BUSINESS PLAN TEMPLATES, BUYER PERSONA & FINANCIALS
An Ecommerce Business Plan, completing Buyer Personas, market and competitive analysis, a SWOT analysis, a well-defined marketing plan and extensive market research are all part of the planning and administration of a new business.
According to the the Small Business Association, "A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You'll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It's a way to think through the key elements of your business."
Start with a vision and mission statement and then the value proposition. You are defining what your business stands for, how it will accomplish those goals and what makes it unique and able to stand apart from the other e-commerce stores.
Once those are well defined you will want to create your buyer personas and define your ideal buyers. Utilizing the needs identified by the buyer personas enables you to lay the groundwork for a marketing plan.
Together they all lay the groundwork for your business plan. A good Ecommerce business plan walks you through each stage of starting and managing your business. Use your business plan as the road-map for how to structure, run, and grow your new business.
Why Is An E-Commerce Business Plan So Important?
Creating an E-commerce business plan gives you the opportunity to think through every step of starting your company so you can better prepare and validate your methods including goals, milestones and financial requirements.
The truth is that businesses open every day without these and do fine, but I guarantee they would have done even better had they taken the time and made the effort to do it. There is no denying the sheer amount of insight gained by making the effort should clearly outweigh the benefits of skipping it all-together.
Do you feel like you are in a very competitive niche or that the playing field is a little over-saturated? This is where the benefits of having a completed business plan and buyer personas can help you the most.
The vast majority of your competitors haven't taken the time to even try to understand who their target buyer is. Gain an edge over competitors that you compete against by doing your due diligence before launching and preparing your business.
Creating an Ecommerce business plan in anticipation of producing and launching a new product is the absolute best thing you can do to set yourself up to succeed. It is a detailed road map for your business for the first 12 to 24 months.
You will consider things that you wouldn't think about if you weren't doing the business plan. Things are put in writing that, later on, when you are overworked and stressed out, you will be able just to pick up, review and gain the needed direction which couldn't come at a better time at that moment.
Current Popular Methods
Think about the current new product launch model popular on sites such as Amazon. A seller picks and sources products based on numbers from software. New sellers are getting on the platform with no business experience and outlandish expectations. Then they rush to launch their product with a scant amount of research and preparation in advance of launching.
On launch day, they do what everyone does, reduce pricing, huge giveaways, or 100% off rebates to drive traffic and conversions. Essentially guaranteeing to launch at a loss. Then they pour on expensive PPC that doesn't always pay off.
Stacking the Odds Against Your Own Success
Failing to prepare and anticipate business accurately by completing an Ecommerce business plan ahead of time puts them behind the 8-ball before they even launch. It is a shame to see new sellers struggle like this, but it is their fault for not being prepared and not doing their homework to learn basic business skills before even joining the marketplace.
The thought of preparing a business plan is overwhelming to many because they have no idea where to get the information. If you are not willing to make an effort now, when you have the time, you need to consider your decision to sell to begin with. What will you do when competition heats up, and a stronger commitment is required to get through tough times?
An Ecommerce Business Plan Provides Definite Advantages
I wrote my first business plan while attending the University as part of the thesis for my degree in 1987. It was tough. I had no computer to use. I had to sleep on the floor at my moms' office after working through most of the night typing it on their computer.
There was no google to type a question into. I had to network and find participants to survey. Since it was a thesis project, it stretched out over a year, but I learned some critical lessons.
Consider this fact. Many businesses seek venture capital funding as part of creating their business. They are required to complete a business plan before receiving any money, before even going into production. My experience with new sellers is that many of them couldn't adequately fill out a business plan a year after launching their product.
You are already putting time and effort into sourcing a product, make the extra effort to fill out a business plan thoroughly. It will pay you back in additional sales and piece of mind at times when you need it the most. It could be the extra piece that enables you to rank on page one of Amazon.
Business Plan Prerequisites
Before embarking on creating your Ecommerce business plan and buyer personas, you first need to define you business and understand its' purpose and value. As you go through each of these exercises, you are creating the different pieces that will make doing your business plan easier.
You need to be crystal clear about your business, goals, audiences, methods and strategies to write a solid business plan for your business. The next few sections will help you clarify what your business represents, and what you want to accomplish.
Vision Statement and Mission Statement
A Mission Statement identifies the who, what and why of a business. This is who we are, what we do and why. The Vision Statement identifies how you see the business in the future in its ultimate outcome. Together they provide a statement of the company's purposes, goals and value system.
Why are you in business? What do you hope to accomplish? How will you get there? Sitting down and thinking this through helps to clarify your purpose. At some point, you will have a staff and this will unite them under common goals. It provides clarity in the messages that you use and how you position the company.
I could go on and on about the importance of these but that is for a different article. Hubspot put out a very clear explanation and walkthrough of creating a Vision and Mission Statement with examples.
Unique Selling Proposition
What makes your company or product different? Why should someone purchase from you? What do you do, and provide that sets you apart from your competitors? This is your Unique Selling Proposition. All too often we see sellers that have no idea what they want to represent or how they are different.
In many cases a typical seller drops their prices or gives a ton of product away at launch to build their business because they are sold a line of crap by service sellers and course sellers that benefit from their use of these strategies. They are unsustainable in the long term. If these methods weren't unsustainable, then maybe the failure rate on Amazon would be 95 out of every 100 new sellers failing before they hit the 12 month mark.
You have to define what makes you unique. You have to define why someone should buy from you over the next person. And you have to figure out how to clearly get that message across to your potential audience. Price and color are not differentiators. Anyone can walk in and drop their prices in a minute. You need to have a differentiation that you can point at and is clearly visual.
Your unique selling proposition needs to be loud and obvious. For some it is easy to identify. Others need to spend time and really work at it. Know this though, it can make or break your business. Here is a list of many different examples of great USP's.
A key component to a successful business plan is understanding exactly who your audience is, their demographics and their motivations.
This is accomplished by developing several personas for your buyers. Make sure to get detailed with this, and we recommend developing four personas, two male and two female each at a different point in their lives.
Get detailed enough so that you can visualize them, give them a name, and even find a picture that represents them. Hang them in plain view of staff so they always have an idea of who the customer that they serve is.
When you write copy for landing pages and marketing, look at the personas before you write to remind you who you are speaking too. You will be very surprised when you realize that doing this makes it much easier to speak to them through your copywriting and marketing.
Buyer Personas and thoroughly understanding your audience opens doors and opportunity for marketing and targeting. Most online businesses target buyers one at a timer using expensive Pay Per Click ads and even worse, high % rebates and giveaways. Instead of blowing a huge portion of your margins in that fashion, use the info learned from your buyer persona.
Target your audience in large groups utilizing the trust and authority that they already are comfortable with. Target the influencers that they follow. This is accomplished through influencer shoutouts, getting guests posts on their websites, or collaborating with them on something. Their recommendation or implied trust is warm traffic and can save you a ton in your overall cost of acquisition of a new buyer.
This is just one of many ways that you can put the information that you learn doing these things top good use. How much do you think this knowledge will help you out as you develop your strategies to build a customer base?
Map Out The Customer Journey
The customer journey map tells the story of the customer's experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship. It identifies the different touch points and engagement opportunities the brand should focus on.
Consumers are becoming savvier, and the information age at their fingertips is what has enlightened them. There is proof that the average consumer has 6 to 8 touch points with a brand before making a purchase. They are doing more research before making a purchase. This is the beginning of the customer journey.
Broken down, after defining multiple personas, you walk the mile in their shoes. Each product should be evaluated to determine the best path to follow. Your goal is to identify different points in that journey where you can touch your potential buyer and get your product in front of them or create brand awareness.
The journey consists of 5 points: consideration, evaluation, decision, purchase and brand advocate. Map out each of these steps the buyer takes and plan ways to influence their decision making. Then create different pieces of content, checklists, e-books tied to opt-in forms, etc...
These bring your potential buyers into your sphere of influence and enable you more control over the message.
Why Write A Business Plan?
It seems like a distraction to many, but the reality of it is, am Ecommerce business plan forces you to consider many important variables that will affect your business long before they occur. Many of us with corporate backgrounds view business plans as a task almost as much fun as writing budgets.
This is not a task. Look at this as a tool, your road map through the first two years of your business. If you cannot see the value of doing this after what you have read so far, I urge you to reconsider. This can seriously be a complete game changer for you!
The purpose of writing an Ecommerce business plan is to make you consider all of the different strategies needed to survive and build your business while meeting expectations. You will do multiple fairly simple exercises to build the data for your business plan.
Things like a competitive analysis, a SWOT analysis, cost comparisons, and more help you clearly understand the competitive landscape around you. It is not uncommon to realize that the cost of doing business is too high to make the product viable as is and some adjustments need to be made now.
Don't you want to get that done before launching and behind you instead of realizing that you have wasted a lot of time and money 10 months in when you figure it out?
Business Plan Revelations
Don't be surprised if you also uncover significant weaknesses in your competitors and identify open markets or keywords that they have overlooked. Now is the time when you have the time to invest to get it right.
You will be surprised at the little things that can add up to huge unexpected bonuses that you wouldn't have the time to uncover once launched. It’s tempting to dive right into execution when you’re excited about a new business or side project. Taking the time to write a business plan and get your thoughts on paper allows you to do operate with more confidence when you launch.
A business plan helps you get your ideas mapped out. It assists you in getting your priorities straight and laid out in order. The current launch method comes across like plug and play software, but more along the lines of plug and pray, or hope for the best. That is not good business.
It also allows you to plan out the path for the business for over a year. Launching is a considerable task for some; having the post-launch phase mapped out can be very beneficial when the time comes. Most sellers get to launch day and then ask now what? a business plan answers that question long before it is asked.
Your business plan will assist you in identifying the next steps, and places where additional strategies are needed.
Creating An ecommerce Business Plan
The process of creating your business plan will aid you in setting clear cut revenue amounts and break-even points. Without a business plan, anticipating monetary fluctuations is not as identifiable far enough in advance to make changes and impact it.
A proper business plan will add clarity, purpose, and process to your strategic plans moving forward.
As part of the process, you will seek out information from others with relevant interests. You will have a chance to create relationships and network forming bonds that will aid you down the line. It also creates a cohesive unit among your staff because you are all working towards clear goals.
A business plan is also used to secure funding and capital, be it from a bank, investors or even venture capitalists. They rely on the business plan as proof of concept and to show that you have thought through all of the different scenarios.
Ecommerce Business Plan Template
Today we present you with a business plan template. It is much easier to work from a model because it leads you through each area without leaving anything out. The structure of your business plan is your choice. Using it for funding requires an extensive one.
As an exercise for only yourself, some of the formalities can be overlooked. Using a template vs. a blank sheet of paper shortens the process as it ties things together for you.
A significant advantage of using a template also comes from having guidance on what is expected from each area. If you have not done many of these, that is very helpful. If a SWOT analysis sounds like something you might need to evaluate your ability with a fly swatter, then this template is for you.
Completing every section may not be 100% necessary, but without a template, you might easily overlook essential sections.
Who Should Use Templates
We try to be thorough with everything we do. Over-delivery is standard for us. Meeting expectations lowers the bar for us. Exceeding expectations is the rule of thumb for the most successful in business.
Our goal is to get you to think about many different things exercising your imagination and thought process to broaden the scope of the things you are considering with your business.
If you are accustomed to thinking and operating within a box, bust out the side, crush it and throw it away. Get used to thinking outside of the box. Be prepared to get creative, and to try anything within reason Embrace change, it will help you, your business and decision process more than you can imagine.
If you need the business plan to secure funding, make sure you verify that this template has everything that they are looking for.
What Are The Key Parts Of A Business Plan?
- 1Executive Summary: Save this for last. This is typically a big picture summary of the business plan.
- 2Company Overview: The company overview tells your brands story and where this product fits.
- 3Market Analysis: Everything from the estimated market size to a review of the competition in your industry.
- 4Products And services: What you sell, and critical features of the products or services.
- 5Marketing Plan: Your plan of execution to get your product noticed, the strategic decisions made about things like pricing strategy and s detailed plan of action to promote the offers actively.
- 6Logistics And Operations Plan: The path from raw materials to the hands of the consumer and how each step fits together.
- 7Financial Plan: Most sellers need this area completed more than they know. As your business grows, having a solid understanding of the role revenues play and the connections between income, payables, supplies, and inventory.
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For additional Amazon tips and strategy, check out our Dominate Amazon Products Series. This includes articles on Product Sourcing, Listing Optimization, Launching without Giveaways or Rebates along with many other great articles.
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Additional Items to Note:
Stay focused on why you are doing this in the first place. Keep your goals top of mind when creating a business plan.
Take the game plan one section at a time. It may look a little overwhelming on first glance. However, you will be a pro at your product by the time you are finished, one section at a time.
Immediately below are your templates. The Business Plan and Financials Worksheet are both stored on Google. You will need to copy them before using them. The Buyer Persona Worksheet is a pdf.
As you advance to each section of the Business Plan, you will want to replace our description with the actual text that that you want inserted. The Financials Worksheet has linked cells to populate from one sheet to the next and each tab has detailed instructions.
Every minute and bit if effort that you spend doing a thorough job on this is going to pay off for you in the future, make the effort.
As things unfold down the line, keep in mind that a lot of things will happen. Rarely does business proceed and follow the business plan exactly, but you will have more tools and choices available to you by doing this.
The first two downloads are located on Google Docs and Google Sheets. You should have a gmail address to be able save them and work on them.