There’s still time to write your business plan for 2015! Sure, it’s December 31 and you’re cutting it kind of close… but with a little reflection and quick planning, you’ll start the New Year with clarity and direction.
Many organizations — namely the large ones — operate under a fiscal year beginning on January 1 and cultivate a marketing and business plan in late 3rd quarter or early 4th quarter (September/October) of the prior year. These plans are typically jam-packed with data and have an exhaustive number of pages (that, let’s face it, may or may not be read twice…or even once for that matter). Creating a marketing and business plan, big or small, is a huge undertaking and an awesome responsibility. Don’t procrastinate any longer!
Armed with knowledge and passion, consider these tips for creating your 2015 business plan:
1) Know your target. It seems basic, but reiterating (in writing) who your target customer is can help to focus your marketing efforts. Committing time and money to market research, which can help you identify and understand your target, is a worthwhile investment. An alternative option outside of research would be to analyze your current customer base. These people were all driven to consume your service or product. Who are they and what do they have in common? It is your job to find more people like them!
2) Create a mission statement. Even if it’s not for the purposes of capturing investors, your organization needs a mission statement. Create one and live by it; this is your organizations identity in a nutshell. Once you get into the thick of running your business, it can be difficult to remember what you’re doing and why. The mission statement helps keep you grounded and focused and also lets investors and potential customers know what you’re all about. Your mission statement can be a single sentence, or it can be five. Just write one. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a great resource.
3) Define your objective(s). It’s important to know what the priorities are for your business in order for it to grow. Do you need to improve customer service to maintain customers? Do you need to grow the size of your staff to keep up with demand? Do you need to decrease production costs to keep your pricing competitive? This is where that historical data can come in handy if you have it. Note: be sure you fully understand your organization’s long-term goals before defining your objectives.
4) Know your strategy & know your tactics…and know the difference! Once your objectives are clearly defined, we plan strategy. Strategy identifies the goals that need to be accomplished in order to meet the ultimate objectives. Strategy then dictates which tactics should be used, how they should be used, and when they should be used. Think of it like this: the strategy is the general and the tactics are his army. The objective? Win the (hypothetical) war!
5) Keep it simple. Forget the 50-page marketing and business plan. Forget the flowcharts and data-rich executive summary. You want enough detail in your plan so that someone who doesn’t know your business could pick it up and catch the drift; but don’t overload it with information. Remember, this is going to be your guide, not a checklist.