches are you targeting?

List as much as you can about your ideal prospect. This includes characteristics such as:

  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Income.
  • Education level achieved.
  • Where they live.
  • Their job.
  • What they spend their disposable income on.
  • Hobbies.
  • Problems.
  • What sort of solutions they’ve used to solve these problems.
  • The shortcomings of these solutions.
  • Reasons why their problem isn’t yet solved. (Could be due to weak products, a problem with the person such as lack of motivation, etc.)
  • Their fears.
  • Their desires.
  • What motivates them?
  • List any type of jargon they use as part of their profession or hobby.

What evidence do you have that this is a profitable market?

What type of products and services are the people in your market already buying?

What are the bestselling products and services?

Who are the biggest competitors in this market?

How are these competitors reaching the market?

What are your competitor’s strengths?

What are their weaknesses?

What are your strengths that will help you grow this business?

What are your weaknesses that may hinder your efforts?

What threats exist in the marketplace? (E.G., perhaps there are regulations that may make it difficult for you to do business.)

What opportunities exist in the marketplace? (E.G., perhaps you have a “green” business that builds goodwill.)

What types of products or services will you sell to your market?

What will be your flagship product?

How much will you charge for these various products?

How do you plan to acquire or create these products?

What are your expected product-creation costs per month?

How will you reach this market? (E.G., How will you drive traffic to your site?)

Note: Be specific here. Basically, you’re going to design a marketing strategy, which may include using methods such as social media marketing, search engine optimization, viral marketing, blogging, other types of content marketing, joint venture marketing, affiliate marketing, offline marketing (such as issuing press releases, buying ads, doing events, etc), media buys and so on.

What are your expected advertising costs per month?

How will you convert traffic into customers?

How will you turn first-time buyers into loyal customers?

What will your sales funnel look like?

How will you cross-promote products from within your sales funnel?

What types of upsells or other offers will you have on your order form?

How will you communicate with your customers? List all the channels. (E.G., email, phone, help desk, social media, etc.)

What are your expected start-up costs for this business, other than those listed above? Be specific and list all costs.

What are your expected ongoing costs for this business, other than those listed above? Be specific and list all costs.

Will you have employees?

If so:

  • How will you find them?
  • What is your interview and hiring process?
  • Will they be full time or part time?
  • How much will you pay them?
  • What sort of benefit package will you offer?
  • Will they be in your office or telecommuting?
  • What tasks will these employees perform?
  • How will you manage and motivate them?

"Planning Your Business the Smart Way"

Will you hire independent contractors?

If so:

  • How will you find them?
  • What is your interview and hiring process?
  • How much will you pay them?
  • What tasks will they perform?
  • How will you manage and motivate them?

If you don’t intend to hire any employees or freelancers, how will you build and grow your business?

Will you have a business partner?

What role will this business partner play in starting and growing your business?

What type of skills will this person have?

How much funding will this person bring?

What sort of joint ventures will you do with other people?

Where will you find these prospective joint venture partners?

How will you build relationships with these prospective partners?

What skills do you need to learn to be a better business person?

How and when will you work on acquiring these skills?

Where will you get funding to cover the initial and ongoing costs? Be specific.

When do you expect the business to become profitable?

What type of brand will you create for your business?

What is your brand-recognition strategy? (Be as specific as possible.)

How will you take care of you customers in a timely manner?

What are your six-month goals for your business? Be specific.

For example, what products will you have created? How much traffic will you be driving to your site each month? What will be size of your mailing lists? How many followers will you have on social media? How many customers will you have? How many sales will you make per month? What will be your gross profit? What will be your net profit? (And so on.)

What are your one-year goals for your business? Be specific as listed above.

What are your five-year goals for your business? Be specific as listed above.

What is your exit strategy for this business? When will you exit?