Real Small Business
III. The Market
This section is designed to provide enough facts to convince an investor, potential partner or other reader that your business has enough customers in a growing industry, and can garner sales despite the competition. It is one of the most important parts of the plan, taking into account current market size and trends, and may require extensive research. Many of the sections that follow - from manufacturing to marketing to the amount of money you need - will be based on the sales estimates you create here.
It is important to be thorough and specific when creating a description of the target customer for your product or service. This description defines the characteristics of the people you want to sell to and should indicate, among other things, whether your customers are cost or quality conscious, under what circumstances they buy, and what types of concerns they have. If you have an existing business, list your current customers and the trend in your sales to them.
To create a customer definition, describe your target customers in terms of common identifiable characteristics. For example, a catering company could target professional couples in the metro Chicago area who need to hire caterers for their kids' parties. Or it could target corporate event planners in Massachusetts responsible for procuring caterers for internal meetings. A windshield wiper blade business can sell directly to automobile manufacturers, or to aftermarket parts distributors.
Market Size and Trends
This section defines the total market size as well as the slice of the market your business will target. Use numbers as well as trend information to make a case for a viable current market and its growth potential.
After you define the total market, create a description of your target market by using geography, company size, business organization, lifestyle, sex, age, occupation, and other characteristics to describe the companies or consumers likely to buy your product or service.
The competition section indicates where your products or services fit in the competitive environment. Presenting your business in the landscape of its competitors proves that you understand your industry and may be prepared to cope with some of the barriers to your company's success.
Present a short discussion of each of your primary competitors. If possible, include their annual sales and their market share. Each assessment should include why these companies do or do not meet their customers' needs. You should then explain why you think you can capture a share of their business.
Strengths and weaknesses can fall into a number of different categories. Sales, quality, distribution, price, production capabilities, image, and breadth of products/services are all ways companies differentiate themselves. Ask yourself: Who is the price leader? Who is the quality leader? Who has the largest market share? Why have certain companies recently entered or withdrawn from the market? These factors are critical to a successful competitive analysis.
Estimated sales for your business are based on your assessment of: the advantages of your product or service, your customers, the size of your market, and your competition. This should include sales in units and dollars for the next three years, with the first year broken down by quarter if that's appropriate for your industry. These numbers will be crucial to other financial documents you present later in the plan.
Use a one-paragraph summary to justify your projections. Be sure to use a succinct statement of what sets apart your product or service from other companies in the marketplace. Include a brief discussion of any customer commitments. Also state why you envision your customer base growing, and indicate how you will garner this business.
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Small Business Guide
- Starting Up Your Business
- Structuring The Business
- Creating a Business Plan
- Your Company's Public Relations
- Effective Competitive Analysis
- Managing Purchasing to Maximize Cash Flow
- Bidding Basics
- Hiring Staff
- Small Business Insurance
- Small Business Resources
- Vacations and Taking Time Off
- Preparing for Tax Season
- Cash Flow
- Your Company's Credit
- Getting Funding
- Employee Compensation