How To Write A Business Plan That Will Actually Get Read — Part 1

Feb 11, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
Posted Feb 11, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

Do you have a business plan?

This essential document is not a 75-page document filled to the brim with industry buzzwords— no one is ever going to want to read that. Instead, the best business plans are written for actual human beings to read.

They drive interest in your business while explaining how all its moving parts come together. They are concise and impactful while preserving professionality and straightforwardness. If you don’t have one yet, now is the time.

Covering the Cover Letter

Your business plan opens with a letter to whoever is reading it. If you have ever created a resume, you should have a good idea of what a cover letter is. In many ways, the purpose is identical here. You’re stating your intent and what you plan on bringing to the table. The goal here will be to break down a detailed process to woo investors, business partners, or even initial employees. Most importantly, it has to make sense. If you come off as a crazy person, no one is going to do business with you and you’ll be a cautionary tale before you know it.

For reference, here is what you will want to make sure you have in that cover letter:

1. Address of recipient
You’ll be handing this in to specific parties, so make sure this is set for maximum impact.

2. Date
Timestamp your stuff. Let people know how current the information is that your business plan contains.

3. Your address
Keep those channels of communication open. Let people know where you are. This is incredibly important.

4. Salutation
“Dear [name]” will personalize the cover letter way more than you probably think it will. Make sure your intended recipient feels like you took the time to make this about them.

5. The body
This is where you are going to highlight exactly what is going on with your business. It might feel like blatantly obvious information, but stating it here will eliminate the potential for incorrect assumptions. Explain that you are submitting your business plan in a sentence or two, then add what the reader can expect going forward in your plan.

6. Conclusion
Express an earnest eagerness to hear back from the reader. Make sure that this isn’t only personalized, but that your most reliable, accurate contact information is listed here. This may be the most important part of the whole letter.

7. Thanks
Thank the reader for taking the time to read even your cover letter. Time is money, and someone stopped what they are doing in order to read your plan. It shows a level of professionalism that will impress anyone that picks up your cover letter.

8. Sign off
This is your final shot at making an impact. Make sure it is memorable without coming off as corny. If you can tie your product in here in some way, you may create a great association.

Setting Up The Title Page

The next item on the docket is to create a great title page. This is an opportunity to set a positive first impression for your business itself. Make sure your title page encompasses the professionalism of your business. The goal here is to prevent it from looking like it was thrown together by a high school design student.

Make sure you have these important parts:

1.Your logo
Don’t have one? Get one.

2. Business name
Who are they working with?

3. Founder or proprietor’s name (if it applies)

4. The actual words: “business plan.”
Remember, make no assumptions.

5. An image of your product, if it applies here.
Clip art is not allowed.

6.The date.
This is your timestamp.

After this, you need to create a table of contents, which is going to be a lifesaver for anyone that is picking up this business plan in search of specific information. The table of contents will identify exact locations for information that the reader wants to pinpoint, so that they can find their specific info. Some people may read the whole thing cover to cover. but if there’s someone looking to find something like the business outline, this is where you show them that you have their needs covered. Make sure your sections are separated and numbered, or this is all for nothing.

Detailing Your Business

Now, you need to have an executive summary. No, this isn’t about who is running the business! This is a quick and precise snapshot of your business plan as a whole. You want to fit in as much information as you can without bloating this piece.

You are clearly explaining the concept behind your business, your goals (both short and long-term), and your vision. This is your chance to paint a picture for whoever is reading your business plan. It’s imperative that you also take the time to explain why your product or service is a step above the competition. Then identify your target market, your team that will make the business a success, and the strengths that they will bring to the table to ensure the prowess of the business. Sell the reader on your team.

Once you’ve established the executive summary, it’s time to create the company section. This part is super-straightforward. It’s an overview of everything anyone needs to know about your business. Much like the back of a baseball card, you need to make sure that essential stats and data are expressed in a clear format, things like the structure of your business and when it was established. How are you making the most out of e-commerce and what tools are you using? Clearly state your business’s mission plan and its core values as well. Basically, tell the story of your business here because you are about to jump headlong into that business plan.

Outlining Your Business’s Future

You have to:

Phase I (the next 6 months)

  • Increase e-commerce store traffic by driving brand-driven shoppers through social media campaigns.
  • Partner with 3 local businesses to create a store-to-site promotion that rewards customers for shopping at both locations.
  • Increase social media footprint on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram by 25 percent.
  • Run a targeted promotion in a local newspaper to raise local awareness of online storefront while testing out 2 profitable promotions.

Identify the Competition

Now that you’ve identified what you expect to do here, you need to compile a “who’s who” list of your competitors. Listing out your major competition and detailing their strengths and weaknesses will show you exactly what you need to do to find success, as well as what you need to avoid in order to not become another face in the crowd. That said, don’t be afraid to copy good ideas while make them your own.

Identify they benefit from what they do well, or the drawbacks of certain things that they do poorly. Once you have the ball rolling, identify what kinds of threats do they pose to you. How will they react to the threat that you will be creating to them, and how are you prepared for this?

Marketing Plan

Then it’s time to write the marketing plan. To do this successfully, you have to identify your customers and any useful data that will make reaching them easier. Info like age, location, employment, ethnicity, interests, and their industries of interest will help set the backdrop here.

You need to explain what the plan is for advertising to them as well. As you are in e-commerce, you want to make the most out of social media and blogging. What kinds of hashtags can you use that will appeal to your customers? What keywords will your ideal customers be using when they search for products online, and how can you optimize traffic through blogs and affiliate marketing to make sure they reach you? Finally, outside of this, how will you reach the customers in a way that they will be interested in visiting your online storefront? Email marketing is nice, but what will you be doing differently to make sure they read your emails?

Operation Plan

After you’ve explained how your customers will know your name and product, you will want to be able to show how you will operate the business going forward by using key bullet points.

Suppliers — If you are selling a physical product, where are you getting it from, or how are you getting the materials to create it?

Facilities — Where are you keeping your inventory, and how do you have access to it?

Personnel — Who will be working alongside you? How many people do you need and what will they be doing?

Equipment — What sort of tools or tech will improve your storefront? Are you hosting remotely or on-site, and how can you handle traffic?

Shipping and Fulfillment — Create an outline of how you are going to be able to take orders and make sure that purchases are finding their way to the customers. Are you utilizing any third party services here or will you have partners to handle this?

Inventory — How much product will you be keeping on hand overall? If you utilize third-party retailers as well, how will you make sure they are stocked too? How will you keep track of all your product?

Customer Support — How are you going to support requests and handle customers’ needs beyond simply supplying your product and taking the customer’s money?

sub-point to customer support is knowing what kind or guarantee or return policy you will offer for the customer. What you want to do is clearly state what sort or return window the customer will have for their product. Will they need to pay for shipping or will you offer that as a convenience? How long will you guarantee your product? What will be the resolution if the customer isn’t happy with it during that time frame? Detail all of that as well because there is nothing more important than turning a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one again.

Financial Plan

The final piece of the business plan puzzle is the Financial Plan. We are going to speak about it in detail in a post to come. Get ready to learn about terms like the Pro Forma Income Statement, the Pro Forma Cash Flow, and the Projected Balance Sheet. But you certainly have enough information here to get started for now.

So go out there and make us proud!

About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

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