Many companies today are in dire need of funding and attention from stakeholders to help them achieve their business goals. With millions of companies vying for attention, standing out from the rest of the crowd has become more important than ever. No matter how wonderful your business plan is, it will never matter until the right people (customers, investors, stakeholders) take notice. After reading this article you will have the ideas and principles to make sure your business plan is not that same mundane document potential investors get every day that they are more likely to overlook.
1. Clearly Communicate What’s Unique
No matter how brilliant your business idea is, it is important to communicate the exact ways your business stands apart from other companies in your industry. Investors get pitches and business plans from hundreds or thousands of entrepreneurs every year. One of the things they are looking for upfront is what makes the business or idea different from the thousands of other ideas they have been presented with. This is easier for some companies than others. If your business has a unique product or service that has never been on the market before, then obviously it won’t be very difficult to present what is unique. However, if your business is like most companies, you probably will not be selling a truly unique product or service, which is why it is even more important that you make it clear why your business is a better investment from your competitors.
2. Provide Evidence
A business idea is nothing more than a thought about something that might work. In the world of business investments, investors are constantly swarmed with people who have what they assume are good ideas, but they often are not backed up by supporting evidence. If you want to be different from those entrepreneurs with great ideas that never see their ideas materialize, put forth the efforts to provide data to back up your claims. Don’t simply say, “We think this will make a large number of sales.” Explain why. Explain who you will be selling to. Provide evidence that this group of people are willing to by your products or services. Make sure your business numbers make sense. Making this effort to support your claims will make you stand out from the thousands who never take the time to provide their ideas.
3. Demonstrate Market Validation
Market Validation is when you present your business idea to a particular market and get feedback on the validity of your idea from that market. It’s one thing to provide evidence that there is a market for your goods and services based off of secondary market data. It’s an entirely different, and more convincing, thing to demonstrate that your market will buy from you because they told you they would themselves. Very few business startups do this but for those that do, their chances of being noticed by investors will increase. Investors want as much information about whether your business will be successful as possible. Market validation usually takes place during the early stages of a new business when entrepreneurs interview or survey potential customers to see what they think about the idea, and get further feedback about what they want. As an investor, you would rather someone present you with a business plan that says one hundred people said they are interested in buying bag clip holders directly from you, as opposed to one who says they want to sell bag clip holders because other people are selling them.
4. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Demonstrating what your business will sell and who your business will sell to is great. However, it’s even better to show what indicators your business will use to measure progress and success. KPIs are a great tool for keeping companies accountable to their own goals. As the old saying goes, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure”. Stakeholders want to see clearly how your organization will measure progress. Including KPIs in your business plan goes a long way in helping it to stand out from the crowd.
5. Show Your Brand
Branding is ignored by many entrepreneurs but it is the paramount element that makes many of the greatest companies stand out from the rest. It is the same for your business plan. If you want to stand out, make sure your brand shines through. Branding is the practice of creating a presence in the mind of consumers that make them easily identifiable. This goes beyond the quality or uniqueness of the product or service and speaks to how the product is presented to be unique in the mind of the customer. Does McDonalds have the best burger in the world? Most people would say no. However, they are probably the best known brand for burgers because of the branding they have created in the mind of consumers so that when you think of burgers, you think of McDonalds. When the customer thinks of your business, what comes to mind? This should be demonstrated in your business plan.
6. Don’t Sell
Investors are used to getting pitched new business ideas. Of course when you present your business idea to an investor or other stakeholder the idea is to convince them to get involved. However, most people, including investors, don’t like to always feel they are getting sold something. Instead words that are meant to sell your business ideas to investors and others, get their attention by presenting your ideas in a non-salesy way and laying out evidence to support those ideas.
7. Keep It Simple
Nothing is more of a turn off for a business plan than one that is over complicated. Since business plans are already lengthy typically, it is important to keep things as simple as possible. In other words, get to the point, don’t include unnecessary words, focus on business numbers that are aligned with your business plan’s overall narrative. This will cause your business plan to stand out because so many entrepreneurs try to impress investors by fluffing up their business plans with complicated concepts and big words that don’t really add anything to the overall purpose of their presentation.
8. Use Visuals
One of the best ways to make your business stand out is using visuals to communicate your message. Most people are visual in some way and a clear visual representation of what your business plan has written in words. Charts and graphs that are concise and relevant can go a long way toward translating your ideas, especially when you want to establish that your business ideas add up. It is important that you don’t over do it with visuals. Use them to back up key areas in your plan that are not as easy to communicate with words, such as financials, percentage breakdowns, and market projections.
9. Don’t Be Unrealistic
Everyone thinks their business ideas have potential, and it’s great to have confidence. However, no feature is more unattractive in a business plan than a plan that makes totally unrealistic claims that cannot be supported. It is a good idea to be as conservative as possible in your business plan so that you can convey a realistic picture of how likely your business is likely to become. Stakeholders are much more likely to want to get involved in a business idea that they can realistically imagine than one that forces them to stretch their imagination.
10. Explain Your Data
It’s easy and common for entrepreneurs to place data into their business plan to communicate their business ideas. What is not very common is an analysis and explanation of the data. A powerful way to get your business plan to stand is to take the grunt work out of understanding the data in your plan and simply explaining what the readers are seeing on the charts, graphs, and data. Make sense of the numbers for them in a concise way and you will make it much easier for them to make a good decision about your business plan.
Anyone can make a business plan today, but it is harder to make a business plan that actually gets the attention you want to get for your ideas. Including the ideas from this article should help you stand out from the crowd of business pitches investors get every day. Even if you use only a few of these ideas, your business plan is likely to have a better chance of endearing you to the people you want to work with or get funded from. The good news is that standing out from the crowd is doable and now you know how to make it happen.