What are the steps to make your business plan standout?
Business plans are an essential part of launching any startup business. If you are going to put in the time and effort, you might as well create one that stands out, is effective, and really works for you. One that delivers great returns on what you put into it.
Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs don’t use their business plan well. They don’t use this time well at all. Some spend months and even years on trying to perfect a business plan. It ends up a useless and out of date document that no one ever looks at again. No one wants to read it. Especially the founder who created it. All while the best opportunities and timing may have slipped on by. It’s an incredibly tragic waste.
Then there are those who get to it quickly. In a fraction of the time they create an amazing living document that really gets use and results and stand out. A powerful tool for creating and propelling their success. One that brings in pivotal stakeholders and capital and much more.
So, how do you create this type of a business plan that will really stand out and be valuable?
Tailor It To The Situation
If this business plan is just for your own personal use and you don’t plan to ever raise funding, get a loan with it, or use it to bring in founding partners or executive hires, then personalize it. Make it in a format that works just for you, and cut out the formalities that you are just going to gloss over anyway.
If you will be using this business plan to apply for bank financing or licenses from regulators, then tailor it to their language and uses. This is critical when looking to address steps to make your business plan standout.
Or if it is for startup angel investors and venture capital firms, use their language and style. Include the types of metrics and facts and flow of information they desire.
Make Your Problem Standout
If you want to enroll the help of others and compel them to participate, then have a truly stand out problem.
Move them with your problem. If you can’t do it purely emotionally from the impact perspective, then do it from the emotional financial perspective for them.
Show them you have a big problem. An urgent problem that your prospective customers are desperate to solve and are looking for and willing to pay money to solve.
Tell the personal story of how you stumbled on this problem, validated it and gained clarity on it.
Keep in mind that in fundraising storytelling is everything. In this regard for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Wow Them With The Research You’ve Done
One of the most common reasons that the vast majority of new business attempts fail is that the founders just didn’t do their research. Some don’t even seem to take to Google for five minutes to check if there is an identical idea already in play by a successful business.
When tackling steps to make your business plan standout, stand out by showing you’ve really done your homework. You don’t have to numb their minds with reams of statistics, but you can show you’ve researched, and include the authoritative sources you’ve used. Use an appendix to back it up further for those who really want to dig into the facts.
Include A Real Marketing Plan
Don’t just plug in the same old mindless ideas or conventional Google ‘wisdom’. Get a real marketing plan. One with strategies and tactics that are customized to your business. Not just copying what is being advertised online or what you think others are doing and being successful at.
Customer acquisition costs are a pivotal part of being able to survive and thrive in business, and that’s just one reason for marketing.
If you have unique channels and edges for your marketing and distribution you can have a major advantage over competition and a more sustainable business.
Own Your USP
What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)? This is where your venture stands out across the board. Ask yourself this question when addressing the steps to make your business plan standout.
If you don’t have one, then you don’t really have a viable business yet. Know that one thing that will make you stand out, and you can keep on using to stand out.
Be sure you are using this as a common theme throughout your business plan, from your tagline, to problem and SWOT, marketing plan, and beyond.
Make Your Business Plan Visually Appealing
If you want your business plan to immediately stand out, make it visually appealing.
Just because business plans have traditionally been boring, dull and bland doesn’t mean yours has to be. In fact, while it is usually wise to leave the innovation and reinventing the wheel to your product and business model, don’t feel your business plan has to be limited to pages of text.
Make it visually engaging. You can go beyond simple borders. Use images sparingly as they may not transfer well when sharing your business plan. Though do use graphs, charts, diagrams and financial models liberally.
Show You Are In A Really Big Market
This is especially important when fundraising from investors. They want to know there is big potential so that there is lots of room to multiply their capital.
Do be realistic with yourself about immediate goals and targeting a focused group of initial customers with your MVP. Yet, make sure you are in a big enough space that you can expand to as you polish your system and product and rollouts.
If you want to attract the best investors and talent to work with you, then you need to be in a huge market. Think billions if not trillions of dollars.
Make sure you are also paying attention to how the size of this market is likely to change over the next 5 to 10 years. How much bigger will it grow? Watch out for markets that could shrink.
Keep It Crisp, Clear & Simple
Don’t feel forced to go long and boring, just because that used to be the status quo.
Do make sure you are covering all of the essential sections and factors. Though shorter and simpler can be far more impactful and usable. Especially if you want your business plan to stand out.
If you go long and meaty, at least consider using block quotes and call outs to make sure your key points stand out.
Some have even been using simple one page business plans. The point is that it works. Focus more on utility and less on getting hung up on length.
Eliminate The Fluff & Filler Words
Stand out by streamlining your business plan by getting rid of all of the fluff and filler words. Strip it all away.
Be brutal with yourself. Wherever you see the text rambling slice it out. Wherever you’ve used statements that your competition or any other business can say about themselves too, cut it out.
Craft A Powerful Executive Summary
Your executive summary is going to be the most viewed and used part of your business plan. In many cases only your executive summary will be used. For example, when sending your pitch deck, you won’t be sending your full business plan.
Any scenarios in which you may use your business plan are usually going to be precluded by sending your executive summary. If it scores, they may want to see the rest. If it flops, that is the end of that thread.
So, make sure you really put the effort into a tight summary.
Highlight Your Amazing Team
Whatever doors you are trying to open your team is often key. This can be true for loans, equity capital, licensing, and more.
One thing you definitely own that is unique is your team. Make the most of that. You may be the 100th business plan in this industry they’ve seen this week alone. This is going to be the only one with your team.
The strength of your team can open or close many possibilities. Include their bios, relevant achievements and demonstrate their capability and credibility.
In addition to your founding partners, this may include executive hires and notable advisors.
Embrace Your Competition
To succeed with the steps to make your business plan standout, don’t shy away from research and include your competition in this document. It is the business and owner that knows themselves and their competition best who has the best odds of winning.
Know and respect their strengths. Know and respect your own limitations and weaknesses. Find opportunities to close the gaps and work toward your own strengths.
Include a strong SWOT analysis. This is another good place to include a visual. You may even choose to breakout an even more thorough breakdown of your competitors and what they are doing well or not.
Make Some Noise About It
If you want your business plan to stand out, make it stand out.
Airbnb gained a lot of press around its now famous one page business plan they used to plot their global takeover. Although simple, it certainly seemed effective for them.
Can you find a way to use your business plan as a marketing and PR tool.
While you need tangible goals that you can make progress on in the short term, don’t be afraid to be bold. Go bigger. It may sound cliche, but it is amazing how much bigger you can go and how much more you can achieve if you just think it and go for it.
Who would have thought a business could have billions of user customers? Or that we could be on track to visiting Mars?
Be bold. At least you will stand out and be memorable.
Paint A Great & Compelling Vision
Cast a grand vision that your readers can imagine for themselves. Use storytelling to paint that experience and what it looks like when your vision is fully realized. Describe what their participation and role will do for them.
What will it feel like for them to have come along for the ride, and then be a part of this?
The financial rewards may clearly be a big part of this, and that can have some emotional perks too. Though there can be even deeper emotional rewards if you think about it.
Show Your Traction
What have you already achieved? What milestones have you already crossed off your list? What growth have you maintained? This is where you show you are a doer and achiever, not just a talker.
You may find interesting the video below where I cover in detail how to write a business plan.
Include Your Action Plan
Show that while you have put a lot of effort into this document you are not just a planner, but also an action taker. Show your ability to focus and keep up momentum. What are the next items you are working on now and they can expect you to achieve.
Keep it simple and limit it to just a few bullet pointed items.
Get It Out There
Get your business plan out there. You can’t stand out, or do much good unless you put it out there, use it and get it seen.
Start sharing it. Start using it on a regular basis. Start talking about what you are doing with it.
Hopefully this post provided some perspective as you are looking into the steps to make your business plan standout.