How To
13 min

The Best Way to Write a Business Plan (With Examples)

Reem Abouemera

October 3, 2022

If you're planning on starting a business, congratulations! You've just taken the first step on an exciting journey. Now what comes next? You'll need to write a business plan to ensure you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. This document will help you organize your thoughts, flesh out your ideas, and write them down in a format that pushes you to take action.

Otherwise, your business idea might remain just a dream, or you may execute your vision haphazardly without a roadmap and wonder why your business isn't growing as quickly as you'd like. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about writing a business plan, including what to include, examples, and tips for success.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a living document that projects your business's future over the next 3-5 years, detailing the route your company intends to take to grow revenues and achieve its goals.

To communicate that vision, your business plan should include:

Most importantly, a business plan is a roadmap for business success that helps you track your progress, identify obstacles early on, and make course corrections as you go. Every successful business has a well-crafted business plan to thank for its early successes.

How do you write a good business plan?

Just like anything else, not all business plans are created equal. Some are clear and concise, while others are long-winded and hard to follow. The best business plans share the traits listed below.

They are written for specific audiences

The best business plans are tailored to their audience and purpose.

For instance, if you're writing a business plan to raise investments, you'll need to ensure your document is laser-focused on convincing potential investors that your business is worth their time and money. That will mean including information like your company's growth potential, unique selling points, and financial forecasts.

Image Source

On the other hand, if you're writing a business plan to provide to your bank as part of a small business loan application, you'll need to make sure your document focuses on demonstrating your business's creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan. You'll want to include your company's history, current financial situation, and projected future cash flow.

You get the idea—always keep your audience in mind when crafting your business plan, and ensure the document is as targeted as possible.

They start with an executive summary

The executive summary is the first section of your business plan, but it's often the last thing you write. That's because it's a distillation of everything that comes after it in your business plan. So, before you start writing your business plan, sit down and think about what you want your executive summary to say.

Your executive summary should:

  • Be no more than two pages long (or even one page for very small businesses)
  • Use plain language, with minimal industry jargon
  • Include a brief description of your company's products or services, as well as its competitive advantages
  • Outline your company's goals and objectives
  • Briefly describe your target market and your marketing strategy
  • Give a snapshot of your financial forecast for the next three to five years

If you tick all of those boxes, you'll have an executive summary that gives potential investors, partners, and other interested parties a clear overview of your business and its prospects for success.

They include information on all aspects of running a company

A comprehensive business plan will include all aspects of running your company, from identifying opportunities to growth and funding sources. Think about what's important for understanding your business, and include sections on:

Image Source

  • Your business model: How does your business make money?
  • Your target market: Who are your customers?
  • Your competitive landscape: Who are your competitors, and how do you compare?
  • Your team: Who are the key players in your business?
  • Your financials: What are your revenue and expense projections?
  • Your marketing strategy: How will you reach your target market?
  • Your growth strategy: How will you scale your business?
  • Your risk factors: What could go wrong, and how will you mitigate those risks?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good sense of the type of information you should include in your business plan. Anything you feel would be helpful for understanding your business should be fair game.

A step-by-step guide to writing a business plan

Now that we've gone over what goes into a business plan, we’ll walk you through writing one so you can get started. 

1. Executive summary

As we mentioned earlier, your executive summary should be a brief overview of your business plan—no more than two pages. Generally speaking, it should give readers a clear idea of your business, what it does, why it will be successful, and how you plan to achieve your goals.

Most importantly, your executive summary should also pinpoint what you need to succeed in your business plan. That could be funding, partnerships, customers, or anything else you need to get your business off the ground. 

Keep that goal in mind as you write your executive summary so it's as targeted as possible. That way, you'll give readers a reason to keep reading.

Here's a sample of the information you might include in your executive summary:

  • An overview of your business idea (either in the form of a story or bullet points, just as long as it's clear and concise)
  • A description of your company's products or services and its competitive advantages (What makes your business unique in its industry category?)
  • A summary of key financial information, such as:
  • Estimated sales projections
  • Financial projections (profit margins by product line or service offering within three years of commencing operations, cash flow projections, startup costs, working capital requirements, amount sought from lenders/investors, facility and equipment costs, employee costs, etc.)

The idea is to give readers a snapshot of your business and its potential for success. But remember, this is just the executive summary. You'll go into more detail later in your business plan.

2. Business overview

Next is the business overview section will provide more detail on your company's products or services, target market, and competitive landscape. This section should also be no longer than two pages.

Image Source

As you write, remember that your goal is to give readers a clear understanding of your business and how it fits into the broader market. That means being as specific as possible about what your company does and its target customers.

Some things you might want to include in your business overview are:

  • The type of business you're starting (retail, service, manufacturing, or other)
  • The industry you'll operate in (automotive, healthcare, technology, etc.)
  • The size of your target market and any relevant segmentation (local, national, global)
  • Your business model (how you will generate revenue)
  • Previous challenges or obstacles your business has faced and how you overcame them (if applicable)

For each point you make, go deep into the details so readers understand exactly what your business does, why it does it, and how you'll be successful.

3. Product or service line

Naturally, your organization's products or services are the foundation of your business plan. After all, it's what you're selling that will generate revenue and profits.

So if you haven't already, now's the time to look closely at your product or service line. Here are some questions you'll want to answer:

  • What are you selling?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What are the features and benefits of your products or services?
  • How do your products or services compare to those of your competitors?
  • What is your pricing strategy?
  • When and where will your product or service be available?

Your answers to these questions will help you develop a clearer picture of your product or service line. Remember that success is contingent upon your products or services meeting the needs of your target market. They must also be priced appropriately and be available when and where your customers want them.

If these conditions aren't met, it'll be harder for your company to succeed in its pursuit of profits and revenues.

4. Market analysis

The success of a business highly depends on the market it's operating in. That's why your business plan should include a detailed market analysis, which will give readers a better understanding of the industry you're operating in and the specific market you're targeting.

Image Source

When writing your market analysis, be sure to answer the following questions:

  • What's the size of your chosen industry?
  • How fast is it growing?
  • What are the main trends affecting it?

Then, you'll want to detail how you will gain market share and why you believe your company will succeed in that industry. Be sure to base your claims on data and research rather than your own opinion, because hard facts make your market analysis credible.

You'll also want to describe your target market, including demographics such as age group or gender. But don't stop there—you should also detail what needs or problems your target market has that your business can solve.

In doing so, you'll demonstrate how you plan on competing with other businesses in the same space and what will make your company successful in the long run.

5. Marketing plan

A marketing plan isn't just a description of how you'll market your business; it's a roadmap that details what you'll do, when you'll do it, and how much it will cost.

Image Source

Your marketing plan should always be based on a solid understanding of your target market and your business's unique selling points (USPs). Once you have that information, you can start developing a marketing mix—a.k.a. the 4Ps of marketing—detailing how you'll execute your marketing strategy.

The 4Ps of marketing are:

  • Product: What products or services will you offer?
  • Price: How much will your products or services cost?
  • Promotion: How will you promote your products or services?
  • Place: Where will you sell your products or services?

Remember that each P should be based on what's most important to your target market. For example, if you're selling a high-end product, price might not be as important as promotion. If you're selling a product only available online, the place won't be as important as the price.

Based on that, here's what you'll want to include in your marketing plan:

  • Your target market: Who are you trying to reach?
  • Your unique selling proposition: What makes your business different?
  • Your pricing and positioning strategy: How will you price and position your product or service?
  • Your distribution plan: Where will you sell your product or service?
  • Your communication plan: How will you reach your target market?
  • Your marketing budget: How much are you willing to spend on marketing?
  • Your key marketing metrics: How will you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Your marketing plan should be thoughtfully planned and based on a deep understanding of your target market. It should also be realistic, considering both your budget and the resources you have available. That way, when it's time to assess your progress, you'll be able to see whether or not you're on track.

Pro Tip: In marketing communications, it's essential to focus on the customer, not your business. Communicate how your product or service benefits the customer, not just its features. Copy.ai's Feature-Advantage-Benefit tool can help you brainstorm messaging that resonates with your target market.

6. Sales strategy

Next, you'll want to include a sales strategy in your business plan. This details how you plan to generate revenue and achieve your sales goals.

For instance, if you're selling a product, your sales strategy will detail how many units you need to sell to turn a profit. Your sales strategy will detail how many clients you need to acquire to reach your financial goals if you're providing a service.

Image Source

Then, once you have that information, you can start developing a sales plan—a.k.a. a roadmap for achieving your sales goals. This includes the following:

  • Your sales process: How will you take a prospect from awareness to purchase?
  • Your sales team: Who will be responsible for generating revenue?
  • Your sales goals: What are your financial targets?
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Which metrics will you use to track your progress?
  • Your sales forecast: How much revenue do you expect to generate?

You could also be specific about the techniques you'll use to generate sales. For example, if you're selling a product, will you use direct marketing, online advertising, or a mix of both? And if you're providing a service, will you focus on cold-calling, networking, or online marketing?

The key is developing a sales strategy based on your target market and the specific products or services you sell. That way, you can be sure you're using the most effective methods to reach your target market and close sales.

7. Organization and management

In this section, you'll provide an overview of your company's organizational structure and any relevant information on the management team running it.

Image Source

This is important because investors will want to know that your business has a solid foundation and is run by competent individuals. Having a team also shows that your business is more than just a one-person operation, which can instill confidence in potential investors.

When writing this section, include the following information:

  • The organizational structure of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation)
  • The management team, their titles, and their relevant qualifications
  • Each team member's job title, background, and qualifications
  • Any gaps in your team's skills or experience level
  • Other key personnel who play an important role in running your business (such as key advisors or investors)
  • How you plan on compensating your team members (e.g., salary, commission, hourly wage)

This may seem like a lot of information to include, but it's important to give readers a clear understanding of who’s running your business and why they're qualified to do so.

8. Financial analysis

Finally, you'll want to include a financial analysis in your business plan. This will provide potential investors and other interested parties with an overview of your company's finances.

Image Source

Specifically, your financial analysis should include:

  • Your startup costs, or, how much money you'll need to get your business off the ground. Include the cost of:
  • Equipment
  • Licenses/permits
  • Inventory
  • Other startup expenses
  • Your operating costs, or how much money you'll need to keep your business running. This is also known as a "burn rate." Include the cost of:
  • Rent/mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Payroll
  • Taxes
  • Other overhead expenses
  • How much money you'll need if growth occurs organically (without outside funding)

By detailing your company's financial situation, you'll be able to provide potential investors and other interested parties with a clear understanding of your business's profitability. And that, in turn, will help them make more informed decisions about whether or not to invest in your company. 

The bottom line

A business plan is a key tool that can help you evaluate the feasibility of your new business and make informed decisions about how to move forward. That doesn't just apply to you—if you're seeking funding from investors or lenders, they'll also want to see a business plan.

Keep in mind that a business plan is a living document. As your business grows and changes, so too should your business plan. Review it at least once a year to ensure it's still on track and relevant to your business's current situation.

If you need help writing your business plan, Copy.ai's Business Plan Templates can give you a head start on creating a professional business plan quickly and easily. Our AI-powered writing tools will take the guesswork out of formatting and messaging so you can focus on getting your business up and running.

How To
13 min

The Best Way to Write a Business Plan (With Examples)

Reem Abouemera
October 3, 2022

If you're planning on starting a business, congratulations! You've just taken the first step on an exciting journey. Now what comes next? You'll need to write a business plan to ensure you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. This document will help you organize your thoughts, flesh out your ideas, and write them down in a format that pushes you to take action.

Otherwise, your business idea might remain just a dream, or you may execute your vision haphazardly without a roadmap and wonder why your business isn't growing as quickly as you'd like. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about writing a business plan, including what to include, examples, and tips for success.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a living document that projects your business's future over the next 3-5 years, detailing the route your company intends to take to grow revenues and achieve its goals.

To communicate that vision, your business plan should include:

Most importantly, a business plan is a roadmap for business success that helps you track your progress, identify obstacles early on, and make course corrections as you go. Every successful business has a well-crafted business plan to thank for its early successes.

How do you write a good business plan?

Just like anything else, not all business plans are created equal. Some are clear and concise, while others are long-winded and hard to follow. The best business plans share the traits listed below.

They are written for specific audiences

The best business plans are tailored to their audience and purpose.

For instance, if you're writing a business plan to raise investments, you'll need to ensure your document is laser-focused on convincing potential investors that your business is worth their time and money. That will mean including information like your company's growth potential, unique selling points, and financial forecasts.

Image Source

On the other hand, if you're writing a business plan to provide to your bank as part of a small business loan application, you'll need to make sure your document focuses on demonstrating your business's creditworthiness and ability to repay the loan. You'll want to include your company's history, current financial situation, and projected future cash flow.

You get the idea—always keep your audience in mind when crafting your business plan, and ensure the document is as targeted as possible.

They start with an executive summary

The executive summary is the first section of your business plan, but it's often the last thing you write. That's because it's a distillation of everything that comes after it in your business plan. So, before you start writing your business plan, sit down and think about what you want your executive summary to say.

Your executive summary should:

  • Be no more than two pages long (or even one page for very small businesses)
  • Use plain language, with minimal industry jargon
  • Include a brief description of your company's products or services, as well as its competitive advantages
  • Outline your company's goals and objectives
  • Briefly describe your target market and your marketing strategy
  • Give a snapshot of your financial forecast for the next three to five years

If you tick all of those boxes, you'll have an executive summary that gives potential investors, partners, and other interested parties a clear overview of your business and its prospects for success.

They include information on all aspects of running a company

A comprehensive business plan will include all aspects of running your company, from identifying opportunities to growth and funding sources. Think about what's important for understanding your business, and include sections on:

Image Source

  • Your business model: How does your business make money?
  • Your target market: Who are your customers?
  • Your competitive landscape: Who are your competitors, and how do you compare?
  • Your team: Who are the key players in your business?
  • Your financials: What are your revenue and expense projections?
  • Your marketing strategy: How will you reach your target market?
  • Your growth strategy: How will you scale your business?
  • Your risk factors: What could go wrong, and how will you mitigate those risks?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good sense of the type of information you should include in your business plan. Anything you feel would be helpful for understanding your business should be fair game.

A step-by-step guide to writing a business plan

Now that we've gone over what goes into a business plan, we’ll walk you through writing one so you can get started. 

1. Executive summary

As we mentioned earlier, your executive summary should be a brief overview of your business plan—no more than two pages. Generally speaking, it should give readers a clear idea of your business, what it does, why it will be successful, and how you plan to achieve your goals.

Most importantly, your executive summary should also pinpoint what you need to succeed in your business plan. That could be funding, partnerships, customers, or anything else you need to get your business off the ground. 

Keep that goal in mind as you write your executive summary so it's as targeted as possible. That way, you'll give readers a reason to keep reading.

Here's a sample of the information you might include in your executive summary:

  • An overview of your business idea (either in the form of a story or bullet points, just as long as it's clear and concise)
  • A description of your company's products or services and its competitive advantages (What makes your business unique in its industry category?)
  • A summary of key financial information, such as:
  • Estimated sales projections
  • Financial projections (profit margins by product line or service offering within three years of commencing operations, cash flow projections, startup costs, working capital requirements, amount sought from lenders/investors, facility and equipment costs, employee costs, etc.)

The idea is to give readers a snapshot of your business and its potential for success. But remember, this is just the executive summary. You'll go into more detail later in your business plan.

2. Business overview

Next is the business overview section will provide more detail on your company's products or services, target market, and competitive landscape. This section should also be no longer than two pages.

Image Source

As you write, remember that your goal is to give readers a clear understanding of your business and how it fits into the broader market. That means being as specific as possible about what your company does and its target customers.

Some things you might want to include in your business overview are:

  • The type of business you're starting (retail, service, manufacturing, or other)
  • The industry you'll operate in (automotive, healthcare, technology, etc.)
  • The size of your target market and any relevant segmentation (local, national, global)
  • Your business model (how you will generate revenue)
  • Previous challenges or obstacles your business has faced and how you overcame them (if applicable)

For each point you make, go deep into the details so readers understand exactly what your business does, why it does it, and how you'll be successful.

3. Product or service line

Naturally, your organization's products or services are the foundation of your business plan. After all, it's what you're selling that will generate revenue and profits.

So if you haven't already, now's the time to look closely at your product or service line. Here are some questions you'll want to answer:

  • What are you selling?
  • Who is your target market?
  • What are the features and benefits of your products or services?
  • How do your products or services compare to those of your competitors?
  • What is your pricing strategy?
  • When and where will your product or service be available?

Your answers to these questions will help you develop a clearer picture of your product or service line. Remember that success is contingent upon your products or services meeting the needs of your target market. They must also be priced appropriately and be available when and where your customers want them.

If these conditions aren't met, it'll be harder for your company to succeed in its pursuit of profits and revenues.

4. Market analysis

The success of a business highly depends on the market it's operating in. That's why your business plan should include a detailed market analysis, which will give readers a better understanding of the industry you're operating in and the specific market you're targeting.

Image Source

When writing your market analysis, be sure to answer the following questions:

  • What's the size of your chosen industry?
  • How fast is it growing?
  • What are the main trends affecting it?

Then, you'll want to detail how you will gain market share and why you believe your company will succeed in that industry. Be sure to base your claims on data and research rather than your own opinion, because hard facts make your market analysis credible.

You'll also want to describe your target market, including demographics such as age group or gender. But don't stop there—you should also detail what needs or problems your target market has that your business can solve.

In doing so, you'll demonstrate how you plan on competing with other businesses in the same space and what will make your company successful in the long run.

5. Marketing plan

A marketing plan isn't just a description of how you'll market your business; it's a roadmap that details what you'll do, when you'll do it, and how much it will cost.

Image Source

Your marketing plan should always be based on a solid understanding of your target market and your business's unique selling points (USPs). Once you have that information, you can start developing a marketing mix—a.k.a. the 4Ps of marketing—detailing how you'll execute your marketing strategy.

The 4Ps of marketing are:

  • Product: What products or services will you offer?
  • Price: How much will your products or services cost?
  • Promotion: How will you promote your products or services?
  • Place: Where will you sell your products or services?

Remember that each P should be based on what's most important to your target market. For example, if you're selling a high-end product, price might not be as important as promotion. If you're selling a product only available online, the place won't be as important as the price.

Based on that, here's what you'll want to include in your marketing plan:

  • Your target market: Who are you trying to reach?
  • Your unique selling proposition: What makes your business different?
  • Your pricing and positioning strategy: How will you price and position your product or service?
  • Your distribution plan: Where will you sell your product or service?
  • Your communication plan: How will you reach your target market?
  • Your marketing budget: How much are you willing to spend on marketing?
  • Your key marketing metrics: How will you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Your marketing plan should be thoughtfully planned and based on a deep understanding of your target market. It should also be realistic, considering both your budget and the resources you have available. That way, when it's time to assess your progress, you'll be able to see whether or not you're on track.

Pro Tip: In marketing communications, it's essential to focus on the customer, not your business. Communicate how your product or service benefits the customer, not just its features. Copy.ai's Feature-Advantage-Benefit tool can help you brainstorm messaging that resonates with your target market.

6. Sales strategy

Next, you'll want to include a sales strategy in your business plan. This details how you plan to generate revenue and achieve your sales goals.

For instance, if you're selling a product, your sales strategy will detail how many units you need to sell to turn a profit. Your sales strategy will detail how many clients you need to acquire to reach your financial goals if you're providing a service.

Image Source

Then, once you have that information, you can start developing a sales plan—a.k.a. a roadmap for achieving your sales goals. This includes the following:

  • Your sales process: How will you take a prospect from awareness to purchase?
  • Your sales team: Who will be responsible for generating revenue?
  • Your sales goals: What are your financial targets?
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Which metrics will you use to track your progress?
  • Your sales forecast: How much revenue do you expect to generate?

You could also be specific about the techniques you'll use to generate sales. For example, if you're selling a product, will you use direct marketing, online advertising, or a mix of both? And if you're providing a service, will you focus on cold-calling, networking, or online marketing?

The key is developing a sales strategy based on your target market and the specific products or services you sell. That way, you can be sure you're using the most effective methods to reach your target market and close sales.

7. Organization and management

In this section, you'll provide an overview of your company's organizational structure and any relevant information on the management team running it.

Image Source

This is important because investors will want to know that your business has a solid foundation and is run by competent individuals. Having a team also shows that your business is more than just a one-person operation, which can instill confidence in potential investors.

When writing this section, include the following information:

  • The organizational structure of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation)
  • The management team, their titles, and their relevant qualifications
  • Each team member's job title, background, and qualifications
  • Any gaps in your team's skills or experience level
  • Other key personnel who play an important role in running your business (such as key advisors or investors)
  • How you plan on compensating your team members (e.g., salary, commission, hourly wage)

This may seem like a lot of information to include, but it's important to give readers a clear understanding of who’s running your business and why they're qualified to do so.

8. Financial analysis

Finally, you'll want to include a financial analysis in your business plan. This will provide potential investors and other interested parties with an overview of your company's finances.

Image Source

Specifically, your financial analysis should include:

  • Your startup costs, or, how much money you'll need to get your business off the ground. Include the cost of:
  • Equipment
  • Licenses/permits
  • Inventory
  • Other startup expenses
  • Your operating costs, or how much money you'll need to keep your business running. This is also known as a "burn rate." Include the cost of:
  • Rent/mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Payroll
  • Taxes
  • Other overhead expenses
  • How much money you'll need if growth occurs organically (without outside funding)

By detailing your company's financial situation, you'll be able to provide potential investors and other interested parties with a clear understanding of your business's profitability. And that, in turn, will help them make more informed decisions about whether or not to invest in your company. 

The bottom line

A business plan is a key tool that can help you evaluate the feasibility of your new business and make informed decisions about how to move forward. That doesn't just apply to you—if you're seeking funding from investors or lenders, they'll also want to see a business plan.

Keep in mind that a business plan is a living document. As your business grows and changes, so too should your business plan. Review it at least once a year to ensure it's still on track and relevant to your business's current situation.

If you need help writing your business plan, Copy.ai's Business Plan Templates can give you a head start on creating a professional business plan quickly and easily. Our AI-powered writing tools will take the guesswork out of formatting and messaging so you can focus on getting your business up and running.

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