How to Write a Business Plan for Your e-Commerce Business
Are you an aspiring Business owner? Are you someone who has waited for a long time thinking up ways you can grow and scale your business? Then it’s important you have a solid business plan. This article will show how to do just that
Often times, aspiring entrepreneurs’ make that mistake of not having a well thought out process about how to develop and build their businesses. A business plan typically helps with that by not only allowing you to put your thought process about the business down in a well detailed manner but also be able to include definite processes. Processes such as milestones, steps to take etc.
A business plan is a written description of a business’s future. It is a well thought out; well outlined breakdown of what a business hopes to achieve both in the short and long term of its life span. Several businesses both established and upcoming ones all want to do well, achieve big things; a business plan greatly helps in achieving this
An e-commerce Business in simple terms is the use of technology (that is, the internet) for the purpose of buying and selling of goods and services. Over the years, the internet has simply made it far easier to transact businesses, get adequate feedback, and promote said business through the use of several tools among other things. It is therefore very important that a prospective e-commerce business or a startup at an early or incubation stage should have a good business plan that will greatly enhance its potential to do great things
Why you need a business plan for your e-commerce business
- A business plan gives you a clear strategy of what you intend to achieve, with the business from the very beginning and a clear strategy for the nearest future as well
- For Funding purposes: Whether you are proposing to own a big or small business, you need a solid business plan to help you with funding. For a lot of startups, you are looking to seek support say from family, friends who might share your ideologies and will do all within their means to help you grow. A Business plan detailing what you want to achieve, your projections is one of the first steps to swaying a potential partner or investor to support your dream
- A business plan can help you determine whether the business idea is viable or not
- A business plan helps you determine what resources you might need in other to help make the business a success
- Are you planning to resign your regular job and jump right into owning a business? Then you also need a business plan.
- Are you also looking to lay down a great foundation for your proposed business in an orderly and well-structured format? You also need a business plan
Step by Step guide to creating a Business plan outline
So we have gotten the need for a business plan out of the way, let us carefully take a look at a step by step outline showing the creation of a business plan outline
As I mentioned above, there is need to have a general business plan purpose before narrowing it down to specifics.
A business plan outline should be structured in such a way that equally shows as many details as possible too. An outline should typically include but not be limited to the following
- Business Summary
- Business Overview (showing a Business mission and vision statements)
- Brief Market Analysis outline
- Business products and services on offer
- Marketing /Research plan outline
As I mentioned above, your business plan outline can be more than what I have listed. I have however tried to include all I feel can be included.
Having said that, each item should be detailed (there might be need to further break each item down so as to properly explain and get a better understanding of what you are setting out to achieve with each outline).
Since our goal is to create a step by step plan, let’s examine each item one by one.
- Business Summary
Summarizes in detail everything about your business. Imagine you are giving an elevator pitch about your product and services; your business summary is a quick summation of what you need. It should highlight key points that could persuade would be investors to be interested in reading further
A good business summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan. It should highlight the key points about your business plan. As much as you don’t want to explain too much, it also should include as much as details as possible.
Your business summary typically should not exceed one page. The summary should include:
- Business concept. What does your business do?
- Business goals and vision. What does your business want to do?
- Product description and differentiation. What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market. Who do you sell to?
- Marketing plan. How do you plan on reaching your customers?
- Projected financial state. What are your revenue expectations?
- Business overview (Mission/Vision statements)
This section should explain in detail who are you? And what exactly you plan to do with your e-commerce business. Answering these questions provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment bet.
Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.
See some of the components you should include in your company overview
- Your business structure (Are you a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or an incorporated company?)
- The nature of your business (What are you selling?). For example, Delon, a free classifieds in Nigeria allows you post free adverts that helps you sell/buy goods and services online
- Your industry
- Your business’s vision, mission, and values
- Background information on your business or its history
- Business objectives, both short and long term
- Your team, including key personnel and their salaries
Some of these points are statements of fact, but others will require a bit more thought to define, especially when it comes to your business’s vision, mission, and values. This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
To define your values, think about all the people your company will be accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.
Once you know your values, you can pen both your mission & vision statements. Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence. For example, Delon’s mission statement buttresses this point further.
After this, you can then develop a vision statement. What impact do you see your business having on the world and business space once you have achieved your vision? Phrase that impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most.
Finally, your company overview should include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Remember, your goals projections should be realistic.
- Brief Market analysis Outline
It is most important to use the right market for your products, as this can make or mar your business. Choose the right market for your products, one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product and you’ll have a head start on success. You should check out this article on how to start and grow your business online to further understand the need to carefully have a plan in the place in other to achieve success
Market analysis should be a relevant section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.
It should include
- An overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products
- An analysis of your business’s position in the market,
- An overview of the competitive landscape showcasing both your intended strengths and weaknesses and that of your competitors as well.
- An analysis of your intended industry at the moment. What are its potentials, current strengths and weaknesses? How will the industry fare in the foreseeable future? What are the current factors that can prevent its growth? Is the industry extra competitive? What are the chances that a new business will readily thrive?
- A thorough analysis of your main competitors. This will showcase how you intend to specifically outshine them, what you can do better to add value. It is also very important to check out their online presence. Have a thorough understanding of their business practices and take notes on how you want to do better. For example, if you are in an industry that leverages on social media for growth, check out the competition’s social media presence. How are they doing? Do they have a huge social media following? How have they been able to leverage on their social media following for example to do better for their business? Can I as a business do better in other to drive traffic to my business? What social tools are they employing for advertising? How can I make use of these tools and be guaranteed a better result? Are these tools currently relevant or they are newer tools that can help ensure quicker growth?
Thorough research, supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to also your present and future assumptions as you work through your plan.
Consider your potential market
Potential market gives you an idea of how many people potentially could buy your product. You should also
- Understand your ideal customer profile: What kind of customer profile will fit my intended products/services? How can I leverage on my customers’ needs to deliver value?
- Research your niche industry: What are the current industry projections? Is the industry struggling or there is potential for current and future growth? How will a new business fare in the industry? What are the long term chances of survival in the industry?
- Make projections: Make projections. You need to have an informed guess about the market strength to initially attract numbers. By so doing, you are able to plan adequately.
- Make use of Data: You can further make informed decisions by making use of verifiable data as much as possible. Having determined your niche industry, you can make time to get as much information as possible about it. Information such as how to stand out with not just the products/services your business offers but also how your business is perceived different from other competing businesses. Also knowing how to avoid pitfalls, been able to determine potential customers needs etc. The more verifiable data you are able to avail yourself of, the better for your business plan.
- Do an analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (also known as SWOT analysis). What are the best things about your proposed company that you have on ground at the moment? What can you do great when you start off the business? What are you not so good at that you can readily struggle with? What can you improve on? What can you take advantage of? What can you improve on and turn into opportunities in your industry? What are foreseeable threats that can affect your planning? What are present threats that can affect implementation? How can you avoid these threats to further improve things?
4. Business Products/Services on offer
You need to outline all the products and services you intend to offer. Products and services range can differ. You need to clearly define and state what you intend to sell (sell here refers to services you intend to offer), a few example of what you intend to add as soon as business picks up as well. You can also clearly explain in great detail what advantages your products would normally have over its competing products, what makes it different, how do you intend to source for this products/services, costs, how long will these products/services on offer last?
For example, a website like Delon prides itself as one of Nigeria’s top classified ads website where you can post free adverts for a wide range of products and services; From Fashion Design services to latest jobs in Nigeria, and many more.
- Market Research Plan Outline
This is where you can set yourself apart from competitors. Have a clear vision for your business and how you intend to communicate with customers. It is important to keep your mission in mind when developing your brand and how it will attract your target customer audience. Since it is proposed online business, you can consider various mediums you can use to reach out more to a targeted audience which can thereafter help you drive traffic to your website as much as possible. You can leverage the use of social media, Email marketing, and Content marketing, External Blogs post, PR ads. As a matter of fact, the use of blogs to post relevant articles and helpful information will also be of huge benefits too. You can also leverage the use of other advertising forms depending on your budget to drive your messages across. Other platforms such as Instagram sponsored ads, Twitter promotion ads, Facebook ads, Website placement ads. By so doing, you can not only reach a wider audience but adequately reach your intended demography too.
- Financial Planning
So you have determined many components of your business plan, Finance is also key. As a matter of fact, without financial projections, you might as well have not done anything. Financial projections/plans can involve so much work but it is extremely important. Your financial plan should include your Budget planning, Profit and loss projections, Expected income/revenue projections, Expected expenditure costs and more.
You also need to have a plan for growing your business as the market adjusts. This means, you also need to adjust and change with the times. It could be by introducing new products for your business, price slashes & increases to adjust with current realities, and more. Financial planning is very important and can help you navigate the future of your business
So there you have it, all the necessary ingredients you will need to help you form a well-structured business plan. Why wait? You can definitely start now. Be on your way, set out to set up that business, learning and achieve phenomenal growth while at it too.