Are you starting a dropshipping business or trying to get a loan for your business? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans allow entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business ideas. In this post, you will learn how to write a business plan for your dropshipping business along with the best business plan resources.
- What is a business plan?
- Which business plan format should you use?
- How to Write a Business Plan
- In Conclusion
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how your business will achieve those goals. Your business plan is a personalized guide for you to use when starting, maintaining, and growing a business. Writing a business plan will allow you to analyze each major area of your business to ensure your overall success.
Most financial institutions and service providers will require you to submit a detailed business plan if you want to obtain funding for your business. Since your drop shipping businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, you may not need funding and thus, may not feel the need to write a business plan. However, you may need to write a business plan to secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or to open a business account up. This varies per bank.
If you’re just starting your business, use it to help you to identify your business’s strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.
If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.
Regardless of your intended audience, your goal is to be as objective about your business as possible when writing your business plan. This will allow you to work out any challenges on paper before they become the beginning of the end for your business. It will allow you to refine your business idea to give it as much potential to succeed as possible. Once you’ve done these things, you can finalize a solid business plan for formal purposes.
Which business plan format should you use?
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats. The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for their businesses for themselves or for business funding. Formal business plans. The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, one-page business plan.
If the business plan is just for you and people within your business, you can choose to do a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If the business plan is needed for business funding or other official purposes, you should choose the traditional business plan with all of the sections completed.
If your business operates outside the United States, be sure to clarify with your bank the business plan format you need to follow.
What personal information should be included in your business plan?
As you write a business plan, you should take some time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Depending on whether your business plan is to start a new business or grow an existing one, you may want to ask the following questions as they will help you answer questions about your business idea along the way.
- Why do you want to start or expand your business?
- Do your goals (personal and professional) and values align with your business idea?
- What income do you need to generate for yourself?
- What education, experience, and skills do you bring to your business?
Acknowledging your personal intentions, goals and assets will allow you to create a business plan that keeps you motivated as an business owner.
How to Write a Business Plan
According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA, a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. Read through the descriptions of each section and work on them in the order that comes easiest for you.
The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan. This section summarizes your entire business plan in one page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders about its potential. Your Executive Summary should explain what the business has to offer, your target market, what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.
While this is the first section of your business plan, it should be the section you write once you have completed the rest of your business plan. This will allow you to put the best parts of your business plan on the first page.
In the Company Description, you will compile the details about your business. This should summarize the basics about your business including the name, location, legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.), business and tax ID numbers, licenses, permits, when the business started, ownership information, and number of employees. Your business’ mission statement, philosophy / values, vision, short and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be a part of the Company Description section.
Keep in mind while you are creating this section that these are the details you will use each time you create a profile for your business on social media, business directories, and other networks. It’s important to keep your information consistent so your potential customers can be confident they have found your business across the web and can easily be directed back to your main online store.
Products & Services
The Products & Services section should detail what your business will sell to its customers. Since dropshipping businesses sell physical products, this section should explain what trending products you plan to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you will price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.
You should also include any unique selling points you have with specific products or product groupings, such as low-overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.
For dropshipping businesses sellings hundreds or even thousands of products, the goal of this section would be to detail the main categories of products you plan to sell and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, you should be able to better visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine whether you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.
The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target customer base – the potential buyers of your products. The reader of your business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, competitor analysis, and the people who are most likely to become your customers. They will want to know that there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable, and for funding purposes, to make a strong return on investment.
To complete the market analysis component of your business plan, you may want to use the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research.
- U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic getting started guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
- IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
- Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.
These websites and others allow you to learn about the projected growth of your industry and the potential profitability of your products with your target market. In addition, you can use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network.
Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends. This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business has to offer over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.
Marketing & Sales
Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, you’ll share how you plan to reach your target market with your business and how you will sell that market your products. Use this section to outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to introduce your product to potential customers – search marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and advertising channels.
If you’re not sure how to market your business’ products, analyzing your competitors can give you some inspiration. Discovering the marketing tactics of your competitors can help you customize your own strategy for building your customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. Simply do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content created by them to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their online store.
You’ll also include how you plan to convert those you reach with your marketing and advertising messages into customers. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. As a Shopify customer, you can rest assured that your online store’s sales is handled by one of the most trusted ecommerce platforms used by the top 10K websites in the world.
Management & Organization
In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, you will describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, and S corporations.
This part of your business plan should include a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you are the solopreneur behind your dropshipping business, you should include how your past education and work experience will help you run the different aspects of your business. If you have one or more partners and employees, you should include their relevant education and experience as well.
Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When evaluating yourself, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and the aspects that you may want to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third party services. When evaluating others, you will be able to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.
Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment and overhead. If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.
Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything, from the computer you run your website from to the monthly fee for other marketing and business services.
In Financial Projections, you should share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea is to demonstrate that the revenue your business is projected to earn will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether it is from your personal finances or from a capital lending service.
If you are looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail by including projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it wouldn’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.
The Appendix of your business plan includes any documents needed as supplements throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to, credit histories, resumes, product brochures, references, licenses, permits, patents, legal forms, permits, and supplier contracts. If you are submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.
In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to include the analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.
Business Plan Resources
Looking for more guides, samples, and templates for writing your business plan? Most countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. The following will take you to business plan guides and templates for specific countries.
- United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The write your business plan page includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
- Australian Government – The business plan template page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
- UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The write a business plan page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
- Canada Business Network – The writing your business plan page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.
These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Be sure to visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area.
- your country government business services
- your state/province government business services
- your city government business services
In addition to government services, some local Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Search for the following to find local chambers of commerce in your area.
- your city chamber of commerce
Banks that offer business funding often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Perform a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area.
- business plan guide your bank
- business plan samples your bank
- business plan template your bank
If you are looking for more sample business plans, Bplans, owned by Palo Alto Software, has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers a sample business plan for a fictional online clothing store.
As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea, discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business future. If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your dropshipping business in 2018!