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Your business plan isn’t the sort of thing that you should rush, but it also shouldn’t take an eternity.
As long as you have a clear strategy in mind, getting down the most important points should take no longer than a week.
If you’re familiar with The 7 P’s of (Modern) Marketing, you should find this business plan strategy a breeze since each day focuses on one of the seven p’s. Of course, these newly formulated marketing criteria derive from the original 4 P’s of Marketing, also known as the Marketing Mix created by advertising guru, Neil Borden. Nowadays, the marketing mix also includes elements like packaging, which has a big factor in today’s marketability of a product.
Ultimately, we used a marketing framework for this strategy as making sales should be the focus of every business plan. This framework is what makes this seven-day business plan profitable.
So let’s get started!
Day One: Product (or Service)
You can’t have a functioning business if you don’t know what you’re selling. It’s that simple. As such, the first thing you’ll need to think about is what your product or service is going to be.
Most people with the urge to write a business plan will already have a product or service in mind. For first-time business owners, this will commonly relate to your current skill or profession. Perhaps you’re a hairdresser who’s looking to create a line of hair products, or maybe you’re a graphic design graduate who wants to sell logos for a living. Whatever your plan is, you should assess your product or service before whole-heartedly committing to it.
Bear in mind that both product-based and service-based businesses have their own drawbacks.
Product-based businesses can take longer to get to market and often require more funds up front to support research and development. Whereas, service-based businesses can hit the ground running, so long as you have the necessary skills to carry out the work (or can hire somebody else to do so).
On the other hand, product-based businesses have more selling power and potential to scale. For example, you can sell an unlimited amount of lipsticks in an hour — but how many logos you can design in the same period?
So, service-based businesses often have a ceiling to success. It’s also commonly believed that as a service-based business owner, you’ll end up managing processes rather than doing them. For example, you might be designing the logos now, but when you employ fifty employees, your responsibilities are likely to adapt and your role will become more hands-off. For this reason, if you’re a creative person, it’s worth thinking through the reality of your job role as a company owner.
Ultimately, your access to funding and your existing skill levels will determine which type of business is right for you. The hard truth is, if you don’t have any investment capital, you won’t be able to get a product off the ground (especially if it’s in a regulated industry). Similarly, if you don’t know how to design logos, it will be considerably harder to start selling them.
With that said, once you’ve decided on a product or service you’re confident you can provide, you’ll need to give some more detailed information about it.
This is the first time that you should reference your competitors in your business plan by giving a summary of your chosen industry.
An industry summary should include:
- Information about the market’s performance. For example, is this a fast growing market or an established market? Has there been any recent news stories or changes in legislation that have affected how the industry operates?
- An outline of who the industry serves. This is the equivalent of an entire industry’s target audience. For example, the beauty industry tends to serve female buyers. You should relate this to your chosen product or service by highlighting what customer segment you’re targeting.
- You might have touched on this if your industry is currently being affected by any external factors, but you should do a full assessment of the risks and opportunities that exist in the market. For this, you should use the PESTLE analysis and work through each point of the acronym.
- State whether or not the industry is regulated and if it is, what governing bodies or thought leaders are crucial in product/service accreditation? This is especially important in sensitive sectors, such as finance and healthcare. If your industry isn’t regulated — for example, in the retail sector — you can still make mention of any public figures generally classed as representative of or authoritative in the market.
Day Two: Pricing
Yesterday we established what product or service you’re going to sell and got to grips with the industry you’ll be operating in. The next step is to talk about pricing — which is also closely related to industry — so expect to refer to your previous research in today’s activities.
Today is all about finance and as such, it will be a jam-packed day that starts with research and ends with crucial number crunching for your first financial year. Remember, to plan and own a profitable business — you can’t shy away from figures.
Step One (Competitor Research) — In the interest of time, you can do a quick review of your competitors online. If you’re a proactive person, you might have already noted some of these down during yesterday’s market analysis. For example, if you’re entering into the fast food business as a delivery provider, you’ll be aware of your main competitors – Uber, JustEat and Deliveroo.
Now it’s time to analyse how these top companies perform as well as digging out smaller players that might not have previously been on your radar. For each competitor, you should jot down their current pricing strategy and how much they’re selling a comparative product for. Remember, you can’t simply copy your competitor’s pricing, nor can you just undercut them. Instead, you’ll need to take into account other factors such as their customer base, their market share and how established or trusted their brand is.
Step Two (Customer Interviews) — After gathering secondary research on your competitors, you should use your findings to grill your potential clients and customers. To do this, take to the streets — or wherever else your customers hang out. Your task is to interview potential customers and ask them questions about what features they’d like to see in a particular product and how much they’d be willing to pay for it. Product development specialist Annie Brooking recommends this customer-testing strategy to all of her clients. She uses a bespoke rating scale which you can learn about in this podcast.
At this point in the process, you’ll either deserve a pat on the back or need to go back to the drawing board. It’s important that you listen to the feedback given by your target audience before you continue to develop your product or service further. For example, if the target audience doesn’t think a particular feature within your product is necessary, you should seriously consider removing it. After all, this might allow you to reduce the price of your product or make a higher profit margin on each sale.
Step Three (Pricing Strategy) — At this point, you’ll have gathered both primary and secondary data about your product, including what people expect — and what they are willing to pay for it. It’s time to convert this data into something tangible – a pricing strategy. Although this strategy will eventually become customer-facing, you shouldn’t panic too much as this is always flexible to change.
As we noted at the start of this article, you might have to revise this by conducting further market research depending on whether you feel this is necessary. For right now, you should have enough information to make an educated guess as to how much you should sell your product for and in what way. For example, you could use a tier system or a bespoke pricing plan — it’s up to you.
Step Four (Financial Projections) — It’s time to get technical to figure out your break-even point and your financial projections for the first year of trading. Don’t worry — you’ll be able to refer to online accounting material to help with this. Contrary to what people might think, you don’t need the help of an accountant to fill out the financial section of your business plan.
As you might have expected, we’ve fished around for further information on the topic. You’ll be pleased to know that The Balance has an entire article dedicated to working out the break-even analysis formula, while Entrepreneur has an expert resource on forecasting accurate financial projections. Phew!
Day Three: Promotion
Yesterday’s work was analytical, while today’s is more creative. Working on how to promote your product takes a creative thinker that can delve into the mindset of your ideal buyer.
You can do this by reading through the first two sections of your business plan and pulling out key information such as the price point and industry information to imagine what type of person would buy into your brand. From this, you can make a marketing strategy.
For example, if you are aiming your business model at corporate professionals, you might decide to invest time on social platforms like LinkedIn while crafting an email marketing campaign. Business people are notorious for spending copious amounts of time sifting through their emails, so it makes sense to advertise your best deals on this platform. For a less corporate customer, you might feel that an influencer campaign or a TV advert is more suitable.
These aren’t hard and fast rules about how to market your business but relating your target audience’s lifestyle to your marketing funnels is a common-sense way to approach advertising.
If we have any rules, it would be about varying your marketing streams. Whichever demographic you’re trying to attract, you should have a mix of both modern and traditional advertising outlets. This gives your brand consistent reach when people are online and offline — which is why it’s the ideal way to handle modern marketing while you’re still in a transitional period.
Once you’ve got to grips with the type of strategies that you should be carrying out, you can start to put a timeline in place. We suggest having a rough guideline for three months ahead of time — but expect to be flexible about these ideas as things change so fast in the world of advertising.
Day Four: Place
Today is all about deciding the areas that you will serve in your business.
Location is often a factor that is determined by your target audience and price point — things that you’ve previously figured out. But these days picking a place to sell your products isn’t so straightforward. That’s because there are so many viable options.
As well as setting up shop in your hometown or your nearest city, you can now easily sell products or services on the internet – which is a new kind of marketplace. Or, you can create a virtual business if commercial properties are too expensive in your desired location. For example, you can bag a virtual office in London for a reasonable fee and build a completely virtual business complete with a virtual landline number and any other helpful software that replicates the assets of a physical business. Investing in a virtual office with a freephone number to match will make your business appear more reputable to onlookers. This helps your business to stand out from the crowd, even if you don’t have a physical office like your competitors.
What’s more, your business might require you to operate in an area such as London if you have a high pricing point and a target audience with high disposable income. For example, if you’re selling bespoke designer bags, the chances are you’ll need to market this product in an affluent area. But if you’re selling a basic product, at a reasonable price point, you’ll be lucky enough to get away with setting up shop in a more affordable district.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine which type of place is right for your business:
- Are my products affordable? What income bracket will my ideal customer fit into?
- Does my business need to be in a physical location for transactions to take place?
- Can my product (or service) be purchased online without compromising sales?
- What will my customer’s buying journey look like? Where is it likely to end?
This day is about profiling your product to make sure that it attracts the right type of customer who is likely to buy into your brand. This part of the 7 P’s is most similar to pricing as the two often go hand in hand.
Day Five: Packaging
Packaging has always been an important factor to consider, but it’s only recently warranted a section of a business plan. This is largely due to environmental concerns and brand affinity.
As you can see, packaging can be tricky as it can be used as the ultimate sales tactic, persuading potential customers to buy your product due to its nicely packaged exterior. But packaging is also the subject of constant scrutiny, due to its environmental implications.
To hit the sweet spot, you’ll want to create a balance between design and sustainability. If you’re a packaging master, you might be clever enough to merge the two.
Some companies exist to fulfil this purpose. For example, if you’re selling food products in the fast food sector, packaging suppliers like Takeaway Packaging specialise in environmental containers that you can get custom branded. Unfortunately, if your product isn’t food related, you might have to find your own sustainable solution.
Here are some key guidelines on creating product packaging:
- Make sure that your packaging’s design is consistent with all of your other branding. For example, it should look similar to your website and other marketing materials.
- Don’t create clickbait packaging. Just as people are turned off by misleading titles in articles and YouTube videos, you should be wary of misinforming your customers through deceptive packaging. This happens by putting too much concentration on the packaging and not the product. In other words, a product’s packaging shouldn’t look better than the product itself — as this is a recipe for disappointment and angry customers.
- If you can avoid it, you should steer away from the use of plastic in all forms. This means ridding your products of plastic wrap, polystyrene and any other packaging material that was once common and is now frowned upon. Nowadays, you can use paper, bamboo and even innovative resources like sugarcane residue to create packaging.
- Don’t make your packaging excessive. While you might have some grandiose plans to present your product extravagantly, this ultimately won’t please your customers if they think you’re wasteful.
Day Six: Positioning
Positioning is a result of what your intended target audience is and other related factors such as your branding and pricing structure. If you’ve closely followed the guidance we’ve provided in this article so far, you should already have a good idea about where your business should be positioned in a given market.
That said, we’ll provide an example just for good measure. In this scenario, two yoga companies sell the same product categories in the same industry, yet they have completely different positioning. One of these companies aims to sell their products to expert yogi’s, while another aims to provide affordable yoga accessories to the mass market.
Yoga Company A — Downward Dog Co. is a company that provides the mass market with yoga accessories such as yoga mats, yoga blocks and yoga wheels. These products are manufactured overseas before being distributed to online retailers. The company operates as a consignment within e-commerce marketplaces that sell gym equipment in alternative niches such as running and pilates. The average price of a product is £12. Downward Dog Co. is aligned with other brands stocked by these retailers and is differentiated by specialising in yoga.
Yoga Company B — Lotus London is a studio-based yoga label that provides bespoke, environmental yoga equipment for its clients in Covent Garden. The brand creates high-quality accessories including yoga mats, yoga blocks and yoga wheels made out of sustainable resources. Lotus London distributes its products in independent stores across London, including its store at the Lotus London yoga studio. The average price of a product is £68. The brand aligns with other sustainable, wellness brands in the luxury sphere, such as London-based skincare brands and is differentiated by its established yoga studio and sustainable practices.
Reading the above business summaries, you can see how the same product type can be positioned at two opposing ends of the spectrum.
Now it’s your turn to write a summary which includes all of the information you have already pumped into your business plan. This summary should make your business plan sound natural and established. It also represents a more formal way of giving an elevator pitch, so the script should take no more than 30 seconds to read.
Day Seven: People
Much of this business plan has been sales-focused, honing in on the profile of your external customers. The last section, however, is concerned with your internal customers.
In this section, you should think about your hiring strategy, company culture and organisational hierarchy. Consider questions such as:
- What type of people are we looking to hire? And what company benefits, mission statement and recruitment tactics will attract the right people?
- If I could describe my ideal company culture in three words, what would they be?
- Am I going to be a visible leader? Or do I need to hire a management team that can organise the firm’s employees and act as the face of the business on my behalf?
There are no wrong answers when it comes to answering these questions. The only rule is to make sure to plan accordingly to your answers.
If you’re planning on being a hands-on leader — that’s okay — as long as you put measures in place to stop your employees feeling isolated.
Similarly, if your business lends to a more corporate culture than a “fun” feel-good office, this could be perfectly reasonable. If this is the case, you’ll have to think about adopting some serious benefits — such as a generous pension scheme — to make up for the lack of pool tables in the staff room.
Beyond Day Seven
Once you’ve followed the advice we’ve given, you might have to take a few more days to organise the logistics of your business. Be warned — we haven’t accounted for tasks such as setting up a business bank account or filling in your application form for incorporation. These tasks might add up to another day’s worth of work.
Another consideration is whether or not you’ll need to tack on some extra time to conduct in-depth market research. If you’re funding your venture, what we’ve outlined in this article might be enough to get your business off the ground. But if you’re relying on the help of lenders for a startup business loan, getting a solid amount of supporting data is key as lenders like to see evidence that their cash is likely to be returned.
That being said, following our steps should give you a solid framework to get started. By completing this seven day business plan much of the initial groundwork will be out of the way to allow you to get started on more practical steps.