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Before you dive into writing, you should know what a business plan actually is. In the most basic sense, a business plan is a formal document that acts as the roadmap of a business; it gives direction regarding your business' future and how to avoid or remedy issues along the way. It contains your business goals, tools, methods and strategies to achieve them, and the time frame within which you need to complete them.
It is advised that you do twice as much research analysis and evaluating as you spend actually writing your plan. You should research your product, market, competitors, and other factors that have a direct correlation to your business. It is important that you get to know these factors intimately to form a better judgment and create better business decisions. In short, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about your business and the industry you're entering.
Different plans constitute different parts or elements; if you are self-funding or bootstrapping your business, you need to tailor your business plan to be a roadmap that points you to a bright future, but if you want to attract investors, you need to target your investors and what you need from them. Hence, determining the purpose of your business beforehand ensures that you can create a specific business plan that will help you meet or achieve the goals you have set.
Your company profile presents the history of your organization, the products or services you offer, your target market and audience, your resources, your problem-solving plan or contingency plan, and aspects that make your business unique. Your company profile should be specific and detailed; this is where you generally boast about your strengths.
Your expenses, cash flow, industry projections, location strategy and licensing agreements—these are just some factors that your potential investors will want to know. Documenting them and including them in your business plan will help them ensure that your business will make them money. Since a business plan is strategic, including these elements will interest them with what your business has to offer.
An effective business plan will always include a strategic plan and an encompassing marketing plan. Your marketing plan should present strategies on how you plan to introduce new products to the market, how to extend current products, how to enter new territories, raising prices without cutting sales, and so on. You also need to provide a clear description of your marketing goals, the what and the why of your marketing tasks, and the budget and manpower that you will need to work with.
Although the potential readers and audience of your business plan belong in a diverse group, it is a finite one. This means that one way or another, they have a certain type that they are looking for when they read your plan. Knowing their common interests will help ensure that you tailor your business plan accordingly. A good tip is to make your business plan easily customizable depending on the audience reading your plan, but remember to keep the alterations to a minimum.