This Halloween, we’ve thought long and hard about what spooks us the most when it comes to the small business world — and it’s a bad business plan. After all, the thought of putting so much time and energy into something that falls short is nothing short of terrifying! So avoid these scary mistakes, and feel better moving forward!
1. You’re not constantly refining it.
Many entrepreneurs think drafting a plan (and then leaving it there) is enough. After all, a plan’s a plan, right? While a plan does need time to come to fruition, accounting for fluctuations in the marketplace, updating outdated research, and weaving in new capabilities is crucial. This doesn’t mean to change for change’s sake — just to keep a pulse on the atmosphere in which your plan is functioning and evolve it as necessary!
2. “Everyone” is your target audience.
It’s one of marketing 101’s most valuable lessons: If you try to appeal to everyone, you won’t appeal to anyone — at least not for the long haul. The best business plans will go beyond target demographics and answer the tough “psychographic” questions: What makes your audience tick? What are their biggest dreams? Their deepest fears? Your plan should confidently display a deeper understanding of the people who would benefit the most from your unique selling proposition (USP).
3. It’s just too long.
Quality over quantity is the name of the game here. Many business owners believe that being overly verbose will heighten credibility. But the truth is, investors and clients would rather read a 15-page business plan with clear summaries, readable key points in bullet form, and engaging visuals — rather than a 200-page plan filled to the brim with industry jargon and zero white space. We get that some content is just wordy — for this, we recommend adding an appendix to be thorough without sacrificing engagement, credibility, and readability.
4. The research is weak.
In the age of “fake news”, this one’s important. Business moves fast, so citing old statistics or sketchy, unreliable sources has a profound effect on your credibility. A good rule of thumb is to make sure any stats you cite are never older than two years at the most, and that you’ve done your part to make sure the source it’s coming from is reputable. Turn to research firms that specialize in data specific to your unique industry.
5. You’re all crickets when it comes to your competition.
While it’s admirable to believe that no one can touch your business idea, unless you’ve discovered a new color, pretending opposition does not exist leaves a major gap in your plan. Speak on your competitors objectively, but play up your competitive advantage and USP (which you have hopefully clearly defined and refined) to show how you will overcome that competition.
BONUS: You’re too self-reliant when writing your plan.
You may have strengths in any number of areas — whether you really know your stuff when it comes to finance, or brand identity, or marketing. Take the time to pass off your plan to people who are experts in various fields. This will help you gut check each of your sections. At the very least, a second set of eyes can spot spelling or grammatical errors. At the most, your peer reviewer will do you a solid and help you avoid saying something that is inaccurate.
Happy planning, everyone!