A study came out recently from the University of Maryland that said a business plan has no value when trying to get funding for your startup. You can read a press release on the topic here http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/news/releases/2009/040809.aspx .
I am obviously not going to disagree with this study since I do not have evidence that says otherwise, however I will say that I still think you should create some kind of business plan. Even if you just created an abbreviated one. The business plan will still help direct your company so you always have something to go back to when you start to stray away from your original plan. I also believe that a business plan will make you fully think out all pieces of your business before you jump into the whole thing. So while it may not help you secure funding, I believe it will help make your business more successful in the long run.
In the last business plan post I ended with a section talking about your business. The next section should talk about the market you are going to be entering. What markets are you competing in and what other markets may sell your product or service? Get number on your market such as how much the market has grown, the revenue numbers, and how many other companies are in the space. Next talk about your market segment and target customers. How much do they make, what is their lifestyle and how is this different then what is out already out there. You should also write out your marketing plan and include pricing, position, distribution channels, advertising and promotion.
You need to write a section on your competitors as well. Who are your key competitors based on product or service, price, location, promotion, and financial position. Talk about who you are competing with directly and indirectly. It’s good to cover all of your bases and do some thorough research so that you are not blindsided half way into launching your business. Before you can position yourself correctly you need to know as much about your competitors and the market as possible.
While you may think it will hurt your funding opportunities, it may look suspicious if you do not include a risk and opportunity section. By putting the risks in your business plan it makes you acknowledge them and it also shows others that you know the risks that are out there. There are always going to be risks, every one understands that, by putting them in your plan it shows that you are going to be prepared for these risks. Always include in your risk section your strategy for over coming them. Everyone wants to write about the opportunities. It shows why the business has potential to be successful. This can help to explain why you should get the funding you are seeking.
There are a few more things that should be in a business plan that I will write about in one more post. If you have any tips on what else should be included please let me know!