The Sections of a Marketing Plan

There are five primary sections to a well-written marketing plan. First, is the introduction. In this section, an overview of all the different marketing strategies that will be used to create visibility for a brand or its products and services should be briefly outlined. This includes discussing specific online marketing strategies, print advertising strategies, and any type of public relations campaign that will be undertaken from the onset of operations. This section of the marketing plan should be about one page in length given that it will provide a top-level view of the overall operations of the marketing department while providing a guide for the rest of the marketing plan. Including graphics and charts, most marketing plans run anywhere from 18 to 24 pages. Approximately half of the work of the marketing plan is specific for the costs associated with each type of advertising, marketing, or public relations campaign that will be carried out.

Specific parts of the introduction can be done in a bullet point fashion to provide a brief overview of the rest of the document. Examples of this include briefly discussing local print advertisements, sponsorship of local sports teams, any type of regional advertising will be completed, and what online marketing campaigns will be engaged.

The next chapter of your marketing plan deals specifically with online marketing strategies. There are many different ways that you can expand and create visibility through usage of the Internet as well as social media. Of all the different sections within the marketing plan, this has become the most important. Nearly everyone has a mobile phone that can be used to find local businesses, read reviews about businesses, and receive contact information for any specific organization. As such, a bulk of the text of your marketing plan should be specific for online marketing strategies.

An example of this would be discussing things such as use of social media in order to create a greater degree of brand awareness. This includes maintaining profiles on popular social platforms including FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Special important should be made as a release discussing how much money is going to be spent on a monthly basis for online marketing activities. This includes carefully crafting a budget that showcases what percentage of overall marketing expenditures will be geared towards paid social media promotion, search engine optimization, as well as pay per click marketing.

Generally, the online marketing strategy chapter is broken down into two sections – social media and search engine marketing. Again, as it relates to social media – this should focus substantially on usage of FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube as these are the most popular social media platforms in the world.

By developing videos as well as well-crafted social media posts, a business can receive a substantial amount of traffic to their website via viral marketing messages. If you are unfamiliar with this type of marketing than it may be in your best interest to hire a social media consultant that can aggressively handle this aspect of your marketing operations. Although social media consulting firms are expensive, a substantial amount of time can be saved by outsourcing this work to a company note knows exactly what they’re doing.

The same applies for search engine optimization strategies given that this is a complex method of marketing that requires time, effort, and patience. Many search engine optimization firms estimate that it takes anywhere from three months to six months for this type of marketing campaign to become effective. As it relates to the cost of these expenditures, most SCO firms charge anywhere from $500 all the way up to $10,000 per month to carry out a moderate to large scale search engine marketing campaign. A substantial amount of this work is done through content marketing.

The third chapter of the marketing plan deals with your demographics. This should include discussing the types of customers that your targeting, their age, annual household income, and specific aspects of their life that will make your product or service stand out to them. A thorough demographic analysis should be developed as almost all marketing campaigns center around targeting this very specific type of customer. Many marketing firms on a regional level can assist you with developing appropriate demographic analysis given the product or service that you offered to the general public.

The fourth chapter of your marketing plan to deal with your print advertising strategies. It should be noted that many companies have decided to either eliminate or heavily scale back their print related marketing given that most businesses are now found online. However, for some businesses – like restaurants – it is still important to distribute flyers and coupons to these customers so that they will come to the location. Most print advertising that is distributed is specific for retailers as well as food /beverage businesses there trying to drive traffic specifically to their locations.

The fifth chapter of the marketing plan is specific for the differentiating factors that are taken into account regarding products and services offered. This analysis should focus heavily on the benefits of using your products or services, and how the business is differentiated from other competitors in the target market. Usually, this chapter runs about one to two pages.

The final section of the marketing plan deal specifically with the anticipated return on investment for all of the different types of marketing and advertising that will be undertaken by the business. This includes having a number of tables that showcase the anticipated revenues of the company as a function of how much money you spent on marketing activities. Below are images of how these charts look and how these calculations are made:

Marketing Plan Revenue Overview
Marketing Plan Revenue Overview
Marketing Plan - Localized Target Market Analysis
Marketing Plan – Localized Target Market Analysis
Marketing Plan -Demographic Analysis
Marketing Plan -Demographic Analysis
Marketing Plan - ROI Analysis
Marketing Plan – ROI Analysis

Writing a Business Plan Guide with Pictures and Free Template

A complete step-by-step guide (with pictures and free downloadable business plan template) that guides you through the entire business planning process.

For many entrepreneurs, writing a business plan can be an extremely daunting task. Many people are intimidated by the amount of content that needs to go into the business plan, and they are often unsure of how to properly write one. In this guide, we will down each of the steps that are necessary in order to complete a comprehensive business plan.

First, our sales pitch. If you are having difficulties developing a business plan on your own, our website provides a number of templates that you can use to assist you in this process. Each plan that is showcased on this website is specific to its title. The package includes a word document with a completed business plan that you can alter or modify to your needs. Additionally, each package includes a number of other support materials including Excel files that will assist you in developing the financial portion of your business plan.

Please download both files. Also, please note that the purchased version is far more comprehensive. We have 550 different business plan templates available.

On the quick side note, if you are truly struggling with developing a business plan then there are many professionals that can assist you without the process. Over the past 14 years, I have written more than 4,000 business plans on a domestic and international basis. At this point, writing a business plan is basically bodily function. Many people do feel that it is sort of cheating to hire someone to develop a business plan on your behalf. However, and although I may be biased here, this is simply not the case. Many entrepreneurs have a perfect vision of how they want to develop their business and simply struggle with putting down their concept onto paper in a presentable format. My firm specializes in developing comprehensive documents that are specific for capital raising among investors as well as financial institutions. We take our clients vision and simply transform into a beautiful presentation that any person can read and understand. As such, if you find yourself continuing to struggle with developing a document then it may be in your best interest to hire a third party to help you.

Now onto the guide. First, let’s talk about how a good business plan is written. When we develop business plans, we first produce the market research for the document. As this serves as the foundation for a good business plan, it is important to do this that first. Many people try to start the work by writing out their executive summary. However, I have found that it is best to wait until the very end to write the executive summary as a well written executive summary acts as a guide for the rest of the business plan.

Completing the Market Research

There are a number of online resources that you can use when developing your market research. First, let’s look at the important sections that need to be included in this part of the business plan. The first section is generally an overview of the economy as a whole and how a negative change in the economy can impact your business operations. Specific points that should be discussed in a one to two paragraph section including the current unemployment rate, current interest rate environment, prices of assets among all classes, as well as of where the economy is heading. At the time of this writing, October 2019, unemployment rates have remained very low while interest rates have remained low as well despite substantial increases in asset prices. The trade war between China and the United States may impact the economic climate moving forward.  Tariffs have caused the prices of many common goods to increase substantially as a majority of consumable products within the United States are manufactured in China and other overseas markets. Additionally, other issues pertaining to currency valuations can impact the economy moving forward. This is a strong example of specific things that should be discussed in the economic section of your market research.

The next section of most business plans deal with the industry analysis. This includes taking a look at the industry or industries in which you are going to be operating, the number of people that are employed by the industry, annual revenues generated from all businesses included within the industry, as well as any market trends. For most industries, they are highly established. For instance, an industry like the food and beverage service is not going to have very many changes in the way that they conduct business moving forward. Restaurants and other eateries have been around for hundreds of years, and they typically have growth rates that are in lockstep with the economy as a whole. However, if you are in a business such as financial technology – then you may need to conduct a much more in-depth analysis regarding trends within this industry. This would include discussing major competitors, any pieces of legislation or regulation that may impact your business, and other facets of operation that are going to need to be addressed on an ongoing basis.

Third, in this section it is also important to outline the average customer profile or user profile of your services or buyer of your products. This includes examining annual median household income, age, gender, as well as any specific types of character traits that are specific to the type of product or service that you are offering. In this section, many people also outline the estimated number of people within the target market that would be potential buyers. This is extremely important especially for local or regional businesses as you want to ensure that you’re going to have enough people within your market to support an economically feasible business. For instance, returning to our discussion regarding a restaurant, you’re going to want to look at population size and population density as compared to the number of other restaurants within your target market. This will ensure that in any given night there are a number of people that are willing to come to your restaurant so that it operates near 100% capacity. For other businesses, such as online businesses, you may want to take a look at the number of people within a specific country or on a worldwide basis that are potential users of your services.

Fourth, in this section we typically discuss the competitive issues that a business will face as it progresses through its launch as well as ongoing expansion. For local and regional businesses, conducting a competitive analysis is relatively easy given that you’re familiar with the area and can simply find what competitors are offering products or services that are similar to yours. An examination of competitors should include their estimated annual revenues, number of employees, and how long they have been in business. A more subjective overview of a competitor includes the strength of their brand name, how long they’ve been in business, and their market reach. For larger scale businesses, such as online businesses, it is slightly more difficult to carry out a competitive analysis given that you’re going to have to find companies that operate throughout your entire country or on a worldwide basis. Conducting this type of market research is little more of an involved process but can be easily achieved through use of search engines. When carrying out these types of operations you should use specific keywords and phrases that are specific to the products and services that you’ll be selling. This will allow you to see the more prominent competitors within your field.

One of the ways that you can make your market research stand out is by developing a number of charts and graphs that are specific to your industries. Below are some links to companies that you can use to acquire graphics specific for the industries that you operate within:

https://www.IBISWorld.com

https://www.Statista.com

The Financial Plan

After the market analysis is done, it is time to develop the financial plan. Most business plans have a three-year to five-year pro forma financial model included. Generally speaking, it is very difficult to estimate anything beyond a three-year period. A financial plan consists primarily of three parts: a profit and loss statement, cash analysis, and balance sheet. It is also important to include other metrics such as the breakeven analysis as well as important business ratios that are applicable to your operations.

As it relates the profit and loss statement, this table showcases your revenues, cost of goods sold, your operating expenses, as well as your pre-tax profit. The profit and loss statement showcases your estimated taxes as well as any interest expense that you may incur. Below is an image of a standard profit and loss statement:

Profit and Loss Statement
Profit and Loss Graph
Profit and Loss Graph

Relating to the profit and loss statement is the cash flow analysis. Here, in overview of the cash coming in and cash going out is showcased. Although this may seem very similar to the profit and loss statement, it is actually very different. The top line of the cash analysis showcases the net profit of the business. The net profit is the income that is generated after all expenses including taxes and interest are paid. The cash flow analysis showcases any equity investment that has and made into the business, any increase in borrowings, accounts payable, accounts receivable, as well as any asset purchases that are made and any dividends that are distributed. Below is an image of a standard cash flow analysis:

Cash Flow Analysis
Cash Flow Analysis
Cash Flow Analysis Image
Cash Flow Analysis Bar Graph

When developing a financial plan, this is where most people start to have some issues. Most people commonly understand the concept of a profit and loss statement as it is simply a measure of income generated minus all expenses. With a cash flow analysis, certain metrics and deductions are made that do not impact the profit and loss statement. One of the key things to note as well is that if you are taking on a business loan to develop your business then the interest is deducted from the profit and loss statement while the repayment of principal is deducted from the cash flow analysis.

Once the cash flow is completed then it is time to finalize the balance sheet. This is a measure of all assets owned by the business minus all liabilities. Common assets that are acquired by businesses include furniture, fixtures, and equipment, the cash that is held in a bank account, as well as any inventories that are carried. A balance sheet looks like this:

Balance Sheet
Balance Sheet



As it relates to liabilities, this includes any payables that are owed to third parties, tax liabilities, as well as any outstanding business loans or lines of credit that have been taken out in order to launch or expand the business. The value of the company is calculated by subtracting the total value of assets minus the total value of liabilities. It should be noted that there are certain instances where you may have negative equity. However, this is done more of a managerial standpoint basis. If you are having certain issues developing your balance sheet or if you are an existing business then may want to consult with a certified public accountant that can assist you with developing this part of your business plan.

On a quick side note, your certified public accountant will be an invaluable resource not only for managing your tax issues and accounting issues, but also for business advisory perspective. They can assist you greatly with developing your business plan while providing you with insightful advice about the best way to expand your business or organization. Most CPAs are very affordable for most small business owners.

Once the profit and loss statement, cash analysis, and balance are completed then it is time to carry out some other calculations. First, you’re going to want to take a look at your breakeven analysis. This segment of your financial plan will showcase how much revenue you need to generate on a monthly or yearly basis in order to reach breakeven. This is a very important metric that most business owners use in order to ensure that they can reach profitability quickly. This calculation is completed by taking a look at your total fixed operating expenses and dividing by the amount of gross profit that needs to be produced on a monthly or yearly basis. A sample breakeven analysis is shown below:

Breakeven Analysis
Breakeven Analysis

A common metrics table is usually included within the financial planning part of the business plan document. Key metrics that are examined in this table usually include sales growth, assets to liabilities, assets to equity, as well as certain metrics regarding liabilities to amount of cash on hand. Some of these metrics are a little bit more theoretical in nature given that certain circumstances do not occur in the actual business world. However, many of these metrics showcase the overall financial health of the business. Many lenders as well as many investors frequently want to see these metrics charted within a business plan.

Business Ratios Chart
Business Ratios Chart



Products, Services, and Operations

In this section analysis, it is time to showcase the products and services that will be offering to your customers or clients. This is the section of the business plan that can be a little bit more sales focused as a relates to connecting with your investor or funding source. Generally speaking, a more scientific and clinical approach is taken to writing the rest of the business plan to showcase the feasibility and economic viability of your planned business. In this section, however, you can thoroughly discuss why you are offering an outstanding product or service that will be in demand among a number of consumers or clients. In most business plans, this section of the business plan ranges anywhere from one to four pages. If you are offering a number of products or have developed a proprietary product then you can also include images in this section of the document.

One of the other things that is frequently discussed in this section of the document as well is the overall operations of the business. This includes discussing matters such as customer service, hours of operation, layout of any retail facility, and other pertinent information as it relates to properly providing the service or selling your product to the general public.

Another point that is discussed in the products and services section is the pricing that is associated with your product line. It should be noted that if you offer a number of products, such as hundreds of products, it is in your best interest to reference a product catalog that can be seen separately from the business plan. One of the common mistakes that I see when I’m reviewing business plans that people have written on their own is that they list every single product that they offer in this section of the business plan. In order to keep the business plan as short as possible, a product catalog can be included as a separate document so that a funding source can review it should they choose to do so.

The Financing

In this section of the business plan, in overview of the capital you are seeking to raise is discussed. Most importantly, a table should be created that allows you to show the funding source to see exactly how these funds are to be used. If you are purchasing substantial pieces of tangible assets then you may want to list them all within the section, but keep in mind that brevity is important. Below is a sample table that showcases what a use of funds chart generally looks like:

Use of Funds Table and Chart
Use of Funds Table and Chart

Other important aspects of this section of the business plan include discussing the equity that we provided to a potential investor should they place money with your company. Additionally, the current ownership structure the business is discussed in the section as well. Finally, this section generally ends with an overview of the exit strategies that will be associated with your business.

In nearly all circumstances, as it relates to exit strategies, a business is sold, in whole, to a third-party. While many people discuss the usage of an initial public offering, the fact of the matter is that very few companies actually go public. In fact, there are only tens of thousands of business is in the United States are publicly traded. The remaining 100 million businesses are privately owned and operated, and are eventually sold to third parties for substantial earnings premium. One of the key things that should be discussed with in your exit strategy is the anticipated price to earnings multiple that similar businesses in your industry self or on an ongoing basis. This will assist the funding source, especially an investor, with an understanding of how much the business could potentially be worth by the 3rd to 5th year of operation. In many other instances, you can also include a pro forma valuation table that showcases the potential valuation based on profitability.

The Overview of the Organization

In this section the business plan, general information regarding launch dates, mission statements, mission statements, and organizational values are showcased. This section of the business plan is usually placed in the middle of the document. In business plans that I write professionally for people, I put this as the fourth section of the business plan.

One of the key components of this section of the business plan is the development of a proper mission statement. For many smaller businesses, this can be less of a priority as are simply trying to convey that you are trying to provide a great product or service to the general public, while developing a profitable enterprise. For larger companies, especially those with proprietary technology or a proprietary operating methodology, this is a little bit trickier as you want to clearly state exactly what you’re organization is looking to achieve on a very large scale level. This is something it takes a little bit of time to develop, and you can actually keep this part of the business plan open ended as you complete the rest of the work. Many people often take one month or two to develop the proper mission statement. It should be noted that this is a relatively small aspect of the overall business plan, and most financial institutions – especially for smaller businesses – do not place much weight on a properly developed mission statement.

The Marketing Plan

Of all the sections of developing a business plan that I enjoy writing, the marketing plan is my favorite. This is primarily due to the fact that you can outline exactly how you want to position your product or service and business to the general public. In this section, is important to start with a bullet outline of specific objectives that you’re going to look to achieve on a yearly basis. This includes discussing how to maintain a major presence on social media, carrying out comprehensive print campaigns, as well as developing a loyal customer base that will refer customers or clients to your business on an ongoing basis.

One of the things that I often include in the section of the business plan is a breakdown of all revenues generated by the business by product category. Below is an image of what this table looks like:

Revenue Center Chart
Revenue Center Chart

As you can see, in this example I show that three different products and two different services are being provided to the general public. This is an important table as well as an important part of the marketing plan as it shows exactly where your revenue centers and profits are coming from on a yearly basis. This is something that can be thoroughly discussed within the marketing plan as it relates to pushing specific services to your potential customer base.

An overview of the yearly sales, in word format, is often discussed as well in this section. Primarily, in overview of first-year sales and second-year sales are thoroughly discussed while third year to fifth year sales are mentioned briefly to showcase the operations of the business once it is fully established.

The marketing strategies that you’re going to use to promote your business need to be thoroughly discussed within the section of the business plan. Generally, this section should run one to two pages. This includes, again, discussing all the ways in which you will promote your business. One of the interesting things about writing a marketing plan these days is that a heavy focus must be placed on online marketing activities. This includes the use of a proprietary website as well as maintaining a presence on popular social media platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many marketing plans also include a discussion regarding usage of platforms like YouTube to develop video commercials and presentations that will showcase products and services to the general public. One of the interesting things about online marketing is that many of these platforms are completely integrated with one another. If you develop a video presentation for your business you can seamlessly share it on other social media platforms once it has been uploaded to YouTube. These are all topics that should be very thoroughly discussed within your business plan.

For local and regional businesses, special importance remade in regards to showcasing a traditional print marketing campaign, distribution of mailed flyers and brochures, as well as establishing relationships with other organizations in your target market. Many small business owners find that they are able to generate a substantial amount of business by becoming members of their local chambers of commerce as well as joining a number of other small business organizations. For instance, when we develop a business plan specific for a real estate brokerage we focus heavily on that individual and business becoming enrolled in his many organizations as possible in order to develop a referral and business network.

The Personnel Summary

In this section of the business plan, we outline of the organizational structure is provided. Below is an image of a simple organizational structure specific for a delivery business:

Organizational Chart
Organizational Chart

Additionally, this section of the analysis also includes a chart showcasing the different types of employees will be hired, their pay, and headcount of the business. A sample chart showcasing this looks as follows:

Personnel Summary Chart
Personnel Summary Chart


One of the other common things that is put into this section business plan is the biography of the founder. This includes discussing all relevant biographical information, work experience, and educational credentials. This can be kept somewhat short and it should not exceed more than three to four paragraphs. Generally, we write a biography for the owner and then reference the fact that a resume or curriculum vitae is available upon request or is it included as part of the overall business plan package.

SWOT Analysis

This is usually one of the appendices that we include in each of our business plans. A well-developed SWOT analysis focuses on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are going to be faced by the business on ongoing basis. Generally, we do this in a bullet point fashion and it should not be more than one page.

Critical Risks and Issues Section


As any entrepreneur knows, nothing ever goes according to plan. As such, it is important that a page that is specific to the issues that a business may face is included as well. This is of tremendous value to any potential reader – including private investors and financial institutions – as it will show that you have properly prepared for major issues that may occur as you progress are your business operations. Generally, we break this down into five sections.

The development risk paragraph focuses on issues that could occur during the course of start up. The primary development risk for most startup companies is their ability to acquire the capital that is being sought in the business plan, while concurrently launching revenue-generating operations.

The financing risk paragraph focuses heavily on the usage of funds, and what would happen in the event that the business does not work out as planned. For instance, an example of discussing the financing risk for restaurant would be to focus on the fact that a substantial amount of furniture, fixtures, and equipment as well as other tangible assets are going to be purchased with any debt capital or equity capital from a funding source. The high margins that are generated from food and beverage sales generally offset ongoing risks relating to this type of financing. In the event that a business is liquidated, the tangible assets can be used to pay back any funding source.

The marketing risk paragraph is followed after the financing risk paragraph. This discusses the marketing strategies that will be used in order to promote interest in the business and its products and services. It should be noted that many marketing strategies are relatively expenses, and they can often not produce the revenue results that are anticipated in a business planning document.

Valuation risk is followed by the marketing risk section. This discusses the potential returns on investment for an investor should the business not produce as much profit as anticipated in the financial plan. This can be done on a bulleted point basis.

Finally, exit risk is discussed. For many businesses, it takes anywhere from 1 to 2 years to properly prepare and sell a business to a third-party. As such, issues pertaining to liquidity as well as how long it would take to properly sell the business for an appropriate price to earnings multiple should be discussed in this paragraph.

Although this is a lot of content, this can all be included on one page.

Reference Sources

In this section of the analysis you should include a list of all reference sources ever used in regards the business plan.

Executive Summary

This now takes us to the executive summary. Of all the sections of the business plan, this one is the most important sections is it is designed to capture a reader’s attention immediately. There are a number of different ways that you can go about writing your executive summary, but we have developed a streamlined approach that allows the executive summary to state exactly what you’re looking to achieve all acting as a guide for the rest of the business plan. A well-written executive summary should be about two pages in length.

First, your opening paragraph to discuss the type of industry they are operating within, the name of the business and where you’re located, and how much capital you’re looking to receive in order to launch or expand operations. The names of the founder and owners should also be included within this paragraph. One of the other things that we include is the anticipated start date or quarter of starting or expanding revenue-generating operations.

Second, a two paragraph overview of the products and services that you are selling should be included next. This includes any specific information regarding any proprietary technology or proprietary service that you will be offering to the general public.

Third, an overview of the management should be included as well. This is important if your business requires specialized expertise is required by the owner or any key member of the management team. You do not need to put a substantial amount of biographical information in this section edits it is covered in the personnel summary. References to varying aspects of the business plan should be included as well. For instance, if you reference your background in having a substantial amount of retail experience then you should direct readers to the section of the business plan that discusses your background by chapter name.

Fourth, a quick overview of the anticipated profit and loss statements over a three-year period should be included as well. A sample image of house this looks is shown below:

Profit and Loss Summary Chart
Profit and Loss Summary Chart

Finally, an overview of how you intend to expand the operations of the business should be included as well. This includes discussing substantial reinvestment into marketing infrastructures, developing new product lines, creating new service lines, expanding inventories, as well as the potential development of additional locations if this is applicable to your business.

Expanded Profit and Loss Statements and Cash Flow Analysis

In this section business plan, it is common to include a profit and loss statement and casual analysis that is showcase monthly for the first year of operation as well as quarterly for years two and three. These charts looks as follows:

Profit and Loss Year 1
Profit and Loss Year 1
Profit and Loss Year 1 Cont.
Profit and Loss Year 1 Cont.
Year 2 Profit and Loss Statement
Year 2 Profit and Loss Statement
Year 3 Profit and Loss Statement
Year 3 Profit and Loss Statement
Year 1 Cash Flow Analysis
Year 1 Cash Flow Analysis
Year 1 Cash Flow Analysis Continued
Year 1 Cash Flow Analysis Continued
Year 2 Cash Flow Analysis
Year 2 Cash Flow Analysis
Year 3 Cash Flow Analysis
Year 3 Cash Flow Analysis

Preparing Your Business Plan For Distribution

The vast majority of business plans that are developed are transmitted electronically as either a word or PDF document. We strongly recommend that if you are distributing the business plan that you send as a PDF document as this is locked and cannot be edited by any third party. Additionally, if there is a substantial amount of sensitive material in your business plan then you can create a watermark that acts as a numbering system to parties that have received the document. This will ensure that any proprietary information or intellectual property cannot be shown to a third party. One of the common things that is also included in a business plan is a standard nondisclosure agreement. This can be included in the business plan right under the table of contents or it can be attach as a second document that must be signed by a third party before the business plan is distributed.

If you are planning to submit your document in paper format, then we strongly recommend that you take it to a printer that can put the business plan into a binder or nicely laminated folder. These companies typically charge a minimal fee for printing out a 30 to 50 page business plan and including them in a bound manner.

The Table of Contents

Most business plans follow a 7 to 9 chapter format. How you structure the business plan is completely up to you, but this is the common two types of formats that we use when developing a business plan. The seven  chapter business plan our formatting is as follows:

Chapter 1 – Executive Summary

Chapter 2 – The Financing

Chapter 3 – Products, Services, and Operations Overview

Chapter 4  – Strategic and Market Analysis

Chapter 5 – Marketing Plan

Chapter 6 – Personnel Summary

Chapter 7 – Financial Plan

SWOT analysis

Critical Risks and Problems

Reference Sources

Expanded Profit and Loss and Cash Flow Analysis

In a full-scale nine chapter business plan, which include certain elements additional to a standard format a plan we use the following table of contents

Chapter 1 – Executive summary

Chapter 2 – The Financing

Chapter 3 – Products, Services, and Operational Overview

Chapter 4 – Overview of the Organization

Chapter 5 – Strategic and Market Analysis

Chapter 6 -Key Strategic Issues

Chapter 7 -Marketing Plan

Chapter 8 – Personnel Overview

Chapter 9 – Financial Plan

SWOT analysis

Critical risks and issues

Append reference sources

Expanded Profit and Loss and Cash Flow Analysis

Conclusion

Overall you can you can see that developing a business plan is a pretty in-depth and involved process. Generally speaking, it takes about two weeks to four weeks to develop a proper business plan. Professional writing services, like the ones that we offer on a customized basis typically take about a week to complete. One of the ways that you can greatly expedite this process is by acquiring a template that already has the necessary market research and financial model ready to be modified.

On this website, again, we have 550 different business plans that are all specific to their title. Each of these plans includes all the necessary industry research, economic analysis, and Excel model that would be needed to complete a business plan on your own. In areas that you need to determine on your own, we provide a comprehensive guide on how to most effectively complete the sections of the document.

In closing, thank you very much for taking the time to read this article and we always encourage everyone who has any questions to leave feedback in the comments below or you can email us directly at info@bizfundingresource.com. You can also reach us during normal business hours via the live chat.

Writing a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a very difficult process for most people. This is primarily due to the fact that an individual entrepreneur always has a number of very good ideas in their head, but often has trouble putting together the documentation that clearly expresses their vision to a third party. Most importantly, many business plans are written specifically for raising capital. As such, entrepreneurs are looking to put their best foot forward as it relates to showcasing with their business intends on doing, how much capital they need, where the business will be over a five-year period, and other information relating to the day-to-day operations of the company.

One of the things that most people have the most trouble with is developing the financial model. It is no secret that forecasting with the potential revenues of a business can be can be excruciatingly difficult given that it is very much uncertain. Even for small businesses that are able to examine a retail space – the revenues and profits can difficult to estimate. In some cases, entrepreneurs have either been spot on were drastically off as it relates to their anticipated revenues. In most cases, it is very prudent and conservative to underestimate what the expected revenues will be while concurrently overestimating with the expenses. One of the common mistakes that many entrepreneurs make when developing a business plan is at the drastically undercut with their ongoing expenses. This is especially true as it relates to salary and ongoing operating costs.

It is important that an entrepreneur that is developing a business plan for a new venture understand with their personal month-to-month capital needs are as it relates to their living expenses. This needs to be heavily factored in into the business plan and the financial model so that an entrepreneur can focus on growing and developing the business rather than making their month-to-month salary needs. Generally, it is wise to seek an amount of capital that will allow the entrepreneur to develop the business over a 12 month to 18 month timeframe. It usually takes most businesses one year or more to reach profitability. As such, this needs to be factored in as it relates to the start up cost as well as the profit and loss statement.

One of the other more difficult challenges in developing a business plan for a new or expanding venture is sourcing the industry information. If you go on the Internet there are literally thousands of sources that focus on providing industry research, local market research, and related information to the general public. As such, it can be difficult to discern which information is credible and what is not. Most importantly, when sourcing information from a private research source this organization should have an extensive amount of usage as it relates to NAICS and SIC codes. The United States government maintains extensive databases of the amount of revenues that are generated for any given industry. As such, this can be an excellent place to start if an entrepreneur that is developing a business plan is stuck trying to source the industry research. One of the nice things about using these research sources that they are completely free and open to the general public. There are times when purchasing a private market research report is important given that the government simply maintains an overview of the number of people operating with any field as well as the amount of revenues that are generated on a yearly basis. More in-depth research regarding industry trends, market trends, and other relevant information can typically be sourced from a private company.

As it relates to the actual writing of the business plan this is something else that many entrepreneurs go with given that they are not good writers. In many instances they will turn to hiring a professional business plan writer in order to ensure that their vision is encapsulated in a document appropriately. This is always a smart move, and as the owner of this business we develop a number of business plans on the customized basis. This is primarily due to the fact that the entrepreneur were struggling with writing their business plan and then turn for professional advice. This website also has a number of templates that will give an entrepreneur a running head start as it relates to the development of their profit producing project.

While it may seem daunting, writing a business plan is not as difficult as it seems. Although it can usually take anywhere from 40 hours to 100 hours to produce a highly polished document – the effort is worth it given that it will provide the entrepreneur with a clear understanding of what they can expect in terms of revenues, profits, and as a guide for business over a three-year to five year period so that they can follow the plan exactly as needed.

The Sections of a Business Plan

Business plans are complex documents that usually have anywhere from seven chapters to nine chapters of information that are presented to a potential business partner, funding source, or a related entity that is going to be reviewing a business. This article is going to focus on the varying chapters of the business plan and certain points about how they should be developed so that the business can be clearly understood by the reader of the document.

First, every business plan starts with an executive summary. In this portion of the business plan and overview of how much money is looking to be raised or the nature of the business plan is provided. Beyond that there should also be a discussion regarding what products and services offered by the business, how much capital is being raised if any, a brief overview of the anticipated profit and loss statement of the business over a three year to five year period, and an overview of the management team. Usually, a well-written executive summary runs about two pages to three pages in length. This is the most important section of the business plan given that many readers will go through the section and depending on what they see will continue to go through the rest of the business plan. In fact, the way that most people read a business plan is that they first start with the executive summary, flip to the financial section, and then read through the rest of the document once they see the potential growth of the business. An executive summary should focus modestly on the products and services being offered unless this is a business that offers a highly unique and patented piece of technology or related product.

The second section of the business plan should discuss the amount of money that is being raised by an entrepreneur. Here, many business plan writing firms will insert a table that clearly showcases the usage of the funds being sought. This section of the analysis also provides preliminary terms as it relates to the amount of the business being sold in exchange for the capital, the management teams equity positions, who sits on the board of directors, and the potential exit strategies that can be used by the business. Most importantly, the exit strategies should be reasonable in length and should discuss with the potential value of the business would be over a three-year to five-year period. Some businesses will side to take a ten year approach to this, however – usually a five-year valuation overview is sufficient as it relates to varying exit strategies.

The third section of the business plan often encapsulates H the products and services that are being offered by the business. Usually, this section shouldn’t range anywhere from one page to three pages depending on the number and types of services being offered with the products being sold. For proprietary products this section can include images of prototypes and schematics for the actual production.

The fourth section of the business plan usually discusses the overview of the organization as it relates to its corporate structure. Common corporate structures that are used for these types of for profit making entities include limited liability companies, corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, limited liability partnerships, and related corporate entities in order to carry out business operations. As always, if an entrepreneur is determining what type of entity to use than it would be in their best interest to speak to a business attorney or a certified public accountant as to what types of corporate entities are appropriate given the backgrounds of the management team, investors, and the nature business operations. This section of the business plan often discusses the mission statement and vision statements of the business as well is well as any organizational values and objectives.

Fifth, this section should outline the industry research, economic overview, customer profile, and competitive issues that the business will face on a day-to-day basis. For many people, this is the most difficult part of the business plan to write as a number of reports and information must be sourced in order to complete the section. This is especially true as it reads relates to local and regional demographic profiles of individuals that are going to be the customers of the business. However, as it relates to industry research a substantial portion of this information can be found online through both private and publicly available information sources.

The sixth section of the business plan often focuses on the competitive advantages that the business will have over other market agents. This section usually lasts about one page and is usually in a bullet point format showcasing why people will use this service over other competitors in the industry. One of the things is also frequently included in this section is an overview of the ways of the business will grow over the first five years of operation.

The seventh section of the business plan discusses marketing. Here, organizational objectives as it relates to increasing the brand-name visibility of the business can be provided in-depth. A three page to four page overview of the different marketing strategies that will be used should be included as well and this should discuss print advertising, social media management, online sales operations, and the relationships of the business were developed with potential customers over a significant time frame. This is usually one of the easier sections of the business plan to write given that the owner typically has a number of ideas that allows the business to easily reach its potential customer base very quickly. In some cases, an entrepreneur that is developing a business plan will also have the section of the document overview the pricing for any products and services that are being sold.

The eighth section of the business plan should include a discussion regarding the personnel and employees of the business. Here, an organizational chart is provided to showcase the varying hierarchies of management within the organization. A table showcasing the employee headcount, payroll per employee, and total payroll expenses should be included here as well. In some cases, an entrepreneur will also provide extensive job titles and job descriptions within the section so that the reader understands exactly who is being employed and what their role will be within the organization or corporation.

The ninth section of the business plan is the financial model. As has been discussed at this website thoroughly, the financial model is usually the most difficult section of the business plan for most entrepreneurs to create given that pro forma financial models are forward-looking. This financial plan should include a three-year profit and loss statement, common size income statement, cash flow analysis, balance sheet, breakeven analysis, and business ratios page. General assumptions regarding the growth of the business as well as underlying information regarding federal tax, estate tax, and personnel taxes should be included within this section of the document as well.

Once the nine chapters are complete usually many business plan writers will include 3 to 4 appendices that showcase where the information for the business plan came from and other relevant statistics. Usually, the first appendix is the SWOT analysis. Here, there is a focus on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are normally faced by any organization. This portion of the document is about 1 to 2 pages in length and is done in a bullet point format.

The second appendix is usually the critical risks and issues page. It is naïve to think that every business is going to run smoothly at all times. As such, many entrepreneurs take to developing this section of the business plan so that the reader understands that the individual comprehends that there will be ongoing issues and problems that must be dealt with on a day-to-day basis. In this section of the document there is also a risk scoring table that discusses any of the issues on a points based system so that these more important matters can be dealt with as a priority.

The third appendix usually focuses on the reference sources that were used in the business plan. This includes appropriate citations and other information that should be included.

The last appendix of the business plan is usually the expanded profit and loss and cash flow statements. Generally, most business plans provide for month-to-month profit and loss and cash flow analysis statements while the remaining years are done on a quarterly basis. For an entrepreneur or business person that is looking to raise capital this is imperative given that most financial institutions want to see a month-to-month and quarterly financial statements is a standard yearly profit and loss is showcased within the business plan.

Overall, a well written business plan will contain all of those elements in one way or another. Usually, if all these elements are included within a business plan appropriately the length of the document usually ranges anywhere from 35 pages to 45 pages. However, there may be times where it is appropriate to have a shorter business plan or longer business plan depending on need. The key is not to make it too short for any longer than it has to be.

SBA Loan Overview

A small business administration loan can aggressively assist a new entrepreneur or an established business owner with expanding or developing their operations. The SBA was founded to provide loans to smaller businesses given that many banks have in the past reluctantly shied away from providing large amounts of credit to small business owners. This is primarily due to the fact that small businesses do carry a significant amount of startup risk and operating risk. As such, the government created the small business administration in 1953 with the intent to provide guarantees to individual borrowers so that a bank would feel far more comfortable providing capital to them. Most financial institutions love SBA loans given that approximately 80% to 90% of the total amount of principal is guaranteed by the federal government. As such, banks are able to generate a extremely high return on their investment as it relates to the capital was at that is at risk. Generally, most SBA loans carry a premium of two to five points over the prime rate. If there is a tremendous amount of collateral involved in the loan rate is typically two points over prime. One of the most important things as it relates to obtaining an SBA loan is that a properly developed business plan is going to be required. In almost all instances, lending banks require that a three-year financial statement is provided. This financial statement needs to include a cop and loss statement, cash flow analysis, balance sheet, breakeven analysis, and business ratios page.

Small business administration also requires that a complete demographic and competitive analysis is submitted as part of the overall loan application. One of the important things as it relates to developing a SBA loan package is that the owner is going to need to not only develop a comprehensive business plan but is also going to provide comprehensive financial statements as it relates to total assets, total liabilities, income in each of the last two years, and the anticipated revenues and profits generated by the business during the three-year period. This is one of the things that many entrepreneurs struggled to develop given that it is very hard to determine what the anticipated revenues and profits of the business are going to be when it is done on a pro forma basis. One of the ways that this issue can be remedied is that a business plan writing firm can be hired to assist the owner with the developing the documentation that is going to be required by the bank.

SBA loans are going to continue to increase in popularity over the next 10 years given that more people have turned to entrepreneurship rather than working for another individual. The Congress and federal government have worked to ensure that these loans can be provided quickly and with. One of the things that is interesting that has been developed over the past 10 years is the SBA express program which allows for much more streamlined lending protocol for companies that are seeking $100,000 or less. If these types of financial instruments are completely appropriate for individuals such as freelancers, attorneys, people starting small retail locations, and service-based businesses that do not need a substantial number of assets to commence revenue-generating operations. A CPA can be consulted in order to have a good understanding of what loans may be appropriate for any specific financial situation.

Prior to submitting a package to the SBA lending bank, a CPA should review all documentation including prior tax returns to make sure that they are accurate. The SBA typically takes about 60 days to 90 days to render their decision as it relates to issuing a guarantee for the business. Once this guarantee is acquired and then the individual can take it to any number of SBA enrolled lending banks in order to obtain a business loan. These financial institutions may require additional documentation beyond what was requested by the small business administration. As such, it is important to have all of your financial matters in order so that if there are additional requests for information they can be fulfilled very quickly. Generally, from start to finish it takes about three months to four months to acquire a SBA loan for a new business or for expansion purposes. These financial instruments are also available for individuals who are purchasing existing businesses.

Banks and the small business administration love to lend to individuals that are looking to acquire an existing business given that the risks related to a startup are eliminated. In the event that an entrepreneur requires a company they’re going to required to submit tax returns as well as a business plan. Beyond these two documents, full tax returns for each of the last three years for the company that is being acquired needs to be provided as well. The owner of the business that is being sold should furnish either the entrepreneur or the business broker with all necessary documentation so that an SBA guarantee can be acquired quickly once all other documentation has been produced.

The small business administration has developed very good programs that actively assist entrepreneurs with launching new business operations. They will remain as one of the mainstay government departments that assists with entrepreneurship and the development of small business and employment within the United States. Although control of Congress and the presidency changes hands quite frequently – almost all politicians are committed to the continued advancement of small businesses given that they create jobs in local communities.