by David Zybert, retired marketing manager and NCET’s VP of Creative Services.
A quick recap on our progress toward starting your business: You’ve covered Company Description, Market Analysis, Competitive Analysis and Description of Management and Organization. Good for you!
The next step in your business plan is to describe what you do. It may sound old school, but making a list is the best way to start. Use Word, Excel or even a legal tablet and pencil. Whatever makes you most comfortable. This is an important list, so it shouldn’t be a chore.
Write down your core competencies, leaving room under each. You’ll need it. Under each core competency, break it into a list of those goods or services you plan to provide. Then go through the list again, and under each product or service, get specific. If you’re starting a donut shop, a core competency would be “Donuts.” Under that, you might have “Raised Donuts” and “Cake Donuts.” Under “Raised Donuts” you might have “Glazed,” “Bavarian Crème” and “French.” You get the idea.
But don’t stop there. Under each specific product, write down what will make that product special. Unique designs or colors, patented procedures or quick lead times might be examples of this. In short, answer the question, “Why should you do business with me?” for everything on the list. Keep adding to the list. As you start your business and it begins to grow, make it a living document. Add new products or services and delete anything you’ve discontinued.
Now show your list to anyone you trust that’s familiar with your business. They might have suggestions about rearranging, adding or subtracting from the list. Another set of eyes can help you find flaws or point out advantages that you’ve missed.
In your list, avoid jargon. Make your entries clear and simple. Make it a list you could hand to anyone and they would immediately get the point of your business. This will allow you to present the list to investors, new employees and customers and, perhaps most importantly, keep you from losing sight of your original vision for the business.
This list is important for many reasons. It helps you define in your own mind what you’re good at or where you may need improvement. It helps you prioritize budgets, allowing you to spend where the money will do the most good for your highest-earning products, or in research and development of older or under-producing products. It helps you talk about your business to others. It creates less frustration with your web designer when they ask, “So what do you want to say here?”
One final thought about breaking down your goods and services: don’t be afraid to be obvious. What you do may be blindingly clear to you, but it may not be clear to someone navigating your field for the first time.
Now that we’ve covered breaking down your goods and services, I’m strangely craving donuts. I’ll see you later. Meanwhile, please join us next month as we look at how to develop your marketing plan!
David Zybert is a retired marketing manager and NCET’s VP of Creative Services. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that helps people explore business and technology. (www.NCET.org)