A well thought out business plan will give you a road map. It should provide an overview of your objectives, plans, budget predictions, and sales and marketing strategies. This will enable you to identify what success looks like and give you a one-stop document to present to potential investors, banks, suppliers and employees in the hope of garnering their support. You can also refer back to it at a later stage to review your learnings and progress.
A clear and concise business plan is essential; a clear focus and confident approach allows you to present your product or service, along with all its benefits, in a simple and easily digestible manner – perfect for investors and financial supporters. All elements need to be researched and backed up with evidence and conclusions, showing the reader that your business is on the path to success, development and sustainable growth.
The plan should set out:
- What your business is
- The products or services offered
- What solution you are solving
- Why your business I s different
- Who are your business is different?
- Who are your target customers?
- Your chosen method of interacting with customers
- How you arrived at your pricing strategy – do you want to be competitive or are you offering an exclusive unique service that customers will pay for
Understand your customer – picture them in your head:
- How old are they?
- What kind of jobs do they have?
- How would you describe their lifestyles?
- Are they already a customer to one of your competitors?
- Will they have a positive opinion of your product or service?
- What will make your offering stand out to them?
Once you know who your customer is you will know where to find them and how to target them better.
Get started and download a business plan template and how to guide here.
Sales & marketing
How do I market my business effectively?
Marketing your business is all about how you get your name (positively!) known in your sector. We’ve provided some key suggestions, and links to further advice and support.
There are five established marketing rules that are known as the ‘5 Ps’.
To effectively market a product, whether it’s a new chocolate bar or an insurance brokerage, you need to be absolutely clear about what your product is, does, and why it’s better than others.
- What are you selling?
- What problem are you solving for your customers?
- How does your product solve the problem?
- What is unique about your offer?
Where you’re selling your product is key to understanding how best to market it.
Are you selling:
- In person: locally, nationally, internationally?
- Online: exclusively, or in addition to a brick-and-mortar location?
- Are you selling through your own outlets only, or through other partners?
Who you want to sell your product to is an important thing to understand? It’s tempting to say ‘everyone’, but it’s worth narrowing it down to an audience you think will already want your product, before widening your marketing strategy to engage with a customer base you would like to develop.
- Visualise your target audience.
- What do they look like?
- How old are they?
- What kind of jobs do they do?
- How secure are they financially?
- How Internet-savvy are they?
- Whereabouts do they live?
- Do they have children or elderly parents?
- What are their interests?
- What level of education do they have?
- It can be easiest to do this by imagining a few people who belong to different ‘segments’ of the population, who might buy your products. This is known as ‘persona building’, and it’s a helpful way of getting a sense of your audience. They won’t cover all of your audience, but they can help you get into the mindset of some of your key groups.
How much will people pay for your product or service?
- Think about your product or service: what are its key selling points?
- Is it unique?
- Is it made locally?
- Is it cheap/inexpensive?
- Is it amazing quality?
- These factors will all help determine your entry price.
This can be as simple as communicating with potential costumers to find out exactly what they want and need, or by carrying out research online.
Once you’ve found your target market, you can begin to promote your business. This can be done in several ways, including:
- Word of mouth – building your reputation through word of mouth is a strong way to start a business
- Start a customer database on excel or a CRM system if you are a business. Be mindful of the GDPR requirements
- Online marketing through your company website and social media channels. Always remember to let people contact you easily via a form, email or telephone and make sure your website is SEO optimised so your customers can find you
- Email marketing and e-newsletters to the database you are building up
- Paid advertising – once you have tested your business and engagement methods think about paid for advertising but do not do this until you are ready and can handle any inbound enquiry
- Content marketing. Blog posts and social media engagement are a great way to build trust and confidence in your business and show customers that you know what you are doing
- CRM/Data Mangement: keeping track of your customer leads and your growing customer database is the key to any successful business, whether you invest in a simple Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or have a consistent way of managing phone enquiries and emails, such as a call answering service or virtual office set-up. Keeping in touch with your customers is vital
Company Formation & Registration
Companies House is where all limited UK companies must be registered, including yours.
It’s the place to:
- register your company
- file an annual return or your company accounts
- tell them about changes to your company e.g. directors joining or leaving
- close a company
- find information about a company
- report a company for fraudulent filing of company information
You can contact Companies House via:
Telephone: 0303 1234 500
Minicom/textphone: 029 2038 1245
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm
Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) is the government’s economic and finance ministry, which is working to achieve sustainable economic growth.
Small businesses can therefore apply to HMT for loans via:
- A Bank of England scheme which allows banks/building societies to borrow at cheaper rates, so they can then lend to SMEs at lower interest rates.
- The independent British business bank which brings together public and private sector funds to create more effective finance markets for smaller UK businesses.