Congratulations, you have a new business idea, you have the know-how to make it a success. It would not be surprising if you were to think “What Now?”
Unfortunately business is not plug and play and good ideas do not make good businesses by themselves. Without guidance a business may not make it off the ground, or, if it does, will almost certainly not be as successful and profitable as it could be. Profitable businesses share a number of features and one of these is that they have a startup launch plan to act as a guide.
This means that the first thing you have to do is create a plan. It does not need to be prescriptive or lengthy but get it right and it will guide you through the early days of your business to beyond. I have created a simple, easy to use template that you can use to set out the goals for your startup. Your bespoke startup launch plan will help you:
- Plan a realistic budget and work within your business’ means;
- Apply for funding to drive growth;
- Plan where to concentrate your efforts in order to maximize your potential for growth;
- Divide your time between your key work critical areas such as development, marketing, administration etc.
How it works
I have designed the template to include all the important things you need to take note of as you prep for the launch of your startup. You can fill out as much or as little as you like. Because it can be challenging to sit down and plan in this manner, I would advise you to start on the sections that enthuse you. This will give you the impetus to keep on going and deal with the more difficult stuff.
One thing to bear in mind, however is that it is all too tempting to concentrate on the fun, interesting stuff that is easy to do and leave the hard stuff for another day or just not do it at all.
This is one of the reasons a good business plan is vital, it will give you a framework to follow that will help you ensure the difficult, mundane and unpleasant tasks that keep a business going are done alongside the other work. In short, a good startup launch plan will help keep you on the straight and narrow.
NOTE: You can also download this beautiful 25-Page Startup Launch Plan Workbook and easily fill out on your computer or print it out and go old fashion with ink on paper [my fave!]
Subscribe anywhere on this page and I’ll send the workbook straight to your inbox
.1. Your Brand In Summary
It is easy to get bogged down in Vision and Mission Statements, many people confuse the two but they perform very discrete roles.
Your Vision Statement is your big picture (The Premier Widget Supplier in The South And West)
Your Mission Statement is how you will put your vision into practice day to day. It does not have to be long, the shorter and more concise the better (We Will Not Rest Until We Put Widgets In Every Family Home From Colorado To California).
If you ever feel overwhelmed, if you are ever not certain what your business should be doing you just need to refer back to your statements and they will tell you (sell widgets).
This is also the place to think about your corporate culture and the characteristics you wish it to be defined by.
.2. Your Brand’s Objectives
Set down the objectives your business has to meet in the next 6 months, 12 months and 18 months. This section will, of course, be a work in progress and be rewritten from time to time. Examples might include:
- Listing our widgets on XYZ website;
- Finding one non-traditional customer type for widgets;
- Identifying three other businesses with whom we can enter into mutually beneficial arrangements.
Listing these will help you identify certain areas that are vital to your brand’s success. This might include:
- Optimizing the look of the widget to appeal to online sales;
- Using a targeted social media campaign to increase awareness of widgets in the non-traditional consumer base.
And so on.
.3. Guidelines For Best Practice
How this section develops is very dependent on your product. A physical product will have a production schedule which you will need to plan while at the same time sales and marketing will have similar (and linked) schedules, a blog will have a posting schedule. The business plan will ensure that each area is aware of key deliverables and deadlines in all the other areas.
This is also the place to work out how you will relate to your customers. Will you operate on a purely transactional basis or will you also provide ‘added value’ such as a blog about your business or product? Will you be available on social media as well as by email? Who in your company has the authority to correspond with customers and suppliers and at what level?
.4. Find Your People
Unless you have a completely new and 100% innovative product, chances are your business will face competition. You need to get to know who you are up against. Research the market leaders in your field; find out who is the leading competitor at your level.
Make sure that you devote time to this on an ongoing basis. Use this as an opportunity to find out what they do well and work out what differentiates your product and offering from theirs, this differentiation, your unique selling point (USP) will be key in your marketing strategy. You may also be able to identify synergies and areas in which you can work with a competitor to your mutual benefit.
Perform a similar analysis with your customer base, this will allow you to target your advertising and sales more efficiently.
.5. Marketing and Sales Plan
How you promote your business will depend, to some extent, on the nature of your product, a new plow will have a very different market to a celebrity blog! Look at all the opportunities available in your area:
- trade fairs that you can attend;
- community events in need of sponsorship;
- mailshots in your local area;
- list the buying officers at physical department stores and online marketplaces and put together a product pitch.
How else will you sell; online, in a physical store or even door to door? However you plan to do it set the plan down; this will help you to see the strengths and weaknesses of your proposals.
Finally don’t forget social media marketing. With the exception of very niche B2B type products you will almost certainly need to have a social media presence to promote your product and if your product is an online offering such as a blog almost if not all of your marketing will be web based. Set out your social media plan including:
- which platforms you will use;
- how often you will post;
- what type of information you will post;
- how you will grow followers.
Where do you plan to take your product? Is it a one off or part of a range of items in development? Once you have achieved your initial goals what will you do? Will you continue to grow your business or perhaps try to sell it for a profit? Do you need to apply for a bank loan to drive your growth? If so section 7 below will be vital.
Any business that does not have a firm grasp of its budget is destined to lose more money than it should and not make as much as it might. Don’t let yours be one of them. You will need to track the following information:
- Initial Budget: this is the money that your business will spend creating the initial product, paying for web hosting and design, office space (if needed), business cards and stationary, legal expenses (with regard to formation and accounts filing etc.), computer hardware and software and so on.
- Recurring Expenses: these are the payments you have to make every month and year, office rent, electricity, storage, web hosting, taxes etc.
- Income: this is the revenue you make through sale of your product or services. You will be able to track where each segment of income is coming from such as from x department store or y online market place. This will allow you to work out what sales streams are successful and optimize those while reducing or even getting rid of those that perform less well.
- Once you have a couple of months under your belt you will start to notice trends, your product may perform better at certain times of the year for example and this can help you to plan your work schedules.
Any bank willing to fund a business loan will look for evidence of this budgeting.
This section is for you to fill out with anything you want; if you have a style guide (details on how your logo can be used and when, what font all your correspondence will be in etc.) for example, it can go here, as can any other documents that support your business plan.
That is it, you are done! Now that you have a startup launch plan you have a base from which to plan your activities. It will give you inspiration in the tough times and keep you on track when you get excited by side projects that are so much more interesting than your monthly budget report.
Finally remember that this is not a one off exercise. Review your plan on a regular basis to track your progress and update as necessary. Well done and good luck!